My journey started as always on a cold morning at London's Heathrow Airport. After catching the 06:30am flight I arrived in Paris to make my way to my rented apartment...then onto the hallowed courts of Roland Garros.
Everytime I step foot into the grounds my heart skips a beat when I see the magnificent terracotta coloured courts laid out in front of me - it is a truly beautiful sight. First thing I did was to have a look around the practise courts, then I headed to the courts near the locker room entrance. On court 11 Justine Henin was practising, looked to be very relaxed and was laughing and joking quite a lot with Carlos (her coach). After I then made my way back to the far end of the grounds again to Court 13 and saw another practise session, this time with Katarina Srebotnik and Daniela Hantuchova. Then went to court 15 where there was a qualifying match being watched by quite a few players including Barbara Rittner (Wow, she has a beautiful voice!) Kveta Peschke, Jasmin Woehr and Daniel Merkert (German coach to Eleni Daniilidou). I then heard a rumour that Rafa nadal was practising on court 12, so I rushed over there to watch Rafa - he is very well liked by so many people Roland Garros...and especially by the teenage girls!! hahaha) Just as he was finishing his session - the sky went black, the lighting and thunder started then the torrential rain started. By this time it was about 17:30pm, so I decided to make my way back to the apartment to get some rest for the next day.
Though this was another qualifying day, it is also the jewel of Roland Garros - Journee Benny Berthet Charity Day! This is the day that the whole ground is opened to the public for the first time, and can have access to all courts...and even to the corporate boxes on court Phillip Chartrier, which is always a fantastic bonus! First of all, I went to have a look around the practise courts, then I made my way to Court 1 - the amazing 'Bullring' which is one of my favorite courts here. I got myself a front row seat, then I watched the first exhibition match - Martina Muller vs. Katarina Srebotnik, then the match after was the lovely Italian Tathiana Garbin's exhibition match which she won easily!
Then after I visited all of the promotional stands - Dunlop, French Tennis Magazine, Yonex, Prince, Wilson etc... then on to the practise courts. After I meet up with some French friends of mine, then saw a practise session of Andy Roddick on court 13, he was there with is coach (and former player) Jimmy Connors. There seems to be a great friendship between these two men, they were chatting and laughing a lot during the session. After I met up with another friend of mine for a drink and chat. Later in the day as I was walking in the tunnel under court Philip Chartier I bumped into a friend of mine, Eurosport commentator Manuel Poyan. It's always so much fun to chat to Manuel, he is a great man!!! While we were talking, I got introduced to the main tennis reporter for El Pais newspaper and also met Spanish player Ivan Navarro Pastor. After a long chat with Manuel, I then went for a final walk around the grounds before heading home for a well deserved rest.
This was the first real day of the tournament - and the weather forcast for today was terrible....and sadly, they were right! Just as I got through the main gates, the rain started....and didn't stop for the next 5 hours! Not much to say about my time in the rain delay, everyone seemed to spent the time doing the rounds of the food and drink stands, eating everything from potato chips to Belgian waffles with cream and chocolate. When play finally got started I saw the match on Court 1 of Dinara Safina vs Yuliana Fedak. I think Dinara wanted to get offcourt and out of the cold - she wrapped up the match in ultra quick time (around an hour) after playing a very aggressive match. The organisers decided to not play any more matches on that day, so I managed to get myself onto Court Philip Chartier to see the end of the Justine Henin match. Not much else to say about that day, it was pretty disappointing due to the weather..but then again I should be used to that after all my years at rainy Wimbledon!! hahaha
Today started pretty much how Sunday had started....with lots of rain. This time I did manage to find my friends, so we spent the rain delay having a very funny and entertaining chat, so it didn't seem as bad as the day before. When the rain finally cleared we went for lunch, then after I went to court 2 to see the match of Italian Potito Starace, then made my way through the grounds to court 7 to see one of my favorites play...Tathiana Garbin vs. Akiko Morigami. Both players had a huge amount of support from the crowd - Garbin had the loudest supporters though! At first Tax wasn't really playing her best and Morigami with all of her experience took advantage of this and took the early lead. Morigami's serve was solid and seemed to return everything that was thrown at her - she really is a fighter. Garbin picked her game up, her shots were on target, her drop shots worked, her improved and with the help of the crowd, she managed to get into the lead and win the match. She seemed very relieved when she won and immediately went over to thank her supporters, throwing her towel into the crowd and celebrating, even though the rain had started to fall again. As I left the courts I saw the parents of Eleni Daniilidou walking towards the Players lounge area and really, that was about all for today because the rain didn't stop all night - so in some ways it was another slightly disappointing day.
My last day at the tournament, so I was hoping that I would be more lucky with the weather. After getting through the security checks on the gates I made my way to court 6 for Mara Santangelo vs. Aga Radwanska. Mara took control from the start and didn't really give radwanska a chance to get into the game. I think Radwanska was pretty nervous and certainly didn't show any of the talent that she is often credited with. After that I went over to court 12 (this is a very bad court to watch because it's usually only used for practise but because of the rain, they decided to use it for matches) watched a little of the Nuria Llagosera Vives match, but couldn't see much so I went over to court 9 to get some photos of Ruban Ramirez Hidalgo. Today the courts were so busy, it was impossible to get onto some of the courts.
I then went back to court 7 to see Italian Francesca Schiavone's match. Not a very eventful match, Francesca had no problems and raced through without dropping many points. After the match she spent a lot of time chatting to her supporters and signing autographs which is always nice to see from the players. I then headed over to practise court 13 and got some photos of Iveta Benesova, then I got a text message from my friend Manuel Poyan and he offered to show me around the Eurosport commentry booths at the top of court Philip Chartrier. The media area is like a little hidden world - we first went in to the seating area where John Lloyd was watching the matches on the screens, we then went up the stairs to a gallery of 40 or so commentry booths. Each booth was quite small, only room for two people with three tv screens but with the most amazing view of the court Philip Chartier!!!!! I was introduced to Manuel's fellow Eurosport commentator Fernando. We then walked past all of the other commentry booths - ESPN, ESPN Espanol, German Eurosport, Japanese WowWow TV etc... then out to see the view from the terrace which is often used by the photographers. We then went up to the next gallery up stairs where the other commentry booths are including the guest channels France 2/3/4. Manuel showed me the old commentry booths (which are still in use) and we went to the far terrace to see France 2/3/4 outside studio which over looks the whole court. On our way back out, we passed Australian former player Mark Woodforde and British ex-player Jo Dury. It was so fantastic to be able to see the commentry area, it was very different to how I had imaged it to be, much better and with far better facilities.
After leaving Manuel, I then went over to court 5 to see some of Jonas Bjorkman's match, then onto courts 2 and 3. I finished my day watching James Blake getting beaten by a very tall Ivo Karlovic. I then went for one last walk around the grounds before heading to the Metro and back to the apartment for my last night.
Though my visit was plagued with rain delays, I still had a great time as always! I hope you enjoyed reading my report.