The Road to Rafa Part 3 - Paris: French Open

How do you get into the French Open, sit in the reserved box seats just behind the Tennis Magazine team, and then watch Nadal play live just a few feet away on the center court (Court Philipe Chatrier) - all for just 19 Euros?

Benny-Berthet Day

Benny Berthet's Day is a tradition at Roland Garros.
This exhibition day is held each year on the eve of the tournament; the profits are donated to various charities. This is similar to the Arthur-Ashe day event held at the US Open annually.

What is special is that throughout the whole day, the public can attend 1-set matches with most of the top players spread out across the top 3 courts. Many of the French tennis stars come out for kids to get autographs and pictures.

Almost all the players also have a practice session on the side courts as well.
Order of Play Sheet

Arrive at Roland Garros for the first time...
8:30AM - Hop on the Paris Subway
9:00 - Stop for some breakfast at a nearby Cafe with some scrambled eggs and French baguettes
9:30 - Bump into some local tennis coaches while asking for directions and walking to Roland Garros
10:00 - Waiting in the ticket queue about a few rows deep, I had an extra hour. A few other fans in line were speaking French. One asks where I'm from (holding a Tennis Magazine from the US).

Apparently, they immediately judge you by your country's best players (Roddick, Blake, Fish, Bryans, etc). The Bryan Brothers chest bump was apparently the signature tennis celebration of the USA.

This was the year that Tsonga was their top guy with Gasquet still serving his drug suspension.
By around 10:45, the line finally starts to move and by then the queue has wrapped all the way around.
By around 11:00, the gates and ticket booths open and there is a mad dash toward the center court. There are no reserved seats for this day. So, basically, it is first-come, first-serve basis.

I'm lucky enough to get around to the stadium's East side with the sun at my back quickly and grab a 3rd-row seat just behind the reserved seats for Tennis Magazine.

Seeing Rafael Nadal up close on clay in Paris (at his favorite *home* court) was definitely the highlight of my trip to Paris.

Even at this early exhibition set of tennis, you could tell he wasn't himself in 2009.

Because of a knee injury and some family issues, he had lost to Federer in the Madrid Final just a few weeks back. On this day he faced a qualifier named Dabul - a light, steady rain came down shortly after the warm-up.

Eventually, Nadal would lose 6-4 with a disappointed expression. You could tell he was troubled...either emotionally or physically, or maybe both. Many fans were a bit shocked about the early loss. It was a foreshadowing of things to come later in the 4th round...

To travel halfway around the world to witness tennis greatness unfulfilled is a bit like arriving at the site of a great monument only to see its footprint absent. It is shocking and unbelievable to fathom.

Champions prevail and rise again even after an avalanche of misery fails to destroy them. As we all know, Rafa wasn't done yet.

Years later, I was able to visit his hometown of Mallorca and play tennis at his new Rafa Nadal academy in Spain. Tennis students can learn about Spanish culture while having a Summer trip in Europe.

Many of the RNA coaches fly to the USA and host Summer Camps in over 40 cities. You can get a discount with a special promo code "JCTENNIS". Spaces are limited.
Map of Roland Garros
Official French Open Map

The Roadmap to Rafa - Summer in Europe

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the places and moments that take our breath away."