“Too many people” has sadly been a frequent refrain among visitors to this year’s French Open.
As great as the event is – the glorious colour of the clay, the stylishness and knowledge of the spectators, the fabulous food and all that comes with the incomparable city of Paris – there are times on the site when the congestion is oppressive.
It surprises many that while the tournament has greeters near the Porte d’Auteuil metro exit wishing passersby a good day at Roland Garros, there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the site intervening to help with crowd control.
The worst congestion is in the passageway (above) between the main Court Philippe Chatrier and the second-largest Court Suzanne Lenglen.
One journalist from Belgium suggested that there should at least be lanes designated specifically for people going in one direction or the other.
But sometimes the problem comes from people lining up for the Roland Garros merchandise shops or washrooms with the queue extending into spaces where people are simply moving between various destinations on the grounds.
The total number of spectators for last year’s 15-day event (there’s play on the first Sunday) was 427,472. So far in 2018 each of the first six days has had a larger crowd than 2017 – with the number peaking at 34,700 last Wednesday.
The four largest courts – Chatrier (14,911), Lenglen (9,829), No. 1 (3,802) and the new Court 18 (2,158) – have seating for a total of 30,700 spectators.
Court 18 (above) was opened this year at the extreme west end (left side below) of the grounds in hopes that it would draw some spectators from the more congested areas in the centre.
There’s also a new 5,000-seat stadium – Court Simone Mathieu named after the 1938-39 female champion – scheduled to open in 2019 at the far right end in the layout shown above.
But, as can be seen, Roland Garros is basically a long and narrow, as opposed to a more circular, site and the main problem area – between Chatrier and Lenglen – will not be really affected by new courts at opposite ends of the grounds. So, sadly, nothing is likely to change soon.
Gabriela Dabrowski advanced to the third round of the women’s doubles and the second round of the mixed doubles events on Saturday.
The current WTA No. 11 combined for a second-round win with partner Xu Yifan of China in the women’s doubles, defeating Kaitlyn Christian of the U.S. and Carina Witthoeft of Germany 6-2, 6-2. She then joined Mate Pavic of Croatia as the top-seeded pair in the mixed doubles and they beat the French wild card team of Pauline Parmentier and Gregoire Barrere 4-6, 6-3, [10-7], completing a match postponed by darkness and rain late Friday.
“We took a practice week last week instead of playing a tournament,” Dabrowski explained about herself and Xu. “My partner was feeling a little bit of pain so we decided to take a few days off and rest to make sure that she would be healthy. She feels good and it’s definitely nice to win the first two rounds and get those matches under your belt and not have it be too exhausting emotionally and physically.”
In the third round, Dabrowski and Xu will play Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya after Japanese duo upset No. 11 seeds Raquel Atawo of the U.S. and Anna-Lena Groenefeld of German 2-6, 6-2, 6-0. “They’re small but they’re quick,” Dabrowski said about the two 24-year-old Japanese. “They’re kind of all over the court and they can hit with a lot of power. We’ll just focus on trying hold our serves, playing aggressively but smart because they also play aggressively. We’ll mix in some shots that will help neutralize certain plays.”
She added about Hozumi, ranked No. 65 and Ninomiya, No. 41, “I’ve practiced with them before. They’re kind of ninja-like, very fast, very springy. We have to start out strong. That’ll be a key.”
In Saturday’s mixed doubles, Dabrowski and Pavic were just too solid and experienced against Parmentier and Barrere as they took control after playing a very patchy first set on Friday.
Dabrowski is the defending mixed doubles champion at the French Open (with Rohan Bopanna of India) and at the 2018 Australian Open with Pavic. She and the 24-year-old Croat have now won six mixed matches in a row and seem to gel well together.
Post match on Saturday, Dabrowski explained what happened to end the partnership with Bopanna, one that resulted in the first ever Grand Slam title for a Canadian woman one year ago at Roland Garros.
“I hadn’t spoken to Bopanna about playing this year and it was the week of Brisbane two weeks before the Australian Open,” she explained. “I’d kind of been procrastinating the decision and I read online in an article that he was going to play with (Timea) Babos. He said in the article that we had spoken and had decided mutually not to play together in 2018 – which wasn’t true and we hadn’t spoken.
“I don’t really care if we don’t play together, but because we had played five Slams in a row and won one of them and we made quarters of all the others, we owed each other a conversation about it.
“I felt in business terms it was the wrong way to end the relationship, especially because we work with the same coach (American Scott Davidoff) quite a few weeks. It put a bit of a dampener on our results from last year – I’m not going to lie. In sport it’s very cutthroat.
“So then I messaged my coach and asked for the phone number of some players. Pavic was one of them and he hadn’t found a partner yet and that’s how we ended up partnering together.”
She definitely found a good one in the left-handed Pavic. The Croat started the 2017 season at No. 29 in the ATP doubles rankings and ascended to No. 1 spot earlier this month based on results such as reaching the 2017 Wimbledon final and winning the 2018 Australian Open – both with Oliver Marach of Austria.
It had to be sweet revenge for Dabrowski when she and Pavic defeated Bopanna and Babos 2-6, 6-4, [11-9] in the championship match at this year’s Australian Open.
In the Roland Garros second round on Sunday, Dabrowski and Pavic will face the unseeded pairing of Andrea Sestini Hlavackova of the Czech Republic and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.
Vasek Pospisil (above with his German coach Dirk Hordorff) felt pain in his right shoulder hitting a serve in the second set of his 6-4, 6-3 opening-round doubles loss (with Ryan Harrison) to Pablo Cuevas and Benoit Paire on Thursday.
He had an MRI on Friday and the injury will probably require five or 10 days without serving.
As a result, his participation in the ATP 250 event in s’Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, the week of June 11 is questionable.
Pospisil currently ranks No. 88 and is looking forward to playing his seventh Wimbledon next month, with his best performances there being a singles quarter-final in 2015 and a doubles title (with Jack Sock) in 2014.
Tommy Haas, tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, retired earlier this year but clearly still loves to hit the little yellow ball.
On Saturday, he could be found on Court Philippe Chatrier court before the day’s play began hitting with Lucas Pouille. The 40-year-old Haas, who had a 21-13 record at Roland Garros, has been a consultant with the No. 15-seeded Pouille but it didn’t help on Saturday in the Frenchman’s third-round. In the completion of a match from Friday, he was eliminated 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 by No. 38-ranked Karen Khachanov of Russia.
Fermé le Weekend
The only thing wrong with this patisserie in Auteuil, a short walk from Roland Garros, is that it’s closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
The pastries at Maison Eude are sublime with its flaky croissants tasting like they’ve been soaked in butter and its pain aux raisins (literally raisin bread but nothing like the raisin bread in Canadian supermarkets) being mildly sweet, crusty and containing a pinch of crème pâtissière (pastry cream). The definition of roughing it in Paris is not having Maison Eude open on the weekends.
NOTE: We will be back with a regular Tebbutt Tuesday on June 5th.