Roland-Garros tries to shine bright through the chaos

Welcome back to the Tennis Sweet Spot! I hope the weather is treating you better where you are than at Roland-Garros… It’s been a crazy couple of days in Paris, so let me walk you through that chaos :)

In today’s edition:

  • Roland-Garros is facing numerous issues this year: Amélie Mauresmo tries to problem-solve

  • Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka proved again that champions never die

  • Felix Auger-Aliassime talks about his bond with Denis Shapovalov

  • The PTPA is raising money again

  • France takes over the Laver Cup

  • Wimbledon and Warner Bros extend their deal and a special tips edition for rainy days

Mauresmo trying to reign the crowd in but remains at a loss with the situation of the Chatrier

French Open Sport GIF by Roland-Garros

Gif by Roland-Garros on Giphy

Being Roland-Garros tournament director has never been a walk in the park. But when fans start to abuse players (someone spat on Goffin in his first round), when rain washes out a whole day, and when your biggest court is more often than not half empty, it becomes a bit of a nightmare. How many fires can one person extinguish? Amélie Mauresmo is trying to find out.

“After Covid, we noticed an evolution in the atmosphere at Roland-Garros with so much more enthusiasm from the crowd. And we’re really happy about it. But we saw in that David Goffin match that some people were going over the limit”, she told the press at Roland-Garros on Thursday. “So I’m here to say that we’re happy to see the atmosphere, but we will be uncompromising on the respect due to the players and the game. I’ve given instructions to the umpires, who need to control what’s going on, and to the security staff, who need to identify people disrupting the game and take them out of the court. We are happy that people are very enthusiastic about watching tennis and being part of the matches, about feeling and showing emotions, but there are steps that shouldn’t go further.”

We will be uncompromising on the respect due to the players and the game

Amélie Mauresmo

So what’s going to change? Mauresmo came to press with a plan. “Umpires are going to be even stricter, and they have an important role in this matter. We’re also going to upgrade the security and eject the individuals overstepping. We’ll see how it goes.” The tournament is still trying to find the spectator who spat at David Goffin.

From now on, the limits will be clear and respected without exception: “Limits are the respect of the players and the respect of the game.” To help keep the crowd civil, Mauresmo also announced that “alcohol will no longer be allowed in the stands.”

The situation of the Chatrier seems to be, as usual for years now, the most difficult to solve. Why is the biggest court of Roland-Garros half empty most of the time? It’s a shame, and it needs to stop. It’s a horrendous look for the tournament and for the sport in general. It’s the World Cup on clay, they keep telling us. Really? Then why is nobody coming to watch? That court is supposed to be sold out: then where are the ticket holders? On Wednesday, it was impossible to try to convince us it was because outside courts are THE place to be in the first week: it rained all day, and there was nowhere else to be than on the Chatrier or the Lenglen. Yet, it was awfully empty the whole day, except for maybe two sets of Carlos Alcaraz. Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka played the match of the year on the Chatrier, yet it was far from full. It makes no sense.

I’m the first one to have enough to see these stands empty.

We know the issues of the corporate area being too low on the court and exposing how much these VIPs prefer to go to lunch and have some champagne instead of watching tennis. But also, what’s up with that:

And what’s going on with the upper stands? Even when the tournament decided to open the court to whoever had a day ticket for Roland-Garros, they couldn’t fill that stadium up. Did the rain discourage them all? And what about the other days? “The issue is back in discussion again”, admitted Mauresmo. “I’m the first person who wants to see these stands full. I’m the first one to have enough to see these stands empty. We keep trying different things… We’ve opened the lower area when these ticket holders are having lunch, we’ve opened the court yesterday at the end of the afternoon… But at some point, we cannot go and grab people to get them on the court.”

So maybe at some point, we’re just going to have to accept that the French crowd is impossible to fully understand or deal with... and that the first week is always going to look “meh” in terms of the number of people actually watching tennis on the Chatrier. Only Rafael Nadal’s potential last match in Paris drew enough people to give the Chatrier the look of a Grand Slam centre court.

Oh, and let’s finish with a bonus: the recurring issue of not scheduling women in the night session spot. Why not take the Swiatek - Osaka opportunity to avoid being called out again? Well, Mauresmo said that match was put forward as an option for the night session, along with Jannik Sinner against Richard Gasquet. But somehow, it wasn’t picked in the end. A British colleague then told her Swiatek admitted that she requested not to play at night. Mauresmo smiled: “I’m happy that she said it.” Like many other tournaments, Roland-Garros is torn between multiple interests and cannot really find a way to please everybody. The only guiding question should be: is it serving the game as it should?

Osaka and Swiatek showed again that champions never die

Naomi Osaka didn’t win that first round against Iga Swiatek even if she’d have maybe deserved to. Ah, had she put that forehand inside the open court at 5-3 30-15… But she made a point: she’s back to win it all again. “After I lost in Madrid, I remember asking my team if they thought I could ever be a top-5 player again”, said Osaka. Granted, I didn't make it to the quarters or the semis here, but I feel like I'm kind of on my way back there. For me, that's the biggest positive. I thought it was a really fun match. Probably the most fun match that I have played so far. It just felt really incredible, the atmosphere, and how fun I guess everyone in the crowd was having too. It was definitely very memorable for me.”

After I lost in Madrid, I remember asking my team if they thought I could ever be a top-5 player again

Naomi Osaka

Actually, Osaka and Iga Swiatek made another point: champions never die, whatever their ranking or whatever the score of the match. They will always show up if they’re fit and the challenge demands it. Andre Agassi once said that whatever his fitness level or his nemesis Pete Sampras’s fitness level, the simple fact of Pete seeing him over the net will make Sampras play all lights out. Agassi added that even on crutches, they’d find a way to play against each other.

I kept thinking about it when watching Naomi Osaka play her best match, even on clay, despite having not shown any sign of being able to do it in the past few weeks. Yes, the Japanese is on the rise again and you could see in Madrid that she was getting close. But to play three hours and basically dominate the match against Swiatek on the Chatrier is a whole other thing. And yet she did. Because this is not a regular player: this is a champion, this is someone who is used to belonging to the rarefied air at the top of the game. When she shows up, it doesn’t matter the surface or the round: she’ll come to slay.

If I didn't give up, I just increased my chances

Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek, in a totally different vibe, showed the same quality. Back on the wall, doubting she was going to win that one, she still found a way to close the door on the panic inside of her and the storm on the other side of the net. She did what champions do: she kept fighting, she cut down on the mistakes, and she found the game plan that she couldn’t execute until then. The hatred for defeat is so strong that many times, with these champions, it will come to clear their minds. We saw it so many times through the Big 4 era that it reached running gag level. “I honestly didn't believe I could win because I would be pretty naive. But it didn't change the fact that I just tried to do work to play better. I actually managed to be more focused at the end of the match, which went pretty badly. In the first and second sets, I felt like I was not completely in the zone. When I was under the biggest pressure, I was able actually to switch that, and maybe that made the difference. But honestly, when it's so tight, it's just, I don't know. It's not like I have influence on everything, but for sure, if I didn't give up, I just increased my chances.”

It was overall a joy to see Naomi Osaka back at this level. Tennis needs her when she’s committed like that to the game. “Honestly, it's not the worst. Like, I felt worse, for sure. I cried when I got off the court, but then, you know, for me, I kind of realize I was watching Iga, like, win this tournament last year, and I was pregnant. It was just my dream to, like, be able to play her. When I kind of think of it like that, I think I'm doing pretty well. And I'm also just trying not to be too hard on myself.” What did she write in her journal right after that loss? “I’m proud of you.” Everybody agrees. “Saying that to myself gives me a lot of power because sometimes I curse myself out in my head, and it's quite a negative feeling. I would just say I'm proud of the journey. I'm hoping, hopefully, it will get more and more positive.”

“I'm proud of the journey”

Naomi Osaka

She’s been working extremely hard this year to get back to the top, and I think we might have Iga Swiatek to thank for it. Swiatek is an inspiration for Osaka in the way that she’s showing her how to have fun while dominating the game. It was a burden for Osaka back in the day, but watching how Swiatek finds a way to be herself and still be the boss might have opened a new path in Osaka’s own champion’s brain. I cannot wait for what’s next.

Will Osaka get back to the top?

You were 57,14% saying that, no, Rafael Nadal will not be back at Roland-Garros in 2025.

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An injury kept the bond alive between Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov

Felix Auger-Aliassime ready to serve

Felix Auger-Aliassime (© Miami Open/Hard Rock Stadium)

It’s not always a sure thing that two great players from the same country, being around the same age, are going to find common ground. It’s a competitive world out there. But Felix Auger-Alissime (23) and Denis Shapovalov (25) have a genuine bond and no issue to share the Canadian spotlight. “FAA” talked about it after his win in the second round of Roland-Garros: they’ve known each other for as long as their tennis remembers and just want to see each other succeed.

“We always root for each other’s best. I want him to come back to the level he was at”, he said. “And last year around he was happy for me when I won a title (Basel) at the end of the year. We grew up playing each other, playing together. There have never been bad moments shared with him. We’re just always rooting for each other. We practiced the last day before the matches together, and I thought he was hitting well. He’s playing better and better and seems very focused.”

We always root for each other’s best

Felix Auger-Aliassime

In 2023, they both struggled with a knee injury. It ended up being more severe for Shapovalov than for Auger-Aliassime, but this tough time only strengthened their bond. Did they talk about it? “Yes, a little bit”, explained Auger-Aliassime. “About how tough it was when we were practicing together in Davis Cup. We talked about the difficulty of having to come back after an injury and being out for a long time, knowing when to stop. We went through it at the same time in our careers and hit a wall both at the same time and both the knee as well.” And now they’re both back and ready to climb up the ladder again, all the way to the top.

Alcaraz bends it like Djokovic: gluten-free

Joan Solsona for Marca brought the readers to Carlos Alcaraz’s food path in Paris. The 2023 Wimbledon champion has a well-established routine, and it includes sharing Novak Djokovic’s gluten-free diet.

Last year, both players crossed paths at the same restaurant, Siena, a couple of days before their semi-finals! What does Alcaraz eat the day before his matches? Sushis. Funny to read that Alcaraz likes to go to L’Avenue, one of the poshest Parisian cafés near the Champs Elysées.

The PTPA helps raise money for cricket and track and field

The Winners Alliance, which is the for-profit arm of Novak Djokovic’s PTPA, has raised $40 million more from its investors, including billionaire Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation. But this money is not for tennis, but for cricket and track and field, as confirmed by Ahmad Nassar, Winners Alliance’s CEO and also PTPA’s executive director.

Winners Alliance says it has already helped tennis players to make $10 million in off-court earnings. In total, it’s now $75 million that the organization has raised. “The revenue generated by Winners Alliance in tennis goes to (a) players, and (b) fund the advocacy work and programs of the PTPA. This is the same model other sports unions have employed successfully for decades. Note that the PTPA is tennis-only and has dedicated staff working only in tennis. Winners Alliance, by contrast, has separate staff working across sports. That’s also the model employed by others”, answered Nassar on X when a journalist wondered about the PTPA having a for-profit arm.

Wimbledon and Warner Bros. Discovery extend partnership

It’s a (new) deal! It was announced on Thursday that The Championships, Wimbledon would “continue to be shown on Warner Bros. Discovery’s (WBD) channels and platforms through new long-term rights extension with The All England Lawn Tennis Club.” In that new deal, Eurosport and Max will be the exclusive home of Wimbledon in 11 markets in Europe (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden), with every singles and doubles match, including qualifying, shown live and on-demand. The new broadcast partnership also includes live television coverage of the 2024 singles finals on Eurosport for viewers in the UK as well as a daily highlights package.” IMG, The All England Lawn Tennis Club’s exclusive media rights representative, facilitated the deal that is reported to have been extended until 2027.

France takes over the Laver Cup

Yannick Noah, new Team Europe captain

Yannick Noah, new Team Europe captain (@LaverCup)

  • Yannick Noah, the show must always go on. The French tennis legend will lead Team Europe at the Laver Cup in 2025 in San Francisco, as the event announced on Monday.

    “I am truly honored to have been asked to take on the role of Team Europe Captain for the Laver Cup,” said Noah. “I’ve been out of the game for a while, doing my music, but I am really excited for this new adventure.” I love team competitions, the emotions they bring, getting to know the guys, how they are on and off the court as people – it will be great. I also can’t wait to see Andre again after a couple of decades and to face him on the other side. I might have mellowed a bit now, but the competitive side of me is alive forever. I want Team Europe to win!” said Noah in a statement. The former Roland-Garros champion, Davis Cup, and Fed Cup champion will be in Berlin for this year’s Laver Cup (20-22 Sept) in order to get ready for his new role. One thing is for sure: he should talk way more than Björn Borg, and some players should be in for a treat.

  • Who was allergic to the Roland-Garros clay this year? The British players. None of them won a match in that single’s draw this year. They were six at the start and zero left by Tuesday night. It’s the first time since 2020 that it has happened. As per The Guardian, This is only the fourth time in the 21st century that no British male player has managed to reach the second round in the French Open.” The Times wonders who’s to blame for that display: the players, the LTA, or just bad luck.Too often British players are a little too quick to move on to the grass without showing much disappointment about their fortunes on the clay.”

  • Fernando Verdasco, multitasking coach. Officially still a professional player (#785 at 40), the Spaniard has mostly been an in-demand coach for the past couple of months. He was seen in Madrid helping Ons Jabeur and Stefanos Tsitipas. Before that? He was working with the Jordanian Abedallah Shelbayh. And now? Well, he’s been hired by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

  • You want to be a tennis star? Fine, but there’s still school to attend. Tennis Europe has extended its partnership, which debuted in 2022, with its “official online school partner,” Minerva, for two years. Minerva is a virtual academy. “Tennis Europe strives to facilitate access to educational opportunities for the Junior Tour’s 20,000+ eligible players, some of whom struggle to find adequate solutions for combining travel and tournament schedules with full-time studies”, said a statement.

  • Elina Svitolina has a strategy for dealing with her husband, Gaël Monfils when he loses. “I let him play video games!” she said with a laugh during her press conference at Roland-Garros. They both deal with losses in a very different way, so they need to adjust. Svitolina says she can be “moody and tough to handle” for a couple of days when she loses, so in a way, they’re also a good match here because they have different approaches and reactions.

The “Let’s survive the constant rain” edition

READ: It’s Roland-Garros: The French are going wild, and you don’t understand what’s going on with these people? Pick up that book, The Three Musketeers, the classic from Alexandre Dumas, and you might start to understand.

WATCH: It’s such gloomy weather in Paris as I’m typing these lines that it makes me want to watch my once-a-year at least guilty pleasure: The Wolf of Wall Street. I know, it’s all morally corrupt, but Leonardo DiCaprio just makes me laugh so hard and is just so freaking good in it.

LISTEN TO: Honestly, with all the rain that fell on us all at Roland-Garros since day 1 of the qualifications, the only sunshine one can find resides in the classic Life In Cartoon Motion from Mika. You gotta do what you gotta do to keep the smile alive.

TAKE A SELFISH: If you’re at Roland-Garros or in Paris in general those days, you might want to always keep this wonder of rain-fighter in your bag… If you happen to be lucky enough to then go to Wimbledon, I’d say travel with it too!

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