2019 ROLAND GARROS PHOTO ESSAY

On the morning of the 5th of June 2019, I set off on the Eurostar to watch the 2019 French Open at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris. I was slated to watch six matches including two-quarter final matches, the men and ladies semi-finals and the ladies final over a period of five days. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch any match on the first day as the entire day’s tennis was washed out due to heavy rain. As a result, the quarterfinal matches were postponed to the following day. In the ladies quarterfinal match at the Philippe Chatrier, 17-year-old American, Amanda Anisimova shocked defending champion Simona Halep in two straight sets — 6−2, 6−4. Later in the day, the current Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic locked horns with Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the men’s quarter-final. Djokovic avenged his ATP Tour Final lose by defeating his younger opponent in three straight sets.

With the backlog resulting from the rain, the ladies and men’s semi-finals all took place on the same day — 7 June 2019. Due to space constraints, the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) controversially allocated the women’s semi-final to Court Suzanne Lenglen and the newly-opened Court Simonne Mathieu, while the men played inside Court Philippe Chatrier. As the ladies semi-finals featuring Johanna Konta vs Marketa Vondrousova and Ashleigh Barty vs Amanda Anisimova took place at the same time in different places, I had to choose between the two semis. I opted for the Konta vs Vondroušová semi-final, which took place at Court Simonne Mathieu. After spending eternity searching for the newly built stadium, I went to my seat in the almost empty court. Despite starting well, Konta failed to utilise her early advantage and lost the match in straight sets 7–5; 7–6. After her loss, Konta accused the French Open officials of sexism for putting her match at the smaller Court. Ironically, seven months earlier, when Serena Williams accused umpire Carlos Ramos of sexism for penalising her during her US Open final match against Naomi Osaka, Konta said that the code violation awarded against Serena was not sexist. What goes around comes around.

After Konta’s match, I rushed over to Court Philippe Chatrier to watch the eagerly anticipated semi-final between Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. The Nadal/Federer rivalry also known as #FEDAL is the tennis equivalent of the El Classico between Barcelona and Real Madrid. I have watched Federer vs Djokovic; Djokovic vs Nadal and Nadal vs Djokovic matches but this was my first live #FEDAL match. The stadium was filled to capacity and the crowd was evenly split between Federer and Nadal fans. Two hours and twenty-five minutes into the match, Nadal secured match point and prevailed over his rival 6−3, 6−4, 6−2. As Federer left the stage, the crowd shouted Roger Roger Roger. When Rafa stood up for his interview, the crowd switched shouting Rafa Rafa Rafa. In the second men’s semi-final, Dominic Thiem, last years finalists overcame Djokovic in a 5 setter, which was played over two days and lasted over 4 hours.

The ladies final featured two first time finalists. Australia’s Ashley Barty overcame Czechs Makereta in 70 minutes. The men’s final was a battle between the King of Clay, Rafa Nadal and the Prince of Clay , Dominic Thiem. The King retained his crown by winning an unprecedented 12th Roland Garros title. With Nadal’s domination of Roland Garros, it is about time for the French Open to be renamed the “Nadal Close.”

On another note, Dominic Thiem aspires to dominate the tennis scene sometime in the future. But for him to be a real tennis king, he should learn to respect tennis royalty. Shortly after Serena’s third round loss to Sofia Kenin, she was slated for an interview around the same time that Dominic Thiem was conducting his interview. Serena offered to be interviewed in a smaller room, but the French Open authorities insisted that she conduct the interview where Dominic was talking. Serena was hesitant and told them that it would be rude for her to interrupt Theim. When Thiem was asked to move, he started complaining and in a subsequent interview, he said that Serena had a bad personality and that Federer and Nadal would never do something like that. He has since discovered that the confusion was the fault of the FFT, but rather than apologise to Serena he suggested that he could play mixed doubles match with her. In the meantime, the mainstream media ran with headlines castigating Serena for bullying Thiem when this wasn’t the case.

The following pages contain the images I took during my visit to Roland Garros.

Happy viewing.

@Alatenumo

Writer and social critic