Playing the Lottery

Monday, January 30, 2006

Since summer 2004, I have been a fan of Roland Garros. I mean, I remember watching a few games on the clay court when I was younger, most notably the 1989 Chang-Lendl game, but I was never really taken with the orange court. It made for slower play, and seemed somehow more laborious, with it's prolonged baseline exchanges, than the elegant serve and volley of Wimbeldon.

In that early summer of 2004, I saw Gaston Gaudio face off against Guillermo Coria in the men's finals. It was my last of year of grad school, and, while waiting for my engineer to make an even bigger pudding out of my rewired telephone, I took the afternoon off, turned on the tv in the student lounge and helped myself to some tennis. You have to know, I wasn't all that mad about tennis then so this was rather a remarkable activity.

Nevertheless, the game was good, right from the start. The steady ebb and flow, between Coria's sneering aggression and Gaudio's strange resistance, made for a thrilling five-setter where nobody could predict the final outcome going into the fifth set. Of course, Gaudio was the crowd favourite and he eventually took the game after saving an improbable number of match points. He smiled so gloriously, as if to say, "Me? No way!"

Since then I've toyed with the idea of getting tickets. Last year, I wasn't in town for Roland Garros, so I didn't bother booking tickets. In any case, the ticketing process has always seemed rather mysterious. For you see, Roland Garros is a private tennis club, much like Wimbeldon herself, and everyone had warned me how difficult it could be to secure seats since they were only open to club-member. ... Well, not so anymore, it seems. These days, the RG website, which is a trashy piece of font-work if I ever saw one, is blinking with links to help you reserve a place. It made me rather nervous and excited, especially with February 16th, the cut-off date for reservations, edging up on us. So, here's the modus operandi: you click on the link, create an account, pick which rung of seats you want on what day, and pay.

Easy? Easy. But this doesn't guarantee you a place. In fact, this guarantees that you have a place in the lottery for the day and seating you've chosen. Sometime between Feb 16th onwards, they start pulling names out of the hat and you find out if you're going to be baking in the sun, or baking in front of the tv. Club-members get their places allotted first. The general public gets the leftovers. We've picked primo seats for the quarterfinals, June 7. Wouldn't that be a nice day to get a suntan!

If you didn't bother with the lottery, you can always get tickets the day of the event at the stadiums themselves. Be prepared for long line-ups, higher prices, and the possibility of only having scalpers to deal with. I fully believe in watching tennis live because it's one of the few sports that's tightly enclosed between two players. You really get to see them in detail, struggling, yelling, and running around, if you're close, and it's quite the spectacle. Plus, you must dress a little chic in case you're caught on camera. I've already picked a suitably minimal white cotton dress to wear, should the occasion present itself.

In other news, I just bought, on the Arte online boutique, a 3-DVD set on William Klein which includes his documentary on Roland Garros, entitled The French. Legend has it that Klein turned down Mick Jagger's offer to do a documentary on the Stones in Africa to do this film. Klein is a great tennis fan and this documentary has unique footage of the player's corridors, Borg, Lendl and McEnroe, but also all the groupies and business that surrounded the sport in 1981. I love the way colour looks on 35mm in 1981... we also have a documentary on the 1968 Mexico City Olympics that's simply breathtaking as well... something about documentary sports and 35mm colour film makes me weep, especially when there's no shitty music on overtop.