With the end of the 2018 French Open, many traditional features of the second Slam of the year will disappear. Iconic courts will be gone, new ones are being built while Court Philippe Chatrier will see a complete revamp.
Few things make you feel the excitement of a Grand Slam like the first week of the French Open in its current set up. The massive crowds are bustling between and beyond Chatrier and Lenglen, trying to get a glance of the matches on the smaller outer courts. While the thrill and adrenaline is palpable, one thing quickly becomes an issue: Moving from A to B — or getting from Court 14 to Court 6.
The current French Open tournament site is too small, far too small. Most journalists avoid the ground completely. Time is money and on a packed day in the middle of the first week, there is a good chance you will lose time, miss a press conference and get stuck in a never-ceasing line of people trying to navigate their way between courts, matches and food stands.
But since this year, the French Open have started to get a face as well as a space-lift. The old Court 2 behind Chatrier has already disappeared with its twin Court 3 still being intact next to it, though feeling a little incomplete. Court 1, the famous “Bullring”, has also seen its last year — it will disappear along with Court 3 to make space for a bigger public area.
While the courts are disappearing from the heart of the site, new courts are being added on the far-ends of the Roland Garros. Behind Suzanne Lenglen, Court 18 has been inaugurated with fantastic matches this year and with its sunken in feel, it replicates the vibe of Rome’s Pietrangeli Court. East of Chatrier, located within the Greenhouse Gardens, Court Simmone-Mathieu will become the third-biggest Court of the tournament starting next year — the beautiful Orangerie was already used for this year’s draw ceremony.
It’s a much-needed structural change to allow the tournament site to catch up with the tournament’s growth over the past decade — even if it comes at the cost of iconic courts such as the Bullring, Court 2 and Court 3.
It will allow more space for the fans and stretch the huge crowds across almost 22 acres — much to the woe of some of the photographers though who will be running from the Greenhouse Gardens in the East to the Pavillon des Princes in the West.