Tour of racquet stringers HQ
Nothing is ever a problem for the dynamic duo behind the player's concierge desk.
Even the top-ranked doubles combinations in the world have their ups and downs - as the defeated No.1 seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo and No.2 seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares would be quick to attest – but Roland-Garros is home to the steadiest, most reliable duo in the business.
In terms of plaudits, it is win, win, win all the way to the finals for the players’ concierge and his chasseur.
Mikaël Loiselle is the go-to Monsieur Fixit for players and their entourages during the tournament.
Together with his assistant Mehdi, Loiselle fixes, organises, rescues and coordinates all sorts of services, from helping with restaurant bookings, travel arrangements, tickets for nights out in Paris and arranging surprise birthday deliveries for a player’s partner to acting as an emergency response team for incidents such as a player’s lost luggage.
From 9am, the concierge team is based behind a desk at the heart of the players’ facilities on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Loiselle, immaculate in his uniform, stands in front of a weighty ledger book ready to process player requests; le chasseur, which translates literally as “the hunter”, works alongside him, ready to jump on a scooter and whizz off to specialist shops or off-site services.
“The players are here to focus on victory,” Loiselle says. “We are here to help them be free to concentrate on their games. We consider the players like friends or family.”
From their desk, they fix players’ mobile phones and make online rail or flight bookings, but often they need to venture outside the Roland-Garros bubble. Their most prized resource is an extensive address book –“not contacts, but friends”, insists Loiselle.
In the world of haute conciergerie, favours are called, and many of the specialist services operators go to extraordinary lengths to help out. On Sunday, for example, Nicolas, the owner of the store that specialises in flocage – sticking sponsors’ logos on to players’ kit – opened on his day off just to make one player’s clothes court-ready.
To date during Roland-Garros 2019 they have helped out with more than 400 demandes and expect to assist on a further 300 before the end of the tournament. “We have made more than 100 restaurant reservations,” he confirms. Players like four particular restaurants: L’Avenue on Avenue Montaigne; Hotel Costes, which has a fabulous terrace; Loulou, set in the aesthetic grandeur of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs; or the Art Deco-inspired Girafe in Trocadero, with its stunning proximity to the Eiffel Tower.
They are long days for Mikael and Mehdi (who have a secret supply of banana Haribo sweets for energy), but both relish the rewarding nature of their roles.
The joy of a Grand Slam for players is that it is a family-friendly event, with creches for children, and hospitable on-site player facilities, restaurants, even a hairdresser.
Loiselle has plenty of ideas for organising fun days out.
“I book tickets for attractions like Disneyland Paris, the Jardins d’Acclimatation, the Natural History Museum, and trips on the bateaux-mouche on the Seine," he says.
"When in Paris, players also like to experience the legendary cabaret of Montmartre or the Champs-Élysées, such as Moulin Rouge or Crazy Horse.”
When it comes to shopping, he advises the historic department store Le Bon Marché.
On occasion, Loiselle – whose boss Pierre-Paul Monnet runs Le Village, the prestigious hospitality operation at Roland-Garros – receives a request from a top player to make a private visit to the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay.
“Then we call the ministry of culture to see if the museum can stay open an hour later to let the player visit without the crowds.”
For a concierge, discretion is the better part of valour, but, naming no names, he recalls how last year, a top-ranked player called on the first day with an SOS. The airline had lost his luggage, and he had nothing to wear beyond the clothes he had travelled in.
“I called the airline and discovered the suitcase was in Switzerland. I explained it was very, very urgent that it was delivered to Paris,” Loiselle explains. “The airline told me they could get it there by 6pm so I took the car myself in the rush hour to Charles de Gaulle, persuaded them to let me take the bag and at the end of my shift at Roland-Garros, at 11pm, I went to the players’ hotel to reunite him with all his clothes. He was very happy. He was just in jogging pants.”
It was, of course, a case of pas de problème – as it is every day until 10pm.
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