How Roland-Garros caters to every player's needs

 - Alex Sharp

We explore what life is like for the tennis stars away from the courts in Paris

Quiet Rooms, player services, Roland Garros 2022, Elsa Jacquemot© Pauline Ballet/FFT

For Kildine Chevalier the main objective is crystal clear; the world’s finest players need world-class facilities to let them feel comfortable and fully-focused on their matches.

With this in mind, we were fortunate enough to have a backstage pass to check out the pristine player areas on the grounds at Roland-Garros.

Chevalier was our tour guide, the Players Support and Relations Manager who leads a 160-strong team “in charge of all the player's journey for Roland-Garros and Rolex Paris Masters”.

A former tennis pro, before moving into luxury perfume and cosmetics, the Frenchwoman has made her own stamp on the role she started just last October. 

“I think we’ve done a great edition so far, we’ve tried to renew a lot of things. You think you’re ready, but then there’s always something to do last minute,” said the former world No.218, who featured at Roland-Garros in singles qualifying and doubles main draw. 

“My tennis background helps for sure, it’s important as you can understand the expectations of players, what they need. But you have to update the whole time to fit with habits and needs of new generations.

“Of course we need to be patient, because the players and entourage, they’re all seeing their own problems, but it’s all manageable.”

From allowing small dogs on-site (staying in their carry bag), to something quirkier like wanting a hotel carpet removed; requests are diverse and equally important.

The players are taken care of as soon as they land at the airport.

Once at the hotel they are greeted with a welcome card from new Tournament Director Amelie Mauresmo. The gift this year is a smart Delsey suitcase alongside some Roland-Garros embossed macaroons courtesy of Ladurée. There’s even an exclusive lemon flavour from the Parisian patisserie.

“When they arrive, there are always many questions, but soon the players were very happy, they see a different way of thinking,” continued Chevalier.

“Amelie Mauresmo is very pragmatic, she has a great vision and I’m really enjoying developing the tournament with her.”

Let’s start the tour. We head to the player restaurant under Court Philippe-Chatrier, which has numerous stations for players to find their desired meals – obviously the pasta bar is the most popular.

Emma Raducanu, Roland Garros 2022, restaurant© Pauline Ballet/FFT

There has been a refreshed repaint in the colours of clay and the specific Roland-Garros green, which matches the foliage to enhance a natural vibe.  

Players are restricted to three members of their team joining, to limit distractions and maximise relaxation. The combinations are endless from breakfast all the way through to late dinners, as Chevalier’s team continues to work with nutritionists to mould the menu. 

A 2022 addition is a specified ‘recovery’ area, with protein shakes and tailored snacks to aid instant re-fuelling after battle.

As well as the traditional restaurant over at Suzanne-Lenglen, this season welcomes the ‘Club House’ opening. A premium spot for players and all their entourage on the top level of Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The terrace overlooking the outside courts is a sunset hot spot, with gourmet food and a cocktail bar - another nice touch is a Roland-Garros blend called  ‘La Folle envie’.

The conversations surrounding mental health are welcomed in modern day sport and Roland-Garros has kept apace.

A quick step from the main restaurant and players can recharge in the newly-installed quiet room. It’s a space to sleep, rest, meditate away from the mayhem of a major.

Quiet Rooms, player services, Roland Garros 2022© Pauline Ballet/FFT

Twelve beds surrounded by dimmed lights, big pillows, dried flowers, the sound-proof room is an oasis of tranquillity. Noise cancelling headphones are available to tune into an app with all sorts of relaxing playlists.

A significant part of the mental health push – joining ATP and WTA hotlines throughout the year – players can now call Roland-Garros lines for help.

Chevalier and her team have also built a programme with on-site psychologists and psychiatrists to deliver anonymous walk-in appointments.

“It was essential to bring this all in. Players are up and down because they win and lose so many matches,” continued Chevalier.

“Some players maybe don’t want to show, they don’t want to be perceived as weak, but they are not weak. We can all face difficult moments in our life and we have to help them with our maximum effort.”

Over to the locker rooms and the atmosphere is more like pre-pandemic times. Spa facilities have returned with massages, facials, hairdressing; all feel-good extras. Laundry service is an essential stop for competitors and they have their washing returned in smart cardboard boxes, to help reduce waste.

That’s the case with new water bottles too. Each player gets given four re-fillable Perrier sports bottles, ball kids can refill them during the match, alongside plenty of water points around the grounds.

Near the locker room is a nursery for travelling families and then there’s transport. This is the desk where the players can get a ride in sponsor Renault’s fleet of cars at short notice.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alexander Bublik, Roland Garros 2022 doubles second round© Andre Ferreira/FFT

The transport area is also where A-list guests arrive and where players can leave tickets for their nearest and dearest, with 16 spots up for grabs on Court Philippe-Chatrier, 14 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen and 12 on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

Just a couple of streets away is Jean Bouin, the key practice site. Families chill out here with facilities like a nail and hair salon. A popular addition has been yoga sessions with an instructor putting on six classes a day.

Crucially, all of this information is available on the regenerated RG player’s app and everything is bookable within a few clicks.

For example, with the five racquet stringing points around the grounds, players can message to ask them to be returned to a certain station.

Food-wise they can order meals for times that suit their match, maybe a plate of pasta at 8:00 am if they’re first on.

Shopping in the RG boutique, concierge helping sort theatre tickets, restaurant recommendations, you name it, it’s on the app.

Next to the on-site concierge desk is a seamstress, on hand to stitch any logos onto match outfits or alter the length of items. It seems the players are looked after to the very last stitch.

The options are endless, the stress and concerns off court are diminished by the organisational excellence of Chevalier and her crew, but she wants the services to keep developing.

Roland Garros 2022, player accreditation© Pauline Ballet/FFT

“It’s always important to refresh what you think you know. The services were already very good, but we want to become more premium, but to also show even more care for the players,” stated Chevalier.

“We are the smallest Grand Slam in terms of square metres, we try to do our best to optimise our services.

“Our player app is for me the best of the Grand Slams, every service is on there. One thing I already want to change though is to develop a kind of Uber, so they can see how long they need to wait for a car on their phone.

“We will probably go deeper into the menus for the food we offer, to gain more variety. The players always want different food, it’s tricky to juggle it with the suppliers so we don’t waste food. 

“We will go deeper into all the dimensions here. We have put in place many good things, but I think we can go even further.”

Player restaurant, Roland Garros 2022© Pauline Ballet/FFT