Players' love letters to Paris

 - Sarah Edworthy

The world's top players are enchanted by Paris as they arrive for Roland-Garros.

Airport, hotel, courtesy car, practice court, tournament venue: over and over again. The rigours of the tour calendar are such that you could forgive players for letting changes of locale pass in a blur.

But Roland-Garros? Paris? The city of light, love and “lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life” – according to enamoured US statesman Thomas Jefferson, visiting in the 1780s? The unique clay-court Grand Slam draws a genuine depth of emotion from players – a love letter in social media posts boosted by affectionate emojis.

“Hi @rolandgarros” tweeted Naomi Osaka, with a love heart and a smiling face, above a picture of hair first practice on the terre battue. On Instagram, she served notice of her presence in the host city with a glamorous selfie in front of the Arc de Triomphe: “Paris, me and my hair have arrived,” she declared with a see-no-evil monkey and red-heart symbol.

With intent to turn around her season's lean form, perhaps, the 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza posted an exuberant fist bump as she made her first foray onto the practice courts at Roland-Garros.

It's been too long...

Victoria Azarenka, returning after a two-year absence and off-court struggles, posted a happy face with racket-and-ball as well as an emotional status adorned with hearts and a lip-kiss from the Arc de Triomphe. “Hello Paris, it’s been a while… I missed you!”

The same heartfelt sentiment was aired by Petra Kvitova, who returned to tennis here in 2017 after the knife attack she suffered in 2016: “Two years is a long time in tennis… Nice to see you again Roland-Garros,” she wrote.

King and queen of clay

Defending champion Simona Halep wears her emotions on her sleeve, and on her social pages. “Last year in Paris, I learnt you can dream big and make it happen. Now I’m heading back with an even bigger dream…”  On Twitter she posted an image of herself and Rafael Nadal at the draw ceremony with the tag #mybestpictureever and the caption “You have to win @rolandgarros to get a picture with the king of clay” accompanied by a winking-face emoji and bejewelled crown.

Fired up for glory

David Goffin, once described as the Harry Potter of tennis, beautifully encapsulated the magic of the venue in the 16e arrondissement with an image of himself with the greatest of all tennis wizards: “First practice @rolandgarros with the Maestro @rogerfederer”. A capital M for Maestro and a fire symbol nicely conjured the Belgian’s respect for the 2009 French Open champion. A subsequent post with a lightning symbol #RG19 conveyed his intent to have a scorching run in this year’s draw.

Dominic Thiem (pictured mid-jump in the gym) and Juan Martin del Potro (symbolically running towards the Arc de Triomphe) combined ardent greetings to Paris with the psychological fanfare of demonstrating their ultra-dedication to being in the best form possible for RG19.

Bonne visite

In contrast to his understated press-conference utterances, Kei Nishikori is charmingly voluble in his reverence for Paris and its clay courts on social media. Quick to tweet a video clip of his first hit on the red stuff, he also posted a self-deprecating image of his coach Dante gesticulating in some sort of technical anguish towards a spot on the court – cue, a face-palming man, a pensive face and a crying-with-laughter emoji.  

He also thanked his Paris hotel for always looking after him so well with five folded-hand emojis – the gesture meaning please and thank you in Japanese culture - illustrated with a picture of himself in front of champagne chilling in an ice bucket and tennis ball-shaped gateau.