RG spreading magic around the world

 - Alice Jacques

The “Rendez-vous at Roland-Garros” initiative was set up to promote clay-court tennis.

Marcelo Melo and Justine Henin Juniors Wild card series at Roland-Garros 2019©Jean-Charles Caslot/FFT

Raising the profile of the Parisian Grand Slam and promoting clay-court tennis are a specific focus of the French Tennis Federation. The “Rendez-vous at Roland-Garros” initiative was set up with this in mind.

The “Roland-Garros Clubs”, which boast the best clay courts in the world, were the starting point for this operation. A number of events are organised year-round in these clubs. They include the Roland-Garros Amateur Series, a tournament that is open to all; the Roland-Garros Junior Wild Card Series, played in China, India and Brazil, where the world’s tennis hopefuls meet; and the Roland-Garros eSeries by BNP Paribas, an e-gaming tennis tournament. 

So, what do they consist of?


Rendez-vous on the courts: Roland-Garros Junior Wild Card Series by OPPO and ballkids

Roland-Garros Junior Wild Card Series by OPPO

They had a dream — and they saw it come true! Tian Fangran (China) and Gustavo Heide (Brazil) won wildcards for the Roland-Garros juniors draws on Saturday, 25 May. We take a look back at their journey.

It all started in Brazil, China and India. It is here that Roland-Garros organizes the qualifying stages of the Junior Wild Card Series by OPPO, where young hopefuls from each country meet. After three days of matches, the winner gets a ticket to Paris. In Brazil, Gustavo Heide and Camilla Bossi came out on top. They were joined by China’s Li Zixhuan and Tian Fangran, and India’s Mann Shah and Humera Baharmus.

On 8 am, Saturday 25 May, Camilla, Fangran, Humera, Gustavo, Zixhuan and Mann stepped onto Court 14, where they would be playing the final. First up was a battle between China’s Tian and India’s Humera. The first win went to Tian Fangran (6-1, 6-3). She also defeated the Brazilian junior Bossi (6-2, 6-3) in the final match, thereby earning her place in the juniors tournament. On the boys’ side, India’s Shah and Brazil’s Heide played the final match at the end of the day. Gustavo was the winner of that match (7-5, 6-3), just like his fellow countryman Mateo Barreiros Reyes in the previous year.


The following days, the two winners were kept busy. Gustavo was called on to be a sparring partner. The schedule was packed with opportunities to practice with great champions, including Elise Mertens, Grigor Dimitrov and then Casper Ruud on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, before his match against Federer. Meanwhile, Tian Fangran trained intensively with her coach. The two young players also enjoyed the experience of being at Roland-Garros, soaking up the atmosphere and of course watching their idols play.

On Friday 31 May, at an official ceremony on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, the winners were presented with their wildcards for the juniors tournament. Federer was about to enter the arena, and the stands were buzzing. Justine Henin, Marcelo Melo and Zhang Shuai welcomed Tian Fangran and Gustavo Heide onto the court, where they were presented with their new accreditations by the president of the French Tennis Federation and the President of OPPO Europe, Vincent Huang. They were then given a VIP welcome to the partner Village by OPPO.

The adventure was an extra special one for all of them, and although our two winners were stopped in the first round, it was an incredible first step for their professional career. Just like Cori “Coco” Gauff, a 2017 finalist, Roland-Garros looks forward to seeing them in the future.

Watch the YouTube series.

Ball kids with Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros 2019©Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Ballkids: a Chinese-French exchange

There are eight of them, and they came straight from China. The French Tennis Federation, the China Open and the Wuhan Open set up an exchange policy in 2013. Every year, while French ballkids have the opportunity to enjoy a few days in China, four ballkids selected in Beijing and four from Wuhan fly to Paris for three weeks of the tournament at Porte d’Auteuil. They join the giant team of ballkids and also get the opportunity to wander around Paris.

©Jean-Carles Caslot/FFT

Rendez-vous in the stands: the Roland-Garros Amateur Series and the Roland-Garros Clubs

The Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros are also an opportunity for other tennis fans to take in the Parisian Grand Slam – like the winners of the Roland-Garros Amateur Series, from China and Brazil. Zhang Yiran and Zhang Chenming earned their spots at the Chinese tournament last April. On Saturday, 25 May, they took part in Kids’ Day, supporting Tian Fangran and Li Zixhuan in the Roland-Garros Junior Wild Card Series by OPPO.

They also cheered on actor Jin Dong, Roland-Garros’s new ambassador, who was a finalist in the Stars, Set and Match event, before going on an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Roland-Garros complex. On 4 and 5 June, Carlos Amorim and his mentor made their way to Porte d’Auteuil, to watch the quarter-finals on centre court. Carlos also met two Brazilian Roland-Garros champions – Gustavo Kuerten (singles) and Marcelo Melo (doubles) – at a Brazilian-themed breakfast at the partner Village.

Roland-Garros Club representatives and guests from around the world were also out in force. As ambassadors for the tournament in their respective countries, they took to the stands when matches started. This year, Chinese, Egyptian, Mexican and Brazilian clubs visited the site.


A virtual rendez-vous: the Roland-Garros eSeries by BNP Paribas

After 10 national qualification rounds and two wildcard tournaments, the final phases of the Roland-Garros eSeries by BNP Paribas will take place during the last weekend of the tournament. Last year’s finalists CarlosChe (Spain), Isniper (Italy), Thakurroit (India), Rogederer (Brazil) and ThibKa (France) were joined this year by several new qualifiers: Nezo95 (We Are Tennis – France), RVP (FFT, France), Acedarkball (United Kingdom), Monoyer (Belgium), Fatih10k (Germany), Pyroboi (United States) and FSLSicong (China).

A panel of 12 players will play in group matches on Saturday, 8 June from 11 am on the southern concourse outside Court Suzanne-Lenglen. The final matches will be played on Sunday, 9 June from 11 am on Court 1, as part of the We Are Tennis Show organized by BNP Paribas. The players will face off while playing the most recent edition of the Tennis World Tour game, which features a digital version of Court Philippe-Chatrier – as it will be in 2021!

Watch the qualifying rounds on YouTube.

Jin Dong smiling at Roland-Garros 2019©Pauline Ballet/FFT

VIP rendez-vous: ambassadors, federations and associated tournaments

Roland-Garros would not be Roland-Garros without its stars. They come from around the world and have a special relationship with the tournament. Gustavo Kuerten, for example, has taken three Grand Slam titles here, and has been an ambassador for the tournament for the past year. Another ambassador, Jin Dong, joined Vianney, Marine Lorphelin and Camille Lacourt in the Stars, Set and Match event. Despite losing in the final to Vianney, he wowed the crowds in Paris. Roland-Garros also receives representatives from federations and tournaments around the world, including special partners such as the Brazilian Tennis Confederation, the Japanese Tennis Association and the China Open.