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by Carl Petersen BPE, BSc. (PT)
Do you have aspirations of attending the French Open on your bucket list? If so book your plane tickets and travel to the Paris at the end of May. Attending the French Open in Paris is not just about watching tennis. Any excuse to visit Paris in the springtime will do but enjoying the ‘City of Lights’ and watching superb tennis at the same time is a prime one. Smell the earthy clay of Stade Roland Garros and take in the palette of colours including the brick red clay, and green leafed chestnut trees against an azure sky that turns grey and purple as clouds roll in over the Bois de Boulogne.
Beating the Jet Lag
Jet lag is scientifically referred to as disruption in the body’s circadian rhythms or biological clocks. These rhythms are synchronized by diet, meal timing, sunrise and sunset, rest and activity as well as social contact. Minimize the effects of jet lag by heading out as soon as you’re checked in and showered. Paris is a city for walking and getting outside and joining the rhythm of the day will help your body’s internal clock get synchronized with your new time zone. Before dinner do a post flight workout. Try doing a dynamic warm-up of about 10-15 minutes followed by a light 15-30 minute run, fast walk or cycle. Eat some fast carbohydrates after dinner like a famous Bertillon ice cream or crème caramel to help trigger the sleep cycle. Take a warm bath or shower prior to bed. If a sauna or whirlpool are available use them to stretch in. Wake up early and head to tennis as sleeping late will only postpone adaptation and make you feel more tired.
Arrive Early & Explore
Arrive in Paris a few days early to get the lay of the city and explore the different Arrondissements (districts). I prefer to stay in the city usually in the 3 rd, 4th or 5th Arrondisement rather than near the Bois de Boulogne. It makes for great early morning walks or runs through different areas and easy to have a relaxing coffee and croissant or pain au chocolate at one of the numerous cafés that are on every corner and in between. Café de Flor and Le Deaux Magot are two favorites in St. Germain de Pres but many others abound. The small street market across from the Metro stop Maubert Mutualite is a great place to browse or stock up on items for a picnic lunch on the banks of the Seine or to take with you to Roland Garros.
Visit Ile St. Louis which is often described as the center of the French Universe. A calm center in the middle of the city. It’s narrow streets hold many gastronomic treasures. Visit the Boutique Hotel “Le Jeu de Paume” and see the remnants of the first tennis court. Louis XIII decided to urbanize what was then “cow island” in 1634 by building a court for the game “jeu de paume” and a gambling den to attract people to the island.
The center of the city is best meant to explore on foot but with a well-planned RER and Metro line getting anywhere is easy. Now there is also numerous bicycles for hire in a program called Velib’. They come equipped with lights and fenders, but you may want to bring your own helmet despite no one wearing one.
Securing a Seat
With close to 500,000 people attending the tournament tickets may be hard to come by. They are best purchased in advance and on site will be hard to come by especially if French players are still in the draw. I suggest you come early during the first week when there is lots of practice action earlier in the day and many matches to see up close. If you don’t get a ticket for the day not all is lost. There are two smaller clubs with practice courts nearby where you can often see some great training – just ask one of the staff.
Catch the Qualies
The tournament qualifying rounds start the week before the main draw and offer some excellent matches. The players ranked high enough to get into the quallies make great viewing and you never know what up and comer you will find. Many of the players that have been at the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open tournament in past years are either playing in the quallies or have been ranked high enough to make main draw. Another plus – it’s free! And you can watch the tournament stars practicing, close up, without the hordes.
Roaming the Venue
One of my favorite activities is to get a grounds pass and watch the early round matches. This year you could see many rising stars up close and personal in the early rounds. Even if you bought a ticket for the Suzanne Lenglen or Philip Chartrier arena keep your eye on scores elsewhere. If it looks like a good match is progressing head off to see it, your assigned seat will be waiting for you upon your return. Check out the daily program and decide on your best bets for a good match. To be assured a good seat get there well before the match starts. Some of the best courtside viewing is from court # 2, a real player’s court and the one favored by many for practice. Protected on all sides it does not have as much wind as the more open courts 4 through 18 and as well the open seating on one side allows those looking for the sun and the opposite side provides shade. For watching doubles I prefer courts # 7 or 9 where you can sit well above the court and watch the action.
Plan for Weather
If it’s May in Paris and tennis has begun, you can be sure it will rain at some time. Grey and purple thunderclouds can gather over the Bois de Boulogne. They will turn a bright day to dark
and unleash torrents of rain. The tarps are quickly pulled over the courts and play is suspended from several hours to a day. Fortunately play can continue longer and resume sooner due to the nature of the terrain battue (clay). Check for a rain refund that may reimburse spectators for a % of the ticket value if play lasts 2 hours or less.
Always pack a hat, sunscreen and long sleeve t- shirts to protect from the sun. Evening matches can get quite cool. Bring a jacket and pants if you plan on staying late as the clouds and wind sweep over the Bois de Boulogne.
Dining out in Paris can be truly rewarding, and sometimes expensive. Avoid the ethnic themed tourist touts on the Left Bank. Instead, head to Le Marais district and walk towards Le Bastille. You will find numerous small restaurants some with only 8 -10 tables serving great food. For a taste of the esprit de Brasserie settle in at Bofingers. For a more casual dining meal, head to Café Hugo next to Place des Vosges. You can find traditional Alsatian fare at Café Brasserie Lipp in St. Germain de Pres is an institution, on the Paris A list for more than a century.
Eat well, have fun, and enjoy some great history. Oh yes, and some tennis of course!
Carl Petersen is a partner/physiotherapist at City Sports Physiotherapy Clinic in Vancouver. He is an internationally recognized speaker and has co-authored the book Fit to Play™ Tennis as well as a variety of other training resources with former WTA professional and current coach and exercise model Nina Nittinger based in Davos, Switzerland.