May 20th, 2010
11:02 AM ET

Should the French Open leave Roland Garros?

 Roland Garros is too small for the large audiences it attracts.
Roland Garros is too small for the large audiences it attracts.

In the next few years the French Open may be forced to leave its iconic city center location of Roland Garros, in favor of an out of town setting which would allow it to expand like its grand slam counterparts already have. But is abandoning the bright lights of Paris really a good move for the French? And how will the alternative venues measure up?

Ever since the French Open began in 1928 it has been held on the red clay courts of Roland Garros, in the city’s chic sixteenth arrondissement.

As French as Wimbledon is English, Roland Garros, which is named after a French airline pilot and World War One hero, has become synonymous with tennis. And consequently, the French are far from impressed at proposals for a move from their prestigious home to the city’s less than glamorous suburbs.

But with only a small area of land to play with, half that of Wimbledon’s South West London location, the French Open has outgrown itself, hemmed in by the vast Bois de Boulogne park on one side and avenues of expensive homes on the other.

It would certainly be a great shame to leave the history of the venue and Paris behind but organizers are under considerable pressure to do so after it was reported that reigning champion and world number one Roger Federer gave a list of his complaints about Roland Garros' facilities to tournament director Gilbert Ysern.

Federer was not advocating a move out of the city but his opinions will have further convinced those who believe it is necessary. And as hopes to improve the existing venue were stalled by protests from environmentalists and local residents, who amongst other things objected to the construction of a roof over the Phillipe Chatrier court, organizers seem to be running out of options.

Earlier in the year Ysern told the media that leaving Paris would be “heartbreaking,” but something that he knew had to be considered for the future of the tournament. And it seems that future could lie in one of four locations, all situated at least 15km outside of Paris – not quite as attractive to players or traveling fans.

To the north there is the nondescript town of Gonesse, a 16.5 km train or car journey from Paris and close to Charles de Gaulle airport, which can claim very little to its name except for being the sight of a Concorde crash in the year 2000.

Then there is the equally uninspiring 1960’s town of Evry, 25km to the south of the city and close to the other international airport in Paris, Orly.

Perhaps slightly better known is Marne-la-Vallée in the east, but this is already the home of the ever-expanding Disneyland and is still around an hour from the center of Paris.

The final contender, and certainly the preferred new location as far as Ysern is concerned, is Versailles. The former French capital is the home of the spectacular palace that was once the residence of the country’s kings and queens.

So despite still being outside the city walls, it boasts a slightly more imaginative and iconic setting than any of the other options, and if the tournament had to move Versailles is the front runner.

Nevertheless, none of the suggestions are quite as alluring as the established Roland Garros complex, just a stone's throw from the city and all the sights it has to offer.

A decision on the future of Roland Garros will be taken by the French tennis authorities at the beginning of 2011, and any move is expected to take up to five years to complete. Perhaps they are hoping this will give the tennis world time to get used to the idea.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Damian

    No It should stay....

    May 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  2. Arno Pareja

    It has to stay INSIDE Paris and not leave to the suburbs.

    May 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  3. Joana

    Absolutely! it should stay where it is! So many traditions are being thrown aside in the name of progress. Leaving Roland Garros would make the French Open just another big time tennis tournament.

    May 26, 2010 at 12:06 am | Reply
  4. manfid

    it had a century of good tournaments... so whats wrong?
    so sad money is talking...
    more tv than anything, they get angry of "rain" delays in "prime" matches.
    so what?
    tennis is not football, just get over it, if you dont like it, give up the tv rights.
    i said is more important history and tradition.
    what will be next, 5th GS? maybe we will have 7 by 2020?
    its sad when money is first and sport next

    May 26, 2010 at 12:52 am | Reply
  5. bill

    I agree with Roger. Roland Garros is the French Open. Something historic would be lost if it moved.

    May 26, 2010 at 3:42 am | Reply
  6. olumide

    the current location as the history of french open,y do they want to change the location? 4 me i really would love it if its stays inside PARIS than the SUBURBS

    May 26, 2010 at 6:57 am | Reply
  7. Ruwaydah

    Please let it stay where it is... It would lose it's magic and atmosphere if moved to another venue.

    May 26, 2010 at 9:01 am | Reply
  8. Non-French Parisian

    Roland Garros is already in the suburbs... the question is how much farther away should it move.

    It doesn't really matter how far away it is as long as there is a dedicated transportation system that would cut the travel time from the centre to nothing above 20 minutes. They could take the existing lines and add express trains from one of the Parisian 'gares' that take you directly to the new location... for example

    May 26, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Reply
  9. peter

    Sure, and the Tribeca Film Festival to New Jersey too while you're at it.

    May 27, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Reply
  10. Ivan

    Roland Garros should stay right where it is. The fact that the tournament is in Paris makes it special and the city itself already attracts tourists. They just need to build retractable roofs on the main courts and call that there step into modernity if Wimbledon can do that I'm sure Roland Garros can do the same.

    May 27, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  11. RG ball supplier

    Purchase the residential area, and moved them to the suburbs.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:47 am | Reply
  12. rosh123

    Should the Indy 500 move from Indianapolis OR should the British Open move from Wimbledon OR better still should the US President move from the White House. How could anybody even think of abandoning Roland Garros – only Wimbledon is more prestigious or historic

    May 28, 2010 at 6:03 am | Reply
  13. John

    Why move the French Open further away from Paris claiming the need for more space?

    To expand from the current 21 acres to the needed 74 acres can be easily accomplished by taking over space in the Bois de Boulogne which lies on the edge of Roland Garros.

    That park is 2,100 acres which is 2.5 times larger than New York's Central Park and 3.3 times larger than London's Hyde Park. Taking 74 acres adjacent to the current location is a more sensible and much less expensive solution.

    As a francophile American who has been twice to Roland Garros, I agree with Nadal that "you can breathe the history within these walls."

    Roland Garros IS Paris– keep it there!

    May 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  14. Rick Olivares

    So what if the French Open at Roland Garros has it faults? Then improve them. Or fix them. But keep the games right where they are. Every Grand Slam event has its own character, ambiance, and voice. Roland Garros has its distinct voice apart from the other majors. It would be a shame to lose that.

    May 29, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  15. Garland

    How is the location related to the many, many empty seats we see on TV this year? At times the stands seem less than 3/4 full

    May 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Reply
  16. Rodman (9ja)

    In my opinion, i think that the French open be played in same venue ( Roland Garros) and whoever is thinking of moving it from there is thinking of stopping history.
    All French men and women you have to make history with Roland Garrote so don't move it to any other place, the venue is historic.

    May 30, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  17. Paul Miller

    Coming from New York City, I say OF COURSE move it. The above writer is correct when he said that if the transportation is good, no prob. The US Open moved from Forest Hills to it's current locations because of the need for better facilities and I can't imagine it still being in Forest Hills. And Versailles? Awesome. Some people just can't handle change. The Paris Metro is one of the great rails in a city and the TGV is awesome too.. I am sure that France can accommodate with beautiful new venue and an awesome rail system that will get people there.

    June 8, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  18. Rob Hogrefe

    Why don't you ask Borg or Nadal unstead of someone who's only won the tournament once.

    June 17, 2010 at 5:46 am | Reply
  19. KimKardashianPics

    Djokovic-Nadal final Roland Garros 2011.

    And, Djokovic will be no1 long time in future.


    May 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  20. BassDog

    It should be either Barcelona or Madrid, or lose its status as a grand slam event and make a Spanish Open the 4th Grand Slam since France isn't even represented as champions in the sport

    June 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Reply

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