From our special correspondent Porte d’Auteuil – Inaugurated in 2018, the largest of the adjoining courts offers the warmest atmosphere at Roland-Garros. When Lucas Pouille, Luca Van Assche or any other Frenchman plays there, the public responds… and often carries his tricolor foal to victory.
Published on : 31/05/2023 – 18:03
In the heat of the 2023 vintage of Roland-Garros, a small court overshadows the majestic Philippe-Chatrier, Suzanne–Lenglen and Simonne-Mathieu : court number 14, the largest of the adjoining courts, has offered a crazy atmosphere since the beginning of the Roland-Garros fortnight as soon as a Frenchman or woman shows up there. And il brings luck to the tricolors, more accustomed to the taste of defeat in recent years.
Read also French tennis in search of glory, 40 years after the triumph of Yannick Noah
Luca Van Assche can attest to this. The 19-year-old French tennis player years lived there his baptism in Grand Slam Monday, May 29. Carried by the public despite its closed face and concentrated, he shipped in three authoritative sets Italian Marco Cecchinato (6-1, 6-1, 6-3). This last was not, however, a partridge of the year Porte d’Auteuilas evidenced by semi-final at Roland-Garros in 2018.
“With the help of the public, it’s always much easier for us French people, they push us from start to finish. It was super cool for me to play in front of them. I managed to break free, and I played a very good game”, decrit Luca Van Assche hot after his performance. “As the game goes on, you often get chills when you hear the whole crowd singing behind you.”
A public able to wear their favorites but also to unpin their opponents. Marco Cecchinato was quickly put under pressure. As soon as the warm-up, while the two adversaries returned balls to each other, the public took malicious pleasure in screaming with joy when Luca touched the ball and booed when it was the Italian’s turn in an onomatopoeic ping-pong. He also did not hesitate to box the Italian at the slightest challenge or gesture of annoyance. The Palermo native ended up throwing his racket in frustration at what he called “his worst game at Roland Garros”.
Other French people have made it their official address for the tournament. Lucas Pouille played there and won his three matches during the qualifying week. He then asked Amélie Mauresmo, the tournament director, for permission to play his first round there. And after his splendid victory against the Austrian Jurij Rodionov (6-2, 6-4, 6-3), the show was still there with a Marseillaise intoned like the evenings of victory in the Davis Cup.
🇬🇧 The beautiful story continues for Lucas Pouille at Roland-Garros!
After coming out of qualifying, he continues in the big picture.
Lots of emotions on court 14 🥳#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/Fvm4Qcov0u
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 29, 2023
“People (…) may be pushing me like I’ve never been pushed here,” savored Lucas Pouille, who was thought to have been lost to tennis – he had no longer reached the second round of a Grand Slam since the US Open 2019. And he would see himself staying on court number 14 until the end of the tournament.
An arena that “everyone can have access to”
The French public of this short is not chauvinistic for all that. You just have to have his favors. The Swiss Stan Wawrinka, winner in 2015 of the Parisian Grand Slam, put on a show there at the height of his 38 years and found in the encouragement the strength to resist four and a half hours of combat against the Spaniard Albert Ramos-Viñolas ( 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 1-6, 6-4). “It’s a fairly compact, fairly small pitch. The public is very close and, above all, everyone can have access to it. As soon as there are interesting matches, there is a lot of atmosphere. There is had a lot of young people, a lot of kids, so it’s pretty cool,” he said.
Short number 14 is now beginning to have its small reputation. To access it, the queues are now huge. Sometimes you have to wait a whole hour to have the chance to access it. It must be said that places are expensive: the largest of the small courts only has 2,200 seats, which is accessible with any ticket.
“The spiritual heir of the number 1″
How to explain its success? Perhaps by its format. Created in 2018 in place of a gymnasium, this small buried bowl looks like a real gladiator arena. Spectators access their benches by descending steps and are closer to the players, feeling the intensity of each blow. We are so close to it that we see the beads of sweat beading on the faces of players strained by the heat.
Mandatory cap to spend the day there, under penalty of nasty sunburn. Arena buried just west of the Porte d’Auteuil, the court does not offer a square meter of shade. To drink, the gourds better be well filled otherwise you will have to go through the long queue. Or else you have to rely on the court’s maintenance staff, who take pleasure in sprinkling the public in addition to the clay court during the interruption.
“It’s quite simply the spiritual heir to court number 1”, blows a regular of the fortnight and court number 14. A reference to the legendary oval court at Roland-Garros, razed in 2019 to make way for the garden of the Musketeers and to sponsors. This court, historically located in the shadow of the Philippe-Chatrier court, has left an immeasurable void in the hearts of French tennis fans that court number 14 now seems to fill.