Stringer, training partner, tennis court maintenance… These faces that bring the Monte-Carlo Masters to life

They are stringers, sparring partners, part of the grounds maintenance staff and all have the common point of bringing to life one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments on the planet. Highlighting these faces which may not mean anything to you but which are nevertheless essential to the smooth running of the tournament.

Michel Garcia, grounds maintenance manager

When he started working for the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Novak Djokovic was not born. Michel Garcia has been working for the tournament for 42 years. First as a stand fitter. Then, today, as year-round court manager for the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

A role that is so important, already because the tournament has built a reputation for excellence thanks in particular to its courts, but also because the science of clay requires knowledge and precision.

All courts must be of the same quality. From center court to number 14. For this, Michel Garcia and his 47 colleagues are preparing from January. “We redo them all from A to Z. We come in with a machine that breaks the grounds and we redo everything from scratch.”

Then, when the tournament begins, comes the frenetic pace of the nine days of competition. “The day begins at 6:30 a.m., since the players arrive around 8:30 a.m. Already, the day before, we drown them so that during the day, by capillarity, it rises. In the morning we uncover, we scrape and we remove the red then, depending on the weather, we add calcium so that the humidity remains on the courts. As for the rest, we advise.

Tons of soil are shipped directly from Italy to replace the exact same amount removed daily. Because the colossi of today “are almost 2 meters long and weigh 90 kg”, would almost regret Michel Garcia. Nothing to do with Björn Borg and Adriano Panatta who were “flying” on the court when he started. Which necessarily involves more work.

Not to mention the maintenance, watering and passing the carpet throughout the day until the last meeting.

Benjamin Azar, sparring-partner

Benjamin Azar, sparring-partner Photo Yannis Dakik.

Benjamin Azar is Canadian. Originally from Montreal, the 15-year-old young man trains in Bordighera, Italy at the academy of famous coach Ricardo Piatti.

Selected by his coach who takes care of the distribution of the training grounds, Benjamin is present throughout the week to warm up the professionals. “Every year, my coach invites 3 or 4 players to serve as sparring partners.”

Currently around 800th place in the world in the ITF junior rankings, the Canadian is taking advantage of this moment to learn on and off the courts. “It’s a great experience. You can compare your level against the best in the world in one of the most beautiful clubs in the world. But I also observe them a lot: their ability to always be 100%, how they behave, react. I almost learn more by watching them in the locker room than by hitting the ball with them.”

Like maintenance personnel, sparring partners arrive on site early. “We were picked up in Italy at 7:30 in the morning. We warm up around 8:15 a.m. and training can start at 9 a.m..”

The rest of the day, the young players hang out in the locker room available to the pros depending on their player profile: left-handed, right-handed, one-handed or two-handed backhand… This year for his first, the young man had the honor to warm up in particular Karen Khachanov, Casper Ruud and Daniil Medvedev. “The other day I was sitting in the locker room and I was told that I had to warm up Medvedev for 10 to 15 minutes because his player wasn’t there.”

A taste of what awaits him perhaps in a few years? “I would like to one day be a professional too and play in the tournament.”

Stéphane Chrzanowski, cordeur

Stéphane Chrzanowski, cordeur. Photo Yannis Dakik.

Stéphane Chrzanowski has been a stringer since 2003. Today, he is responsible for the stringing service for Technifibre, which is a partner of the tournament. Its role is quite simple although essential. Here, he strings the players’ rackets from morning to evening.

“We wake up at 6 a.m., we do a breakfast briefing with the team. We arrive on site around 7 a.m..”

Then, it’s the rush until the end of the day while carefully respecting the players’ requests. “Each stringer keeps his players throughout the tournament for a better quality of service, so everyone knows what he has to do. We have the best stringers in the world but even between us, we can have a difference in the way we do things . We calibrate the machines every morning, it’s very detailed.”

On a big day, Stéphane and his handful of colleagues can string up to 200 rackets for a little over 1,000 in the tournament.

And with 17 tournaments under his belt each year, the forty-year-old builds links with players, some of whom he knows very well. “Daniil Medvedev is part of the company [il est en contrat avec Technifibre]. I knew him when he was 17 or 18 and he was a sparring partner at the ATP Finals in London.”

Which inevitably creates some anecdotes…”When he won at the ATP Finals in London, we found ourselves taking down the stand at 1 a.m. We returned to the players’ hotel and in the corridor there were F1 simulators. Daniil Medvedev was seen racing the Monaco Grand Prix at 2 a.m. [rires].


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