A few days before the first rackets for training and qualifying, Roland Garros is finalizing the preparations. One of the most important elements is clay. Manufactured in the Oise, its 70 tons cover the 18 courts of the stadium, the four training courts of the Bois de Boulogne, and the 11 training courts of the Jean Bouin stadium.
To redo the courts, “there are 11 permanent staff, and many temporary workers who only strengthen the team until the start of the tournament. We will be 190 people dedicated solely to the maintenance of grounds and clay for the duration of the tournament“, specifies Philippe Vaillant, responsible for the maintenance of the courts.
Quality: key word of Roland Garros
Clay requires water”but not that much“, explains Philippe Vaillant. “We did some calculations. Over a year, we are at a little less than 100 m3 of water, for maintenance and repair. Watering is done daily, we water all day depending on the weather, but it’s not a lot of water. We use what is necessary for the ground to keep its quality, which is the key word at Roland Garros.”
Everything is ready and yet… Philippe Vaillant remains stressed. He believes that “there can always be something last minute. It’s going to be another great edition with a lot of spectators. We just hope that the weather will be kind to us and to our pitches. The rain particularly bothers us. It’s complicated when you have to cover and uncover. We are serene.”
Team spirit is essential
Serenity also prevails for the preparation of the ball boys. This year, they will be 280 from all over France “of which about 90 Ile-de-France residents“says Arthur Bongrand, head of the ball boys. To achieve the dream of any child passionate about tennis, a drastic selection is made.
After receiving the applications, “Selection tests have been carried out in each league since September. After a four-day training course to learn how to be ball boys, the best from these courses are present during the tournament“, explains Arthur Bongrand.
The tests are physical. “We are looking for young people who are dynamic, fast, enduring, precise, on certain typical gestures of the ball boy. We also look at motivation and team spirit. They will be 280 during the tournament and the team spirit must be adequate“, specifies the person in charge of the collectors.
“They are all excellent ball boys” (Arthur Bongrand)
Several conditions all the same to win the grail: be licensed in a club of the French tennis federation, and be between 12 and 16 years old. “No matter the level of play of the pickup” for Arthur Bongrand who adds that “we have young players who are not even ranked in their club, and others who have a very good regional level. the common point is that they all make excellent ball boys.”
Even if he sells dreams to selected teenagers, Arthur Bongrand asks them to “to respect the players in their game. They are there to practice their best tennis. I think that the public solicits them enough. We simply ask the collectors to adopt the most professional attitude possible even ifthey have their eyes wide open in front of the champions.”
All will be at work from the start of the qualifying phases of the Roland Garros tournament on May 22. The best of them will then participate in the final stages.