ROLAND GARROS – It was busier than usual outside the Roland Garros practice facility, just down the road from the main site.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were practicing side-by-side (with Alexander Zverev a couple of courts over) in the early afternoon. And there were a number of fans of each player waiting outside the gates, hoping for a glimpse of either.
There were also a bunch of fans on tippy-toe, trying to get a peek over the fence.
Unlike many of the bigger ATP and WTA tournaments (and the US Open), some of the Grand Slams still haven’t understood the notion of fans enjoying watching the stars practice. The big ones have drawing power few can match.
Often, many tournament-attending fans would rather do that, than enjoy an epic battle between two evenly-matched, but lesser-known players. This is the landscape, and only the purists who think it’s only about the tennis have an issue with that.
Even the media access to the practice courts in Paris is extremely limited. At the start of the tournament, it was banned altogether, as it was up until 5-6 years ago for “the serenity of the players”. Ultimately, sanity prevailed and someone realized that people who travel a long way to cover players from their own countries needed to (at least somewhat) be given leave to do their jobs.
So overall, inside, it was pretty quiet.
Here’s what Djokovic looked like on the practice court.
Because he is who he is, Djokovic had invited a small group of friends/fans to watch him and, eventually, they were escorted in without accreditation.
Outside, some of the security were pushing their weight around a little bit. And as a serene Djokovic (who’s been in this situation hundreds of times) just waited for it all to shake out and for an opportunity to get into the tournament courtesy car, there was a minor bit of chaos.
Relatively speaking, though, not much. Given the magnitude of the stardom of the two players, you’d actually think there would be more fans outside.