French Open organizers launch assault on tardy diners

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PARIS (Reuters) – The French Open is generally an image of magnificence — well-dressed spectators in Panama hats watching the ball sizzle throughout the purple clay in searing sunshine. The issue is when a lot of the crowd disappears for a protracted Mediterranean lunch.

Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros – Paris, France – 23/05/16. Roland Gorros emblem. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
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Whereas numbers at Roland Garros have been climbing steadily lately — there have been a report 472,000 guests in 2017, up 16,000 from 2016 — the stands are sometimes half-empty through the lunch hour, which on the French Open can run from round 1130 a.m. till three p.m. and is incessantly fueled by Champagne.

Early spherical ladies’s matches have been significantly affected however even the 2016 semi-final between Serena Williams and Kiki Bertens didn’t escape. Pictures confirmed Philippe Chatrier, the primary present court docket, largely abandoned. The opposite semi-final between Garbine Muguruza and Sam Stosur was not a lot better attended.

In addition to disappointing gamers — Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has expressed irritation — it doesn’t look good on TV and is a supply of embarrassment for the French Tennis Federation, which has been taking a look at methods to resolve it.

Wimbledon, with its hordes of tennis followers arriving from the world over to camp out for days and even weeks to pay money for tickets, has not confronted the identical downside.

Final yr, Roland Garros bought tickets to the boys’s semi-finals individually, so relatively than somebody having the ability to purchase a day go and slot in a liquid lunch in between matches, spectators had to purchase a ticket for one semi-final or the opposite.

This yr, with the primary event starting on Could 27 and operating till June 10, organizers are hoping different minor tweaks will maintain the present courts properly stuffed.

“The issue arises particularly through the first week with video games beginning at 11 a.m.,” a spokesman for the French Tennis Federation acknowledged.

“To assist fill the courts, we’re giving our hospitality prospects loads of flexibility within the ticketing, so they can host a number of company on the identical ticket at totally different occasions through the day,” he defined.

That implies that whereas one visitor could also be having fun with one of many famously lavish hospitality lunches, one other invited by the identical sponsor could possibly be sitting within the stands watching a recreation.

After all, the federation can be eager to make sure sponsors can entertain as they see match, and that everybody has time.

High-notch hospitality tickets for the boys’s semi-finals, together with a gourmand lunch, all-day open bar and direct entry to Philippe Chatrier, price round 2,500 euros per ticket this yr. At that value, punters need to take advantage of every part — each the tennis and the hospitality.

“We need to supply our spectators an expertise that’s wealthy on each the sporting and the non-sporting entrance,” the federation spokesman mentioned.

Writing by Luke Baker; Enhancing by Toby Davis

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