Hunt for autographs, selfies … With the health crisis, it has become increasingly difficult to approach players at Roland Garros. Some manage to do it anyway, but to leave with a memory of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, you have to take your pain patiently. On the practice courts, the fans do not despair.
Court number 3 is the benchmark for autograph hunters at Roland Garros. Often a lot of waiting at the entrance, a sign that Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal are in training. So obviously, to find a place in the stands, where the gauge is limited, it’s a bit of a race. The most experienced fans have their technique. This is the case of Céline, cap and mask bearing the image of the Spaniard.
His day always starts with the same routine: “I know he trains around 11am so I run from right to left to go see him on the court before there is no more room”. A technique followed by Pascale, placed in the first row, just behind the player’s chair for court number 3: “I’ve been there for 10 hours, you have to do it early. You have to be ready to dry on the spot with this sun and this heat “.
Once the players arrive, applause, “Rafa”, “Roger” and lots of smiles. Often a big half-hour of training where the supporters can enjoy, admire their idol. A short time but enough to keep fond memories. Nicolas, Federer’s cap on his head, was able to see the Swiss for the first time: “He remains a living legend of tennis, it is a golden opportunity to see him play today. So I take advantage and if I could to have his autograph, I would be happy “.
“We have hydroalcoholic gel!”
But this autograph, or selfie, remains the most complicated Grail to have. With the Covid, players are more reluctant, no longer sign and often leave the court with “sorry I can’t”. That day, Roger Federer, with 20 Grand Slam titles, did not stop, nor Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with whom he was training. Slight disappointment for Victor, who came with a big tennis ball and the hope of having the player’s signature: “It’s terrible, he didn’t stop. But we saw them training, it was already well, after the autographs it’s a bonus. I’m happy, I still made a success of my day “.
He tried everything for everything, with a dose of humor and chat: “We have hydroalcoholic gel”, shouts the supporter. Nice attempt, but in vain. Ahmed, sitting a few feet away, didn’t even ask for anything. From the start, he questioned Severin Luthi, the Swiss coach: “I asked him if Roger signed autographs but in the tournament rules, it is not allowed. I can understand, with the sanitary measures, for protect themselves, the players do not wish to use pens “.
With Nadal, a bullet or a poorly framed photo as a reward
Alain, autograph hunter, had just come from Perpignan with a pocket full of photos, some signed and others not. The objective of the day was to obtain a souvenir from Switzerland. Missed. So he fell back on Rafael Nadal’s training: “I managed to get a ball, I’m happy. I tried the cap but with the Covid, it’s complicated.” He’s not the only one to walk away with a bullet. François, Nadal fan, comes to see him every year: “Carlos Moya (Rafael Nadal coach) gave me the ball at the end of training. I would have liked a photo with him but a ball with which he played, it’s already super nice “.
Ordinarily, the Spaniard would have taken longer to put on a big smile with the fans. Covid obliges, he poses from afar, alone, and fans photograph him. Still a lucky one, Céline. She had her first selfie with the world number 3. His “Rafa, Rafa, please” were heard: “I’m happy, I have the picture, he stopped. It is not very well centered, he is a little far away but we is both on it, that’s great “. Because now, a photo with Rafa is with a mask on his face and a few meters away …