This is a guest post from Catherine Riding, a UK based tennis fan and one of my tennis besties. Follow her on Twitter @ScattyDove
I’ve already achieved the ultimate goal of most ardent tennis fans by attending all four slams (though not in the same calendar year…I still remain in awe of GrandSlamGal who was able to pull that off!), and have had an awesome year of live tennis to date. I always said that my next goal would be to make it to all of the ATP 1000 tournaments and, with my boss badgering me to take mounting annual leave at work, it seemed like fate when I was mooching around on the website for the BNP Paribas Masters and saw that packages for the final three days were still available!
Getting to the BNP Paribas Masters
The BNP Paribas Masters is held in Bercy, Paris at the Palais Omnisports. The journey to get to the venue could not be simpler, with metro lines 6 and 14 connecting you to the rest of Paris. As such it really doesn’t matter where in the city you stay as the metro is efficient and relatively cheap. I stayed just a few metres from Gare du Nord train station (handy for my Eurostar home) and it took 20 minutes door to door (not factoring in all the time I took getting lost in Gare du Nord…no matter how many times I visit Paris, that station will remain a confusing mystery!) When you emerge at street level from the metro in Bercy you simply look behind you and the stadium is right there! It’s the easiest tennis journey I’ve ever made.
You can also take a scenic walk on Rue de Bercy, following the river. Though I never took advantage of this option (I’m the worst timekeeper and always ended up rushing to Bercy on the metro) I’ve been assured that it is a fab alternative to public transport.
Tickets and Seating
I was astounded at just how reasonably priced the tickets are! Like most tournaments the pricing is split into different levels and the 141 euros I paid got me a seat on the front row of the balcony for the quarters, semis and the finals. Yes I was quite high up, but nowhere near as far back as I could have been, and the view was completely unrestricted.
I spent quite a lot of time viewing YouTube videos of past trophy presentation ceremonies before buying my tickets. Because I knew I was going to be there for the final I wanted to make sure that I was facing the ceremony, and the hard work paid off. So if you’re planning to be there for the final, you want to be sitting to the right of the umpire, or on the baseline to the right of the umpire. Then you’re golden! If you’re coming to Paris without having booked any tickets just try rocking up to the billettierie (box office) outside the stadium, and see what’s available. I didn’t get to my accommodation until late afternoon and had no tickets for that day. However I knew that Djokovic and Federer were still yet to play their third round matches so I went to Bercy on the offchance that tickets were still available. I bagged one for 21 euros and got two matches out of it. Ace!
Venue Facilities and Fan Entertainment Away from the Court
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with how little there was to keep fans entertained away from the tennis. There was the usual selection of food stalls on the arena concourse, and a couple of stands with Playstation consoles for people to play on. That seemed to be it. The venue didn’t have any wifi but was promoting their social media tags at every opportunity. But while the tournament may have been lacking in entertainment outside of the stadium it excelled inside, taking every opportunity to turn the tournament into an event. DJs (sponsored by Peugeot) played mini sets (of music…not tennis!) between matches; people were being randomly picked from the crowd by giant spotlights (I never did quite understand what for, but everybody seemed to be getting very excited when it happened), and there were crazy light shows just before the players came out. You could have been forgiven for thinking you were at the world tour finals, it felt like that kind of showdown event.
With Tim Henman being the last Brit to win the title in 2003 (go Tiger Tim!!) I was personally praying that I would get to cheer Andy Murray to victory this year, but it wasn’t to be after his straight sets defeat to Djokovic following a tiring few weeks. That didn’t detract from the experience one bit though, as I saw a huge number of world class players pitted against one another. Personal highlights were Federer’s quarterfinal demise at the hands of Raonic; Ferrer and Nishikori in their huge QF battle which went on until close to 01:00 and, of course, Djokovic clinching the title. Both Djokovic and Raonic played some insane rallies in the final which often brought the crowd to their feet, but Djokovic was the worthy winner. I’m fairly sure that this is just the start of many more finals to come for Milos though.
The only thing I regret about this experience is the fact that I didn’t come much sooner. Living in the UK I have Paris on my doorstep and it cost peanuts to travel here. I’m already planning tennis trips for 2015, and I’ll be doing all I can to include Paris in that again.
Top tips for first timers to Paris
Parisians well and truly live up to the reputation they have for being rude. You will get jostled and pushed in the metro; you will be tutted at/blanked when you apologise to somebody for not understanding when they speak to you in French; you will most likely see at least one person urinating outdoors in the cold light of day. Either ignore it, or embrace it and do the same (except maybe public urination…there are plenty of bathrooms around!)
Note from Mel: I’ve been to Paris many times and have never experienced the rude-ness that Cath mentions here and a lot of UK friends have told me about.
There is no need to tip in restaurants. A service charge is included in the bill.
The tennis can often finish past midnight, especially in earlier rounds when more matches are being played. That can have an impact on your journey back if travelling by metro. Ensure you know the time of the final trains, and try and plan out a couple of alternative routes just in case your train isn’t running or there is an alteration to the route.
Factor in some additional time for sight-seeing. With the tennis usually not beginning until early afternoon you will have your mornings free to do something but if you can spare another full day or two, even better! This is my fifth time in Paris and I’m still seeing/doing things for the first time.
Eat macarons and entremet, drink good French wine and dine in one of the hundreds of little bistros around the city. I’m not really a “foodie” but I ALWAYS look forward to mealtimes in Paris!
See Paris by night. Sacre Couer, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame. All the gorgeous buildings which look magnificent by day look even more gorgeous when they’re all lit up at night.