Wimbledon VS Roland Garros & London VS Paris

Wimbledon VS Roland Garros & London VS Paris

WHEN Rafael Nadal sank to his knees on the Philippe Chatrier court in celebration of his epic and record equalling sixth Roland Garros title recently, all thoughts quickly turned to this year’s Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament.

But is the arrogant ambivalence shown by many towards the French clay court championship deserved – and for how much longer can Wimbledon claim to be the jewel in tennis world’s crown at the expense of its Parisian counterpart?

Wimbledon may well hold the title of the world’s best known Grand Slam but are those following this train of thought guilty of believing it is also a better event than the only clay-based Grand Slam, Roland Garros?

The rivalry between London and Paris stretches is legendary but the added spice of recent comparisons of their respective Grand Slams has merely added fuel to a fire already burning bright.

But who will be crowned as the host of the most exciting European Grand Slam?

John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Venus Williams and Martina Hingis all failed to experience victory at Roland Garros, unable to master the clay surface, yet all enjoyed considerable success on grass courts the world over.

In fact Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam played on clay, a more demanding, exciting surface than Wimbledon’s grass and the long, tiresome, baseline rallies associated with the venue.

And the surface probably determines the attitude and behaviour of spectators too, namely the hushed, reverential behaviour of the British, best observed during those long boring rallies, and the noisy passion exhibited by the Parisians during the cut and thrust of close quarter battle.

It is nevertheless ironic the same people who roll their eyes in despair at those who whistle, shout and even heckle players at Roland Garros are the same ones who were quick to admonish John McEnroe for his on field antics – yet now complain of the lack of characters in today’s predictable world of tennis.

The desire to completely immerse yourself in an event and become part of the occasion is why Roland Garros will always have the edge over its cross channel rival. Gallic passion has always edged the British reserve.

With regards to access to and from each event, one really has to experience British public transport to understand just how mind numbingly inconsistent it can be. Draconian penalties for parking anywhere near Centre Court were initially introduced as a traffic calming method. Sadly they have merely increased the pressure on the already badly congested streets courtesy of the numerous park and ride schemes which have sadly failed to alleviate any traffic problems.

My advice would be to arrive via Wimbledon Station and experience the well organised and well signposted taxi sharing scheme.

In Paris, the areas surrounding Roland Garros are also undeniably busy at tournament time although it shades its travel arrangements over SW19 with its nearby temporary car parks (with space for over 6000 vehicles) and choice of frequent bus services and excellent Metro connections.

On the catering front, you may be surprised to learn there is more to Wimbledon than the world’s most expensive strawberries eaten in front of distant members of the Royal Family. In fact an excellent variety of food outlets are on offer ranging from a Champagne bar to several, ‘grab and go’ self service outlets.

In fact the Wimbledon championships is the largest single sporting catering operation in Europe employing approximately 1800 staff who between them dish out some 300,000 cups of tea, 190,000 sandwiches and 28,000 kilos of those English strawberries.

However, perhaps it is to Wimbledon’s advantage the English suffer from a distinct lack of culinary identity and their patrons remain happy with what’s on offer. But it is so different at Roland Garros where eating on site is as big a part of the occasion than observing the world’s best players up close.

And perhaps that explains the mouthwatering range of food on offer where one could be forgiven for missing some of the action in favour of a once in a lifetime dining experience at the colorful Les Jardins de Roland-Garros - complete with lush vegetation and one of the most spellbinding menus of any sporting arena.

For entertainment, clay will always rule over grass. For transport the Metro is far superior to the London Underground. For food quality and sheer choice Roland Garros will always overrule strawberries and cream while Parisian sunshine will forever be the victor over West London drizzle – even under a retractable roof.

Enjoy Nadal powering to another predictable Wimbledon victory but if you’re after thrills, spills and a certain tennis-based joie de vivre, it simply has to be game set and match for Roland Garros! And if you're a player / professional looking for a pierre a terre in Paris; in easy reach to Court Chatrier, Vincennes, Les Champs-Elysées, La Défense ou the Eiffel Tower, our tailor-made Paris à La Carte service may be just perfect for you. Game set and match!