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French Open launches new look

Rafael Nadal has won the French Open a record 11 times.
Rafael Nadal has won the French Open a record 11 times. REUTERS/Aly Song

Whoever hoists La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and La Coupe des Mousquetaires on the final Saturday and Sunday of the 2019 French Open will also bank 2.3 million euros in prize money, the competition's organisers announced on Thursday.


Last year, as well as lifting the crown for the 11th time, Rafael Nadal walked away with a cheque for 2.2 million euros. It was the same amount for Simona Halep who beat Sloane Stephens in the final.

First round losers in 2018 received 40,000 euros and in 2019, the amount will rise to 46,000 euros as part of a plan to narrow the gap between the circuit's serial winners and those might be struggling to make ends meet.

A new venue will also be added to the tournament in the shape of the Court Simonne-Mathieu.

Named in honour of the former Roland Garros champion turned French Resistance fighter, it seats 5,000 spectators and nestles amid vegetation inspired by the botanical garden greenhouses that used to occupy the site.


Those plastic structures have been moved a few hundred metres away and upgraded to make way for the court.

"It was a special situation," said its architect Marc Mimram. "It was a garden in the middle of Paris and when you put your foot in a garden you have a lot of people against you."

The court's inauguration came after nearly a decade of legal action, brinkmanship - when the French Tennis Federation considered moving the championships outside Paris - and diplomacy.

"It was a major challenge for us to give Roland Garros new assets," said Jean-François Martins, deputy mayor of Paris. "The tournament is one of the big draws as far as international attractiveness in sports as well as tourism.

"A new court was needed so that the tournament could grow in terms of spectators, sponsorship and international influence. It's great news for Roland Garros as well as the city."

Seats on Court Philippe Chatrier – centre court – have also been revamped while work continues on a retractable roof which is scheduled for the 2020 championships.


Guy Forget hails Roland Garros developments

"It's taken some time but it's almost done," said tournament director Guy Forget. "Chatrier is nearly finished and we've got a new court and improved facilities everywhere.

"It was hard to imagine a modernised Roland Garros on the same site. Luckily the city of Paris has brought great support and helped us to expand a little bit," he added.

"I think the charm of Paris is that you can take the metro and be in the heart of Paris in something like 10 minutes whereas in a lot of the other Grand Slam tournaments you've got to take a long bus ride or to take a taxi to get into Manhattan or even into the centre of London.

"I think people enjoy the fact that Paris is perhaps a bit smaller. We managed to win our battle but it was a tricky one."

The tournament starts on 26 May and continues until 9 June.

World number one Novak Djokovic is favourite to supplant Nadal as the men's champion. As for a local hero to lift the crown, Forget said the wait is likely to go on for a while.

"A federation can produce a lot of talented young players and bring them to the top 100 and we in France have been doing that for a good 30 years," said Forget.

"But it's not a system that produces a champion. A champion is a one of a kind person. Deep inside they have got that heart and that fire to win that extra point. You don't teach that. Maybe one day we'll have a French player winning again here at Roland Garros."


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