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June 10, 2018

Guy Forget

President Bernard Giudicelli

Paris, France

(In French.)

PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: Sorry about being slightly late.

Well, I believe we can say right away that the result and balance of the tournament is obviously related and can't be separated from that of the stadium itself.

This year we organized the tournament in a stadium which is undergoing great change but which is already showing what the stadium of tomorrow will be like.

We can say that on the western side we have seen the performance of the equipment on Court 18, and we can already get an idea of what the area beyond the Lenglen will be like, very popular, very close to the players, very close to the event, almost like a small arena.

And at the very center and heart of the stadium, the new Village, which is really fulfilling its objectives. First of all, it enabled the organization to work properly, the people who are in charge of the court, the linesmen, the people who help the players.

And it has offered our partners, without which there would be no professional tournament, an exceptional platform for their guests. The number of invitations is, if I'm not mistaken, 11,000 people who were invited in the Village area. And above and beyond that, it enabled the organization to implement all the key functions of the tournament so that we can implement and reach all the objectives, both at a sports level and economic level.

On the eastern side, the Parisian glamour, the Orangerie Building, whose possibility we had seen at the time of the draw, has shown that people are really taken by it. And if you take people to the Simonne-Mathieu Court, they are absolutely flabbergasted, even though it's still almost naked without its greenery.

And this obviously gives us a lot of hope about the future and makes us very enthusiastic about the tournament of next year.

So all signals are green also as far as the number of spectators are concerned. 480,500 spectators in 2018, i.e., an increase by 1.8%. Also over 23,000 people for the quallies, which show that the quallies are also part of the tournament. And the facilities for spectators, over 30,000 tickets sold.

And it seems that the atmosphere on Court 18 has been incredible. The quality of the seats on Court Suzanne Lenglen are deemed comfortable, elegant, and wooden, showing that we are aiming at total elimination of plastics in the stadium. And this corresponds to our ecological wishes.

Later on, I will let Guy tell you about the sports results of the tournament, but at the economic level, as I was saying earlier on, it is very satisfactory. 19 official partners, historical and faithful ones like BNP Paribas, our flagship partner, '73. Lacoste since '71. Perrier since '78. So they have all renewed their partnership, even though for BNP Paribas the renewal took place last year.

The new ones, like Magnum with Unilever, Lavazza, Decaux, MasterCard, Lagardere also renewed the partnership with us.

And coming back to the Village, we have raised the standard of premium hospitality very high. This was a real will on our part. We didn't want to benchmark with the others. We wanted to become "the" reference in terms of TV audience, a very strong audience, especially during the first week with the 30th of May, 3.117 million spectators for the match with Gaƫl Monfils, which shows he's still important for the event.

And the peak was for the final with the men's doubles with over 3 million spectators on France 2. And we were very satisfied as far as spectators are concerned as the center court was almost full.

I know that the presence of people on the courts has been discussed. We cannot be satisfied with boxes or seats often empty. So each cloud has a silver lining, and we are going to work on that from next week on. We will try to give answers and solutions.

There are solutions, we are certain about that, but it's too early to talk about that. And obviously we have to make sure that we have this communion between the spectators and the players.

To finish, before I give the floor to Guy for the sports part, as you know, as from tomorrow, the works are going to start. Philippe Chatrier is going to be cleaned up or "cured" as they say. It will be cleaned up of all fixtures that have to be removed before it is deconstructed. And as from next week, the machinery will be present to demolish and remove the rubble and dismantle the structures.

As you know, everything will be based on foundations that have been set up over the past two years. So it's almost like a pregnancy, but it's 10 months and not 9 months to finish it. But it's a true gestation period for the new Philippe Chatrier court.

All this will be closely monitored by our teams, and also I will personally follow it almost on a day-by-day basis. I will be informed about the advance of the works.

Guy, over to you for the sports part.

GUY FORGET: Good morning, everyone. I believe that the President has already given you a panorama about the improvements of this year, the great satisfaction of the various populations.

We could also add that in the past we had been reproached for a problem flow between the courts in the past, and all the feedback we got this year was much more positive. People were living a bit better. There was a bit more space, and it will be even better next year when Court Simonne-Mathieu is open and when people have to go from Court 18 in the west to Court Simonne-Mathieu in the east.

As far as the French Tennis is concerned, as you know, there are many expectations when you're French and you play in Roland Garros. Very often you are the first to talk about the possibility of having one or two players in the last quarter, in the semifinals, or finals.

So we were lucky this year, because we had quite a few players who had played the Masters. Caroline and Kristina were present last year in the quarterfinals.

But this year it was an edition where we wanted our French players to be in the second week. We were a bit worried about the boys, because, as you know, the results in the preparatory tournaments were not up to expectations. Physically they came with either truncated preparation or some of them, like Tsonga, were not able to recover. He came to the tournament, but he was backstage to encourage his friends.

We can say that Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal had a great tournament, as they are in the finals. But for the French players, it was a bit more tricky as they were ousted, more or less, in a premature way in this tournament.

It is not a disaster, per se, because I'm convinced, when you see what Roger Federer does now and Rafael Nadal does, we know that you can still play when you're 32, 34, and not to say 37 years old.

But I'm certain that in Wimbledon in a few weeks they will show us the real face. And for the girls, I'm sure that Caroline and Kristina will show us their incredible potential.

Talking about yesterday's final, I believe you probably felt like me. It was an extraordinary final. After failing twice in the final, Simona Halep, funnily enough, last year she was leading one set and 3-0, and she lost against all expectations, and this year it was the reverse. She finished the final in an incredible way in terms of quality of game, in terms of drama.

The American player really, really flabbergasted me. She was tactically incredible, and I'm sure we will see her again in the next few years, including in Roland Garros, because she's sliding very well on clay. She brought some freshness to the audience and to everyone.

The way she speaks in the microphone, I went to congratulate her about that after the final. And she said, Thank you for telling me that, because she was happy to have played the final. She said, If I were to lose to anyone, I'm happy it was Simona Halep.

It's always pleasant to see a player who, after the defeat, is not close-faced.

I also believe, and you'll probably tell us about that, some things can still be improved in the organization. The president stated in the next two years I believe we will see a true metamorphosis in the stadium. We have seen some changes, but almost nothing as compared to what is expecting us for the future.

I'll be happy to answer your questions with the president. I'm sure you have some questions. I can see Fabrice looking at me, and he's already crushed me with questions, but I'd be happy to answer any other questions.

Q. Do you have any thought about how you can solve the problem of empty seats on Chatrier or Lenglen? Are there any price problems that have to be reviewed or for the boxes?
GUY FORGET: As the President said, these are issues we work on every year. One of the reasons why we had two different ticket systems for the semifinals, it was to enable those who leave the first match to enjoy the encounter as much as possible and to leave their space for the people who are waiting.

The second aspect are the evening sessions. I believe that the way in which the public and the audience consumes tennis -- and you're part of it, I'm part of it. I'm not throwing stones at anyone -- we realize people have more and more trouble remaining on a seat for six or eight hours.

Because when you've paid for your ticket, sometimes you come in the morning at 10:00, you leave at 11:00 in the evening, and the people have suffered from heat. They have been watching a match for four hours. They're hot, they're thirsty, and they want to walk. We are lucky they consumed a lot of drinks, and the stores worked well, but they want to leave their seats at some point.

And for the players, whether it be Nadal, Serena Williams, Gaƫl Monfils, we schedule them on the second part of the day when we know that the stadium can be a bit fuller. And on this topic, then, people can enjoy the moment between 12:00 and 2:00, for example, to have some food.

They sort of tried to keep fit for the following five or six hours, but we tried to suggest to people who were in the Village that they should go back to the court. And this is why, in the future, we're going to sort of lighten the afternoon program, offer some evening programs so that people can come and the people who are there in the afternoon can enjoy the five hours they may spend on the Philippe Chatrier court.

PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: To add up to what Guy was saying, for high-profile matches like Djokovic, Cecchinato, there was not a single seat available. If you think about the matches on Court 18, there was a huge queue waiting to try and get in. So attraction is something you cannot trigger, you cannot program, but it is obviously related to the draw.

And I also believe that what we saw yesterday in women's tennis is making us very hopeful, because all the feedback is extremely positive. The match between Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens has shown a great competition. And it seems that the number of young players behind them shows that we may have more competition in the future.

Now, some things have to change. Obviously with the new Chatrier court, there will be at each level services that are not presently available at each level. At present you have to go down if you want to have some food or drink or go to the restrooms. So this will have to change, obviously, with the new stadium.

And there are other avenues that we are exploring and that we will be working on in the next few months with one thing in mind. All the people who are there have paid for their tickets, so they have a right to sit down or not sit down if they wish to not sit down.

And all the efforts we have made this year to reduce the time it takes to enter the courts and all the efforts we will make to increase the actual time of play maybe out of an hour of play will help a lot, and also have an impact on junior players, as well.

Q. I heard that some Italian visitors were waiting a lot on the side-courts when they wanted to go and watch a match because there was a lot of queue. Maybe this is due to the success of the tennis matches? Probably with the new courts it will be more fluid. That's the only observation I heard, that there were long queues. When you wanted to watch a good match, it was full.
PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: Yes, on the 18, that was the case. And also the new thing is that the other courts in between Chatrier and Lenglen courts, there were huge TV screens, so this year people could watch the matches and the scores.

But we will have to introduce changes in the future, and the creation of new courts above and beyond the Lenglen is creating a new area of attraction.

Then you have big matches. Some of the matches almost represent a final in an ATP tournament, and this obviously increases the demand.

Q. Coming back to the stands and, for example, the first men's semifinals took time to fill up. One of the possibilities, couldn't it be not to program any other match at the same time so that the people who pay for this match and only this match do not come in the intermission like at the opera?
PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: This is one of the avenues that we are exploring.

But as you know, what you see in the stadium, we see it in the Presidential Stand, we try to get people to come. But obviously people have lunch, they want to have lunch, and it's difficult to get French people or Italian people to have dinner at 5:00 p.m., for example. It's all an issue of mentality.

So I asked the people who were invited to the Presidential stand to be there at 1:50, and I made sure I was on the court to welcome them.

So you have to improve mentalities, but that's not sufficient. We have to work on other actions.

GUY FORGET: And also Roland Garros is really the celebration of tennis. We have seen spectators for the wheelchair matches. We see that people have an appetite for these other matches.

Some people didn't have the opportunity to buy a seat for the semifinals, but they still want to come to Roland Garros, watch the Tournament of Legends, and sit in front of the big screen. Obviously when they see the match, they are frustrated, because they see there are empty seats and they think, Well, I could be there.

Q. If I may make a few observations, I have been coming here for 43 years. Talking about the French players, I think you shouldn't complain too much because you still have 10 players in the top 100. Not all countries have that score. The French Federation is considered as an example for everyone. I can tell you that in Italy, some things we cannot do and you can do. You were lucky that we discovered Cecchinato after the Davis Cup. And I wanted to say that we are very happy about the organization for the media: Dorothee, Nicolas, and Caroline. I don't know if you're going to confirm her or not. But it's important for us to always talk to the same people and not have people change over two years. Because for the accreditation process, it's very important. It's important that winning teams should remain.

Q. So it is important to do something about the web. When I'm in Wimbledon and the US Open and Australia, we have a room where we can organize a small standup session with ourselves and tell people about what happened. Here you have to leave the stadium. If it's raining, you can't do anything. We would need a small solution, I don't know, something with a banner behind you where you can organize your standup interview. If I can suggest that, I would be happy with that.
GUY FORGET: Yes, we're trying to find a solution to satisfy your expectations, because you obviously bear our word throughout the world. And we want Roland Garros to be broadcast in the most elegant way possible.

In some places we lack space. There are issues with some other journalists who ask for other things. I know you already talked about that to Nicolas and some of our teams. And we will try to satisfy your demands as quickly as possible.

PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: (In Italian.) Can I talk to the trade union?

(In French). No, I would like to reassure you that there will be no change in the winning team.

(In Italian) I've said it and it's my word.

Q. Talking about the web TV, being close to the main road in the evening, the teams are whistling to get the people outside. To have your small plateau behind the grids of Roland Garros doesn't give a good image of Roland Garros. I don't know how you can manage that. But for us, it's a bit complicated to do our job. To formulate my question, for the new Chatrier you're going to rebuild, are you going to use somehow the American model and put the stands in the second belt or will they remain at the bottom?
PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: We will not follow that possibility. We gave it up for technical reasons. But they will remain at the bottom. There will be less stands. Chatrier will be more open, better seats for spectators, unique visibility, which will be unique in the world.

We are looking at all these topics, and the main things we will look at are filling up the stands and the seats.

Q. Last question, talking about Court 18, you talked about removing the plastic as you did on the Lenglen. Are you going to sort of remove these grayish aspect?
PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: No. The seats are made of wood. They are made of wood already.

GUY FORGET: They're not seats. They're benches. And talking about the color, maybe we will look for the greatest homogeneity between Chatrier and the side-courts. And, of course, this concrete gray color, which is our DNA, might be changed for next year.

PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: One last question.

Q. I know that we have a No. 1 who didn't want to play on Philippe Chatrier, because she doesn't like that court. It's funny that Caroline wouldn't want to play on the center court.
GUY FORGET: She doesn't refuse it. And I know that Caroline has a lot of ambition. If one day she wants to win the tournament, and I hope she does, she knows that she will have to play at least one, two, not to say three or four matches on the Philippe Chatrier.

We have quite a few requests from the top players, not only from here, but Djokovic, Monfils, Gasquet, men or women who would like, inasmuch as it is possible, for some matches to play on a court where they feel better.

It's funny, because we can have players saying, I prefer to play on Court No. 1 than on Court Suzanne Lenglen, or someone who says, I love Court No. 18. I know usually players like large courts but some players say, I would prefer to play on 18.

And when you are able to satisfy their requests when they ask, when Caroline says, I would like to play on this or that court, we try to do it.

But if she wants to play on No. 7 when she's playing a high-profile match, we'll say, No. You're No. 1 in France. You have to play on center court.

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