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June 9, 2019
(Press Conference through French translation.)
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: Good morning, everyone. Before starting, we would like to express our overall satisfaction regarding this edition. I would say that on a site where work is in progress, having succeeded in organizing this tournament up to now is a real satisfaction.
This works phase will continue. We have to remain focused on our objective, which is to deliver by 2021 the most beautiful stadium in the world.
During this phase that has just finished, you have seen the delivery of the courts in the Fonds des Princes area, which proved to be a real popular space of bringing together fans and players. To the east, you saw the delivery of the Simonne Mathieu court, which has been baptized by numerous five-setters. And at the center, the Philippe Chatrier court with its new profile and size has magnified our tournament.
So works will be continuing. As of 21st of June, we will be starting Phase 4 of the project, which has five phases. Phase 4 will start on the 21st of June with the deconstruction of Court No. 1. This will enable us to prepare the future Mousquetaires Square, and we will also prepare for the future general entrance, which will be located on the Avenue de la Porte d'Auteuil, and the first phase of the new museum space of the Federation and Roland Garros.
The Philippe Chatrier court, the phase will consist mainly in finishing works internally for all the areas and also the installation of the roof, which is the most emblematic part of our project.
The wings, or the parts, will leave the Cimolai plant in Italy in sections of 8 meters. They will be assembled on either side of the Philippe Chatrier court in 6 portions. We will have 6 times 48 on one side, 6 times 8 on the other side. And these two portions of 48 meters will be assembled and lifted one after the other between 15 September and end of February on the rooftop of Philippe Chatrier to then go through technical tests in order to be ready for the 2020 tournament. I confirm that we will be playing with the roof in 2020.
So we will have finally a large square, as we had committed to do for the future, Place des Mousquetaires, and 18 courts, of which 15 competition courts on the very site.
Then, regarding the last phase, leading us to the tournament of 2021, we will finish Courts 2 and 3. And so to the south of the stadium we will have a line of courts going all the way to Fonds des Princes area. So we will have a very sporty facade on the southern part of the courts. And the main avenue of new Marcel Bernard will connect Suzanne Lenglen Court to the Simonne Mathieu court, the greenhouse court.
When we will have finished this phase in 2021, we will have reached the first objective that was ours. It was to have a stadium which is eco-responsible, respectful of the environment, of the planet. You have seen our commitment in favor of the climate recently with the three other Grand Slam tournaments.
We will certainly be the stadium the closest to that ambition for our planet with the connection that will be made throughout the year with our close environment with the people living in Paris and Boulogne. We really want to make this stadium alive throughout the year in a configuration that will enable to offer the best for the people living close by and the best for the players and the audience during the tournament.
That's it for my speech. With the teams under the guidance of our director general, we are determined and confident in what we have to deliver. We have just finished Phase 3, which was the most critical one, and we did that successfully in terms of organization and regarding sports aspects.
And for sports aspects, I will give the floor to Guy Forget.
GUY FORGET: Thank you. Hello, everyone. I'd like to speak first and foremost of the sports part of our edition, which I hope in a few hours will finish with a memorable finals, either 12 titles for Rafael Nadal, or the booming of Dominic Thiem, who is an exceptional player and who confirms his beautiful journey of 2018.
For this edition, we were very lucky because we had Roger Federer back in Paris after three years of absence, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic. We had the top four seeds in the semifinals, and it's very rare to have, at that stage of the competition, No. 1, 2, 3, 4 in the world on the courts.
An opposition of stars and generation, which we were talking about before the tournament, indeed took place. We were mentioning it before the tournament. Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas and Zverev have been a perfect illustration of that.
Before the tournament, regarding women, the edition was very open. We knew that. With the victory of Barty, a beautiful victory, this has been confirmed. And to remind the winners, we had eight different winners over the past ten years.
Regarding the French players in doubles, Chardy and Martin unfortunately lost in finals yesterday, but the good news is that Kristina Mladenovic will become No. 1 in the world of the discipline of women's doubles, and this has to be mentioned.
The journey of the French players, and I certainly expect questions on this topic, was satisfactory, although the older player did not go too long. We have to underline the journey of Benoit Paire, which was remarkable, Pierre-Hughes Herbert. Nicolas Mahut, who received the wildcard, some criticized it at the beginning of the tournament, but he proved that he was still very competitive at the highest level. And then the young French players, Antoine Hoang, Corentin Moutet, who showed that their wildcard was totally justified and well-deserved.
So it started with the quallies tournament on which we put more and more emphasis at Roland Garros, which was successful. Among the 12 French players at the beginning, two qualified, Alexandre Muller, Elliot Benchetrit, who also won a match in the main draw and then was eliminated by the Serbian Lajovic.
In the main draw, Hoang, Mahut, and Moutet met our expectations. And Gregoire Barrere, also a wildcard, came to the second round and took one set from Karen Khachanov, No. 10 seed.
In the women's category, you have discovered Diane Parry, a young player in whom we believe owing to her ambition and her play, who resembles AmÃ©lie Mauresmo's, who made it to the second round at 16 years of age. When sometimes we worry about the future of French tennis, we can have hopes. We have a player like Diane and be optimistic.
I would like to congratulate the work of our National Technique Director, Pierre Cherret, who is doing real important work with our youth, and we hope that it will bear fruit, especially with the vision of Olympic Games in Paris 2024.
In terms of figures and audience, it's something that you often mention in your articles or magazines. We have beaten our record with Simonne Mathieu court. We had a record participation of 520,000 spectators. We have exceeded the half-million threshold on which we stopped over the past years, and the tournament was sold out as of the first day of the opening of the ticket sales.
In terms of broadcasters, for France 2, we had, on average, 1.3 million telespectators, 15.6% of share. The highest peak was in the match between Benoit Paire and Nishikori, 3.9 million telespectators on France 3. And EuroSport also had extremely positive figures, increasing with respect to last year. Also, the good performance of China, they were 63 million watching Roland Garros at a single minute. It shows the potential of the Chinese audience.
In terms of digital platforms, the figures are there, too. We have more than 5 million single visitors on RolandGarros.com, and 25 million active users of our App Roland Garros who have followed the tournament with a score which is very high, 4.3 stars on the stores. Although I'm not an expert, it's a very good score.
In terms of spectators, they were always present in front of the screens in the stadium. I want to talk about it here. On the Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen, we had the problem of the loges that are empty. It's not something which is new. It's something on which we have been working for the past years.
Today, in particular with our partners, we are trying, as of next year, to find new means to fill up these loges that are empty sometimes. At some times, economically speaking, we cannot allow us to refuse these partners and sometimes these people who pay a more expensive ticket, who consume tennis in a different way as in the past and have difficulty in spending eight to nine hours sitting on the chair.
That's why we will try to do with our partners the sort of overbooking as in the hotels or in the airline companies in order to have some of their clients in the first part, and then a second batch of people coming afterwards following the lunch.
But we are aware that we have to go further in that direction to avoid what we see today. And I remind you that the tournaments as US Open or other tournaments of the tour are facing these same issues. I'm sure that you will ask questions about that.
To conclude, I would like to say this 2019 edition has been a success, fantastic, as said by the chair, owing to the challenges and the race against the clock with these huge works that have been made on the Roland Garros stadium.
We were able to deliver a remarkable edition, both regarding the players, the audience, the media. I think that you all appreciated this new media room in the Roland Garros museum. We are convinced that for the 2020 edition, we will place the bar even higher and that we will be able to continue dreaming with our Roland Garros tournament.
And I hope that the finals between Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will conclude this edition in the most beautiful way.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Regarding the audience, did you count the days of rain? So the people who have been refunded, what impact did that have on the budget, these refunds? Are you insured for that? And regarding the loges, what are the other possibilities suggested by the partners to fill in these loges and boxes?
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: Indeed, the audience is counted by the number of tickets sold, so I confirm that the tickets sold for the days which were stopped because of weather conditions, not only the rain, led the chief umpire to make the decisions he made. All these days are insured, indeed. The Federation has insurance in order to refund the ticket holders and not lead to a loss, an operational loss.
Regarding the loges or boxes, I would like to underline what Guy has just said. If we only sold general tickets without any hospitality services, it would be a threat to the economy of the tournament and the Federation.
I'm not sure that we could give the same prize money as we have today, and I'm certain that we could not make the investments we made. Between 2008 and 2021, we invest 500 million Euros, in total, on its own assets without any public subsidies to modernize this stadium.
And most of all, I'm not sure that we could contribute to our mission of tennis development throughout the territories. We could not finance or fund the training of youth and the operation of our territorial bodies.
But we have an opportunity and a chance. Earlier, we talked about the success of our mobile app. 4.3 is a very good score. We have just signed a partnership with Infosys. We have a technological partner which is certainly the best in the world in this field. I think that digitization must lead us, and that's in line with our discussions with our main partners, must enable us to have policy of seat occupation that will meet the image and promotion objectives of our partners and the passion of the spectators who are in the stadium.
Q. Regarding the boxes or even the stands, we saw that the match against Nadal and Federer started in a stadium which was not full. That would not have happened in any other stadium in the world. Is there not, on your behalf, the desire to inform the spectators that they have to abide by the timing like we do in the opera and, when the opera has started, people are no longer allowed to enter? Or maybe to ask people to come earlier to avoid that situation? Because we know that once the match has started, it's difficult to fill in the stands in the side changes, because it only last 1.5 minutes. And when the stairs are full, it's not easy to fill the stadium. Are you aware of that? And between, in the change between the first and second semifinals, should we not allow more time to empty and fill the stadium? Because it was only half an hour between the end of the match between Rafa and Federer and the beginning of Thiem and Djokovic. That's why the second semifinals started in half-empty stands.
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: So we will work very methodically. We will take all the data, analyze all the flows to draw the lessons of what has happened.
We must change this system while taking into account the fact that comparing is not logical. A tennis tournament is not opera. And we have to move forward in order for every population who has come to the stadium. No one can think that they have purchased tickets to not see the matches, so we have to work methodically. And the users are changing. We have to take that into account. People no longer stay during eight hours in a row, seated on a seat.
Q. (Question off microphone.)
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: And we have to know that people have come to the tournament to see the innovations, improvements. Many people visited the Simonne Mathieu court without having access to it, because it is magnificent from the outside, too. But I confirm that as of Tuesday, because our first meeting will take place Tuesday, we will work on that.
What we want is always to deliver the best show. All the spectators were satisfied with the conditions of welcoming them at the doors of the stadiums and how they were installed in the stands. We no longer have these long lines in front of Court No. 2. And it was heartbreaking for me when I see these people waiting for two hours to hope having a seat on Court No. 2.
So we have to remember this beautiful week of quallies, with this enthusiasm and French players who have animated these quallies.
So we stayed here, but we have moved or relocated. We changed configuration. And after this relocation, we have to find our bearings. And we have the chance of having teams working methodically. Everyone is working in the project mode.
The question of opening, welcoming the audience, and location of the stadium is a project per se.
GUY FORGET: That's why we did two separate tickets for the semifinals, these two semifinals, to counter this effect. But we realize we still have these problems.
The evening sessions will also go in that direction. We think that there will be people who would be working throughout the day and coming in the evening. When the best match will be selected will come on time, maybe at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., to see two hours or two hours and 30 minutes of tennis.
But if we still have these issues, we will think about other options.
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: You have to understand, and you certainly experience it, the emotion after a Nadal/Federer match makes it difficult to immediately become a spectator again.
It's true that we had this year a huge chance with the top four players in the world in semifinals. And in addition, from next year onwards, we can maybe take more time because we won't have the time constraint that we had this year.
Q. I have two questions regarding the roof. The first is easy. If the roof is installed in 2020, why not doing the night sessions from 2020? And the second question is more general: How are you going to do with the regulation with the use of this roof? Is there a deadline? Lighting? What are the conditions of use and up until what hour, what time? And can a match started on Lenglen finish on Chatrier as it happened in Wimbledon?
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: First of all, regarding the first part of the question, the night sessions in 2021 impose an organization which requires methodical and deep work, so that's why we scheduled them in 2021 and not in 2020.
But regarding the roof policy, as our British friends say, will be established with the tournament director, with the chief umpire, in relationship with ATP and WTA, in view of the experience we have overall and also from the other roof policies, but also with respect to our own mode of organization. This will be, of course, established before the tournament 2020.
Q. Concretely, these night sessions will be with open roof in the daylight? Is there a time limit to play or evacuate the stadium with respect to the people living nearby?
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: No, we will finish the evening at the end of the match.
GUY FORGET: I remind that the tournament is an outdoor tournament played outdoors, and the only times when we will close the roof is when we will have major rainfalls that will be continuous, and a match that will start indoor will finish indoor except if it restarts the day after, unlike what the British did between Nadal and Djokovic, we will finish the match in outdoors the day afterwards.
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: All the courts will be lit. It's the last year where matches will end because of nighttime.
Q. Is it possible to talk about what has happened on Friday evening between Thiem and Djokovic, the decision of stopping the match and postponing? How was it decided?
GUY FORGET: I would like to remind you, and I have seen a lot of tweets and rumors, have heard very strange and bizarre comments, it's the chief umpire who stops matches according to the weather conditions.
We have the chance of having experts and a weather team, which is very expert, and when the match was stopped, we had wind gusts of 80 kilometers per hour, whereas they were only 40 to 50 kilometers per hour between Rafa and Roger.
And the match of Novak and Dominic had been stopped two times because of wind and rain, so it's never easy for players to have a shower, rest, and come back on the court and be stopped a few games after.
The weather forecast we had at that time were winds that were growing in speed, so in terms of safety, it was borderline. We also had two rainfalls that were foreseen, the first of 30 to 40 minutes, and then the other one hour after. This is why Remy Azemar decided to go to the locker rooms to meet with Novak Djokovic. I walked next to him at that point in time.
At the same time, we told them, according to what is happening, we prefer sending you back on the court the next day at 12:00 with three hours of milder weather conditions rather than making you go back and forth in very bad conditions. For those who have read the report since June 1966, we have never had so powerful winds in Paris, so I think it was the right decision.
After this announcement, Novak Djokovic left the locker rooms in front of me. Dominic Thiem did the same thing a few minutes after. The protocol requires for us to meet with Jean-Francois Vilotte and other experts in a crisis meeting to meet and explain to the audience what are the refunding options. And when TV cameras saw Novak Djokovic leaving three minutes after this announcement, people thought that Djokovic had imposed this stopping onto us, and Dominic and his team can confirm.
Q. I would like to have a confirmation for 2021. No match will be stopped by nighttime on any court? Does it also mean that there will be more matches on the center court or Lenglen? And will there be also a double ticket system, as in Bercy, for instance?
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: There has never been a double ticketing system. I would like to avoid this type of terminology. But indeed, there will be tickets for the daytime session and other tickets for the nighttime sessions on Chatrier only.
We won't have tickets at different prices for the daytime sessions that will end during nighttime.
GUY FORGET: If I can add, in terms of lighting, last year with Remy Azemar, it's difficult to schedule a men's match in fourth position, and players are quite reluctant. But as of next year, we will have the four main courts that will be lit.
The schedule will change in the right direction, and I'm turning to the broadcasters who like to have the top match in fourth position. We don't like to have Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, or Serena Williams in the fourth position for this reason, but when we'll have the lighting, it's likely that the scheduling will be different and more favorable to your audiences.
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: We would not stop in an opera play because of an electric breakdown.
Q. Will the lighting be on Chatrier as of 2021? On Chatrier?
GUY FORGET: Well, the lighting will be on four main courts: Lenglen, Chatrier, Mathieu, and Court No. 4. And for the other ones it's 2021.
Q. How many matches during the day in the center court and how many matches in the night session?
BERNARD GIUDICELLI: Three matches during the day on Philippe Chatrier and one match in the night session. So avoid "late nighttime session." We won't play between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. in the morning.
Q. Regarding the criticism of WTA on the semifinals of Friday, how can you analyze that?
GUY FORGET: Our priority is, one, sports fair play for player recovery, and the second challenge was to finish the male and female draw in Saturday and Sunday.
The decision was difficult indeed. Many people who commented on these decisions didn't have all the parameters in their hand. It's indeed a tricky decision.
I understand the frustration of WTA members who had the impression that we had decreased the value of these semifinals. We think that the court Suzanne Lenglen and Simonne Mathieu, who have been praised, was not a downgrading, but how the semifinals took place and the women's finals yesterday proved we weren't wrong.
Of course if the weather had been milder, we wouldn't have made differently, but according to the emergency, the weather conditions that were quite unstable, we thought that this was the best decision, the best possible solution.
Of course from 2020 onwards, this kind of issue will not bother us anymore.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports