Potential delays to Roland Garros development plans

From l’Équipe print edition 18 February, 2015.
Article written by Philippe Maria

While the French Federation of Tennis were expecting that the building permits needed to begin the planned Roland Garros extension works of Roland Garros would be issued any day soon, a report published online last Monday evening (on the Ministry of Ecology’s website) could cause a delay.  Yesterday, through its general director, Gilbert Ysern, the FFT spoke out to voice its incomprehension. A political maelstrom followed and looks far from ending.

What is the problem?

After three years of petty administrative wars, the RG extension project (handover planned in stages between 2017 and 2019) finally looked to be on track. All systems were go for the Federation which was only waiting for the building permits to launch the public tender procedure. And, bam! In a period of peace, an unexpected report came, Monday evening, on the website of the Ministry of Ecology, concluding that an (old) alternative project, based on covering the A13 motorway was feasible..

In itself, this report, which has no legal value (it can’t delay the issuance of building permits) could have been ignored by the federal officials. As a very wound-up Gilbert Ysern said yesterday: “We did not wait for this alleged study to know that it was technically possible to cover the motorway next to Roland Garros. If tomorrow, we wished to dismantle the Eiffel tower and assemble it back in my garden in Narbonne, of course that would be feasible. But how much would it cost? How much time would it take and who would pay for it?”

The problem is that this report comes from the general Agency for Environment and Sustainable Development, which is a unit of the Ministry of Ecology, and that, to definitively approve the expected building permits, two signatures are needed: the signature of the Ministry of Culture, which should not be an issue; and the signature of… the ministry of Segolène Royal. [i.e. Ministry of Ecology.]

Was the Federation expecting it?

For several weeks, even if it’s not admitting to it, the FFT had heard that the former presidential candidate, who lives close to the stadium, was trying to obstruct the project, to the point that, during a presentation to the president of the Republic, François Hollande, the subject had allegedly been diplomatically addressed. Indeed, from the city hall of Paris to the Elysée, via Matignon, the file seemed to have unanimous approval. That being said, nobody in Porte d’Auteuil was expecting the report. This explains the (feigned?) incomprehension from Ysem: “For the first time, the project is attacked by part of the administration,” he said, “Yet it comes at a time when the government supports the organisation of the 2024 Olympics in the capital – a venture that the new Roland Garros would be a part of. Thus I can’t believe the government is opposing our project.” The FFT general director explained that he had managed to book an appointment with Ségolène Royal before it was cancelled by phone due to other commitments. “We only spoke on the phone. It was before the report was published (Monday).” The Ministry of Ecology, which we contacted yesterday, didn’t respond to our request for a comment.

Could the current project be reconsidered?

Considering that the signature of the Ministry of Ecology is necessary for the building permits to be issued, yes. Even if Ysem refuses to believe it.  “This project has passed every administrative obstacle, including the last public inquiry report, which had laudatory conclusions. And now that we are finally approaching the final chapter, it’s like someone is tapping on our shoulder saying: ‘we are changing the rules, you are going back for three rounds! What people don’t realise is that for us, who have to prepare the tournament before it is played, two months is a year! Because Roland Garros cannot stop during the construction. It would be suicide.”

While Yves Contassot, Parisian consultant for “Europe Ecologie les Verts,” highlighted the “technical and legal viability of the alternative project”, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hildago, didn’t delay yesterday in coming to the aid of the FFT:  “I am worried about the delay suffered by this project, which is indispensable to maintaining this international tournament in Paris. The covering of the A13 motorway is brought up once more today, while two studies have concluded that it was not relevant. The series of procedures (not counting construction time) would be long and complex… The handover would take place, at best, in 2025 or 2026. At a time when Paris is considering being a candidate for the 2024 Olympics, such a delay in the extension of Roland Garros would be a very bad signal to send to the IOC. I appeal to each and everyone’s responsibility so that this project, which has been the subject of substantial consultation and will be part of the international influence of Paris and France, may see the light of day within the agreed time frame.”

Sunday fun with “The Monf-Bennet-Simon Show”

From the 14 September 2014 edition of l’Équipe. Quoted by Frédéric Bernès after the French team beat the Czechs 4-1 in the Davis Cup semifinals.

It’s never insignificant when the substitutes of a team, some of them legitimately offended by being cut out, improvise a comedy show at the press conference.

Julien Beneteau, called “the bridge player” by the two other provocateurs, who don’t need much convincing to make fun of his old age; Gael Monfils, teased for his baroque tournament scheduling; and Gilles Simon, called the “lemon slicer”; the three benched players of this semifinal were laughing like madmen when they arrived in the press room. It was a mess, but it was hilarious. We tried to reconstruct, as best as we could, this fun moment which says a lot about the atmosphere in this group. As we didn’t have any alcometers, we won’t take position on the nature of the liquids that were consumed in the secrecy of the locker room. But we have some idea.

Julien Benneteau [supposed to reminisce on this Davis cup campaign]: “Fuck, I don’t even remember who played in Mouilleron-le-Captif [against Australia in the first round].”

Gael Monfils: “It wasn’t me! (laughs)”

Julien Benneteau: “We’ve lost our memories. We’re all drunk (laughs). And we know that this is going to be a long evening. Pff, with the two beside me, it’s going to be very tough. We have to hope that we will all be healthy for this final. For those two, it’s not a good start. [We ask JB a question that starts with “as a doubles specialist…”] That’s nice! Like: you’re 30 in the single rankings and you suck.”

Gael Monfils: “Gillou, you smell of beer—you’re drunk.” (laughs)

Julien Benneteau: “The difference between Guy Forget and Arnaud Clement? Easy: twenty centimeters. One is a lefty with a slice backhand . And the other is not. ”

Gilles Simon: “My schedule until the final? Well, the Masters, it’s going to be hard to go, no?”

Gael Monfils: “You had a pretty bad start, yeah”

Gilles Simon: “But we have time before we have to think about this final. If we are going to compete with each other? What competition? Also a three-months-away match, it’s a pretty long time. Who do we want to play in the final?  It’s nice, Naples, in November. It’s warm. How are we going to adapt our scheduling? Well, for Gael it’s simple.  He does it all year long. [“As his new coach, reference to the last US Open, what schedule are you going to plan for him?”] You really like this one! Well, Gael, even if you don’t like going to China, you are going to go for five weeks!”

Gael Monfils: “Ah, coach Gillou! You’re laughing but you could make a lot of money in false advertising!” (laughs)

Gilles Simon: “For the advice, it depends on how much he pays me. We haven’t discussed it yet.”

Julien Benneteau: “It’s hard to tell ourselves that we’re not going to play too much and preserve ourselves for the final. If you only play a little, there’s the chance that you won’t be as good. Well, ‘la Monf,’ he can do it, he’s used to it. How does the competition between us manifest itself? We settle it at Fifa. And it’s violent.”

Gilles Simon: “Exactly, the winner plays the match.”

Gael Monfils: “Guys, no! It looks like I have lost at Fifa! I never lose at Fifa!”

Julien Benneteau: “It’s true, you’re better at Fifa than on the court.” (laughs)

Gilles Simon: “You’re the doubles specialist and me, I slice lemons.”

Julien Benneteau: “It’s going to be war, the competition. We are going to push each others down the stairs. It has already begun.”

Gilles Simon: “I’m totally drunk (laughs). Where’s the Corona?”


Translated by Suze.

Jan de Witt talks Gilles Simon at the 2014 US Open

Original source: L’Équipe 2 September 2014 quoted by Vincent Cognet


It’s 13h30. In half an hour, Gilles will leave for his practice session that he’s been sharing almost exclusively with Gael Monfils since the beginning of the American tour – a session that’s neither technical nor tactical, only focused on the quality and intensity of strokes. While he’s waiting, his German coach, Jan De Witt, sits himself down in the players’ garden with a cappuccino to talk about the fourth round against Marin Cilic and many other things.

Q : Were you surprised by Gilles Simon’s success against David Ferrer?

Absolutely not, because his level of play has been excellent since Rome. But he was affected by a lot of injuries and he had trouble translating it. I knew that he was in great physical condition. Against Ferrer, it’s nothing but a matter of managing emotions.

Q : Yet their head to head was not in his favor…

It’s not that important. If Gilles is in good physical condition and feels relaxed, he has the level to challenge those guys. You only have to remember his match against Nadal in Rome. It could have been the same scenario against Djokovic at Wimbledon but he got tense too early in the match.

Q : Why?

Stress can arise at any moment, before or during a match. The whole issue for players is to control it. Against Ferrer, he didn’t get tense for one second. We saw the result. And yet, the intensity of the match was extraordinary. I saw David after the match an he told me that he was physically dead despite feeling in good form. It says a lot about Gilles.

Q : Does this physical condition come from the training in Halle, last winter?

There is a connection. But it’s not the only reason. Since the beginning of the season, we organized three training periods. In the US, Gilles trained very hard physically for about ten days. Really demanding work. But if you get tense, it’s all for nothing. Stress is terrible because it makes you battle against two opponents : the player in front of you and yourself. It’s crazy how much energy it consumes.

Q : For him, how does being fit manifest itself?

By his speed: How fast he moves on the court, and the speed of his strokes. If he unleashes his forehand down the line, it goes really really fast. The problem is to do that for three and a half or four hours. The key is to maintain this level of intensity.

Q : Is it the best Gilles Simon you’ve seen since the beginning of your partnership?

Hard to say. He has already played some big matches. But it’s true that his consistency is very good at the moment. It’s linked to the fact that he doesn’t have any injury. His shoulder is fine, his knee as well.

Q : What would you say is Gilles Simon’s playing style?

It’s not monolithic. His style is to adapt. He plays a different type of tennis depending on his opponents. You’ll see, against Cilic, he won’t play the same tennis he played against Ferrer. Against Delbonis, it was yet another type. You have to play slowly (as to not give Delbonis the speed he likes) and high. Maybe that’s why he didn’t serve well : his game plan asked for so much discipline that it consumed a lot of his energy.

Q : How do you foresee his fourth round against Cilic?

It will be a very easy match to prepare tactically because of Cilic’s way of playing, which suits Gilles perfectly. He’s not scared of big servers because he returns very well and he’s better than them in the rallies. Marin can’t hurt Gilles. Impossible. And I don’t think he will. Goran is surely preparing his player to develop a new approach. I won’t talk about tactics for hours with Gilles, I’ll talk of state of mind. I’ll tell him that Cilic is a very good player, that he’ll surely have some surprises prepared, that he’s capable of high level shots. Gilles will have to accept to be led, at least for a certain period of time, even if he plays a great match. It will be up to him to stay calm and think about his options. Because it’s his biggest strength : he’s smarter than the majority of players (smile). But if you’re stressed, you’re not smart anymore.

Q : But it’s unlikely that Simon will start to feel stressed now…

False. A player can very well be calm the first three matches and lose his self control during the fourth.

Q : But where does it come from?

From the expectations that he puts on himself . We’re always talking about the fans, the media etc. who put pressure on the player. I don’t believe that. Even better, I don’t care. Our only objective is the performance. In elite sport, the only real danger is to put pressure on yourself.


Translation by Suze (@halyggaly)