Getting Tickets to the French Open

 
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Getting tickets for the French Open isn’t the easiest or most intuitive thing I’ve done, and if you want to get tickets to the stadium courts, you won’t have a lot of margin for error. I spent way too much time trying to figure out the process, so here are a few notes which will hopefully make your experience slightly less painful.

The first thing you’ll to do is create an account with the official French Open website. There really isn’t a secondary market for these tickets, and all indications are that your full name must be printed on your ticket and match that on your passport. I find it very hard to believe that no secondary market exists outside of the “official tour operators” (read: very expensive packages including hotel), but I can confirm that tickets and passports are checked at the gate. “Unofficial” tickets are sold by the website Viagogo, but these come at a pretty substantial markup and are not “guaranteed” by Roland Garros. Further adding to the difficulty is the fact that all official tickets are all sold well before the event, and no tickets are sold at the gates, so if you roll the dice on unofficial ticket sources, you could be left without a parachute.

In any case, because I didn’t want to take much risk or pay such big mark ups, I tried to go the official route, and get my tickets online through Roland Garros. The tickets go on sale on the website at 10am local Paris time, which happened to be 3am local time for me in the Midwest, about 7 weeks prior to the start of the tournament. This year the tournament began on May 28th and tickets went on sale at 3am on March 22nd.  I logged in and went to the ticketing page about 20 minutes prior to the 3am start time and was listed somewhere around 20,000th in line. This sounds pretty awful, but once the sales began, the line moved relatively quickly, and I got to the ticket selection page in under an hour.

The one day my friends and I would be able to attend the tournament happened to be one of the busiest, the middle Saturday, so I wasn’t all that optimistic about scoring tickets on the main stadium court, Philippe Chatrier, which also grants access to all lower courts, but there were actually some left when I got to the front of the line. Pickings were slim, but tickets were available to all three stadium courts but the time my number was called. I selected my tickets and proceeded to checkout.

Unfortunately, the French Open uses a third party to process payments. This third party website was extremely buggy, and despite over an hour of attempts with numerous cards, I was not able to get any payment processed, and ultimately went to work that day with no tickets and on very little sleep. I emailed the folks at the French Open, who were very understanding and helpful, and notified me that many others had experienced issues, and that another ticket release was planned for April 4th…. At 10am local Paris time.

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On April 4th I set my alarm and had another extremely early morning waiting in line. The line was much shorter this time around, and I reached the front within about 20 minutes. There were not as many tickets available, but I was able to find several together on the smaller stadium courts, which would also be the venues for some great matches on the middle Saturday of the tournament. I made my way to the payment step of the process and was once again rebuffed by the third party website and its security measures. This time around I had gotten snagged on the step which asks buyers questions to confirm they are not some kind of robot sent from the future to monopolize French Open tickets. I tried and tried and tried to complete the security verification tasks (identify all pictures with mountains in them, identify all pictures with a sign in them, etc.) but was unable to proceed. I again went to the office that day with no tickets and on very little sleep.

Once again I emailed the French Open to find out what the problem was, or if I needed to schedule an appointment with my doctor to find out if I was actually a robot. This time, much to my chagrin, I was told that the issue was likely caused by my browser and that Google Chrome was probably to blame. The French Open personnel were again very helpful, but would not provide me special accommodation when I threw up a hail mary and asked if they would arrange stadium court tickets for me since I had certainly missed that window of opportunity.

In any case, I was finally able to get on the website and actually purchase tickets. All that was left were general admission grounds passes, but considering the circumstances, I was still pretty happy to have them. Regardless of when you purchase your tickets, you still must “assign” them to a particular person (whose name must match that on their passport) in mid April. Fortunately, this step was easy and I didn’t experience any further issue.

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Ultimately, we had a great time at the tournament and got to see some great doubles matches, as well as some stars warming up on the outer courts, so I still felt like it was a good time. However, if you have a similar experience, or miss out on stadium courts for whatever reason, there are still possibilities for getting into the main courts once you are within the grounds, as we learned from one of the vendors on the grounds. While talking to one of the racket vendors working at the tournament, I learned that tickets can be gotten from people upon their exit from the main stadium courts but before the day’s matches are concluded. The day we were there, it began to rain in the afternoon, which made the process much easier. We spotted a couple exiting the grounds that had come from Court Philippe Chatrier, and asked them very nicely if they were leaving and would mind giving us their tickets. They obliged and we had our tickets. Luckily for us, they happened to be very, very good tickets. Unluckily for us, the rain never subsided, and the matches were postponed for the day after a couple of hours.

In spite of the rain and ticketing difficulties, I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The outer courts are a great time, and you’re literally 10 feet away from the pros, albeit, not the superstars.