Please Rename a Show Court at Stade Roland Garros After Rafael Nadal
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With Rafael Nadal winning his eleventh French Open title on Sunday 10 June 2017, now is an appropriate time for the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) to name one of the show courts at Stade Roland Garros in his honour.
With the exception of Wimbledon, all of the other three Grand Slam tournaments have a history of paying tribute to individuals who have left their footprints in the sands of times. The US Open has honoured tennis players like Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe and non-tennis players like Louis Armstrong by naming stadiums after them. Tennis Australia has named the two show courts at Melbourne Park after tennis legends Rod Laver and Margaret Court. The French Open has embraced this trend of naming buildings after unique individuals. This year’s tournament marked the centenary of the death of Roland Garros, the man in whose name the Stade Roland Garros is named after. The Centre Court at the stadium is named after Philip Chatrier, the former president of the FFT who contributed immensely to the game of tennis in France and also helped restore tennis as an Olympics sports. Furthermore, the four sections of the Philip Chatrier stadium are named in honour of Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, Rene Lacoste and Jacques Brugnon who were members of France’s successful Davis Cup team in the 1920s and 1930s. The second largest court is named after Suzanne Lenglen, the French tennis icon who won six French Open titles and six Wimbledon championships, between 1914 and 1926. The women singles trophy is named the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in her honour.
Admittedly, all of the individuals mentioned above deserve to be memorialised, but so does Rafa Nadal. There is nobody more deserving of such an honour at this time in history than Monsieur Nadal, who has written his name in French clay. By capturing his 11th French Open title, Nadal became the most successful male tennis player at a single Grand Slam tournament. To put this win into perspective, he has dominated the French Open Championship for over a decade by winning 97.7% of the matches he has played. This is a remarkable achievement in a sport where historically, the law of diminishing return sets in after the age of 29. Through his success on the clay court, Nadal has inspired a generation of young boys to take up the game of tennis. During the trophy presentation at the 2018 French Open Championship, Dominic Thiem, the beaten finalist paid tribute to Nadal by saying as an eleven-year-old boy, he was inspired when he watched Nadal win his first French Open title in 2005. Thanks to Nadal, a number of tennis fans have been keen to watch, follow and even visit the French Open.
Some may argue against honouring Nadal because he is Spanish and not French. But hasn’t he brought the French Open to a wider global audience through his exploits? Furthermore, if he is memorialised, he wouldn’t be the first non-French citizen to have something named after him in Paris. After all Avenue du Président-Kennedy in Paris is named after America’s President Kennedy and a train station is named after President Franklin Roosevelt. Some may suggest that it is unfair to name a Court after an active player. But when would be a better time? Is it when a player is no more, or when a player is old and frail?
In conclusion, the FFT should do the right thing by naming Court One or another other suitable court, the Rafael Nadal Arena or by erecting a statue of Raga Nadal at the newly refurbished Stade Roland Garros.
Ahmed Sule, CFA
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