Sounds of tickets being collected, fans chanting their favorite players names and vendors greeting guests with a welcoming "bonjour" usually fills the air at Roland Garros. It's an enchanting atmosphere as fans regard the elegance and the raw energy of the game while indulging in a pain au chocolat or macaron.

This year's edition paints a vastly different picture.

Unlike last month's fan-less US Open, Roland Garros did everything it could to allow spectators. Officials originally aimed for 50 to 60 percent capacity, or around 20,000 fans per day. That would quickly dwindle to 5,000. But just before the Grand Slam began, COVID-19 cases would spike and the French Tennis Federation would reduce the number again to just 1,000 fans per day.

Fan perspective: An 
empty Roland Garros 
still has its charm

Fan perspective: An empty Roland Garros still has its charm


Fred Mullane/Camerawork USA

Tennis enthusiast Damon Dominique was one of those 1,000 fortunate fans who snagged a middle Sunday ticket. For context, 31,845 people attended last year's middle Sunday session. Although missing its usual vibrant festivities, the unusual atmosphere had some pros.

"There was definitely a moment when I looked up and had this thought 'Everyone here is in a mask,'" Dominque told Baseline. "In a few years, we'll look back and think WTF? This is really the state of the world right now. On the bright side, I was able to get to my seat a lot quicker."

Dominique wore a traditional Parisian style trench coat with a sleek all-white Lacoste face mask as he watched the world's best put on a show on the terre battue. The 29-year-old, a popular YouTuber, was invited to the Grand Slam by premium event partner Lacoste, a brand that the Indiana native has always adored.

"I've always loved tennis and I've always loved preppy style with an edge," Dominique said. "Those two things are what Lacoste really stands for to me, so I was able to go along with them."

Besides finding his seat easier than ever before, Dominique enjoyed the intimate environment. Hearing the crisp contact of Rafael Nadal's forehand and seeing the specks of clay flutter in the air offered a fresh perspective for the small amount of fans snuggled up in Philippe-Chatrier.

"The best part of my day was sitting so close to the court where you realize that these professional tennis players are beasts in person," Dominique said. "It really made it click that they are not just tennis players, but professional athletes."


The game of tennis is not a sprint, it's a marathon and Dominique figured that out quickly as he watched Dominic Thiem's five-set affair against French wild card Hugo Gaston in the fourth round. The sport takes endurance and one of Dominique's biggest takeaways from witnessing the action up close was that he has some work to do.

"After visiting Roland Garros, I realized I should invest more in leg day," Dominique said.


Other than feeling motivated by the top players to start his next workout, the tennis enthusiast and YouTuber realized how difficult it can be when players are not just competing against a home favorite.

"Watching Gaston, one of the newer favorites in France, made me realize something," Dominique said. "It made me realize how lucky a lot of us are to be from countries where the Grand Slams happen. Those players from countries that aren't the US, UK, France or Australia will never get that home-court advantage, or feeling of being the one the entire stadium is rooting for. I heard many players apologizing for winning, which is something no one should have to do. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be liked."

Even in a nearly empty Court Philippe-Chatrier, the sound of cheers for the home favorites are still deafening. Every word from the crowd bounces off the walls of the mostly vacant arena.

While players lamented the chilly temperatures, it can make for ideal spectator conditions.

"I would take this cool, fresh air over Paris summer heat any day. Do not get me started on the lack of airflow here," Dominique said. "Paris is a moody city, and especially in fall, so gray clouds and rain are to be expected—it's part of the charm here. That being said, a roof is absolutely necessary in a city like this and leave it to the French to make everything they touch beautiful."

It all came full circle at this year's Roland Garros event for the American living in Paris. Nineteen years ago, Dominique picked up a racquet at his trailer park's tennis court. Over 4,000 miles away from Paris the then 10-year-old would tune into Roland Garros and dream of one day seeing the action without the barrier of a screen.

His experience this fortnight may have been out of the ordinary, but it was still a dream come true.

"I spent my entire life in Indiana watching and playing, so being at Roland Garros is really one of those full-circle, is this real moments," Dominique said. "You can take the kid out the trailer court, but you can't take the trailer court out of the kid."