Diary of a French Open rookie

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WHEN Peugeot Philippines decided to embark on a sports-marketing program to solidify its positioning as a premium automotive brand in the Philippines, the direction was served on a silver platter.

With Peugeot being an erstwhile partner in the storied French Open, tennis was the obvious answer. The sport was and still is a perfect fit to the traditional, yet innovative, nature of the French carmaker. Peugeot, a brand with a rich history dating back more than 200 years, deserves no less. Tennis, a sport for those who crave a little more refinement in their lives, would be Peugeot’s vessel. Thus, the Peugeot Philippines Tennis Invitational (PPTI) was born.

Early this year Peugeot Philippines began a journey that would take tennis enthusiasts on the club level through a tournament like no other. No less than 32 teams composed of six individuals each (that’s 192 participants in all!) would be invited to play for a prize no tennis enthusiast would ever say no to—a chance to catch a match at Roland Garros for free. After a grueling tournament that would at times stretch on until midnight, the champions in three different doubles divisions emerged.

The PPTI champions, the writer and Peugeot Philippines Dealer of the Year Michael Goho wave to the camera from our seats at Court Philippe Chatrier.

This year’s winners, Ching Henson and Michelle Mendoza (women’s division champions), Jason Benitez and Edd Ventura (40 to 49 men’s division champions), Rolly Oliquino and Jackie Tomacruz (50 and up men’s division champions) and Dudu Fernandez and Naresh Ramnani (wildcard raffle winners), together with this writer and Peugeot Philippines Dealers of the Year from Cebu, Martin and Michael Goho, flew to Paris earlier this month to catch the quarterfinals of the French Open live. None of us had been to Roland Garros before.

Our group flew into Paris on Monday, June 5, as we were scheduled to catch a couple of quarterfinal matches on Tuesday, June 6. We’d find out later in the evening as we landed, that our tickets, which had us prepped to catch a women’s singles and a men’s singles match, at the Philippe Chatrier court, would allow us to catch Swiss lass Timea Bacsinszky against crowd darling Kristina Mladenovic (she is, after all, French) in the women’s match, as well as a Spanish men’s showdown between Pablo Carreño Busta and this year’s eventual champion, the indefatigable Rafa Nadal. Obviously, our hearts skipped a beat upon learning that the Nadal, a.k.a. “King of Clay”, was among those we’d be able to watch live.

Raining all night

EARLY morning of the 6th, I looked out my hotel window and realized that it had been raining all night. I hoped and prayed that the pitter-patter would halt. It did later that morning. But by that time, a cool breeze had settled quite comfortably over Paris—averaging at 18 degrees throughout the day. After a hearty breakfast, our taxis took us to the historic Roland Garros venue and, one after the other, we excitedly entered the venue. As we waltzed into Allée M. Bernard, the main walkway between the bigger courts (the aforementioned Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen), the obligatory souvenir shots were taken.

I lost my group shortly after.

Apparently, they learned that a Legends doubles match between the pair of Michael Chang and Pat Cash and Sergei Bruguera and Goran Ivanesevic was ongoing as we arrived—naturally, like excited little kids, they ran off to catch it.

Hors d’oeuvres

I WOULD eventually meet up with them over lunch—a hearty selection of hors d’oeuvres with overflowing wine and champagne at the Divine VIP lounge—before finally moving to our seats to catch the women’s quarterfinal match. And what a match it turned out to be!

At first, Bacsinszky would take control. But, rallying behind her countrymen’s cheers, the svelte Mladenovic would fight back.

Back and forth they would eventually go, and gripped we were. The match would be delayed thrice due to inclement weather—which made viewing more excruciating. Bacsinszky would eventually wrestle the lead and finish Mladenovic off, 6-4, 6-4.  But not before we were blown away.

King of Clay

UNFORTUNATELY, the rain delays would force the men’s quarterfinal match to be moved to the next day,  and we missed the chance to see the legendary King of Clay strut his wares.

Tell you what, though…that glimpse of a Grand Slam has made these champs hungrier than ever. And we’ll see how that plays into the scheme of things when the PPTI resumes this October, with a shot at watching this time the Australian Open live in January.

See you all at the next Peugeot Philippines Tennis Invitational!

PEE STOP Vernon B. Sarne, the former editor in chief of Top Gear PHL, now writes a motoring column at Business World. Welcome back to the loop, Vernon.

THE guest-columnist is a dear friend of mine.   He used to be the Star’s motoring editor before Peugeot plucked him out of journalism.   “I’ve been craving to write again,” he wrote to me.   “Thank you for the opportunity.”

 



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