The French Tennis Federation toasted “Roland-Garros in the City” Thursday night at a cocktail party at the Consulate of France in New York.
With key sponsors such as Lacoste, Longines and BNP Paribas, Roland-Garros aims to bring the excitement of the French Open to the Waterfront Plaza at Brookfield Place this weekend, where it has built a temporary full-size red clay court and will be sponsoring kids’ tournaments and clinics today through Sunday, said Lucas Dubourg, head of international development at the French Tennis Federation.
There is also a viewing screen where it will be showing the men’s semifinal (Friday), women’s final (Saturday) and men’s final (Sunday).
“The French Consulate is very proud to be part of this opportunity to bring to life the Roland-Garros ambience in the U.S. for the very first time,” said Anne-Claire Legendre, consul general of France in New York. She said they were proud to show everything the French Open stands for, which, besides clay courts, are sportsmanship, bravery, elegance and gracefulness. “Roland Garros would be very proud today to see the French Open exported overseas,” she said.
Among those who attended Thursday night’s event were Miss Universe Iris Mittenaere; stars of “Real Housewives of New York” Ramona Singer and Luann D’Agostino, with her husband, Tom, and former NFL player Plaxico Burress and his wife, Tiffany.
Events this weekend at Brookfield Place include a historic gallery showing images and stories behind the classic Roland-Garros posters, created by such artists as Joan Miró and Vik Muniz. There is also an interactive replica of the famous Bridge of Locks along the Seine and a Longines “Smash Corner,” where people can test the speed of their service. Lacoste has a pop-up boutique on the premises, which is selling a Roland-Garros Collection.
Joelle Grunberg, president and chief executive of Lacoste North America, said Roland-Garros in the City was part of a initiative to internationalize the French Open and bring it to key cities. Lacoste has been supporting the French Open for 45 years, and the Roland-Garros tennis stadium was built in Paris in 1928 when Rene Lacoste was defending his 1927 Davis Cup win.
Last month Lacoste signed a deal with Novak Djokovic, who has been ranked No. 2 in men’s singles as its new face. Djokovic’s run of 11 straight wins at Roland-Garros was ended Wednesday when he was defeated by sixth seed Dominic Thiem in the quarter final, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 0-6. A Lacoste spokeswoman pointed out there will be plenty more tournaments.
The tennis player will act as a brand ambassador for Lacoste as part of a five-year contract and will appear in the company’s ad campaigns. Together they have also developed the Novak Djokovic performance collection comprising pique polo shirts and shorts. The collection is currently available for purchase at Lacoste boutiques and at the French Open.
Overall, Grunberg said, “Business is quite good. Our focus is tennis and golf. The sports connection is on fire, and it’s now a growing share of our business.” She said that Lacoste plans to show in Paris this fall to acknowledge its 85 years as a brand, bypassing its usual Saturday morning spot on the New York Fashion Week calendar.