THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE PARIS IN THE SUMMER, but the added bonus of spending a day at Roland-Garros, courtesy their official timekeeper Longines, is another level of special. We arrived in the city on a (thankfully) sunny June 2nd, to attend the ninth edition of the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament. The event sees tennis players under the age of 13 compete for the title of Future Tennis Ace, and each player is selected by their local tennis federation to represent their countries. This year, the roster included two tennis hopefuls each from Australia, Austria, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
We started the day by making our way to the Eiffel Tower for the finals, and the realisation that the matches would be taking place at the foot of the Eiffel Tower was a rather surreal one. We walked past queues of tourists to see a tennis court right underneath the iconic French monument. It was a little difficult not to keep glancing up to gawk at the monument’s impressive structure during the matches.
A custom clay tennis court was created for the players under conditions identical to those of Roland-Garros, and saw Switzerland’s Kilian Feldbausch (boys) and Spain’s Victoria Jimenez (girls) take the top spots, after three days of competition. The two winners of the tournament also had the unique opportunity to play a friendly exhibition match with tennis legends Stefanie Graf and Andre Agassi, while the runnersup (Russia’s Yaroslav Demin and U.S.A.’s Clervie Ngounoue) took on former players and Longines Future Tennis Aces patrons Arantxa Sanchez and Alex Corretja. Tourists just visiting the tower were ecstatic to see some of the biggest names in tennis bring out their rackets again, and crowded around the edges of the court to catch a glimpse and photo of Agassi and Graf in particular. The event ended with Longines presenting the winners with the official watch of RolandGarros, a model from the Conquest V.H.P. “Very High Precision” collection. Additionally, the winners of the LFTA will receive an annual bursary until their 16th birthdays.
A relatively short bus journey later, we were at the sprawling green expanses of Roland-Garros. After being spoiled silly by a special four-course press lunch, we made a quick dash to catch Spain’s Rafael Nadal face off against French favourite Richard Gasquet at the Philippe-Chatrier court. Nadal breezed through the match and defeated Gasquet to proceed to the fourth round, by a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 margin (Nadal would later go on to win the 2018 French Open). Despite the audience’s disappointment with the result of the match, spirits were kept up with several rounds of crowd waves, cold beer and sing-song chants of Gasquet’s name to make him smile.
The Andre Agassi Foundation (started in 1994) provides educational opportunities to youth in Las Vegas, while Sefanie Graf’s children for tomorrow provides aid to families affected by war or violence.
The evening brought a treat of a different kind, as Agassi and Graf invited us to a Charity Gala dinner to celebrate their ten-year partnership with Longines as well as the incredible charity work the duo have done. Agassi’s The Andre Agassi Foundation (started in 1994) provides educational opportunities to youth in Las Vegas, while Stefanie Graf’s Children for Tomorrow provides aid to families affected by war or violence. The dinner took place at the regal Musee Rodin and saw a galaxy of celebrities, members of press, players who participated in past editions of the LFTA and Walter von Känel, President of Longines, in attendance. Later in the evening, the brand unveiled a special and limited edition of the Conquest V.H.P. “Very High Precision.” The watches all feature an engraved logo on the case back, The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education on the men’s version and Children for Tomorrow on the ladies’. Agassi took a few moments to speak about how proud he is of the work his foundation has been doing, as well as his long-term partnership with Longines and how he and Graf believe in giving back and helping as many children and families as they can. Longines announced that ten sets each of the women’s and men’s versions of the exclusive timepieces would be put up for auction online, with all proceeds going to the tennis legends’ respective charities. The men’s version features a sleek black dial, while the ladies’ model displays an elegant white mother-of-pearl dial and a case set with 70 diamonds. Both versions of the watch pay tribute to Roland-Garros, with a signature burnt orange on their hands, straps and indexes. The day ended with a few choice photoops to appreciate the past, present and future generations of tennis players at the event, and a dazzling 15-minute display of fireworks on the lawns of the Musee Rodin.