June 14, 2012 | 07:53 PM
Buying Tickets to Majors: Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open
Of the three majors that I've attended, The French is the one with the best thought out and least objectionable ticket sales process. That doesn't make it the simplest, however. To plan a trip around tournament days, you need to understand the process. While the same is true for Wimbledon, tickets are harder to get and more expensive. The US Open has the most straightforward ticketing and sells the most tickets because it is the largest Major.
In all three events, national association members are notified of ticket availability timelines by email, and generally get some days to buy in advance of the general public. Anyone can join these associations for short money.
Ground transportation to each site:
All three events can be reached by public transportation, which is easiest in Paris:
- The Paris Metro's line 10 goes directly to stops that are no more than 10 or 15 minutes from the gates (either of two stops on the way to Boulogne, Michel-Ange Molitor or Michel-Ange d'Auteuil). A one way trip from St. Germain de Pres in the 6th arrondissement, central to the city, takes about 30 minutes in total, including the walk from the Metro).
- To the Wimbledon grounds, either take the District subway line to Southfields and walk 20 minutes to the grounds from the town center, or take the National Rail train to Wimbledon from Waterloo station (bus shuttles run every 5 minutes from the train station).
- The #7 NY subway line and the Long Island Railroad both stop at Willets Point/Shea Stadium, which is 5 minute walk from the East gate of the grounds and the box office. You can also drive to the Open and park for $20 a day (free parking in some Shea lots if you drive the sponsor manufacturer's car, Mercedes, in the last two years).
Time tables for ticket action:
- Roland Garros tickets become available to members in January, several weeks before tickets are available to the general public in early February. The general public may request up to 4 tickets per person, but may or may not get the requested tickets. Notice isn't emailed until early April.
- Wimbledon tickets: the general public can request tickets from the All England Club in writing in the fall through a two step mail process called the 'Ballot' (a tradition that may be as old as the Championships themselves). There is about a 1 in 10 chance for the general public to get a ticket this way, and there are limits to how many can be ordered (no more than 2 or 4 per person ordering). See below for more on how to improve your odds of getting tickets in the Ballot and for those that that become available online the day before a session (all for par value).
- The US Open tickets are brokered by Ticketmaster, adding cost to the buyers. Members are notified of sale says during the 2nd week of the French Open. This year, those with an Am Ex account could buy 1 day before others (on June 9); buyers who had 'liked' The US Open on Facebook were allowed one day on June 10. Others, June 11.
ROLAND GARROS TICKET INFO
All tickets are sold online and only at the RG website as long as they are available (I didn't go online until they'd been for sale for a couple of weeks, and got the two I requested).
There's no guarantee you'll get any tickets when you submit your request in February - you don't hear until early April if you've gotten any at all. Makes travel planning difficult...
Each individual is limited to buying only 4 tickets in advance.
The name of the person who will use the ticket must be added on the website when you are awarded tickets in April. The name can be changed until the day before the session, when it will have to be printed out (the users name will be readable only by the bar code scanners - the buyer's name always appears on the ticket). Only the person who's name is assigned to the ticket will be admitted - the gate to the grounds requires a photo i.d. that matches the ticket scanned.
Tickets are sold separately for the grounds only and for each of the 3 show courts:
- Chatrier is the largest
- Lenglen is 2nd largest
- Court One is smallest
Seeded singles players will be scheduled on outside courts during the first 4 or 5 days, beginning Sunday. By Friday (the round of 32), only the 3 show courts will feature most of the singles matches remaining.
In the last weeks before the event, an official ticket exchange opens up at one designated ticket vendor.
Tickets are priced reasonably on the RG website, but understandably they are driven way up on the official exchange and become ridiculous just before and during the event - if any are available, even for week one (the site will be expanded in the future, but is very tight and sells out).
Behind this process with name assigning is the intention to eliminate block ticket re-selling. The RG website makes it very clear that any ticket not sold by the FFT, or its single designated ticket re-seller, will NOT be honored, and presumably the holder will be fined, imprisoned or sent to the guillotine.
As a result, there is NO last day changing of names or trading or even giving away tickets until you have been let into the grounds with an official photo I.D. (US Drivers license is okay) matching the name that will appear when your ticket's bar code is scanned as you enter (no one without a matching I.D. will be admitted).
Once in the grounds with a ticket to the stadium, tickets may of course be exchanged, but you have to buy a grounds ticket at least a day in advance in order to enter the grounds.
There is NO ticket booth outside the RG facility.
Ticket holders who leave before evening are required to be scanned out and their ticket will not be good for admission if they return. This mean if you wish to leave, no re-selling of seats for show courts can happen within the grounds. It also means that if you do leave early with a show court ticket, a RG ticket office within the grounds will re-sell your seat to "5pm Grounds Pass" holders who get in line early and wait from 3 to 5pm when the ticket office area is opened to them. Only these 5pm pass holders can upgrade their tickets to a show court that evening at 5pm (play continues until 9:30 or so).
A Last Chance the day before is offered to buy a 3pm or a 5pm Grounds Pass, when two types of "Evening" grounds passes go on sale online, at the RG website to those with an FFT account.
The two kinds of Grounds Passes sold the day before a session are (available only the day to those with an FFT account, online, through the official RG website):
- 3 pm entry gets you into the grounds for the rest of the day without access to the 3 show courts.
- 5 pm entry gets you in to the grounds (costs 12 Euros, a little less than the 3pm entry), and only the 5 pm pass offers you the chance to upgrade your ticket to whatever might be available in a show court by paying the difference at a box office which opens at 5pm inside the gate.
Those who have bought the 5 pm evening passes the day before can wait in line outside the appropriate Gate to the grounds, where at 3pm they will be admitted through a first gate in order to queue at the box office to try to upgrade at 5pm (you can't get in to the real grounds until 5pm).
Those with 3 pm passes or passes bought in advance back in February are NOT permitted to queue to try to upgrade their passes to a show court. [Pourquoi? Maybe they don't want to reward advance ticket holders, after all...]
The FFT account which is required in order to purchase any tickets can be set up on the RG site.
All tickets and passes must be printed by the buyer and showed for admission. The ticket exchange site can be reached through the official RG site:
WIMBLEDON TICKET INFO
Cheapest Way to Secure Tickets in Advance
The All England Tennis Club sells some tickets through a Publick Ballot. This process must be started in the fall by writing to the AELTC by mail to request a Ballot before December 31. Check for details on the official tournament site. You will be notified in February if you have received ticket(s). What you get is random, if you are lucky enough to get anything: there"s about a 1 in 10 chance. If you join the LTA before Nov. 30, you can enter the ballot as a member and double your chances. Joining the LTA to become a British Tennis Member (BTM) will give you other ticket benefits and discounts at Wimbledon, The French Open, Barclays, and the lawn tennis tune-ups (Queen's and Eastbourne).
Individual Tickets and Wimbledon Experience for a Premium
If you don't mind paying extra to get the full Wimbledon experience, with access to a half dozen of their lovely restaurants in the Wimbledon club house, you can go online through gumtree.com to search offers on various re-sale sites where the wealthy who have bought debentures to fund the improvements in Court One or Centre Court, and have received a quota of daily tickets in that court, put them up for sale.
How to get tickets the day before a session
Do not buy scalped tickets, which may be invalid, or debenture tickets offered online for what sound like too good to be true rates ("4 final seats in Centre Court for 500 Pounds": these sorts of deals will be fakes, for sure).
Instead, have your laptop handy and be prepared to race the world at 9am on the dot the day before the session you want, when The Official site sells some tickets they've held back previously. These will be at standard rates, if you are fast enough to get them. Watch for 8:59:59 on the Greenwich time website, and refresh your inquiry then to have a chance. Then know exactly what you want and click on it immediately (you will ant to rehearse).
For an overview of all ways to get Wimbledon tickets, including queueing at the grounds, go to:
US OPEN TICKET INFO
The best part about attending the Open is that only one of three stadiums is ticketed. To get into Arthur Ashe, the largest stadium in tennis, you need a ticketed seat. Unless you know someone with box seats, you'll be paying a lot to sit above the corporate boxes in the loge unless you go to the top of the stadium, where you'll end up watching the match on the big screen, feeling closer to the flight path to La Guardia. Up there, people go to be heard, not to be seen (or to see). Loge seats are all too high to feel that you have much connection with the match beneath, especially when the stadium is not full - which is most of the time during the day sessions in the first week of the tournament (when the seats are more available and affordable, for good reason). A seat near the top of Centre Court at Wimbledon is a far superior experience to the best seats in the loge. Any seat in Chatrier at the French is also a better experience than the top of the loge, and much more affordable (if attainable).
A Grounds Pass during the first 10 days of the tournament will allow you access to both the Armstrong stadium and the Grandstand on a first come-first-serve basis. There are few bad seats in Armstrong (only the courtside seats ate ticketed to season box holders), and there are no bad seats in the Grandstand. Both stadiums become crowded during match-ups of high seeded players and Americans (any Americans who remain after the first 5 days play singles in Ashe, as do the top most matches for the 4 seeds in men's and women's singles). However, because these two courts have a lot of seats between them, they can be no harder to get into than the outside courts which also feature many good matches, especially during the first 6 days of the event (through the first Friday).
Weekend tickets are harder to get, and the grounds are very busy after the first Friday (the opening Monday has also been a sell out in recent years). The best way to enjoy the Open experience is to go during the first week on a grounds pass. This allows you to stay from 11am until play is done for the evening. Starting at $62.50 (including fees) and going no higher than $73.50 on the final day for grounds only passes (the 2nd Monday), it is a real value.
Tickets for Ashe begin at $68.50 for the nose bleed sections (going for $89 by the final weekend) and $115 for the loge (going to $375). The best available seat in the loge begins at $173 and goes to $463 (it will not feel like a premium seat, or even a good seat). The courtside seating begins at $300 to $493, and goes to $795 to over $1000, if any were actually available. This is what ticket exchange prices get to in Paris and Wimbledon in the days before the events.
There are multiple online ticket re-sellers for the Open, and individuals sell tickets outside the grounds (against the law at any price within 1500 feet of the grounds - which means they are legal in the parking lots). If the deals sound too good to be true, they are.
Final Tips for Enjoying grounds Passes at any Major:
1. Go early when the grounds open.
2. Plan ahead which matches you want to see, and go to that court by the middle of the previous math if you want to get in.
3. Wander in the smaller outside courts and practice courts.