Michael Llodra is just starting to talk about his Paris when he has to pause: "Wait, my kids are playing up, let me calm them down and I’ll call you back". Minutes later, the French tennis player is finally available. He’s in his car on the way to Roland Garros for training. Before the action on-court starts to get serious, follow his off-court guide...
Since you were talking about your children, you live in the suburbs around the capital, is it quieter than Paris when you have kids?
Yes, definitely, especially since we’re lucky enough to have a house which we have just finished working on. I live in Rueil-Malmaison, west of Paris, and there I just put the kids in the pool. You have the benefits of Paris without the hassle, because you feel like you’re in the countryside but you're just a 15-minute drive from the Champs-Elysées. For Roland Garros, it’s a real luxury. It only takes me 15 minutes, and there’s no stress from the traffic.
In Paris, do you have a favourite restaurant?
To be honest, as I'm always all over the world following the tour, I eat in restaurants almost all year round. So, when I'm in Paris, ironically enough, I don’t go out very often. I prefer enjoying time in the house, inviting friends over for a drink or dinner. So, I don’t really have any favourite places here. When I go to a restaurant in Paris, I usually go for a gourmet place, something nice. It has to be for a special occasion though, with my wife or close friends.
Even so, do you go to Paris often?
Of course, whenever I can. A neighbourhood that I love is the Marais. My wife, who lives here all year, knows it much better than I do so she shows me around. I love all the little streets, small shops, terraces… A place that we love, to name one, is the “le Loir dans la théière” (“the door-mouse in the teapot”). It’s a restaurant of pies and salads on the rue des Rosiers, I was there just last week.
What is your favourite place in Paris?
I must admit that I love driving on the banks of the Seine, just as night falls and the lights come on. I love passing under all those bridges, seeing all those buildings, Notre Dame, the Conciergerie, the Quai d'Orsay, the pont de l’Alma... From the river-banks, the light is just incredible.
When you were a kid, what is the place you would go to the most?
The Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. I used to go there all the time with my dad and my brother. There are at least 30 rugby fields and football pitches, we went to play there. Then we went to play tennis, or go for a little jog. There is this small waterfall, it’s absolutely wonderful.
Since you’ve brought up football, Rueil, where you live, is not far from the Parc des Princes...
It is true, and I'm happy because my son, who is a football fan, is 5 years old now. I can finally show him the legendary stadium. My father played for PSG, and I grew up on football and tennis. We had to choose, and I chose tennis because I had a very good friend who also played. But now, I love the idea of team sport. I would have loved for tennis to be a team sport. That's why I love the Davis Cup, doubles play, and I loved the inter-club matches.
Why is Roland Garros so special?
For me, there are two tournaments that stand out, Roland and Wimbledon, because they are two historic tournaments. Their location has never changed. The Australian Open has moved a lot, the U.S. Open, don’t even think about it. And besides, for us French, it's magical because we play in front of our fans. All this put together makes it a very special tournament, especially since we get prepared for it all year. We can’t wait for it to start each year.
If, during the tournament, a player has a free afternoon and asks you what he can do in Paris, what advice would you give him?
In one afternoon, I would recommend renting a convertible, and go to the mythical places. The Champs-Elysees, Place Vendome, the Marais… Saint-Germain des Près is great fun too. The Champs Elysees, it's true that it's touristy, but it's also legendary, it’s really an amazing place. When there are national holidays, you see all those French flags, you see the Concorde, the Tuileries, the Grand Palais on the right, and then if you keep going and you arrive at Trocadéro...
By Lucas Duvernet-Coppola