By James Steel
The Monte-Carlo Masters is something all tennis fans should experience if they can at some point on their tennis journey. The beautiful scenery encompasses the start of the European clay court swing with bright deep orange clay to rich green flora. The show courts provide a rich stream of entertainment with close up interactions with the players providing the celebration and the tragedy. I got the chance to go to this year’s event, so here are some details and advice for prospective future visitors.
Transport and Accommodation
Myself and many other fans elected to fly in and stay in the striking city of Nice. The main reason for this was down to the price you’d pay for accommodation, and food and drink is noticeably more reasonably priced in Nice than it is in Monaco itself. You can have access to a range of budget hotel chains in Nice, with myself using the IBIS budget on the shorefront. There is a very good tram system that runs throughout the port town with the key lines taking us to the train station to access the tennis venue.
Travel to the venue is key. There was a specially laid on train service connected to a pre-existing train route which stopped off at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. It may surprise you to hear but the Monte-Carlo Country Club isn’t actually in Monte-Carlo, nor indeed Monaco. The club lies to the east of the microstate in what is technically eastern France. So, this train service provides vital for the ease of accessing the venue. The trains there and back again were very busy with tennis goers but also regular workers in Monaco who disembarked the stop before. My one issue with the service was that the last train to leave the Country Club was around 7.25, which meant that we had to miss some of the later matches which went on past this time.
There are 5 main courts in play at the country club. They are Rainier III, Des Princes, Court 2, Court 9 and Court 11. Rainier III is of course the biggest show court in the club, this is where we spent the first day watching the likes of Dan Evans, Benoit Paire and Novak Djokovic play their matches. The stadium’s atmosphere was excellent and there was plenty of space for myself with my ‘Daddy Long Legs’ to sit comfortably without feeling crushed. There was a slightly confusing row system with numbers on the floor instead of the side of the stand to indicate which row was which. Do note that there is no shade on this court, so bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
The best way to describe the Des Princes court is like a mini Rainier III, with the long swooping sides and one baseline stand. I sat on the baseline stand and was able to see very clearly where the balls were bouncing and during the Norrie match. The neat novelty about this court is that it’s nestled next to the player’s lounge. This meant we could look at the balcony next to the court and see the likes of Rublev, Salisbury and Rune sit and eat dinner as they watched the action on Des Princes.
You also have Court 2 which is available to all with a grounds pass. This court was usually full, and you could hear the celebrations and groans from that court from all over the site. The stands only sit on one side of the court so if you prefer a baseline view this court could be a struggle for you. Court 9 and 11 finish off the site. Both are effectively 5-6 seating rows tagged onto the slide on the practice courts with the view to courts 9 and 11 being mildly obstructed by the fencing of the stranded club.
Food and Drink
This is where your wallet will feel very empty by the end of your stay. The main takeaway food offerings were baguettes filled with cheese and ham, popcorn, sweet treats, and a few pasta options. The food itself was excellent. There was good flavour to everything we ate and there was always plenty of it available. I had a Bolognese on day one and it was delightful. However, you’ll be paying quite a bit for the food. The baguettes were over 10 Euros and the Bolognese was around 16 Euros. France is a very expensive place to eat usually but their prices were even higher than the amount you pay for a Fish and Chips at Wimbledon. Be warned, if you plan to eat out at the Country Club ensure you’ve plenty of Euros at hand.
With this your commercial areas cover a lot of tennis rackets, strings and sportswear. If you’re in the market to improve any of these areas for your own game, you’ll be in luck. There are plenty of gift shops dotted around the site with Country Club and Rolex Monte-Carlo logo shirts, hats, and accessories available. Like the food, don’t expect this to come cheap. There are also bathrooms dotted around the site, they are clean and don’t feel or look horrible to be in. My one gripe was the signage to find them being unhelpful at times (one bathroom under the stadium has its sign completely covered by scaffolding).
I would go to Monte-Carlo again in a heartbeat. At the heart of the event is a fan centred approach which allows all the attendees to enjoy their time watching the sport whilst the Mediterranean Sea plays host to a stunning backdrop. If you get the time and the chance, go and experience this jewel of the ATP crown.