If the sun shines in the sky, the wind blows on the terrace of France Télévisions. It is almost 14 p.m., headset in place and microphone in hand, Laurent Luyat, all dressed in jeans, is set up before attacking his day of live at Roland-Garros.
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A breathtaking panorama
Sitting on his stool, with his back to Court Philippe-Chatrier, he tests sound. In front of him, his sheets of notes - with the matches of the day, a few lines on each of the important players and the names of the commentators of the matches - are well wedged thanks to transparent plastic blocks. "It was Lapin, my assistant who found it so that they would not fly away," he says. The "Rabbit" in question, who is ready for all requests, is kindly chased by the animator. "It's been twenty years that it has been imposed on me", jokes the host who officiates, indeed, for two decades on the famous terrace of France Télévisions and finds each year his assistant for the fortnight. The space of the tray is reduced as is the number of people present, promoting a relaxed and family atmosphere.
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This unique place overlooking the Central and offering a breathtaking panorama was created in 1995 on an idea of Christian Bîmes, then president of the French Tennis Federation and Jérôme Revon, the director of the time. "This had never been done and we were the only ones in the world," says Laurent Luyat who has just released the book of memories 20 years of Roland-Garros published by Ramsay. "In the beginning, it allowed Pierre Sled to move from one court to another. When I arrived in 2003, I brought some novelties. In particular, I proposed that we welcome players on the terrace. A concept was born!
Serena Williams the first guest
However, the beginnings were not easy. Serena Williams, the defending champion in 2003, was the first to agree to come. Perhaps the champion still remembers her epic journey to reach the famous plateau. "She had to cross the aisles in the middle of the audience and she was terrified! recalls the journalist. Now there are direct elevators to come. I also remember that we had Marat Safin who showed us his tattoos and Gustavo Kuerten, we had a good laugh. Some players, especially the French, were quite reluctant because they were afraid of being criticized. It was difficult to get them to come in at the start. But when Nadal, Federer or Djokovic came, everyone followed." Now, doing an interview on the terrace of France Télévisions has become completely normal and is even part of the communication of champions. It is whispered that Novak Djokovic, clever, would book his visit on Saturday afternoon when there are the most viewers in front of their screen.
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That day, Laurent Luyat awaits the arrival of Daniil Medvedev, Hugo Gaston and Stan Wawrinka. "He promised us to come, he's a good customer," explains the host, who prepares his interviews before the live, about the Swiss player. It is the day of rest of the latter who did not give the time of his coming, as is often the case. Adaptability is one of the major qualities to have on the terrace. When the champions arrive, everything is set up to make them feel comfortable with a minimum number of people on site and requests for photos or autographs prohibited.« It is as if, when TF1, which broadcasts the World Cup, Denis Brogniart welcomed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on its set. »
The efforts of the teams often prove to be rewarded, the interviews conducted being generally different and interesting. "It's another interview frame, we're not hot right after a game. The players are composed, we can talk about other things. It makes them happy so it's the best reward for us," continues Laurent Lukat, who measures his chance to welcome the greatest champions and future stars of tomorrow every day. "It's as if, when TF1, which broadcasts the World Cup, Denis Brogniart welcomed Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on its set... I measure my luck, it's a real privilege. »
A bottle of water, an emergency microphone... and cakes
On the terrace, everyone gets ready before going on air. Laurent Luyat has his little habits with, next to him on a small shelf, his laptop, a bottle of water, an emergency microphone, a cushion for the back .... and cookies for his 16 p.m. snack. "The most important thing for me is to have the scoreboard in front of me, especially the first week when there are a lot of games. We want viewers not to miss anything," he says. Michaël Llodra settles on the set. "You're resplendent," he tells Laurent Luyat. He was soon joined by Fabien Lévêque and Mary Pierce. Discussions are well underway on the meetings of the day. Everyone has a screen in front of them with real-time results. 5-4-3-2-1: Laurent Luyat launches the day and gives his first instructions concerning the matches to follow. He is in constant communication with Fabrice Colin, the editor-in-chief.
« Decisions must be made quickly and not procrastinating. »
The two choose together when to move from one court to another so that viewers do not lose a crumb of the event. The first week, the number of meetings is considerable and the choices often difficult. "You have to make decisions quickly and not procrastinate," continues the host. With Fabrice, we have the experience. It's very hard to satisfy everyone. The first week, we focus on the French and the big headliners but the choices are always tricky. »
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Vigilant and user-friendly
During the fortnight, Laurent Luyat makes each day (except two where he takes rest), between six and eight hours of airtime. "It's very intense. I don't have pressure because I have the advantage of experience. I'm happy to be here, I have great consultants but I have to be vigilant all the time because it's live, anything can happen. I must not crash into the names of the players, do not make mistakes. While being friendly, having a little fun. People want to see the games but also to relax. He does it very well and is delighted with what he has been doing every year for twenty years. It has become a landmark for tennis fans but also for champions. "With Rafael Nadal, we kiss each other!, he confides The most complicated in our business is to last and I tell myself I resisted everything in the end. It touches me enormously. As a kid I watched every game on TV. If I had been told that I was going to be the presenter of the event for more than twenty years, I would never have imagined it from my native Grenoble. Like what you have to believe in your dreams. »