Roland Garros…Kids’ Day Returns

By Mark Winters

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On May 21st, the day before the tournament began, Kids’ Day made a comeback.

Having not taken place for the past two years because of the pandemic, more than 25,000 people sauntered around Stade Roland Garros participating in “fun activities…” and enjoying the entertainment, along with the exhibition matches involving the likes of Belinda Bencic, Novak Djokovic, Barbora Krejčíková, Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev.

The event, a fundraiser for a variety of charities, first took place in 1977 and was fully supported by the players, who enjoyed the “Hit and Giggle Fun” before the actual competition began. 

Rafael Nadal playing Benny Berthet Day in 2006 – two weeks before winning his second Roland Garros Men’s Singles trophy. Photo: Corinne Dubreuil

The idea was Benjamin (Benny) Berthet’s. A French-American, born in New York, the son of a Polish Jew, who was a US immigrant. The family came to France before he turned 10. His story is nothing short of “étonnant” (amazing).

The Berthets were jewelers but Benny was even more skilled as a tennis player. He played Roland Garros between 1929 and 1938 then from 1946 until 1955. His best showing was in 1931 when he lost to Jean Borotra, who would win the Men’s Singles, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.

Benny Berthet. Photo: Alamy History and Art Collection

Berthet was the French Davis Cup captain beginning in 1955 until 1965. He spent years as the Secretary of the International Lawn Tennis Club of France.

Yet, few if any in the game are aware of his most important accomplishment. In 1973, he established a relationship between BNP Paribas and Roland Garros that is still thriving. In 1981, following his January death from cancer, the pre-tournament Saturday was called Benny Berthet Day. Having been renamed “Kids’ Day”, he would be more than pleased that this year that his “Give back activity” raised over US$300,000 for charity.

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