European Clay for American Tourists: Monte-Carlo vs Madrid vs Rome

Best Value for the American Dollar during the European Swing.
We compare the 3 Clay Masters Tournaments for your next Euro Tennis Vacation!

Monte-Carlo Masters (Monaco)
April - Tickets on StubHub

The Crown Jewel of the French Rivera. See our Monaco and Nice photos for trip ideas.

Try the Barcelona Open tournament for an Amazing City and just as many high-caliber players in a smaller venue! I was able to attend as media and got to witness the pinnacle of Spanish Championship Tennis. The venue is intimate, and the club is historic (at that same location since 1899).

It is best to take a flight to Nice, France, and then the train about 20 mins to the special stop they open only during the Tournament. Here is the ATP Behind the Scenes short video tour.

Find a nice AirBnB near the Nice station or the French side to save some money. I splurged and pulled a few strings for the full experience from the hillside balcony.

Be warned that the French transportation system was on strike several days out of the week (listed on a schedule) when I was there. You may need to find a bus or an expensive $50 taxi to get back on those days.

Food - Fancy and Fast Options
Should you want to wine and dine at the tournament, there are plenty of white tablecloth options on-site with a beautiful view of the center court from above.

For those seeking a quick lunch, a small food market deli called "Casino" offers lunch combos. Get a sandwich, drink, and/or dessert (for 3, 6, and 9 Euros respectively).

All the locals know where it is located and the tournament will let you take in your own lunch as long as it is inside a small bag.

Center Stadium and Side Courts
The Court de Princes is a separate ticket in a more secluded venue. I actually enjoyed the 3rd stadium (the equivalent of the old Grandstand at the US Open).

You can sit wherever you want and get close to players like Lopez. The high bounce of this clay favors Nadal who has won it 11 times! They should just change the national flag to Spain when he arrives.

Practice Courts
The main practice courts usually team up and down the castle walls with kids trying to see Nadal. The selection is pretty good since there are only the top male players in this tournament, but the small alleys can be tight and crowded.

Map and Walking Tour

The main entrance and the center stadium take up the entire Right Half.

The practice courts are all on a grid of 3 islands with 2 courts each along the bottom shown with dotted lines. The 2nd and 3rd stadiums are near each other at the top left corner - there are usually better matches playing there the first few rounds.

The Art of Traveling Lightly
Security is extremely tight, so getting there and lines can be long to get in so plan ahead to go early. It is best to travel light and not bring a backpack unless absolutely necessary. You will thank me later.

If needed, there is a convenient bag check service out front which is very nice but space is limited - but for just one Euro you cannot beat it!

Bonus Trip Option in Spain: 
Barcelona Open ATP 500 plus a short visit to the Rafael Nadal Academy 


Mutua Madrid Open
Early May

"The Magic Box" - Madrid Open with closable roof
The stadium is only a short walk downhill from the nearby Metro station.

Map and Box Layout
The entire campus is spread out like a giant Grid floating on a large lake. To reach the side and practice courts, walk down to the lower level and across a small bridge walkway that splits the courts.

Merchandise Booths and Layout

All the booths and food locations will be housed on the main and lower floors. Suites are at the top.

Be sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses if you are sitting in the open sun. Enjoy the practice courts outside! Very kid-friendly on weekdays.

Nadal played for over 4 hours in the longest 3-set matches in Masters 1000 History to defeat Djokovic in the famous 2009 semi-finals!

Roger Federer once defeated Rafael Nadal here...
The next month he won his only French Open.

 A rare sight to see Federer beating Nadal on Spanish clay. He went on to win the French Open in Paris a month later. After his worst season ever in 2008, some have said this Madrid title is what saved his career in 2009. Davis Cup was played here in 2019.

Photos from 2022 at Alcaraz's historic 19th-birthday victory run to defeat Djokovic, Nadal, and Zverev consecutively to earn the title.

Another great tourist stop after the tennis is to visit the Madrid Bullring - Plaza del Toros (largest in Spain and 2nd largest in the World) also near the train line.


You can also play Matador and learn about the rich culture behind one of Spain's oldest traditions that still runs strong in this city.

Day Trips - Toledo, Segovia, Avila

In 2022, returned to the Mutua Madrid Open for a full week as a photographer. Mornings in Madrid's beautiful Retiro Park or tapas tours are a must-do for visitors.

I was able to take a full-day trip to Toledo via the train. The ancient capital has many great castle views. The war museum has many fascinating artifacts from the medieval era.

Avila (castle walls) and Segovia are two other UNESCO cities I enjoyed on a bus tour but would pick just Segovia to spend a full day walking if given the choice and save driving time.

For over 13 years, I continue to love returning to Spain. Its food, culture, and sunsets make it always my number #1 country recommendation for young Americans visiting Europe for the first time.

Italian Open (Rome, Italy)

2nd Stadium (my favorite) at the Foro Italico

Crowds are seated closer together in this "sunken" stadium surrounded by giant Roman Statues. Many box seat holders will go and typically only stay here. The view is very steep in traditional Coliseum-like seating for dramatic angles against ancient statues.

There are no bad seats here. You can hear all the shots and crowd reactions intimately when walking by above. This is very much the People's Court with lots of true tennis fans.

Italian Open Tennis Tickets on Sale

In this map, the green arrows show the paths where I typically recommend staying.

The main practice court areas are where most of the fans can watch from only the near sideYou will see a lot more tennis if you stay near the Eastern Half.

Main Stadium

It is best to have a ticket in hand before you approach to get inside because you will be at the tip of the Giant Triangle, the Foro Italico.

Italian Food and Drinks
The cafe-style restaurants are easy ways to grab a quick bite and drink. There is lots of small table seating on the Lower Left side near the grass.

There are lots of kid-friendly activities like riding the circular train loop and playing some mini-tennis in the Kids Zone near the main entrance.

See my reasons for picking Rome as the top clay-court Masters for 2016 as well as cool sights to see on a Segway in the city at night (if you are tired from all the walking).

Rome is the Last Stop before Paris!

Roland Garros is the grand finale in Late May- Early June.
In 2024, the location will also host the Olympics for tennis!

The new stadium and expanded campus are supposed to be great.
Excited to see the giant Rafael Nadal metallic statue on display!

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