Some towns and cities also call on his services to restore balance to the local ecosystem by driving away unsanitary birds. As a fan of tennis, particularly of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, it is a real opportunity for him to work at Roland Garros, as well as a source of general curiosity. “I regularly get people asking me a whole host of questions,” explains the falconer. “There is one point that I always insist on to prevent any ill will – in no way do we exterminate the pests. We are only there to scare them away.” To do so, a fortnight before the tournament begins, Ludwig enters the grounds armed with his thick leather glove on which the birds of prey perch. For two weeks, his three Harris hawks, peregrine falcon and two peregrine/gyrfalcon hybrids drive out the pigeons who have made themselves at home in the aisles of the stands. The aim is to create a permanent lingering sense of threat for any other birds tempted to join them. “When the tournament begins, there are no critters left. But when the spectators arrive, the birds come back in to hunt for food.” He then follows the same routine every day. Before nine in the morning, Ludwig and his wife take up their strategic positions around the stadium and send their hawks off to chase away the pigeons perching in the trees and other recesses of the grounds. During the daytime, they look after their creatures, clean their boxes and feed them. Like true athletes, their birds of prey require additional protein and follow a diet that is specially adapted to the fluctuations in their activity levels. After 5 p.m., some 1,000 wood pigeons, who have travelled into Paris in the daytime in search of food, return to roost in their natural habitat, the Bois de Boulogne, which is right next to Roland Garros. It is then time for the falcons to stretch their wings and take centre stage to deter the horde from descending on the stadium. “Falcons are best suited to this job as they fly at the perfect altitude, which is just below where pigeons fly,” explains Ludwig. By ridding the Porte d’Auteuil stadium of its pests, the work of the falconry duo has benefited the organisers, the spectators and of course the players, some of whom have thanked the falconers in person. “Sometimes they come to see us with their family to congratulate us, as well as to watch the birds and to ask us a whole host of questions.” It just goes to show that even the champions of the court admire these champions of the skies.