Published on May 21st, 2013 | by Mark Smith
The French Open – Roland Garros Grand Slam
The French Open, which has also come to simply be known as Roland Garros, is the second Grand Slam tournament in the calendar year. It takes place after the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and it is the conclusion of the clay court swing of the season, hosted in late May and early June each year. This is the biggest clay court tournament in the world, and is the only Grand Slam to be held on clay. The famous prize trophies are made of pure silver, the winning man taking the Coupe des Mousquetaires and the women, the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. Prize money at the event was raised to over €18,000,000.
Stade Roland Garros
Situated in Paris, the Stade Roland Garros is the setting for the French Open, and has been since 1928. Some of the original events though were hosted at Auteuil,Ile de Puteaux, Racing Club de France, Bordeaux and Stade Francais before it became a permanent fixture at Stade Roland Garros, which is actually named after a famous French aviator. The famous red clay at Roland Garros produces a tournament which is arguably the most physically demanding of all the Grand Slams, because of the slower surfaces.
The early French Open tournaments were for members of French tennis clubs only. That having been said, the first male winner though was a Briton, H. Briggs who won in 1891. Following that, there were French winners at the French Open all the way up until 1934, when Britain’s Fred Perry broke the run. The first women’s tournament was held in 1897 and won by Adine Masson. It was French winners all the way from there as well, up until 1927 when Kea Bouman from the Netherlands took the title.
In 1968, the French Championship became the first Open, allowing both amateurs and professionals to compete. The first winner of the men’s French Open being Ken Rosewall of Australia and the first women’s winner being Nancy Richey. The seventies was something of a golden era at the French Open, with America’s Chris Evert taking four titles between 1974 and 1980. Sweden’s Bjorn Borg won the first two of his six French Open titles in the mid seventies. Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl were the strongest forces on the clay at Roland Garros in the 80’s. At the start of the 80’s in the women’s draw, Martina Navratilova won two titles, duelling three times against Chris Evert in the final. The late 1980’s saw Steffi Graf win her first French Open title.
But it was Monica Seles who was strongest through the early nineties, before Steffi Graf started striking back to claim four more titles. The 1990’s saw a host of different winners of the men’s event, including Andre Agassi and Spanish winners Sergi Bruguera and Carlos Moya. They would be the precursors to domination to come from fellow countryman Rafael Nadal. Taking his first French Open title in 2005, Rafael Nadal took seven titles in eight seasons, becoming the most successful player ever at the French Open. Belgium’s Justine Henin took four French Open titles in five season in the early 2000’s, but between 2008 and 2012, there were five different first time winners in a row, including Maria Sharapova in 2012.