8 Fun Facts About Roland Garros / The French Open

1. The first French Open was played in 1891 and was originally played on sand. For the first six years it was only open to men, women weren’t allowed to take part until 1897. What is now called the Stade Roland Garros was constructed in 1928 to host France’s first defense of the Davis Cup.

2. The Stade Roland Garros in Paris where the French Open is played is named after Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros, a World War I pilot and pioneering French aviator who completed the first solo flight across the Mediterranean Sea. Tiny yet unique, it is the smallest venue compared to the other three majors. The area is way lesser than half of the area of Australian open, Wimbledon and US open.

3. The ‘clay’ surface isn’t actually clay – the courts are surfaced with white limestone covered with powdered red brick dust, which gives the courts their ochre colour. It is the only Grand Slam event that is played on a red surface. An estimated 44,000kg of crushed red brick are used each year.

4. The Stade Roland Garros is a 21-acre complex boasting 20 courts. Built in 1928, Court Philippe Chatrier is the centrepiece and seats over 15,000 spectators. The other show court is named after French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen, one of the biggest tennis stars of the 1920s. The project to add a retractable roof to Court Philippe Chatrier was completed in February 2020. The roof is made up of 11 trusses, each weighing 330 metric tons, which took two years to manufacture and eight months to assemble.

5. The prize for winning the men’s singles event is the Coupe des Mousquetaires (the Musketeers’ Cup) – it refers to the legendary French tennis stars who reigned over the tournament until 1933 and were known as the Four Musketeers: Jean Borotra, René Lacoste, Jacques Brugnon and Henri Cochet.

6. The Coupe des Mousquetaires remains in the stadium – the winner is given a smaller replica to take home. The trophy is so precious, it has its own special trunk that was created by Louis Vuitton.

7. Non-French tennis club members were only allowed to enter the tournament in 1925, when it became the ‘French Open’. Before then it was only open to members of French tennis clubs. However, only two French nationals have lifted the most prestigious singles trophy at the Roland Garros in the Open Era. Yannick Noah won the men’s title in the year 1983 and Mary Pierce was the last French national to win the women’s singles title in 2000.

8. The French Open has been held every year in Paris since 1891, except from 1939-1945 when it was cancelled because of World War II. The 2020 edition of the tournament, which was the first to be assisted by the roof over Philippe-Chatrier, was postponed to late September and early October and was played in front of limited spectators, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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