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2016 French Open – History of Roland Garros

2016 French Open – History of Roland Garros

The French Open is inching closer and closer as the best tennis players on the planet are about to descend upon Roland Garros for the second Grand Slam of the year. It’s always an exciting prospect seeing the likes of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and the King of Clay Rafael Nadal both contending for the prized title. Then there’s the best Women’s Singles player Serena Williams fending off the likes of the Queen of Clay, Maria Sharapova.

Before we delve deeper into Roland Garros, it’s time to take a look at the history of this momentous event. For more on the upcoming Grand Slam, check out our complete previews for the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles tournaments.

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History of Roland Garros

The French Championships

The first ever French Championships were held in 1891. It was a tournament reserved for members of French clubs. The tournament was held on the courts at the Stante Francais Club in Pairs. Only the Men’s Singles event was played until the Women’s Singles tournament was added six years later. The French Championships only became available for foreign players in 1925 and commenced being a major championship.


The French International was born after the French Tennis Federation opened the event to the best foreign players. Tournaments were staged alternately at the Stade Francais and the Racing Club de France until the Roland Garros Stadium—named after a World War I French pilot—was built in 1928. The Roland Garros Stadium enjoyed centre stage from there on out. It hosted the French Internationals every year.

The French Internationals was cancelled from 1940 to 1945 due to the Second World War. Roland Garros would not be deterred after the war, though. It continued getting stronger as tennis’ popularity soared in the post-war period. The French Internationals entered a new era in 1968 when it became the first “open” Grand Slam tournament, allowing both amateurs and professionals to play together after being previously separated.

The French Open and Dominant Champions

The late 1970s to early 1980s was an exciting time for Roland Garros. Dominant stars entered the tournament with Björn Borg winning six titles added plenty of buzz around the tournament. Then there were the likes of Ivan Lendl (1984, 1986, 1987), Mats Wilander (1982, 1985, 1988) and Gustavo Kuerten (1997, 2000, 2001), all multiple winners, contributing to the legendary reputation of the French Open Championships.

The women weren’t to be outdone. Chris Evert was a magnificent champion with seven titles from 1974 to 1986. She was followed by Steffi Graf who enraptured tennis fans with six titles in the 12 years between her first and sixth title in 1999. Monica Seles also had an unstoppable run from 1990 to 1992.

The King of Clay

Yes, the French Open has its share of dominant champions. But no one comes close to the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal. The Majorcan left-hander has won a grand total of nine times in ten appearances on the Paris clay. Nadal had a stranglehold of the Men’s Singles title winning four straight from 2005 to 2008. He then won five straight from 2010 to 2014.

Nadal holds quite a number of French Open records. Below is a list of Nadal’s records at Roland Garros:

  • Nine men’s singles titles at any single Grand Slam event
  • Nine titles in the French Open
  • Five consecutive titles (2010 to 2014)
  • Nine finals appearances overall
  • Five consecutive finals appearances (2010 to 2014)
  • Nine consecutive semifinals appearances (2005 to 2014)
  • Five consecutive semifinals appearances (2010 to 2014)
  • 70 match wins overall from 2005 to 2014
  • 35 consecutive match wins from 2010 to 2014
  • 97.2 percent match winning percentage from 2005 to 2014
  • Two titles won without losing a set (2008, 2010) – tied with Björn Borg
  • Won title on his first attempt – shares with Mats Wilander

French Open Trivia

The French Open was once played on grass.

The Men’s Singles winner is awarded the Coupe des Mousquetaires or in English, the Musketeer’s Cup. It symbolizes the victories of four famous French tennis players, who make up the Four Musekteers. They are Jacques Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste.

The Women’s Singles winner is awarded the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

The 1953 French tournament was played on indoor wood at the Palais des Sports. It would not have been considered as an official French Pro at the time.

The first French Open was won by Australian Ken Rosewall in June 1968. A month later, the last French Pro was won by Australian Rod Laver.

Equal prize money for both men and women in all rounds was awarded starting March 2007.

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Written by Kevin

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