The History of the French Open
Today, the French Open attracts competitors and spectators from around the world to the Roland Garros complex and is watched by millions more on TV. However, in the 19th century, the tournament was much more of a 'closed shop'. When it was known as the Championnats Internationaux de France de tennis, the French Open was only admissible to players who held memberships to tennis clubs in France. That was back in the amateur era, and in the 120 years since, the French Open has distinguished itself as one of the most iconic sporting events on the planet. In this article, we track the history of the great tournament. If you are wanting to bet on this years French Open, then you can get the latest tennis betting odds over at Bet UK’s online betting.
Written In The Sky?
It might be said that the modern history of the French Open began in 1928 with the move to the Stade Roland Garros. Roland Garros was a famous aviator and war hero, who became the first man to fly across the Mediterranean in 1913. So how did his name come to be synonymous with a tennis event? It goes back to the origins of the Roland Garros site, which was sold by the Stade Français tennis club to the French Tennis Federation. Stade Français only agreed to the sale on the condition that the new venue was named after its esteemed member, Mr Garros.
The Crocodile and The Goddess
One of the most notable winners in the early days of Roland Garros was one Jean René Lacoste. The three-time champion was nicknamed 'The Crocodile', such was the tenaciousness of his formidable baseline game. And just in case you haven't guessed already, this is the same Mr Lacoste who put his crocodile logo on a polo shirt, giving rise to the famous fashion brand. Flamboyant six-time ladies' winner Suzanne Lenglen was another player with a distinctive style. Lenglen, who has a show court at Roland Garros named after her, was a real pioneer, being one of the first female sporting celebrities. The French media nicknamed her 'La Divine', meaning the Goddess.
It was in the post-War years that the French Open truly spread its wings as an international event. Players of no less than 25 nationalities have won the Men's and Women's singles tournaments at Roland Garros since 1946. The 1950s saw the emergence of American talents such as winners Tony Trabert, Budge Patty, Doris Hart and Maureen Connolly. Then in the 1960s, the tennis stars from Down Under truly made their mark. Australians claimed the Men's Singles title no less than seven times during the decade, with Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, Tony Roche and Kevin Rosewall all lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires. Dominating during the same era, Aussie Margaret Court has five French Opens to her name, while her compatriot Lesley Turner won twice.
Björn For The Clay?
It might be argued that what the French Open has lacked over the years is a home favourite who can consistently compete for the title. With the exception of one time winners such as Françoise Dürr and Mary Pearce, French champions have been few and far between. But in the 1970s and 1980s, Roland Garros found itself charmed by a Swede who they could almost call one of their own. Before Rafael Nadal, Björn Borg was the bonafide 'King of Clay' - the ice-cool Scandinavian claimed the title six times between 1974 and 1981, wooing the sometimes stubborn Paris crowd with an unshakable temperament - Borg won three of his finals in straight sets.
The Reign of Rafa
After the rock 'n' roll years of Borg, there was Rafa. Nadal has made the tournament look like a procession at times over an amazing career which has seen him win a record-breaking 11 titles. On four of those occasions, Nadal has triumphed over arch-rival Roger Federer in the final. Federer might be the only player with more Grand Slam titles to his name (20) than Nadal (17), but on the clay surface, there is simply no comparison between the two. Nadal is the reigning champion, having beaten Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the 2018 final. In fact, Nadal only dropped a single set in the entire tournament, underlining the fact that in 2019, he will remain the man to beat.
While she can't compete with Nadal's Roland Garros record - who can? - Steffi Graf is one of the most notable French Open competitors of the modern era, taking home the title six times between 1987 and 1999. In recent years, Justine Henin also emerged as a dominant force, with the clay being suited to her intelligent baseline game. The Belgian has won the tournament three times, as has American Serena Williams.
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