Roland Garros, the French tennis tournament

Roland Garros is a French tennis tournament that takes place every year in Paris. Organized on clay, it’s one of the four tournaments that are part of the Grand Slam, along with the Australian Open, the Wimbledon tournament and the US Open in New York. This international tennis tournament bears the name of a famous French airman killed during the First World War. The greatest tennis players in history have competed for his title, such as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or the Serbian Novak Djokovic. In 2022, the French tournament will take place from May 16 to June 5. In this article, we’ll take a look back at the history of Roland Garros and some of the greatest champions who have taken part in this iconic event!

The first editions of the tennis tournament

Roland Garros is a French tennis tournament which succeeded, in 1925, the French tennis championship initially created in 1891, in Paris. At that time, the tennis courts were grass courts and until 1924, the championship was reserved exclusively for French or foreign tennis players licensed in France. The first tournament took place over one day and 5 players participated. The year 1897 saw the appearance of the first women’s tennis tournament and it was not until 1902 that the mixed doubles tennis tournaments appeared (1907 for the women’s doubles). At the same time, at Wimbledon in 1912, world championships on clay courts were created in order to favor players accustomed to playing lawn tennis. This also allows all tennis players, licensed or not, to participate. This new surface will be detrimental to the French championship which takes place, meanwhile, still on grass. In December 1924, the French championship opened to all French and international players on the grounds of the French park of Saint-Cloud. But following the French victory in the 1927 Davis Cup, it was decided to build the Roland Garros stadium on a 3-hectare park and install clay courts there. The Roland Garros stadium was inaugurated in 1928, a date which also marks the start of the Grand Slam tournaments at Porte d’Auteuil.

The Roland Garros stadium and its developments

In the 1970s, the stadium had 9 courts spread over a total area of 3.35 hectares. In the early 1980s, expansion work was carried out and the area of the Roland Garros stadium increased to 5.7 hectares, allowing the addition of 9 additional tennis courts. Between 1987 and 1991, stands intended to receive press and television organizations were created and in 1994, a new central court that could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators was built. The surface of the stadium is increased to 8 hectares. For more than 20 years, the area of the stadium has continued to increase in order to accommodate new infrastructures linked to the Grand Slam tournament. Today, the stadium has a total of 18 tennis courts dedicated to tournaments and 5 tennis courts reserved for training. The 3 largest courts are:

  • The Philippe Chartier court, better known as the “central court” and which had a movable roof installed in 2020 to cope with bad weather.
  • The Suzanne Lenglen court
  • The Simonne Mathieu court
The Simonne Mathieu court at Roland Garros
The Simonne Mathieu court at Roland Garros

The greatest winners of the French tournament

The Roland Garros tournament is one of the four major grand slam tournaments organized by the International Tennis Federation. To date, 5 players have won at least once the 4 grand slam tournaments during the same year:

  • Rod Laver
  • Andre Agassi
  • Novak Djokovic
  • Roger Federer
  • Rafael Nadal

2 players have won the Grand Slam tournament at least twice:

  • Novak Djokovic
  • Roger Federer

The biggest winners, in number of victories at Roland Garros, remain:

  • Rafael Nadal (13 wins)
  • Bjorn Borg (6 wins)
  • Gustavo Kuerten (3 wins)
  • Ivan Lendl (3 wins)
  • Mats Wilander (3 wins)
  • Novak Djokovic (2 wins)
  • Roger Federer (1 win)

In 2021, the Roland Garros final was won by Serbian Novak Djokovic against Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Rafael Nadal won the Roland Garros tournament 13 times
Rafael Nadal won the Roland Garros tournament 13 times

French players at Roland Garros

In 1983, Yannick Noah won the match in final against Mats Wilander. The following year, Henri Leconte won the doubles tournament and took 5th place in the ATP rankings. Guy Forget has one of the finest records in French tennis, both in singles and doubles: he participated twice in the double finals, without however winning. He became captain of the French Tennis team from 1999 to 2012 and took over the management of the tournament from 2016 to 2021. Cédric Pioline, French number 1 for 10 years and having occupied the 5th place in the world, has never passed the semi-final. Ditto for the French players Arnaud Clément, Sébastien Grosjean, Gaël Monfils and Fabrice Santoro who have never won a trophy at Paris. On the women’s side, the Frenchwoman Marie Pierce won the tournament in 2000 against the Spanish Conchita Martinez. Amélie Mauresmo, world number 1 in 2004, has never won. However, she remains the most successful French woman in women’s tennis and she was elected, in 2021, director of Roland Garros, thus succeeding Guy Forget.

Roland Garros and world women’s tennis

American tennis player Chris Everts holds the record for victories which she has won 7 times. Czechoslovak player Martina Navratilova won 59 Grand Slams, including the finals in 1982 and 1984. Steffi Graf, the German player, won 22 grand slam titles, including 6 victories, between 1987 and 1999. Monica Céleste, Serbian player, won the French tournament final in 1990 at the age of 16! Serena Williams, American player won 39 Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles, including 5 victories. Justine Henin, Belgian tennis player, had 4 victories between 2003 and 2007. In 2021, Russian player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the Roland Garros semi-final but lost the final to Czech Barbora Krejcikova.

For more information, visit the Roland Garros website

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