It’s that time of the year again, which tennis fans eagerly await every year as the French Open is well underway. The clay court season is nearing its end, with the ultimate prize up for grabs.
The French Open is one with no shortage of historic moments in the past. The red clay of Roland Garros has witnessed many moments of magic over the years. Great players have graced the courts and have given fans some of the best tennis ever played.
Do you think you know everything about this iconic tournament? Here are some facts about the French Open –
1. The History
Internationaux de France de Tennis, Roland-Garros is the official name of the French Open.
The tournament is named after the pioneering French aviator who became the first-ever man to fly solo over the Meditarranean – Roland Garros. Sent to fight in the First World War, Garros was shot down and captured by Germans on the Western Front in 1918. The tournament is not, as many have come to think, called the French Open. The French call the tournament simply, ‘Roland Garros’.
Originally launched in 1891, the French tournament – the International Championship of Tennis, as it was called – was only available to men to participate. It wasn’t until six years later that women were allowed to take part in 1897.
2. The Surface
Though Roland Garros is the only ‘clay court’ event of the four Majors in the season, the playing surface is not actually clay. In fact, it’s three inches of white limestone, and its distinctive cinnamon colour comes from a powdering of red brick dust. Underneath the limestone lies six inches of volcanic rock on top of a meter-deep layer of sand.
Roland Garros estimates that it uses approximately forty-four thousand kilograms of the crushed red brick each year, spreading the depth of a tenth of an inch across the Open’s twenty courts.
3. The Records
There have been six unseeded winners of the singles events at Roland Garros – Marcel Bernard (1946), Mats Wilander (1982), Gustavo Kuerten (1997), Gaston Guido (2004), and Margaret Scriven (1933), Jelena Ostapenko(2017).
Chris Evert holds the record for the most women’s single wins with seven titles (1974, 75, 79, 80, 83, 85, 86). Germany’s Steffi Graf was right behind, winning six Roland Garros titles during her career.
Clay King Rafael Nadal has the record for most victories with 10 titles, 5 of them consecutive from 2010-2014. Whenever he has made a final, he has won, starting from his debut year at the French Open.
The most number of matches won at Roland Garros are by Rafael Nadal (79 of 81) and Steffi Graff (84 of 94).
4. The Age Records
Monica Seles is the youngest winner of the tournament. The Yuguslavian turned American beat Steffi Graff in the 1990 final when she was 16 years and 6 months of age. Seles saved four set points in a first set tie-break, which she eventually won 8-6. She went on to win the final in straight sets, 7-6, 6-4.
2015 –Serena Williamsbecame the oldest woman ever to win the singles title at 33-years-8-months-old.
1989 – Michael Chang became the youngest man ever to win a singles title in any Grand Slam, at 17 years and three months of age.
1972 -The oldest singles champion was Andrés Gimeno (Spain) at 34 years 301 days.
5. The Nationalities
Only two French nationals have won singles titles at Roland Garros since the Open era began in 1968. Mary Pierce was the only women’s winner in 2000, and Yannick Noah the only men’s champion in 1983.
Spain leads the way in the most victories by country in men’s singles at Roland Garros with 16 wins, with Sweden second with 9.
In Women’s singles, the United States of America leads with 15, atleast 11 more than the next country.
2011 – Li Na became the first Chinese national to win a Grand Slam.