A brief history of the French Open

A brief history of the French Open

The French Open, also known as Roland Garros, is one of the major tournaments in the calendar of sports and it is a part of the heritage of France, its home country. Its legend started some 127 years ago.

The very first French Open was won by a British man known as H. Briggs. However for the next 41 years, the tournament was won by a French man, that is, until an Australian tennis player known as Jack Crawford was able to snap the streak.

How it started

When it started, the French Open was reserved for players who were members of the French clubs. The venue alternated between the Parc de Saint-Cloud, Stade Francais and the Racing Club de France’s Croix-Catelan grounds. Max Decugis was the champion during that time. He won not less than eight times between the year 1903 and 1914. During this period, the French Open was known as ‘French Clay-Court Championships’.

The tournament was a one day affair and only residents of France and French citizens were allowed to attend. Despite this restriction, the first winner of the tournament was H. Briggs who was not a French citizen, but a British living in France.Also, when it began, the tournament only involved the male players. This was the case until the year 1897 when women were allowed to take part.

In the year 1925, the first biggest change began. The event was now open to tennis players from abroad thereby giving birth to the French Open. Even though the tournament was open to players from other countries apart from France, the tournament continued to be dominated by French players giving rise to the golden age. This golden age lasted for about 40 years until an Australian player known as Jack Crawford broke it.

The location of the tournamentThis tournament is usually held at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris France. This is the reason why the tennis tournament is also known as Roland Garros. This venue, Roland Garros, is named after the French aviator known as Roland Garros.

Why the stadium was named Roland Garros

Funny enough, the location where one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world, is named after a person who was not even a tennis player. Nevertheless, even though Roland was not a tennis player or even a professional player in any sport, he is one of the most notable figures in France. He goes down history as the first pilot to shoot down another aircraft.

Roland Garros was a famous French pilot during the World War I. He was shot and killed in the war in 1918 and it was ten years later that he, a guy who loved to play rugby, became the emblem of French tennis. Roland might have liked rugby more, but this little flaw can be forgiven since he actually fought for France, a noble act.

Stade Roland Garros

This tennis stadium was constructed in the year 1928. The reason for the construction was so that this stadium could act as the host of the Davis Cup, where France was defending its title. Davis Cup is the premier international team event in men’s tennis.

Even though the surface of Roland Garros is characterized as red clay, the courts inside this stadium are actually surfaced with white limestone that is covered with a few millimeters of powdered red brick dust. The red brick dust is usually replenished as necessary on a daily basis during major tournaments like the French Open.

The Courts of Stade Roland Garros

Stade Roland Garros consists of three major courts; Court Philippe Chatrier, Court Suzanne Lenglen and Court 1.

Court Phillipe Chatrier

This is the centerpiece of the stadium and remains its principal venue. With a seating capacity of 14840 spectators, this court used to be known as Court Central until 2001, when it was renamed after the longtime president of the Federation Francaise de Tennis (FFT) because of his contribution in helping to restore tennis as a Summer Olympics sport in the year 1988.

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Constructed in 1994, this court was originally known as Court A. It comes second after Court Phillipe Chatrier with a seating capacity of 10,068 spectators. It was named after an international celebrity and the very first star of Women’s tennis who won 31 major tournaments. Its namesake is such a great star that the French press nicknamed her the ‘Divine One’ and ‘the ‘Great Lady’.

Court 1

Due to its circular shape, Court 1 also goes by the nickname, ‘the Bullring’. It acts as the tertiary venue of Roland Garros.It has a seating capacity of 3,800 and was built in 1980 as a deliberate contrast to Court Phillipe Chatrier which is angular shape. Among serious tennis fans, this court is a favorite because of the feeling of close proximity to the action as well as its relatively small size. It also has a press seating in the first row behind the south baseline.

Traditions of the French Open

Just like any significant event, the French Tournament has a couple of its own traditions. They are as follows:

Ball boys

Even though this tradition is known as ‘ball boys’, girls are also included. Young boys and girls are usually utilized as ball boys throughout the tournament. This is regarded as a prestigious honor for tennis players who are still young. Thousands of French children apply, every year, to be ball boys during the grand event.

Daytime matches

The matches are usually played during the day so if you are planning to attend this tournament, make sure you carry your sunscreen with you. The Roland Garros stadium is not outfitted with floodlights.

Children’s Day

Before the start of the tournament, a Children’s Day event is usually held. This even includes an exhibition match whose proceeds go into charities. This is just like a dress rehearsal which showcases what is to come.


Today, the French Open has become more of an international tournament with tennis players from all over the world taking part in this grand competition. This year’s tournament was an outdoor affair that took place at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France. The tournament lasted from 27th May to 10th June. The Men’s Singles was won by Rafael Nadal, a defending champion who had 10 French Open titles in his name, while Simona Halep won the Women’s Singles.