French Open History

by: | August 15, 2012

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The French Open is the second Grand Slam tournament of the year and takes place in late May. The event, which is also referred to as “Roland Garros,” is held at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France. It is contested on red clay, a slow surface that leads to higher ball bounces and promotes longer rallies. The conditions give the French Open a reputation for being one of the most physically grueling tournaments in the world.

The first French Open, then called the French Championships, was held in 1891. For the first 34 years of the tournament’s existence it was open only to French club players. In 1925, the Championships expanded, allowing foreign players to gain entry. With a change in rules came a name change: It was now known as the French Internationals. During its early years, the tournament had been held in several venues, mostly throughout Paris. It found a permanent home in 1928, when Stade Roland Garros was constructed to host the upcoming Davis Cup final.

World War II forced the French Internationals to close its doors from 1940-1945. At the 1946 tournament, Frenchman Marcel Bernard won the title. Since then, only one other Frenchman—Yannick Noah, in 1983 —has won the crown. Three French women have won the title since 1946, the last being Mary Pierce, in 2000.

When tennis ushered in the Open Era in 1968, the French Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to embrace the new, professional philosophy. One of the most celebrated pros to play in Paris was Bjorn Borg, who won the first of his six French Open titles in 1974. In the 1980, the women’s game came to the forefront at the French. After winning three French Opens in the 1970s, Chris Evert won four more in the following decade, her last title coming 12 years after her first. Evert squared off against Martina Navratilova in three consecutive finals (1984-1986), winning the last two.

In 2006, the French Open broke the mold again, announcing that main draw play would commence on Sunday, as opposed to the usual Monday start day. The French Open remains the only Grand Slam that plays on three consecutive Sundays. A year later, the tournament declared that both men and women would receive equal prize money—the last of the majors to do so.

The 2013 tournament begins on May 26.

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