Pilots, Musketeers and Clay

Roland Garros is the only one of the 4 Grand Slams that is played on clay, a surface that can be damaged in the rain. (Eric Feferberg / AFP)

Paris greatest tournament is full of curiosities and anecdotes throughout its 117 editions.

Roland Garros (RG) is one of the world’s oldest sports competitions. The first edition took place in 1891, but RG is not the oldest of the 4 Grand Slams: Wimbledon (UK) was started in 1877 and the US Open, in 1881.

The Clay Court Tournament

However, the French Open is the only Grand Slam that takes place on clay court. Wimbledon’s courts are covered with grass and matches at the Open of Australia and the US are played on cement or hard court.

Rafael Nadal is know as the “King of Clay” for all the titles he has won on it: more than 50! (Gabriel Bouys / AFP)

The material of the court can influence the game and some players specialize in a type of surface. Rafa Nadal is a clay-court champion that has won 10 Roland Garros, while Roger Federer has won eight times on the Wimbledon grass.

Whatever the court is, what does not change are the thousands of balls that are used during the tournament. During the 2017 edition, 66,096 tennis balls were used throughout three weeks of training, matches and exhibitions.

A tournament named after a Pilot

The name of this tournament has nothing to do with tennis. The Parisian Grand Slam was named after Roland Garros (1888-1918), a French aviator and war hero who died in combat during WW1.

In 1927, the French tennis team won the Davis Cup against the American team, a feat at that time. To celebrate, the French government decided to build a new tennis stadium and commissioned the project to Émile Lesieur, a friend of Roland Garros who also fought during the war.

As a tribute to his friend, Lesieur decided to name the sports venue after him … until today, in 2018, when it is 100 years since his death.

Suzanne Lenglen, “La divine”

The last French player to win Roland Garros was Yannick Noa in 1983. Since then, international players (especially Spanish) have dominated the French Open.

However, the French athletes maintained their dominance during the first years of the competition.

One of those who stood out the most was Suzanne Lenglen, known as La Divine (the Goddess), who with her peculiar style won six Roland Garros titles (and another six in Wimbledon) during the 1920s.

The trophy and one of Roland Garros’s main courts carry the name of Suzanne Lenglen in her honor.

The other great champion of Roland Garros is Phillippe Chatrier, an amateur tennis player who did not manage to be professional but devoted his life to tennis as a sports journalist. Later, he became president of the French Tennis Federation and the International Federation.

The Musketeers Cup

Besides winning the prestige and the prize, the winner of Roland Garros s honoured with the Musketeers Cup, a large silver trophy that measures 20 centimeters and weighs more than 10 kilos.

The trophy is named after four famous French tennis players: Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, René Lacoste and Jacques Brugnon. They were the four musketeers who formed the team that won the Davis Cup in 1927 and among the four they added 10 Roland Garros wins.

These four idols of French sport have their own statue in the French Grand Slam.

Translated by Chaplin’s Languages | Find out more in Junior Report

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