France is known for its gorgeous scenery, fantastic food, and outstanding art. It is also very well-known for giving tennis fans a great tournament every year in the French Open. Tennis players and tennis fans from around the world travel to France every year in anticipation of seeing the best in tennis.
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The History of the French Open
Championnat de France Internationale de Tennis
The French Open was initially known as the Championnat de France Internationale de Tennis, quite a mouthful, yes, but very small compared to what it is today. The French Open has been running since 1891, but it started as an amateur contest between men. As a result, the first French Open had only five players. Then, in 1897, women could join the tournament. The first French Open was won by a tennis player from the British Isles called H. Briggs. As a result, foreign players were prohibited from participating in the event until 1925. In 1926, players from all nations were welcomed, and by 1927, the name formally changed to give recognition to the French pioneer of aviation, Roland Garros. Still, the event is informally known as the French Open. On May 19, 1928, the Stade Roland Garros was used for the first time during the newly named French Open opening game. The red ash courts that are still distinctive to the French Open today were used on and since that day. The Stade Roland Garros is found in a very exclusive part of Paris, the 16th arrondissement.
The Stade Roland Garros
In 1927, the International Lawn Tennis Challenge took place in the U.S. In 1928, it was to be held in Paris. Up to that time, tennis tournaments had been moved between the Racing Club de Paris and the Stade Francais. However, the French felt that these two venues were insufficient to host such prestigious international events, so the Stade Roland Garros was designed and consequently built. A retractable roof was added to the Court Philippe-Chatrier in 2020. The Stade Roland Garros is 13,5 hectares in size. It contains 20 courts in total, including three massive stadiums, a huge bar, a restaurant area, an area for the press, The CNE(the National Training Center of France), a museum of tennis called the Tenniseum, Le Village, and Les Jardins de Roland Garros.
French Open records
An Australian tennis player, Margaret Smith, is the women’s category’s record holder in the French Open with an outstanding 13 titles. Rafael Nadal matches her record with 13 titles.
The Most Memorable Moments in the French Open
Robin Soderling vs. Rafael Nadal
In 2009, spectators were kept on the edge of their seats during the fourth-round game between Soderling and Nadal. This was because Nadal had lost only one game at the French Open since 2005, taking eight titles. Fourth Round. However, Nadal faced Soderling in a grueling match that would become memorable for everyone who watched it. An aggressive approach from Soderling won him the game, and with this, Nadal’s winning streak was ended. Nadal would skip Wimbledon later that year because of a knee injury.
The finals in 1999
In 1999, Andre Agassi and Andrei Medvedev faced each other in the finals. Agassi had taken a dive in rankings and went from being ranked No. 1 in 1996 to ranking at No. 141 in 1997. Since Agassi had not won a grand slam title in four years and had recurring issues with an old shoulder injury, everyone thought Medvedev would take the title hands down. However, in a tough match, Agassi proved he still had what it took and took the title in an emotional display that we had come to expect from Agassi.
The fourth-round match in 1983 surprised everyone who was watching. This is because up to that point, Navratilova had a winning streak of two years, never losing a game. So when she faced 18-year-old Horvath in the fourth round, everyone felt sympathetic towards the young player, feeling she had no chance. However, Horvath showed spectators that she didn’t need their sympathy as she took the win ending Navratilova’s winning streak.
Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic
The semi-finals in 2013 would become one of the most memorable matches played in the French Open because of the riveting and exciting nature of the game. These two players both wanted to win so badly that they endured a torturous match that was said to be the best game of tennis he had ever seen by John McEnroe.
The finals in 1992
Monica Seles faced tennis legend Steffi Graf in the French Open finals in 1992. The world thought it would be an easy victory for Graf, but Seles ended up taking the title. Unfortunately, Seles would be attacked and stabbed by a Steffi Graf fan the following year, resulting in a shoulder injury that would alter her tennis career forever.
The finals in 1983
This final match played between Yannick Noah, and Mats Wilander became memorable for two reasons. Firstly, it was the last French Open title won using a racket that was made of wood. Secondly, and more importantly to French fans, it is the first time in 37 years that a Frenchman won the French Open. Noah defeated Wilander in a great game that had spectators on their feet several times.
The 1985 finals
When Chris Evert faced Martina Navratilova in 1985, the world assumed it would be an easy victory for Navratilova, considering she had won 15 of their 16 previous encounters on the tennis courts. Instead, however, Evert showed everyone just how unpredictable the game of tennis could be by taking the title.
The 1999 women’s finals
Steffi Graf took a memorable victory over Martina Hingis just the day before her husband, Andre Agassi, won his match, too. It was an unforgettable event as the two women battled it out in a game that was thrilling and exciting to watch.
What Makes the French Open Unique?
Famous French author, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, best known for the Little Prince, states that the French Open is hardly just one of the four worldwide Grand Slam tournaments. Instead, the author claims that it is a unique tennis event that stands alone in the world. So naturally, this makes us wonder exactly what makes the French Open so different from the rest.
The court surface is unique.
The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that is played on clay courts. In fact, the courts are made of a form of crushed brick called Terre battue. People can immediately tell if a match is played during the French Open because of the red clay courts. On top of being made of different materials, the clay courts provide much slower gameplay than the other three Grand Slam tournaments, resulting in very different players’ forms while playing the French Open. It has been said that the players perform slower and with more purpose at the French Open, making it appear as if it is more of a dance than a tennis match. This change in movement dramatically adds to the uniqueness of the French Open, but of course, it brings challenges to players that aren’t used to the unique court surface. Some players prefer it because they feel they have better control over the ball, but many players experience an adjustment phase, especially during their first time at the French Open.
The French Open has an intimate feel.
Regardless of the tournament’s popularity, it has a very intimate feel to it. Since it is held in a park that offers several winding footpaths, cafes, restaurants, and specialty shops, attending the French Open is an entirely different experience. Spectators can enjoy the lovely scenery while enjoying a drink at one of the local cafes between matches. This unique setting lures tennis fans back to the French Open every year.
The Parisian summers make night matches delightful.
Since the French Open is held in summer, the nights last long, with the sun setting typically around 9:30. This means that spectators can enjoy their night games without all the assistance of artificial light. Watching night games while the sun is still shining or just setting makes for a memorable and exceptional experience.
The pace off of the courts is very relaxed.
Of course, we see fast-paced action on the courts, but spectators love the laid-back feel that the French Open offers between the games. There is no rushing for the gates as everyone enjoys the classic European pace of life. Tennis fans return to the French Open every year because they love this relaxed vibe, and even professional tennis players have stated that they love the laid-back vibe that the tournament offers.
When it comes to experiencing a tennis tournament with intimate touches like no other, the French Open is the one that stands out. Tennis fans from all over the world enjoy the scenery, vibe, and of course, the incredible tennis at Roland Garros annually.