The French Open is the second Grand Slam of the season which takes place over two weeks towards the end of May and the start of June at Paris’s Stade Roland Garros, a tennis complex named after the famous French aviator.
The French Open at Roland Garros is the leading clay court event in the world and the second of four yearly Grand Slam events. The Australian and US Opens and Wimbledon make up the quartet. The French tournament heralds the climax of the clay court season – and it’s the only Grand Slam championship to be held on clay.
This surface is the slowest of all the major championships. Equally, because five set matches in the men‘s singles don’t have a tie-break in the last set, the French Open is widely described as the world’s most physically gruelling tennis tournament.
In 1891, a tennis championship was first held that was only open to players who belonged to French clubs. In English, the event was frequently known as the French Championships. Six years later, in 1897, the first singles matches were held for female players. In 1902, mixed doubles were also played, while women’s doubles came five years later.
Until 1924, the tournament was held in four different places, including the Bois de Boulogne (where it was played on clay); Puteaux, where games were played on sand on top of rubble; Bordeaux (on clay) and at the Tennis Club de Paris in the city’s Auteuil area, where it was again played on clay. In 1925, the competition was opened to amateurs from across the world, and the event started to become a key championship, as designated by the ILTF. The championship has also been held at the Racing Club de France (in 1926) and at the Stade Francais in 1925 and 1927.
Since 1928, however, the French Open has been played at Roland Garros, when, in the same year, a new stadium was opened at Porte d’Auteuil. The Centre Court is called the Court Phillippe Chatrier.
In 1968, the event became the first Grand Slam to go open, meaning both professionals and amateurs could participate. Although in 2010 it was revealed that there could potentially be a move away from the Roland Garros stadium, as part of an ongoing move to rejuvenate the French Open, this hasn’t yet happened.
New prizes have been added for players over the years, including:
– The Prix Orange (for best sportsmanship and co-operation with the media)
– The Prix Citron (for the players with the strongest personality)
– The Prix Bourgeon (for the revelation of the year)
Since 2006, play has started on a Sunday, with a dozen singles matches held on the three principle courts. The day before, the Benny Berthet exhibition games take place, with profits going to different charities.
Since 2007, male and females players have received identical prize sums
Clay means the balls will travel more slowly, and bounce more highly than on hard or grass courts. If you’re a big server, your key competitive advantage is therefore taken away.
Players who have dominated elsewhere, including Pete Sampras (who won 14 Grand Slams) and John McEnroe, never triumphed at the French Open.
Other players, such as Rafael Nadal, Ivan Lendl and Bjorn Borg, find they are more suited to clay’s faster surface, while on the other hand others, such as Andre Agassi and Roger Federer, have won on all surfaces.
Designed and created by Maison Mellerio dits Meller, the trophies are made from solid silver with decorations etched on the sides. Each fresh winner has their name inscribed on the plate which holds the trophy, and winners get a replica trophy to keep.
In 2019, the prize money fund was raised to €42,661,000.
Also in this year, the winners were as follows:
– Men’s Singles Champion – Rafael Nadal
– Women’s Single Champion – Ashleigh Barty
– Men’s Double Champions – Kevin Babos and Andreas Mies
– Women’s Doubles Champions – Timea Babos amd Kristina Mladenovic
– Mixed Doubles Champions – Latisha Chan and Ivan Dodig
Since 1967, Rafael Nadal has won the most men’s singles titles at the French Open. He has won twelve times, losing the title only once (in 2009) between 2005 and 2014.
In the same period, the winner of the most women’s singles titles was Chris Evert, who took the title seven times.
In the UK, ITV Sport has the rights to broadcast the French Open until 2018. Most coverage goes out on ITV 4.
With such a high standard of tennis, and with its huge international importance on the circuit, it’s no wonder the French Open is followed with such intense interest by tennis fans, and tickets so highly sought after.