A Look at The French Open

A Look at The French Open

The French Open is one of four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis – the pinnacles of the sport.French open tennis

It is contested on claycourts which traditionally play slower than their grass or hard counterparts.

This therefore favours a certain type of player, often a more defensive one who is prepared to build points from the baseline.

More attacking players, including many with big serves, have often found their weapons blunted by the ‘terre battue’ – several of the sport’s most famous names have failed to win the title. They include Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and John McEnroe, all of whom enjoyed great success on the fast courts of Wimbledon.

With the claycourts generally providing longer rallies, the French Open, played over the best-of-five sets format, is seen as one of tennis’ great endurance tests.

? French Open History


The French Open is usually held over a two-week period straddling May and June. It brings to an end the European claycourt season which begins in April and includes top-class warm-up tournaments in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome.

However, its run in that slot came to an end in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is will now be staged from September 28 to October 11.

The tournament’s roots date back to 1891 when it was simply the French Championships and open only to members of tennis clubs in France.

That changed in 1925 when the doors were thrown open to amateurs from all countries.

In 1968 it was the first tournament of tennis’ Open Era which brough full-blown professionalism to the sport.

? Where is the French Open played?


The French Open is played at Stade Roland-Garros, hence the reason it often referred to as simply Roland Garros.

The site, situated in the Porte d’Auteuil area of south-west Paris, is named after a pioneering French aviator, who died fighting in World War I.

Built in 1928 for that year’s Davis Cup final, it has played host to the French Open since the year of its inception.

Stade Roland-Garros is the smallest of the four Grand Slam venues, a fact which has previously proved problematic for tournament organisers.

However, after looking into moving the tournament away from Roland Garros, French officials eventually settled on redeveloping and expanding the current venue.

Its main showcourt, Court Philippe Chatrier, has increased capacity to 15,225 and had a retractable roof added, meaning all four Grand Slam venues can now stage matches when it is raining. It is due to be used for the first time in 2020, when scheduled night sessions are expected to be held.

In 2019, a new ‘third’ court, Court Simonne-Mathieu, was opened. It will effectively replace the famous ‘bullring’ court which was demolished shortly after the 2019 tournament to make way for more spectator facilities.

? Prize Money


Like its Grand Slam counterparts, the tournament has hiked up its prize fund over the past decade – in 2019 the pot had hit 42.7million Euros.

In UK Sterling, that was £36.9million at the time, so the tournament offered less prize money than Wimbledon (£38millon).

Each singles winner took home 2.3million Euros (£1.99million).

? Star Players


Rafael Nadal has dominated the French Open ever since his debut in 2005. He won it at the first attempt and in 2019 lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a record 12th time.

The Spaniard, who has lost only two of the 95 matches he has played at Roland Garros, is widely regarded as the best clay court player of all-time.

His achievements have rather put those of other legends in the shade.

Bjorn Borg won the French Open on six occasions, while both Ivan Lendl and Gustavo Kuerten have three titles to their name.

Another famous name in the tournament’s history is the 1989 winner Michael Chang. He claimed the title at the age of just 17 and he remains the youngest-ever men’s champion. His run that year is perhaps best known for his underarm serve during his upset win over Lendl.

Chris Evert is the most-decorated women’s singles player. Her clay court prowess saw her lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen on seven occasions.

Steffi Graf ended her stellar career with six titles in Paris, while her arch rival of many years, Monica Seles, was the first post-war player to win the women’s crown three years in a row. Who knows how many more she would have won had she not been stabbed in the run-up to the 1993 event?

In the 21st Century, Belgium’s Justine Henin has no peers, having won four titles and matched Seles’ feat of three in a row.

? French Open Records


Most men’s singles titles – Rafael Nadal, 12

Most men’s singles finals – Rafael Nadal, 12

Most men’s singles match wins in Open Era – Rafael Nadal, 93

Most men’s doubles titles – Max Decugis, 12 (French club era); Roy Emerson, 6 (international era)


Most ladies’ singles titles – Chris Evert, 7

Most ladies’ singles finals – Chris Evert & Steffi Graf, 9

Most ladies’ singles match wins in Open Era – Steffi Graf, 84

Most ladies’ doubles titles – Martina Navratilova, 7


Most mixed doubles titles – Max Decugis & Suzanne Lenglen, 7 (French club era); Ken Fletcher, Jean-Claude Barclay & Francoise Durr, 3 (international era)

Most titles (overall) – Max Decugis, 29 (French club era), Rafael Nadal, 12 (international era)


Top seeds in men’s singles who lost in round one (Open Era) – Stefan Edberg (1990 v Sergi Bruguera)

Defending men’s singles champions who lost in round one (Open Era) – None

Top seeds in ladies’ singles who lost in round one (Open Era) – Angelique Kerber (2017 v Ekaterina Makarova)

Defending ladies’ singles champions who lost in round one (Open Era) – Anastasia Myskina (2005 v Maria Sanchez Lorenzo), Jelena Ostapenko (2018 v Kateryna Kozlova)



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