top of page

Roland Garros

The International Tournament in France (or the Roland-Garros Tournament) is a clay tennis tournament originally created in 1891. It has been held annually since 1928 in Paris, in the Roland Garros stadium. This event is organized by the French Tennis Federation (FFT), and generally takes place from the last week of May to the first week of June. Today, Monday, May 25th, 2020, should have started the second week of competition for the 129th edition. However, since sports were not spared by the COVID-19 pandemic, the French internationals were postponed until the end of September ... A hard decision taken by the organizers, forced into the situation. Because of this event, the Grunge News team returns to the history, the origins of this sports tournament gathering the biggest tennis players every year.

The championship was born in 1891 thanks to the Union of French Athletic Sports Societies (U.S.F.S.A.). The tournament took place in Paris, on grass fields, and not on clay, as it is today. During that period, the tournament was exclusively reserved for men licensed in French clubs. The first championship only had a dozen participants and it was H. Briggs who won the first edition. The year 1891 marked the start of a long and grandiose history of tennis, especially the "French Tennis Championship". The first editions didn’t attract the public nor the press. In 1897, women were invited to compete. Three women participate, and it is Frenchwoman, F. Masson, became the first national champion. She kept her title the following year; no new participant had competed! In 1903 everything changed with the help of a player, Max Decugis! His manner of playing, his charismatic behavior, etc., finally attract an audience and even the press! He Had become champion of France 8 times and had largely participated in the expansion of the tournament. In 1908, 200 participants appeared at the "French Tennis Championship". In 1912, a new (world) tennis championship was established in Paris for a few years, overshadowing the tournament initially won by H. Briggs. In 1924, after the closing of the world championship, the "French Tennis Championship" became international. The "Internationaux de France" was born !

Max Decugis in the middle of a tennis game

It was later in 1928 when the championship took the name of Roland Garros! This name was chosen by Emile Lesieur, president of the Stade Français. Roland Garros was one of her closest friends in the HEC promotion. She was also licensed to play tennis. She chose his name to pay homage to him. Becoming an aviator Roland Garros engaged in the conflict of the First World War and gave up his life there. He died on October 5th, 1918 on his plane. The origin of the cause of his death is still a mystery to this day, we do not know if he crashed due to sight problems, if he was killed by an enemy plane,etc ...

For the record, there was a company in his name. He was the creator of "Roland Garros automobile".

Roland Garros

During this period, the French tennis team called themselves the 4 musketeers. This reference to the novel "The three musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas symbolizes the 4 amateur French tennis players who dominated this sport from the 20s to the 30s. Victorious six times in the Davis Cup between 1927 and 1932, they won nearly 40 Grand Slam tournaments. Their aesthetics of tennis play evoked the handling of the sword and their conquering spirit, two aspects found in the heroes of the book by Alexandre Dumas.

The team was made up of René Lacoste (known as the crocodile), Jean Borotra (known as the leaping Basque), Henri Cochet (known as the magician) and Jacques Brugnon (known as Toto). The cup awarded today to the winners in the "men's singles" category is called the "Musketeers' Cup" in honor of them.

Rafaël Nadal brandishing the Musketeers Cup

The Roland Garros tournament was therefore a growing success each year, yet it is forced to stop for 6 years. World War II made history.

The "Tournoi de France" was then set up from 1941 to 1945. The French Tennis Federation declared that this period was a time when Roland Garros had been canceled.

The beloved championship resumed its activity in 1946 and the Frenchman Maurice Bernard became the first left-handed and non-favorite player to win Roland Garros. In 1968, the tournament reOpened. That is to say, it was open to both professionals and amateurs. It was the first of four Grand Slam tournaments to take this fold. However, with the events in May, many players withdrew from the first round or simply did not show up.

The championship also allowed some big names to exist :

Yannick Noah, in 1983, was the last French winner of Roland Garros. We must also not forget the last French winner of the tournament. It was in 2000 that Mary Pierce received this title.

In the United States, the last winner in the men's singles category was Andre Agassi in 1999. The last woman in singles to win the tournament was Serena Williams in 2015.

A name that still resonates on the grounds of Roland Garros is “Rafaël Nadal.” His history with the championship began in 2005. First participation, first victory. He did not budge in the following years! Up until 2008, he won the Paris tournament. Not stopping there, he also was the champion from 2010 to 2014 and then from 2017 to 2019. He scored 93 victories at Roland Garros with only 2 defeats! Do you think this year will be as glorious for Spanish players ?

This tournament is the biggest tournament of the season on clay, and the only Grand Slam tournament on this type of surface. It is considered to be the most physical of the 4 Grand Slam championships (The Australian Open, Roland Garros, the Wimbledon tournament, the US Open tennis).

Relive Rafaël Nadal's first game at Roland Garros in 2005 here :

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the organizers had to reschedule the tournament to March. It would take place, if sanitary conditions allow, from September 20 to October 4, 2020. The choice of this date is still debated because a week before the final of the US Open tennis takes place in New York. The Grand Slams are divided strictly in each season, but this year due to the pandemic, the calendar is all over the place. Usually the season opens in January with the Australian Open, then continues with Roland Garros in May, the Wimbledon tournament in July and finally the US Open in August. Thus, the new date of the internationals of France turns the initial program upside down.

After having known a history with multiple twists and turns, Roland Garros is today one of the most awaited tennis competitions each year. The places are flying away, the spectacle is always bigger every year, the players always more impressive, ... A competition where everyone defends their favorite sportsman, adrenaline is at its peak ! Do you think that this year a French person will win the cup ?

To comment on this article, register / log in to your Grunge News account (top right of your screen) !


bottom of page