French Open: A look at the interesting facts
World's marquee tennis stars are set to compete at this year's second Grand Slam, the French Open. The prestigious clay-court tournament, also known as Roland Garros, will kick off on May 22. It will be the 126th edition of the tournament. Novak Djokovic (men's singles) and Barbora Krejcikova (women's singles) are the defending champions. Here, we decode some interesting facts about the French Open.
- The French Open is one of four tennis Grand Slam tournaments, held annually in May-June.
- It takes place after the Australian Open and precedes Wimbledon and the US Open.
- The Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam played on clay courts, making it the most challenging tennis tournament.
- Interestingly, it was the only major not played on grass until 1975.
As stated, the French Open is also known as Roland Garros. Both the stadium and the tournament are named after French aviator Roland Garros, who died during the first World War. The stadium 'Stade Roland Garros', where the tournament takes place, was constructed in 1928. Before that, a number of other venues held the clay-court tournament.
The French Open was first played in 1891. However, it was just open to the male members of French clubs. Women's singles event was introduced in 1897. The mixed doubles event started in 1902, while the women's doubles event was introduced in 1907.
The iconic red clay of the Roland Garros grabs eyeballs. However, there are layers of stone, gravel, volcanic residue (clinker), and white limestone, below clay. Above the limestone, there is a 3 mm layer of crushed brick, giving the court a red color. Due to the nature of red clay, the ball slows down and bounces high compared to hard and grass court.
The clay courts are menacing for players who serve big and are efficient in smashing volleys. On the other hand, players who have a robust defense and play at baseline, prefer operating on clay courts.
In 1989, the men's and women's singles winners of the French Open were both under 18. Michael Chang and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario were 17 when they won the tournament, making them the youngest-ever winners of the tournament. However, in 1990, Monica Seles went on to win the women's singles at 16. She is now the youngest-ever women's singles champion.
Known as the King of Clay, Spanish maestro Rafael Nadal owns the most number of French Open men's singles titles (13). The Spaniard has won seven more titles than second-placed Bjorn Borg (Open Era). Nadal holds the record for winning most titles at a single Grand Slam and on a single surface (clay). He has an incredible record of 105-3 at Roland Garros.