It’s that time of year again.
The weather outside is perfect for tennis, but a lot of us Hong Kong tennis players are going to be indoors for a while…
…glued to our television sets…
…watching the French Open
With the second Grand Slam event of the year underway at Roland Garros, we thought it would be a great opportunity to write about the iconic stadium.
WHO WAS ROLAND GARROS?
A French aviator and fighter pilot, Roland Garros was notable for escaping from a German POW camp and establishing himself as an ace pilot, before he was ultimately gunned down in 1918.
Prior to his WWI exploits, he was an avid tennis player in Paris. In 1929, the tennis academy where he had previously trained during his studies chose to call themselves the Stade Roland Garros (or Roland Garros Stadium) and became home to the French Open.
Although a prominent French tennis tournament had existed in Paris since 1894, the 1929 move to Roland Garros signified the birth of the modern French Open.
ICONIC CLAY COURTS
Roland Garros is home to the most iconic clay courts in the world and is the only Grand Slam tournament to be played on clay.
Clay courts slow down the ball and produce higher bounces, creating a unique experience for players and spectators alike.
Roland Garros is the premier clay event and is almost universally considered the most physically challenging tennis tournament in the world. In addition to the clay, the French Open requires seven rounds and has best-of-five-set men’s singles matches, with no tiebreak in the final set.
As spectacular and iconic as the courts are, in the earlier parts of the 21st century, there were constant talks of relocating the French Open.
Some wanted to build a new (covered) stadium on the outskirts of Paris, while others wanted to completely renovate Roland Garros.
Fortunately, a compromise was met. There are plans now to renovate the Roland Garros site and tournament village while preserving the iconic features of the old stadium.
Even though it was momentarily approved, this project is currently being bickered about in French courts (of the non-tennis variety), so we will have to wait and see what happens there.
MASTERS OF CLAY
Because of the unique features of clay, the French Open is perfect for certain players and difficult for others.
Rafael Nadal’s prowess at the French Open is legendary, while Chris Evert and Bjorn Borg also famously performed well in France. On the other hand, great players like Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, and Venus Williams have never won the French Open, despite their numerous victories in other events.
The difficulty of the courts at Roland Garros is why winning the French Open and Wimbledon consecutively is regarded as “the most difficult double in tennis.” It was done three times by Borg (78,79,80) then not repeated for 28 years, when it was again done three times in a row (Nadal in 2008, 2010 and Roger Federer in 2009).
Will it happen in 2018? There’s only one way to find out – tune in. In the meantime – any predictions for this year’s event? Let us know in the comments!