French Open Facts and Trivia
The French Open—also referred to as Roland Garros—is the second of the four Grand Slams. It is also the only one to be played on clay courts. It takes place in Paris at Roland Garros (hence the name), and is something of an oddball among the Slams due to its wildly different playing conditions. Players can have impressive records across the other Slams, but be distinctly average in Paris, and vice versa.
That’s more of an observation, however. Let’s look at some facts. Some facts and some trivia. Because that’s what the title of this post promised you.
French Open Facts
The unofficial name of the French Open—Roland Garros—is named after the venue where the tournament takes place. The venue in turn is named after Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros, a French World War I fighter pilot.
The early incarnation of the French Open—the French Championships—had a touch of the xenophobia about it. Open only to members of certain French tennis clubs when it first took place in 1891, it would remain a Frenchie-only tournament until 1924.
The French Open actually has two tournaments that can claim ancestry. The aforementioned French Championships were joined in 1912 by the World Hard Court Championships, which also took place in Paris. Unlike the French Championships, the WHCC allowed international players to compete. It ran until 1924 when it was put off to make way for the 1924 Olympics. The following year the pesky French (Championships) decided to open up to international competitors, as well as move into the WHCC’s crib at the Stade Français.
The fact that the tournament that would become the French Open moved to the Stade Français and allowed international players consider many to consider the WHCC a true precursor to the French Open.
World War II
France were a little busy during World War II so it would have been completely understandable if they’d decided not to host a French Open during that whole occupation thing. They did anyway, but the French Open organisers to this day refuse to recognise those tournaments as official.
Maybe it shouldn’t be in a French Open facts page after all…
The French Championships were actually joined by another tournament in 1930, the French Pro Championship. As the name suggests, this tournament was open to professional tennis players. It continued until the beginning of the Open Era in 1967 when the French Championships became the French Open and let the professionals play too.
Speaking of the French Pro Championships, there was a tournament held indoors in 1953 that may or may not have been considered an official French Pro tournament… it’s unclear. Depending on where you get your facts from online, this tournament was either played on a cement or wood court.
Maybe it was cement painted to look like wood.
The King of Clay
Many players have had great success at particular events, but none in the Open Era come close to the amount of success Rafael Nadal has had on the clay courts of Europe throughout his career. He has won the French Open—as well as the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open that precedes it—a record nine times each.
For some reason, our Aussie cousins had a particularly good run of things in the French tennis scene of the 1960s. Bear in mind that, for much of the 60s, there was both a French Pro (professional) and a French Championships (amateur) tournament. Australian players took all eight French Pro tournaments that took place from 1960 to the tournament’s end, and seven of the ten French Championship/French Open tournaments.
Not only that, but of the combined eighteen tournaments, eleven of them featured all-Australian finalists!
The One That Got Away
Pete Sampras—considered by many to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time—held the record for most Grand Slam titles (before Federer surpassed it), yet never managed to win the French Open.
This page is not done! As corrections, updates, and new trivia comes to light, this page will continue to be updated. If you know of some French Open facts to add or change, drop a comment below.