The French Tennis Open
The French Open is one of the world’s major Grand Slams, and is held over 2 weeks between late May and early June in Paris, France. It is the only Grand Slam tournament held on a clay court and is the event that closes the clay court season. The clay surface creates a slow-playing environment and the men’s singles games are played with 5 sets and no tiebreak, so this Open is regarded as the most physically demanding one of the Tennis world.
History and Background
The games are held in the Roland Garros Stadium, named after a French aviator, and they are officially called the Roland Garros Tournament, or the Tournai de Roland Garros in French. The Open has been held at this stadium since its doors were opened in 1928, but the history of the games and their predecessors extends much further back than this.
A national Tennis tournament was held in France from 1891, and was open only to members of French clubs. A British resident of Paris was actually the inaugural winner of the games, known at the time as the French Championships of the Championnat de France. Women’s singles games were added in 1897, and a mixed double event in 1902. In 1907 the women’s doubles matches were brought in, and the games remained open to French club members only until 1924.
In 1925 the International Lawn Tennis Federation recognised the French Championships as a major tournament, and the games also became open to all amateurs internationally. Over all of these changes the competition was held in several different venues and then settled in the newly-opened in Roland Garros Stadium in 1928. The French Open was the first of the 4 Grand Slams to go open and has allowed professionals and amateurs to compete against each other since 1968.
Playing the French Open Today
The French Open has several traditions and novelties that make it unique. First of all, it has begun on a Sunday every year since 2006, with 12 singles matches that are played on the Roland Garros Stadium’s 3 main courts. The traditional Benny Berthet exhibition day also takes place on the opening evening of the championships, with profits going to various charitable associations.
The rewards for winning any of the games in the French Open are considerable, and in March 2007 it was announced that women would be awarded equal money to men in all rounds for the first time. Aside from the usual monetary rewards and trophies, the French games feature other awards which were introduced in 1981. The Prix Orange is given to the player who has demonstrated the most cooperative attitude with the press and the best sportsmanship; the Prix Bourgeon for the tennis player revelation of the year and the Prix Citron for the player with the greatest strength of character and personality. The unique flavour of the tournament and its unsurpassed physical challenges make it a highlight for every serious Tennis player, and a win at the Roland Garros Stadium is respected all over the world.