French Tradition: The French Open, Roland Garros
Roland Garros, otherwise known as the French Open, has undoubtedly become part of French heritage, and is a fantastic event to follow in June in France.
The French Open harks back to 1891 with the creation of the first ‘French Clay-Court Championships’ where the opportunity to participate was reserved for French members of French tennis groups. It was after the First World War that this tournament became an international playing field, with players entering from all around the world. This marked the creation of the ‘French Open’. The Roland Garros stadium, named after an aviation pioneer killed in World War I, was built in 1928. After having been put on hold during the Second World War, the tournament resumed with even more gusto in the post-war period and since 1968 has continued to herald the status one of the most popular tennis tournaments in the world.
Despite being the French Open, it has been a long time (Yannick Noah in 1983 in the men’s event and Mary Pierce in 2000 in the women’s) since a French national has lifted the trophy at Roland Garros. Spanish Rafael Nadal is the ‘undisputed king’ of the French Open, winning 9 times in 10 appearances. Can a French national rewrite the history books and win this year?
The French Open is famed for its clay court. The distinctive orange that dominates (a stark contrast to the usual blue of the US and Australian Opens, or the green of Wimbledon) is unique to Roland Garros, something that makes it all the more special. Clay is notoriously difficult to play on, as the surface makes the play a lot slower. The ball bounces higher on the court and contributes to a more physically challenging match than that of playing on grass for example. Roland Garros is arguably the most challenging tennis tournament in the world purely due to the surface of the court.
While many people may think that going to Roland Garros will be a vast expense, you can often find tickets that are very reasonable. The trick is not to buy tickets for the main courts and the big events such as the semi-finals or the finals are they are bound to be pricey. You can get an all day pass for all of the ‘small courts’ which is a great thing to do as you often get to see some great tennis and even some famous tennis stars without having to pay an arm and a leg.
The atmosphere of the French Open, with the encouraging cries of “Allez!” and the “Olé!” at the near misses and the trumpet calls and tense decisions of the umpire stirring the crowd, is incredibly special. Whether you are in the stands, watching in a bar, or at home, it is truly not to be missed.
If you do not manage to get tickets, do not worry, you can watch the tournament on a big screen underneath the Eiffel Tower for free – how French is that?!
This year’s tournament takes place from the 22nd May to the 11th June.
Make sure not to miss out on France’s biggest French tennis tournament!
There is plenty more information about the French Open on the Roland Garros website