History of the Stade Roland Garros Stadium
The Roland Garros stadium hosts one of the four major world tennis championships and has become famous for the greatest clay court championships, when the French Internationals became the first Grand Slam tournament to join the Open era, but why the name, and who are the legends?
The beginnings of the French tennis championships
The French singles championships were originally reserved for members of French tennis clubs and the first championship was held at the Stade Francais club in 1891, then the ladies singles were added six years later.
However, it was not until 1925 that the French tennis Federation decided to open up the even to the best international tennis players and hence the French Internationals were born and these were originally held at the Stade Francais one year and the Racing Club de France the next.
Yet the year 1927 became the major milestone for French tennis, which was the year that they celebrated one of the biggest shocks in 20th century sport when the foursome, Jacques Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste, known as the French Musketeers, upset the odds when they won the Davis Cup on American soil.
And so, they set up a rematch for 1928, but this time it was to be held in Paris..
The start of the Stade Roland Garros stadium in Paris
Now as you can no doubt appreciate, with such a major sporting occasion going to take place in Paris, it required a stadium that would be worthy of holding such an event, and so the Stade Francais handed over three hectares of land to the French Tennis Federation to build a new stadium.
But why the name? Well, Roland Garros was actually an aviation pioneer, who on 23rd September 1913 was the first man to fly a plane over the Mediterranean plus he was a World War I hero after shooting down enemy aircraft, yet to many people it seems strange to have an aviators name for a tennis stadium.
However, Roland Garros was one of the most renowned former members of the Stade Francais prior to his death ten year earlier when he was killed in aerial combat in 1918, and the land near the Port d’Auteuil was only offered to the French Tennis Federation on the condition that the stadium would be named after him.
The characteristic red clay court is in fact composed of more than just normal clay and at the time was a state of the art design implemented to allow proper drainage and when the stadium was first constructed, the main tennis court was just known as the Centre Court, however this was changed a few years later to the Court Philippe Chatrier.
The four main spectator grandstands are named after the four musketeers and can hold well over 14,000 people and the once completed the first event to take place at the Stade Roland Garros stadium was the French Internationals prior to the four taking centre stage to compete in the rematch of the Davis Cup, which they successfully won.
These four, known as the musketeers held on to the cup until 1933 when they had to give up the famous silver salad bowl, but by then the French Internationals were well and truly established at the stadium, and there was as monument erected at the centre of a courtyard, which was called the Places des Mousquetaires. Also, as another tribute to Jacques Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste, the trophy which is awarded each year at the French Open mens singles tennis championships is called the La Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Tennis itself became an even more popular sport and the Stade Roland Garros stadium went from strength to strength, however, all tennis tournaments were cancelled during World War II, and did not start again until 1946.
The Stade Roland Garros stadium in Paris after World War II to present
The next significant turning point was when the French Internationals became the first Grand Slam tournament to join the Open era and professionalism brought more expansion and excitement to the sport and today the Grand Slam as it is known, incorporates the Australian Open, Wimbledon, the US Open and of course the French Open.
The 1970s and 1980s brought some breathtaking competitions with some of the greatest names in tennis playing at the Stade Roland Garros stadium, namely Bjorn Borg who won the title of the French Open championships six times.
Also in 1988, the president of the Federation Francaise de Tennis, or FFT for short managed to restore tennis as one of the sports in the summer Olympics and being a former tennis player, plus coach to the French team in 2001 the Centre Court got renamed to Court Philippe Chatrier after him.
But there have also been the great womens singles championships such as the unstoppable Monica Seles, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, yet since the four musketeers and after World War II there have only been a few French tennis players who have won the French Open tournament, with the latest being by Yannick Noah in 1983.
Come 1994 there was even more expansion at the Stade Roland Garros with the addition of the Court A that could accommodate over 10,000 spectators, but in 1997 this was renamed the Suzanne Lenglen court after the greatest female French tennis player who won the ladies open six times, the doubles twice and the mixed doubles an incredible seven times.
In 2003, the first ever multimedia tennis museum in the world was also opened up at the Stade Roland Garros, which is known by different names including the Tenniseum, the Musee du Tennis, the Musee Roland Garros and the Musee de la Federation Francaise de Tennis. And here you can also arrange a guided tour backstage to discover the area dedicated to the players, find out about the history of the stadium, tennis and even prior to the original game of Jeu de Paume.
But even more recently, it seems that the Spanish are the current clay court specialists on this premier world class clay court, with the left handed player Rafael Nadal breaking the record of Bjorn Borg by winning the French Open seven times. Yet Rafael Nadal is also the most recent tennis player to win the Grand Slam tournament majors on all four of the very different courts.
More information on Stade Roland Garros
- The Stade Roland Garros Stadium in Paris
- Tenniseum - Musee du Tennis or the Musee de Roland Garros
- Roland-Garros Restaurant
Address and Contact Details
Stade Roland Garros
2 Avenue Gordon Bennett
Ile de France
Tel: +33 (0) 1 47 43 48 00
Fax: +33 (0) 1 47 43 04 94
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