French Open (Roland Garros) in Paris
Roland Garros: The French Open
You are at Porte d’Auteuil (literarily, Auteuil gate), in Paris’ XVI district.
Sitting at the gates of the capital, the chic and quiet neighbourhood transforms every year. At the first rays of spring, the tranquil district reverbates the popping sound of racket sports. The famous Roland Garros, one of the four Grand Slams comes into play.
In 1927, the French team —Jacques “Toto” Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, and René Lacoste— also known as the Musketeers, won the Davis Cup on American soil against all odds.
The rematch in France required a suitable stadium. Without hesitation, the Federation Française de Tennis (FFT) decided to build one worthy of its newfound heroes.
Roland Garros, the Aviator
The Stade Français —the sports club in charge of the French international games at the time— granted the FFT with a parcel for the new stadium.
Though, the donation came with a specific requirement. The 3.25 hectare plot (32 500 m2) would have to be named after Roland Garros, an acclaimed member of the club. The famous aviator, better known for his rugby skills rather than tennis, was the first man to fly a plane over the Mediterranean Sea in 1913.
The request was honoured and the stadium built in a record time. By spring 1928, the Roland Garros stadium held its first French Open.
Inspired by their new headquarters, the Musketeers kept the Davis Cup from their nemesis —the American team— for six consecutive years.
Tennis Golden Era (Post-War)
Following a five year interruption during the World War II, Tennis made a triumphant return on the clay courts marking the beginning of the Golden Era.
As the game grew in popularity, the ochre terre battue (clay court) quickly became a victory symbol for world champions: Björn Borg (Switzerland), Steffi Graf (Germany), Ivan Lendl (Czechoslovakia), Mats Wilander (Switzerland), Yannick Noah (the last French player to win the title since 1946).
Over the years, the Parisian competition continued to grow in France and internationally. The French Open quickly became the toughest and most prestigious clay-court tournament in the world.
Roland Garros is the most physically demanding tournament. Professional players are faced with slower terrain and long matches –interminable at times- played in 5 sets for male players and 3 sets for female competitors.
Fashion-Jet Set Match
For two weeks, the Capital of Fashion expands into the west end of the city, at Porte d’Auteuil. The stars and their styles, both on the courts and in the stands, fuel the tabloids.
Fashion also takes its bearing with luxury brands transforming Roland Garros into a great window on French art de vivre.
Expansion Plans by 2019
The relentless success of the tournament is beginning to affect the space at Roland Garros. In order to keep the competition in Paris, the FFT decided on an ambitious project to expand the stadium.
Renovation plans include building a new court near the Jardin des Serres, on the skirts of Bois de Boulogne, modernizing the Roland Garros Village (the main building), and adding a retractable roof over the main Philippe Chartier court.
Racket sport aficionados in France and in the world are counting on the new facilities to usher in a new era for French tennis.