Top 10 things you probably didn’t know about Roland Garros

I think you must know this but Roland Garros started on May 16 and ends on June 6.

I think you should know that too, but Roland Garros is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, so an unmissable tennis event with the biggest stars of this sport.

However, I have no doubt that there are still plenty of things you don’t know about Roland Garros, starting with knowing who this guy was?

1. Roland Garros was a famous guy (he was a French aviator)

It’s true that when you think about it, “Roland Garros” couldn’t just be a name invented by the French Tennis Federation because they thought it was pretty, if the tournament is called like that it’s to honor Roland Garros, a French World War I aviator. He was particularly known for his exploits in aviation (the guy made crazy figures), and he died in combat at Vouzier in 1918.

And why is a tennis tournament named after an aviator? You will have the answer in the next point (I love the suspense).

2. If the tournament is called Roland Garros, it’s not really thanks to Roland Garros, but thanks to his friend Émile Lesieur (I hope you follow)

Ok don’t panic, we explain everything. Roland Garros was an accomplished sportsman, a war hero, and he was also a very good friend of Emile Lesieur, a former Stade Français rugby player. The two friends met at the prestigious HEC school, and during the First World War, they both became fighter pilots.

In short, at the end of the war, Lesieur, who survived him, became president of the Stade Français, and when in 1928 the Stade Français inaugurated its new tennis stadium, originally built to host the Davis Cup, he imposed the name of his former friend Roland Garros. A nice gesture which means that even today a guy who has nothing to do with tennis has given his name to one of the most publicized tournaments in this sport.

3. Ten French men and women have already won Roland Garros

If you know a little about tennis, I understand that this information is not unusual. However, if this is not the case, it is good to know that we are not total losers in this area.

Henri Cochet is the first Frenchman to have won 4 times, he is followed by René Lacoste who will win 3 times, then Jean Borotra, Marcel Bernard and finally our dear Yannick Noah who is the last man to date (1983) . Finally, among women we count Nelly Landry, then Simone Mathieu, Suzanne Lenglen and finally Mary Pierce (whom you can see just below) who is the latest in 2000.

Top 10 things you probably didn't know about roland garros
Picture credits: Bill Mitchell

4. Roland Garros is considered one of the most physical tournaments

And this is simply due to the fact that the matches are played on clay (the only Grand Slam tournament to be on this surface). Clay is a slower surface than grass or hard, which makes rallies take longer, so mentally and physically Roland Garros is often considered the most taxing Grand Slam tournament. In addition, clay does not solicit exactly the same muscles. On clay the adductors and the shoulders will be even more stressed, it is thus necessary that the players have a particular physical preparation.

Yeah again, it’s us French people who always complicate everything. But at the same time it’s funnier like that, I agree with you.

5. We win the “Musketeers Cup”

The trophy that you win if you win the tournament is called the “Coupe des Mousquetaires”, we explain why you chose this name.

The Four Musketeers is the name given to the French tennis team made up of René Lacoste, known as “the Crocodile” (hold on, that tells us something), Jean Borotra, known as the “Basque Bouncing”, Henri Cochet known as “the Magician”. and finally Jacques Brugnon says “Toto” (yes, that’s really the only rotten nickname).

Among these 4 players, 3 of them have won Roland Garros, sometimes even several times. On top of that, between the 1920s and 1930s, this team won around 40 Grand Slam tournaments (single and double combined), including 6 Davis Cups, and they were the only French people to have faced players who had always won against to American players. And to say that since the victory record at Roland Garros belongs to a Spaniard… I’m a little ashamed for us, but it doesn’t matter.

Top 10 things you probably didn't know about roland garros
Photo credits (CC BY-SA 3.0): Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-10190,_Wimbledon,_Tennisturnier.jpg: UnknownUnknown

6. The longest match lasted more than 6:30

6h33 of struggle exactly, the same time it takes to go to Cape Verde from Paris roughly (I’m opening a travel agency soon). This match opposed Fabrice Santoro to Arnaud Clément, and it was in 2004. They had the record for the longest match until 2010, when at Wimbledon John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played a match of more than 11 hours (more longer than a Paris – New York) spread over three days. The legend says that a guy from the public having fallen asleep, rolled on the ground and tipped over a ball boy inadvertently as the meeting was long.

7. The ball boys are chosen according to very specific criteria (worse than Miss France)

You thought you would one day have the opportunity to be a ball boy at Roland Garros because “why not, everyone can do it”? Well think again, know that it is very complicated to be selected. Already you have to be 12 and 16 years old (which is not necessarily your case if I’m not mistaken), then you have to be a maximum of 1m75, so your nephew Jean-Steven who has had a growth spurt will not be able to not be part of it either, and finally you should not wear glasses or contact lenses. The 250 selected are selected after passing physical and skill tests (yes yes, it’s not a joke), so they don’t throw a ball in Nadal’s face without doing it on purpose. Oh and of course you have to have a license. Know that about 4000 people apply each year to hope to be selected, even more difficult than having your license.

8. It’s Nadal who holds the tournament winning record (ok, you probably know that)

It is our good old Nadal who has distinguished himself the most on our beautiful French grounds. The Spaniard has won the competition 13 times, between 2005 and 2020. At Roland-Garros, Nadal has won more than 90% of sets he has played, and his victory record is also that of all Grand Slam tournaments . At least we know that Nadal likes clay, apparently that’s all there is to him and it gets dust everywhere (not very clean the guy).

9. It takes about 1.5 tons of clay for the courts

To make a clay court, you need clay, a lot of clay. The clay is extracted from old bricks or extracted directly in quarries, then it must be baked in ovens at 800 degrees to finally be ground. Each court requires between 500 and 1000 kg of clay per year, and during the tournament, the clay may be changed daily, which means that the Center Court can require up to 1.5 tons of clay, by hyper economical as a system.

On top of that, because the clay courts weren’t rough enough like that, the courts can only be practiced at a certain time of the year (that of sunny days roughly), and need a year-round maintenance even if it is not practiced. So be aware that if you want to buy a clay jar as a souvenir, you are not buying “just sand” (but please don’t do too much pigeons either).

10. You can also win the Lemon, Orange and Bud prizes

And no, I’m not talking about a recipe for a summer cocktail, but many distinctions that we can hope to win at Roland Garros, in addition to winning the tournament. These distinctions are awarded by the press, and since 2008, the public can also vote. You will have understood that these prizes are not of great value, and moreover the Citron Prize does not seem to exist since 2009.

The Citron Prize therefore “rewarded” the athlete who had the worst (super) character, the Orange Prize, the athlete who was the most fair-play and “warm with the press and the public”, and finally the Bourgeon rewarded “the revelation of the international circuit, natural sap of the best juices of tomorrow”, and these are indeed the official terms used. Yeah, a lot of bullshit invented by the press to comment on the tournament (these prizes have more or less been abandoned over time).

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