The very first French Championships were in 1891, and the tournament has since evolved into one of the four Grand Slams. However, the competition did not become an international event until 1925. And in 1928, the tournament was moved to its current home, Roland Garros.
The Early Years of the French Open
The first competition was a one-day national championship, which strangely enough had an English winner in the men’s tournament. Without the participation of the world’s best, the competition remained obscure until it became fully international 24 years later.
After the First World War, French tennis was on the crest of a wave, with Suzanne Lenglen winning six times between 1920 and 1926. Coupled with the need to host the Davis Cup after the winning it in 1927, the popularity of tennis in France precipitated the construction of a brand new tennis stadium at Porte D’Auteuil.
Following the Second World War, France’s domination began to crumble and the Americans and Australians took over, with new young stars such as Ken Rosewall of Australia and America’s Maureen Connolly. In 1956 the tournament was host to the first African-American Grand Slam winner, the American Althea Gibson.
Bjorn Borg In 1968, the Open era started when professionals were permitted to enter the French Open. Rosewall stepped up to claim the men’s prize money, 15 years after taking his first title. Nancy Richey took the ladies prize.
Legends of the sport took trophy after trophy in the 70’s and 80’s, with Bjorn Borg winning six titles and Chris Evert taking home seven. The 80’s also heralded the return of French success, with Yannick Noah capturing France’s first title for 37 years.
The late 80’s and early 90’s saw the rise of the teenage stars. Michael Chang won the 1989 Championships at the age of 17 years and 3 months. Monica Seles brought her unique screaming style to the tournament in 1990 and won the title when still only 16.
The French Open will continue to develop as tennis evolves, and as the new century unfolds new legends are certain to be created.
2003-2011 GGN – Sunday 22nd of May 2011 05:33:33 AM