The French Open is the second Grand Slam of the season and the only one ever to be held on clay. The premier championship has a rich history and a great deal of interesting and fun facts that you may or may not already know. We know… there are tons of articles like this one, but we feel ours has the coolest, most interesting facts out there! We have weeded out the obvious in hopes of bringing you facts you didn’t know – yet! And we’ve grouped them into three categories: French Open Trivia, Player Trivia, and Ball Kid Trivia. Enjoy!
French Open Trivia
These facts are about the tournament itself. The first French Championship was played in 1891 and was originally played on sand (1891 – 1907). What is now called the Stade Roland Garros was constructed in 1928 to host France’s first defense of the Davis Cup. The Stade Roland Garros is named after Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros, a World War I pilot and pioneering French aviator who completed the first solo flight across the Mediterranean Sea. The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that begins on a Sunday. For the first six years, it was only open to men. Women weren’t allowed to participate until 1897. Non-French tennis club members were only allowed to enter the tournament in 1925. Before then, it was only open to members of French tennis clubs. In 1968, the year of the French General Strike, the French Championships became the first Grand Slam tournament to go open, allowing professionals to compete with the amateurs. The French Open was the first Grand Slam tournament to offer equal prize money to men and women, starting in 2007. The French Open has been held every year in Paris since 1891, except from 1915 – 1919 due to WWI and 1940 due to WWII. The French Open is the second-richest tennis tournament in the world, with a total prize fund of over 49.6 million euros (about 53 million USD) in 2023. It’s estimated that around 65,000 balls are used throughout the two-week tournament. Babolat was the official ball used at the French Open until 2020 when Wilson became the official brand. The ‘clay’ surface isn’t actually clay. The courts are surfaced with white limestone, coal residue, and gravel covered with powdered red brick dust, giving them their ochre color. It is the only Grand Slam event played on a red surface. An estimated 44,000kg of crushed red brick is used each year. The Stade Roland Garros is a 34-acre complex boasting 20 courts. Built in 1928, Court Philippe Chatrier is the centerpiece and seats over 15,000 spectators. The other show court, named after famous French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen, was built in 1994 and seats just over 10,000. A third show court, Court Simmone Mathieu, was constructed in 2019 and seats 5,000. It was named after Simmone Mathieu, a tennis champion and leader of the French Resistance during WWII. The trophies are made of pure silver, designed and made by Maison Mellerio dits Meller. The women’s singles trophy is called the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen, named after the French tennis player who won 31 major titles between 1914 and 1926. The prize for winning the men’s singles event is the Coupe des Mousquetaires (the Musketeers’ Cup) – it refers to the legendary French tennis stars who reigned over the tournament until 1933 and were known as the Four Musketeers: Jean Borotra, René Lacoste, Jacques Brugnon and Henri Cochet. The Coupe des Mousquetaires remains in the stadium – the winner is given a smaller replica to take home. The trophy is so precious; it has its own special trunk that was created by Louis Vuitton. The multimedia Musée de Roland-Garros is located at the Roland Garros stadium and tells the story of tennis through memorabilia, documents, and archive footage.
Here is some cools trivia regarding the players who have competed at Roland Garros. The longest match in French Open history was a men’s singles match between Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clément in 2004, which lasted 6 hours and 33 minutes. The youngest male player to win the French Open men’s singles title was Michael Chang, who was 17 years old and 3 months when he won in 1989. The youngest female player to win the French Slam was Monica Seles, who won it in 1990 when she was just 16 years old and 6 months. The oldest woman to win the French Open Singles is Serena Williams, who was 33 years old and 8 months when she won in 2015. The oldest man to win the men’s singles at Rolland Garros is Andres Gimeno, who won the tournament at 34 years and 10 months in 1972. The longest match in French Open history was a men’s singles match between Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clément in 2004, which lasted 6 hours and 33 minutes. Rafael Nadal has won the most men’s singles titles at the French Open, with 14 victories between 2005 and 2022. Chris Evert has won the most women’s singles titles at the French Open, with 7 victories between 1974 and 1986. Roy Emerson has the most doubles titles with 6 championship wins. Martina Navratilova has the most women’s doubles titles with 7 championship wins.
Facts about the ball kids
Yep! Our French Open trivia includes a few factoids about the ball kids! The Ball Boys and Girls are known as “ramasseurs de balles.” Around 4,000 kids ages 12 -16 apply for a year-long training program to become a ball boy or girl. These are eventually cut to 250 – 300 who will work for the tournament. They work in teams of six, with two at the net and four at the back of the court. They rotate through different positions throughout the match to prevent fatigue. At the end of the tournament, each ball kid gets to keep one pair of shoes, two pairs of socks, two pairs of shorts, two shirts and one tracksuit.