Every spring, Paris becomes a hub of athletic brilliance as Roland Garros, the iconic tennis tournament (also known as The French Open), takes center stage. For over 120 years, this revered event has witnessed many legendary matches on its clay courts and it has become a pilgrimage for fans, athletes, and enthusiasts alike, all hoping to witness – or be a part of – the next big moment in tennis history.
This year’s tournament opened on May 22nd, adding an extra layer of excitement to your stay if you happen to be traveling through Paris this week.
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One of the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournaments of all time, Roland Garros has long been synonymous with clay court mastery as it is the only Grand Slam tournament held on this kind of turf (red brick dust atop crushed white limestone). Yet, the first tournament took off in 1891 when tennis was merely a fledgling sport.
Originally known as the “French Clay-Court Championships,” the tournament underwent its first significant transformation in 1925, with a name change to the “French Open.” Two years later, the construction of a new stadium was commissioned, named after Roland Garros, a pioneer of aviation who tragically lost his life during World War I, and the tournament has been referred to eponymously ever since.
Over the decades, Roland Garros has played host to countless unforgettable battles. Its unique red-orange clay terrain offers an opportunity for players to show their strategic mastery amid the slower-paced game that ensues on the gritty, speed-absorbing surface with its distracting plumes of red dust (affectionately known as “terre battue”).
Reigning champions include the indomitable Björn Borg and Chris Evert, both multi-time winners of the men’s and women’s championship, respectively, and in more recent years Rafael Nadal, whose relentless pursuit of perfection on clay courts has resulted in an incredible 13 titles.
However, Roland Garros is more than simply a sporting event. It has become an exemplum of the French joie de vivre as they express their love for the game, their culture and their unique sense of style. If you’re lucky enough to attend a match at Roland Garros, expect to witness sport and culture effortlessly intertwining as players don mesmerizing haute couture outfits and spectators savor sumptuous French foods.
Although the sun is soon to set on another Roland Garros season*, its captivating allure lingers. So whether you’re a passionate tennis fan or hoping to enjoy a slice of authentic French culture, we believe Roland Garros will be an excellent addition to any upcoming visit to Paris.
* The 2023 season ends on June 11. Events in 2024 will take place between the 27th of July and the 4th of August.