Officially known as the “Tournoi de Roland-Garros” or “Les internationaux de France de Roland-Garros,” the French Open is second on the schedule of annual Grand Slam tennis tournaments. It is conducted in Paris each year for two weeks in late May and early June. With the distinction of being the only one of the four major competitions that takes place on clay courts, it was once called the “World Clay Court Championships.”
The very first French Open in 1881 was open only to French tennis players, and that remained the case for decades. Then, in 1925, the event was reestablished as the French Internationals and pros from outside the country were invited to participate. The early venues used were the Club de France and the Stade Francais.
France’s first Davis Cup victory in 1927 inspired the construction of a larger facility for defense of the title in 1928. That’s when the new Stade de Roland Garros opened, named after the World War One French aviator, Roland Garros, who in 1913 was first pilot to fly solo across the Mediterranean. Its 14,840-seat centre court was later dubbed the Court Philippe Chatrier in 1988, honoring the country’s former Davis Cup player (1948~50) and proponent of Olympic tennis (1984~1988), who went on to become the ITF President in 1991.
When the Open Era dawned in 1968, the French Open was the very first Grand Slam event join in, allowing the participation of both professionals and amateurs. Tops among men here was Sweden’s Björn Borg with six victories between 1974 and 1981. Spain’s Rafael Nadal has been the most recent star at Roland Garros, winning four in a row from 2005 to 2008.
Ironically, no French player was able to capture the French Open title until 1983, when Yannick Noah triumphed over Sweden’s Mats Wilander. In 1988, the Swede got his revenge by denying Henri Laconte the title, the last time a Frenchman was in contention.
On the women’s side, France’s Mary Pierce—who was runner up in 1994 and 2005—got the first victory for her homeland by beating Spain’s Conchita Martinez in 2000. But the most dominant woman on clay in recent year’s has been four-time winner Justine Henin of Belgium, whose victories included a hat-trick of wins in 2005~2007. Others who have left their mark on the Parisian clay include seven-time Women’s Champion Chris Evert of the United States and six-time winner Stefi Graf of Germany.
Apart from Men’s and Women’s Singles, which are the main focus of any Grand Slam event, the French Open also features Men’s and Women’s Doubles along with Mixed Doubles. Matches in the Men’s Singles and Doubles competitions are conducted as best-of-five sets, while all other events are based on the best-of-three sets. Tiebreak games are played whenever the score reaches 6–6 in any set, with the exception of the final third or fifth set, which must be played out with service games.
Ante post wagering on the outright winners of next year’s French Open becomes available almost immediately after this year’s winners are known. However, the heavy betting starts in earnest following the conclusion of the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open held at the end of January each year.
Apart from betting on event champions, “match betting” is also very popular—i.e., choosing the winner out of two players in a heads-on meeting. Other bets can be made on the outcome of individual sets, with or without handicaps, as well as final score betting.