Why is French Open played on clay? Was it ever played on grass?

Roland Garros will commence on May 22
Roland Garros will commence on May 22

The French Open is one of four Grand Slam events contested in tennis. With a slower and higher bounce, the Parisian clay is known to be physically very challenging for players and is regarded as one of the toughest Slams to win.

This tournament bears the name of the famous French aviator Roland Garros, who was killed during the first World War. History's greatest players like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have won the French Open. Renowned players like Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Pete Sampras never won the claycourt Major.

History of French Open and why it's played on clay

Roland Garros is contested on red claycourt
Roland Garros is contested on red claycourt

The French Open began in 1891, with only French club members allowed to compete in the tournament. At the time, the Paris Major was contested on grasscourt.

With the advent of the concept of Grand Slams, the first calendar Grand Slam was held in 1925. With this, the French Open became open for amateurs and other players around the world to compete in.

In 1928, the Paris Major, which used to take place at the Stade Francais, moved to a new five-court complex that was originally built for the French national team to defend their Davis Cup title. The second Slam of the year has remained there since, undergoing several improvements and modifications to modernize the arena over the years.

Henri Cochet, Rene Lacoste, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon represented the French national team in 1923 for the first time at the Davis Cup. The French team won the Davis Cup for the first time in 1927, defeating the US team in Philadelphia.

This meant that France would be getting the chance to host the Davis Cup in 1928. At the time, the rules of the "Challenge Round" still applied, which meant they automatically qualified for the final.

The 1928 Davis Cup was held at the brand new Roland Garros Stadium, which was built specifically for the event. It was the first time that a Davis Cup final was not played on grasscourt but on European red clay, which was more common in France and Europe.

When the Paris Major switched to the Roland Garros stadium in 1928, matches in the event were contested on claycourt and the surface has remained since.

The event currently uses a combination of red brick dust, crushed white limestone, and a coal residue called 'clonker' and crushed gravel to make the red claycourt surface.

Was the French Open ever played on grass?

French Open being playedin the early 1920's
French Open being playedin the early 1920's

For most of the 20th century, the default surface on which to play tennis was grasscourt. The exception to this rule were the claycourts of mainland Europe. For three years between 1925-1927, the Paris Major was played on grasscourt, with the Paris Major being held on claycourt since 1928.

From 1925-1974, the US Open was played on grasscourt. In fact, between 1975-1977, the US Open was played on green claycourt and since 1978, it has been played on hard courts. The US Open is the only major to have played on all three surfaces.

From 1925-1987, the Australian Open was played on grass courts. In 1988, they switched to hardcourt as well. Wimbledon is the only Major that has not changed surfaces since the inception of the tournament in 1877.


Also Check Out :- French Open 2022 Schedule


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Edited by Keshav Gopalan
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