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Roland Garros: A philatelic flashback on the champions

Raman Thapar
ANALYST
Feature
Timeless

Rafael Nadal - King Of Clay
Rafael Nadal - King Of Clay

There are four Grand Slam tennis tournaments held in a calendar year. The French Open or Roland Garros is the second of the four Grand Slam tournaments. It is a clay court tournament played over last week of May and early June every year. The 2019 edition will be played from 26 May to 9 June 2019 (qualifying rounds have already started from 20th May 2019).

The French Clay Court Championships played in 1891 can be termed as the First French Open tournament. It was only open to the members of the French Club and was played at Stade Francais. The venue of the French Open was shifted to Stade Roland Garros in 1928. This stadium was built and named in honour of Roland Garros, a French fighter pilot who was killed during the Great War.

A glimpse of the stamps issued on French Open and some of the greatest players to have played the French Open shall be given in this piece.

France issued a stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stade Roland Garros (1928-1978) on 27 May 1978. A first day cover was also issued on the occasion. The complex has twenty courts including three large-capacity stadiums.

A stamp issued by France to commemorate 50 years of Stade Roland Garros.
A stamp issued by France to commemorate 50 years of Stade Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal has won 11 French Open titles in men’s singles category and is known as the "King of Clay". He first played at Roland Garros in 2005 and won his first French Open title. He has won these 11 titles in just 14 appearances making it a remarkable achievement. He is the current French Open Champion. His 11 titles is a record for the highest number of men's singles titles.

A miniature sheet on Nadal.
A miniature sheet on Nadal.

One of the most difficult things in Tennis is to win the "Channel Slam" i.e winning the French Open on the clay court and Wimbledon on the grass in the same year. In the Open era, Nadal, Federer and Bjorn Borg have achieved this feat. Bjorn Borg's record stands apart as he won the Channel Slam thrice in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

Roger Federer has won the French Open only once in 2009.

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A Stamp of Switzerland on Roger Federer.
A Stamp of Switzerland on Roger Federer.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia has also won the French Open only once in 2016. He has won 15 Grand Slam titles in his career till now. Serbia issued a stamp in his honour on 4 April 2008.

Serbia issued a stamp to honour Novak Djokovic.
Serbia issued a stamp to honour Novak Djokovic.

Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil has won the French Open Singles title three times in 1997, 2000 and 2001. Brazil issued a miniature sheet in 2001 featuring Gustavo Kuerten.

A miniature sheet from Brazil featuring three times French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten.
A miniature sheet from Brazil featuring three times French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten.

Chris Evert of USA has won the French Open's women's singles title a record seven times between 1974 and 1986. Ivory Coast issued a stamp in her honour in 1991.

A stamp issued by Ivory Coast featuring Chris Evert during the French Open centenary in 1991.
A stamp issued by Ivory Coast featuring Chris Evert during the French Open centenary in 1991.

Steffi Graf (born 14 June 1969) is a former German tennis player who has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles including six French Open singles titles. In 1988 she became the only tennis player to achieve the Golden Grand Slam - winning all Grand Slam titles and the Olympic Gold Medal. She was inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004.

A stamp on Steffi Graf issued by St Vincent.
A stamp on Steffi Graf issued by St Vincent.

Justin Henin of Belgium has four French Open titles to her credit. Belgium issued a stamp in honour of this legend of Belgian tennis on 24 Nov 2003. She won the French and US Open in 2003. A sheet containing 10 stamps was issued. 

A sheet issued by Belgium in 2003 to mark Henin's French Open Victory.
A sheet issued by Belgium in 2003 to mark Henin's French Open Victory.

Martina Navratilova has two singles and seven doubles French Open titles to her credit.

A stamp issued by Ivory Coast on Martina Navratilova.
A stamp issued by Ivory Coast on Martina Navratilova.

Serena Williams (born 26 September 1981) is an American tennis player who has won a record 39 Grand Slam titles (23 singles, 14 women’s doubles and 2 mixed doubles). Serena Williams has won the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen (French Open singles trophy) thrice in her career.

A stamp on Serena Williams.
A stamp on Serena Williams.
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