The official name of the Roland Garros tennis tournament is Les Internationaux de France de Roland-Garros, and it is one of the world’s major tennis tournaments, held over a two week period during late May and early June in Paris. The setting for the tournament is the Stade Roland Garros. The Roland Garros is the world’s foremost clay court tennis tournament and is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments (the others being Wimbledon, the Australian Open, and the US Open).
Of all the major tennis tournaments in the world, the Roland Garros has the biggest worldwide audience. It is considered the most physiologically demanding tennis tournament because of the “slow” clay playing surface. The men’s singles matches are five sets and do not have a tiebreaker in the final set. Since 2007 the event has provided equal prize money to men and women in all rounds.
The first Roland Garros was in 1891 and was not an open tournament. It was for men only, but a women’s tournament was added in 1897. In 1928 the tournament was played for the first time at the stadium at Porte d’Auteuil. Tennis authorities had been offered three hectares of land for the tournament on the condition that the stadium be named after Roland Garros, who was a pilot during World War I. Garros helped advance the use of metal deflector wedges on the propeller blade, allowing a forward machine gun to be used during combat. He was the first aviator to shoot down an aircraft by firing through a tractor propeller in 1915, and also succeeded in taking down two more German aircraft during the war.
In 1968 the tournament became the first of the Grand Slam tourneys to go “open,” allowing amateurs and professionals to compete. In 2010 came an announcement that the Roland Garros was considering moving to another venue, despite France’s loyalty to the stadium close to Porte d’Auteuil. However, no move has been announced, and none will be announced until sometime in 2011.
The Roland Garros stadium contains 20 clay courts. The outside courts host many of the games during the first days of the tournament, and are used for players to train on during the tournament. Therefore, if you want to visit the tournament, your best chance to witness players close up is during the first week of play.
The additional advantage of attending the Roland Garros is that Paris in the springtime is even more magical than usual that time of year. Attending the tournament will be expensive, so be prepared, and accommodations will be booked more fully than usual, so you are wise to plan your Paris holiday that coincides with the tournament well in advance. There are many tournament holidays that offer tickets as part of the package price, as well as accommodations in more upscale parts of the city like the St. Germain district or the area around the Champs-Élysées. Many of these packages offer other extras like Seine cruises and on-site hosts at the tournament.
Another option is to rent an apartment in Paris. Short term rentals often save you money over hotel accommodations, plus give you the option of self-catering to cut your dining expenses. From most places in Paris, you can reach the stadium within three-quarters of an hour by Metro.