French Open stays at Roland Garros
The proposal to shift the French Open tennis tournament from its traditional home in Paris has been defeated. Three other sites were put forward: one at Versailles, near Louis XlV’s fabulous brickpile, one at Gonesse, north of Le Bourget airport, and one at Marne-la-Vallee, adjacent to Disneyland.
Many people wanted a bigger venue as Roland Garros is considerably smaller than its sister Grand Slam sites in Melbourne, New York and London. But sentiment won out over size, although RG will be enlarged at some time in the future. So we have two tourneys, Wimbledon and the French, that won’t be moving, and two that have moved in the past.
The Aussie Open has been a real nomad. It was originally called the Australasian Open and was held, at various times, in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Christchurch and Hastings. (I believe grass was the only surface but I’m ready to be corrected on that.) Christchurch native Anthony Wilding won the championship twice, but then Wilding was no stranger to winning major trophies pulling off a unique triple in 1913: Paris on clay, Wimbledon on grass and Stockholm indoors on wood. The championship has seen three different surfaces: grass, Rebound Ace and DecoTurf.
The US Open started off on the grass of Newport, RI where it stayed for 33 years until moving to Forest Hills and later to Philadelphia before returning to Forest Hills. In 1978 it moved to its present site in Flushing Meadows. Like the Aussie Open, the championship has been played on the same three surfaces.
And surface is another reason why a lot of people are relieved that the French is staying at RG. Although the new courts at a new site would still have been clay, they would have probably been made faster to suit today’s style of bing bang tennis.
Players would not have had to slide nearly as much if at all – many of today’s top pros don’t slide much anyway. Pete Sampras once said that the reason why he never made the final was partly because his big serve was slowed so much by the red dirt, and partly because he never learned to slide. Andy Roddick has never made it past the fourth round in Paris for the same reason: a negated serve and no sliding talent.
If the new courts had been built, and were made faster, some people argue that the great success of Budge and Laver in winning the other three tourneys in the same year they won at RG, would have required an asterisk against the name of future Grand Slam winners.
If, for example, somebody like Nadal were to pull off a same-year GS, he would have done it on the same-but-altered surface. Others argue that the same can be said for Wimbledon as some years the grass plays very fast, other years much slower.
At any rate, it’s nice to know that the French Open won’t be moving to Disneyland. I love the French Open. There’s nothing Mickey Mouse about it.
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