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5 interesting facts about the French Open in Paris

As one of the four Grand Slam events, the French Open is one of the most famous tournaments on the sporting calendar. Here are some facts you might not know about this popular sporting event.

Its French name is Internationaux de France de Roland-Garros

Although it's known all over the world simply as the French Open, the tournament's full name is Internationaux de France de Roland-Garros. Many people know that the stadium is named after someone called Roland Garros, but relatively few know who Garros was.

He was actually born Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros in 1888 and was a famous French fighter pilot. He helped develop the front-mounted machine gun, revolutionising the way planes performed during battles. Roland Garros was the first pilot ever to shoot down an enemy aircraft by firing via a tractor propeller at a German plane in April 1915. He took down two additional aircraft later that month. Garros was captured by the Germans that same month, and held as a Prisoner of War.

He managed to escape almost three years later, in February 1918 after numerous attempts. Upon his return to France, he re-joined the French forces and returned to flying. The plane he was piloting was shot down on 5th October 1918, and Garros was killed just one month before the end of World War I, and one day before his 30th birthday.

Garros is today known as one of the world's most famous fighter pilots and his name lives on in the Stade de Roland Garros, where he often played tennis while he was a Parisian student.

Image of the Eiffel Tower in Paris with a grass area in front of it

The youngest winner of the men's singles was just 17 years old

Michael Chang of the US is the youngest ever winner of the men's tournament, winning the 1989 final at the tender age of 17. He had to overcome some big names to take the title, including Eduardo Masso, Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl. Although Chang was only seeded 15th in the tournament, he beat Lendl, who was at that time the number one player in the world, in the fourth round.

Chang actually considered retiring from the match during the fifth set, as he'd been experiencing severe leg cramps since the fourth set. He stuck it out, and adapted his game to compensate for the painful cramping in his legs. His tactics included hitting the ball higher than usual, in order to slow down the speed of play, and forced himself to hit more winners so that the points didn't last too long. Chang also drank lots of water and ate bananas during every available break. His tactics helped throw Lendl's concentration, and Chang eventually went on to win the fifth and final set. The match took a total of 4 hours, 37 minutes.

One week later, Chang beat Stefan Edberg in the final over five sets, becoming the youngest player ever to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires.

The Roland Garros is by far the smallest of the Grand Slam Venues.

The other tournaments in the Grand Slam are the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. The Australian Open is played at Melbourne Park, where the main court, the Rod Laver Arena, has a capacity of 15,000. The second largest court, the Hisense Arena, has a capacity of 10,500.

Wimbledon, played at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, boasts 19 grass courts and eight clay courts, together with five indoor courts, two acrylic courts and 22 Aorangi Park grass courts, used for practice matches by players. The largest courts are Centre Court, which can seat 15,000 spectators, and No.1 Court, that has a capacity of 11,500.

The US Open is held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, and the venue's three main courts are among the largest tennis venues in the world. The Arthur Ashe Stadium has a capacity of 23,000, making it the largest of all.

The main court at the Roland Garros Stadium is the Court Philippe Chatrier, which is a capacity of around 14,500, but it's the venue's overall size and capacity that makes this the smallest of all the Grand Slam venues.

Image of a hard tennis court

The French Open was cancelled from 1939 to 1945

Due to World War II, the French Open didn't officially take place between 1939 and 1945. However, unofficial French Open tournaments did take place, and were seen by many as being vitally important for French morale. Only French nationals were permitted to compete in these unofficial tournaments, which were seen as playing a major role in preserving French culture during a time of war.

Chris Evert has won the most women's singles titles during the open era

American Chris Evert holds the record for the most women's singles titles, with an impressive seven. She first won the title in 1974, at the age of 19, then went on to win it again in 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985 and 1986. She was 31 when she won her final French Open women's singles title in 1986, beating Martina Navratilova over three sets in the final.

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