What’s in a Name
The world’s leading tennis players battle it out for grand slam glory on Court Philippe Chatrier, the celebrated centre court of Roland Garros, venue of the French Open each year and those who triumph are rewarded, not only with an elusive slam, but with trophies dedicated to some of the outstanding Frenchmen and women who have changed the course of tennis history in France.
- Men’s Singles Trophy – Coupe des Mousquetaires
- Women’s Singles Trophy – Coupe Suzanne Lenglen
These trophies and venue tags remind us of some of the heroes and heroines of yesteryear but who are they and what did they accomplish to make them so very famous?
Garros was a celebrated World War I French fighter pilot instrumental in setting up a stable platform in the air so that the pilot could fire from a forward facing machine gun with impunity.
He fell in love with flying early on and eventually hooked up with the pioneer Brazilian aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont and flew his light-weight monoplane on several occasions. By the outbreak of the Great War, Garros was a highly accomplished pilot and became the first man to fly non-stop across the Med from France to Tunisia.
He was shot down behind enemy lines but managed to burn his aircraft before it landed in the wrong hands – he wasn’t so lucky though, and ended up spending close on four years in a German POW camp. In 1918 he managed to escape, returned home and immediately re-enlisted but his luck finally ran out and he was shot down and killed only a month short of the end of the war and a day away from his 30th birthday!
Centre Court was named after the former president of both the French Tennis Federation and the International Tennis Federation, Philippe Chatrier, in 2001. During his tenure as President of the ITF, Chatrier was one of the influential figures who re-introduced tennis as an Olympic sport and he served time as both a Davis Cup team member and, later, the captain of the French Team.
Le Quatre Mousquetaires
The Four Musketeers were four Frenchmen who dominated world tennis in the late 1920′s and early 1930′s but their major claim to fame was their six consecutive Davis cup wins, including a triumph on American soil.
They were Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste and between them they rattled up three US Championship titles, the precursor of the US Open, six consecutive titles on the grass courts of Wimbledon and 10 French Championship victories in eleven years!
Lenglen was one of the first real sports celebrities of her time and she was quite an amazing tennis player too. During her long and successful career she claimed 31 grand slam titles but what made her such a superstar was her flamboyant, almost cheeky attitude to life.
She caused a furore when she marched onto the centre court of the All England Club clad in a dress cut above the calf and showing her bare forearms and she nearly brought London to a standstill when she was caught sipping brandy between sets! From 1919 through 1925 ‘La Divine’, as she was called by the media, won every single Wimbledon title bar 1924 and won the French title six times, five of them on the trot! She was the last French women to win in Paris until Amelie Mauresmo claimed the home title in 2006!