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French Open 2019: can anyone dethrone the king of clay Rafa Nadal?
First held in 1891, the French Open is one of the oldest and most prestigious tournaments in tennis. Along with Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, the French Open is one of the sport's Grand Slam events and, with top ranking points and prize money (as well as a place in history) at stake, a highly coveted trophy and title.
Max Decugis won the championship eight times during the amateur era, while in the Open era (since 1968) Rafael Nadal holds the record for the most French Open titles having won the tournament eleven times. Sweden's Björn Borg won six times in Paris (including four consecutive titles between 1978 and 1981), while tennis' all-time record Grand Slam holder Roger Federer won his only French Open in 2009. Britain's Andy Murray reached the final in 2016, but lost to Novak Djokovic.
Taking place over two weeks in May and June, the French Open is the premier event of tennis' clay court calendar; so make sure you don't miss out! Buy Roland Garros tennis tickets now at StubHub and see the action live in Paris.
Roland Garros: behind the name
Constructed in 1928 to host France's first defence of the Davis Cup - after the Mousquetaires or Philadelphia Four (René Lacoste, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, and Jacques Brugnon) won the title the previous year - French authorities named the stadium Roland Garros in honour of the World War I pilot.
Garros, who had died a decade earlier in 1918, was a pioneering aviator who completed the first solo flight across the Mediterranean Sea, invented the first forward-firing aircraft machine gun, and a World War I hero who was shot down by enemy aircraft aged just 29.
The French Open's glorious past
Since the French Open turned professional in 1968, there have been 28 different champions. The first was Australian Ken Rosewall, who beat compatriot Rod Laver (6-3, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2) in the inaugural final. The same two players would appear in the final again the following year; with Laver earning a straight sets revenge against Rosewall (6-4, 6-3, 6-4).
Czechoslovakia's Jan Kodes broke the Aussie stronghold as he took the next two titles in 1970 and 1971, before Bjorn Borg emereged to make the event his own from the mid-seventies through to the early-eighties; winning six of eight titles from 1974-1981. As if inspired by their countryman's dominance, a Swede would appear in seven of the next eight finals after Bjorg's reign. Mats Wilhander won three titles (and was twice a defeated finalist) throughout the 80s, while Mikael Pernfors and Stefan Edberg were both runners up to Ivan Lendl and the tournament's youngest ever champion Michael Chang (aged 17) respectively.
Much in the same way the 80s had been dominated by Swedes, a group of Spanish and American players emerged to make the 1990s theirs. Andre Agassi was runner-up in the decade's first two finals, losing to Ecuador's Andres Gomez in 1990 and then to compatriot Jim Courier the following year. Courier retained the title in 1992, but was then beaten by two-time champion Sergi Bruguera. From 1995-1999 Roland Garros was won by five different men: Thomas Muster; Yevgeny Kafelnikov; Gustavo Kuerten; and Carlos Moya all won their first French Open titles, before Andre Agassi finally got his hands on the trophy in 1999 (almost a decade after appearing in his first final).
The first two titles of the new millennium were won by Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten (his second and third titles), before Spaniards Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero took the next two. Overall, 24 different players were crowned French Open champion in the first 37 years of the Open Era (1968-2004), yet in the decade and a half to follow, just four men would claim the next 14 titles - with one in particular coming to dominate the event.
Rafael Nadal's ownership of the French Open is like nothing seen before in tennis: he has won 11 of the last 14 titles (at one stage winning 39 matches and five titles in a row); has an overall tournament win percentage of almost 98%; and has lost just two of 88 matches. Nadal is the current champion, having beaten debut finalist Dominic Thiem 6–4, 6–3, 6–2 to claim his record-extending eleventh title. Who will be crowned champion in 2019? Buy French Open tickets now at StubHub and find out live.
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