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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
French Open history
By Gabrielle Lewis
BBC Sport

A view of the Phillipe Chatrier court at Roland Garros
The centre court at Roland Garros holds over 15,000 fans
Over the last 112 years, the French Open has become one of the most romantic international tennis championships in the world.

The sport itself was imported from England towards the end of the 19th century and rapidly grew in popularity, with a one-day national championship established in 1891.

The inaugural winner at the Stade Francais club in Paris was an Englishman, recorded only as H. Briggs, while Françoise Masson won the first ladies competition in 1897.

But the championships lacked the prestige of having the world's best players taking on the home stars, a problem that was comprehensively resolved when it became an international event in 1925.

Golden era

The tournament's resumption following the First World War witnessed the birth of a golden era in French tennis.

MEN'S OPEN ERA CHAMPIONS
1968 Ken Rosewall
1969 Rod Laver
1970-71 Jan Kodes
1972 Andres Gimeno
1973 Ilie Nastase
1974-75 Bjorn Borg
1976 Adriano Panatta
1977 Guillermo Vilas
1978-81 Bjorn Borg
1982 Mats Wilander
1983 Yannick Noah
1984 Ivan Lendl
1985 Mats Wilander
1986-87 Ivan Lendl
1988 Mats Wilander
1989 Michael Chang
1990 Andres Gomez
1991-92 Jim Courier
1993-94 Sergi Bruguera
1995 Thomas Muster
1996 Yevgeny Kafelnikov
1997 Gustavo Kuerten
1998 Carlos Moya
1999 Andre Agassi
2000-01 Gustavo Kuerten
2002 Albert Costa
Suzanne Lenglen, who had won the title as a pre-war 15-year-old, took the tennis world by storm when she added six of the seven championships between 1920 and 1926.

The Davis Cup success of the French Musketeers, Jacques Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste, over America in 1927 required a new stadium to be built to host the following year's return tie.

So, having alternated between the Racing Club at Croix-Catelan and Stade Francais' courts at the Faisanderie in St Cloud's Park, the championships found their spiritual home at the Porte D'Auteuil.

Housed on a three-hectare site provided by the city of Paris, the arena was named after France's heroic wartime aviator, Roland Garros, with Cochet winning the first men's title on the new Centre Court in 1928.

The championships were dominated by American and Australian players following the Second World War, with French names rarely featuring on the roll of honour.

Among them were teenage prodigies Australian Ken Rosewall and American Maureen Connolly, who swept all before them in 1953.

Another landmark was reached in 1956, when Althea Gibson became the first African-American player to win a Grand Slam event, defeating Angela Mortimer in her only appearance at the tournament.

Going open

Amid the militant uprising and strikes taking hold of the nation, the clay court championships opened its doors to professionalism in 1968 and, 15 years after winning his first title, Rosewall became the first to claim the French Open's 15,000 francs prize money.

WOMEN'S OPEN ERA CHAMPIONS
1968 Nancy Richey
1969-70 Margaret Smith-Court
1971 Evonne Goolagong
1972 Billie-Jean King
1973 Margaret Smith-Court
1974-75 Chris Evert
1976 Sue Barker
1977 Mima Jausovec
1978 Virginia Ruzici
1979-80 Chris Evert-Lloyd
1981 Hana Mandlikova
1982 Martina Navratilova
1983 Chris Evert-Lloyd
1984 Martina Navratilova
1985-86 Chris Evert-Lloyd
1987-88 Steffi Graf
1989 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
1990-92 Monica Seles
1993 Steffi Graf
1994 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
1995-96 Steffi Graf
1997 Iva Majoli
1998 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
1999 Steffi Graf
2000 Mary Pierce
2001 Jennifer Capriati
2002 Serena Williams
Six years later Bjorn Borg and Chris Evert began their reign over the championships.

Borg's record-breaking six titles, between 1974 and 1981, were only bettered by Evert's seventh in 1986.

Evert's battles with Martina Navratilova were true classics, but the home nation's attention was on Yannick Noah, whose success in 1983 ended France's 37-year wait for a champion.

In 1989, a diminutive American by the name of Michael Chang became the youngest men's singles winner at 17 years and three months.

Another record came the following year, when Monica Seles took the first of her three successive women's titles at the age of 16.

Another teenager, then world number one Martina Hingis, bore the brunt of the Roland Garros fervour when she served underarm to Steffi Graf in the 1999 final.

Graf went on to win her sixth French Open title, her last before bowing out of the game, and Hingis was booed off Centre Court.

The following day, Andre Agassi crowned a comeback from a slump in his career to win the title and become the fifth player in history to have won all four Grand Slams.

The French Open headed into the third millennium with a three-year refurbishment project that began straight after the 1999 championships.

It was fitting, then, that in 2000 Mary Pierce became the first Frenchwoman since Françoise Durr in 1967 to win the Suzanne Lenglen Cup.

Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten is now the man to beat on the Paris clay, he won the man's championship in 1997 and then captured back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001.

His crown was taken last year by Spaniard Albert Costa but 'Guga' will be back, as will the all-conquering Serena Williams defending her first French Open crown, won in 2002.



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