Roland Garros starts in earnest on Monday and to get you in the mood we’ve compiled a list of five fast facts that you simply have to know.
What is the story behind the red clay? How are the white lines painted on clay? Which greats have never won Roland Garros? What is the fastest final ever played at Roland Garros? What is the most controversial shot ever hit at Roland Garros?
Get the answer to all these questions right here.
Tennis on clay?
The narrative as to how tennis came to be played on clay is a simple story of weather and gardening.
At the end of the 19th century, two British tennis champions had grass courts built on the French Riviera. However, the grass did not survive under the harsh Mediterranean sun and the lines faded.
To combat this problem, the brothers covered the courts in a soft powder of crushed terracotta pots produced locally.
Two centuries later and one of tennis’ four grand slams is now played on the surface.
By the way, court Philippe Chatrier requires 1.5 tonnes of dust to be fit for play!
How do the lines remain in tact?
The demarcations on the court are marked out with thread and scraped to six centimetres wide, down to the limestone layer.
A thin coat of linseed oil is first applied for better adherence, and then two coats of white paint are applied.
The best to have never won a Roland Garros title?
Until last year, Novak Djokovic was surely tennis’ greatest ever player to have not won at Roland Garros. However, his four-set victory over Andy Murray in the final got that tag off his collar.
There are still a number of greats who have never cracked Roland Garros though. Among those are Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Martina Hingis and Jimmy Connors – it sure is a tricky surface.
Winning a grand slam on clay is supposed to be hard work isn’t it?
Clay plays slower than any of the other surfaces that grand slams are played on which makes the Roland Garros fortnight an incredibly gruelling tournament.
Points are long and matches, for the most part, are wars of attrition rather than battles of skill.
With that in mind, can you imagine winning a final in 32 minutes!? That is exactly what Steffi Graf did against Natasha Zvereva in 1988.
In stark contrast, the longest ever match at Roland Garros was a six-hour-33-minute-marathon between Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement which the former won.
What is the most famous single shot hit at Roland Garros?
Michael Chang is in the record books as the youngest winner of a grand slam but his Roland Garros triumph in 1989 is largely remembered for one extraordinary moment in a last 16 match against Ivan Lendl.
Seemingly down and out with cramps and fatigue, Chang was on the verge of quitting before he resorted to serving underarm in the fifth set.
Lendl did not win another game thereafter as Chang closed out the match.