A VIP invite to go and see a few eighth-finals at Roland Garros? We didn’t have to think that one over for a second as it really would be a dream that comes true.
As long as we can remember we have been watching the tournaments of Roland Garros and Wimbledon behind the TV Screen. John McEnroe smashing his tennis racket after yet another discussion with a referee. Him shouting, swearing, putting his hands in the air as if he was reaching to God for one last plea for help. Those images are burnt into our memory. As are the ones of the muscular thighs of Henri Leconte and the exciting finals between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. It is a long time ago, but those really were the fun years of tennis. A time that we would put our coursebooks aside during the exams just to see a match.
The show must go on
The years afterwards the show continued with names like Filip Dewulf (yes, indeed a family member ;-), Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and now David Goffin defending our national pride. Again we would be chained to the television screen to see every match. But before Roland Garros became the world event it is today, the tennis tournament was a modest affair.
The most important French tournament
Did you know that the French Tennis Championships were first held in 1891, on the initative of the French Union of Athletic Sports Clubs? Organised in Paris on sand courts at the Racing Club de France, this first version of the championships was open only to men, of which five signed up. It was the British player H. Briggs, who had a French tennis licence, who won the only tournament, the men’s singles. In 1897 three women entered the first ladies’ championships which were won buy Adine Masson. The mixed doubles tournament was created in 1902 and the ladies’ doubles in 1907. Popularity of such events grew considerably. The championships became more popular in 1903 when the winner was the charismatic Max Decugis, who drew crowds of spectators and the attention of the journalists. In the wake of his success, no fewer than 200 men entered for the 1908 championships, making the event the most important tournament in France.
However it were the ‘Four Musketeers’ that during the semifinals in 1924 really drew the crowds: Jean Borotra playing against Jacques ‘Toto’ Brugnon and René Lacoste against Henri Cochet. In 1927 the four champions that were known as the ‘Four Musketeers’ succeeded in winning the Davis Cup in the USA. For the revenge match in Paris in 1928, the event required a setting that matched its popularity. The French National Stadium liberated a site of 3 hectares near the Porte d’Auteuil for the construction of a new tennis stadium. The club insisted on only one condition, namely that the new stadium should be called after one of its four members: Roland Garros. Having died ten years earlier – on the eve of his thirtieth birthday – in aerial combat during the First World War, Garros was also a pioneer of aviation and was the first man to fly accros the Mediterranean. The new stadium was built during the winter of 1927-1928 and could hold up to 10,000 spectators.
What’s the Musketeers’ Cup?
It was two young female players, Mrs Lafaurie and Miss Bennett, who had the honour of being the first players to use the brand new centre court (sand) in a Franco-British match. The double matches of the French International Championships – the first to be held at the Roland Garros Stadium, started two days later. At the end of that summer, the Musketeers honoured the Stadium by retaining the Silver Bowl awarded to the winning team in the Davis Cup, the trophy would in fact stay in France untill 1933. As a tribute to this glorious period in the history of French tennis, the trophy to the winner of the French Open has been known as the Musketeers’ Cup since 1927.
Last year was a particularly significant one for Longines and the Roland Garros tournament, as it marked the tenth anniversary of the partnership between the prestigious tennis ‘concours’ and the alike watch brand. To celebrate this special occasion, the winged hourglass brand presented two pieces created especially to honour the link it has forged with the French Open in its capacity as Partner and Official Timekeeper: the Conquest 1/100th Roland-Garros, a model subtly adorned in the Roland-Garros tournament’s colours that comes in two versions, one for men and one for women.
Launched especially for tennis players and fans of the Roland-Garros tournament, the line of Conquest 1/100th chronograph watches boasts numerous innovative functions. Thanks to its new and exclusive, latest-generation quartz movement the watch offers a level of precision that meets the requirements of the most demanding sportsmen and women: instant reset, intuitive display of 1/100-second counter and measurement of interval times. Enhanced with subtle tones of clay-red on the hands, dial and the markers on the flange, this sporty watch is a true homage to the Grand Slam tournament. It even has the Roland-Garros logo engraved on its back. Combining high performance and elegance, this precision watch is an essential lifestyle accessory. Two of the world’s greatest ever tennis champions, Steffi Graff and Andre Agassi, are the faces of the Longines “Elegance is an attitude” campaign, which features the style capital’s emblem − the Eiffel Tower – as its backdrop.
In order to achieve such a high level of precision in its timepieces, Longines developed a brand new, exclusive L440 quartz chronograph movement. It contains a flash memory micro-controller that allows for instant resetting as well as the measurement of interval times. The anthracite dial displays the hours, minutes, small seconds at 6 o’clock, date and chronograph mechanism (central seconds, 30-minute counter at 2 o’clock and 12-hour counter at 10 o’clock). The orange-coloured hand counts the 1/100 seconds.
Vision of the future
In addition to the expertise in timekeeping that Longines contributes to Roland Garros matches, the brand is also looking to the future… it is supporting and organizing a selection of competitions aiming to promote sport among integrity and fun. Longines has also organised the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament for the eight consecutive year. This tournament offers the best players under the age of 13 from 16 different countries a unique opportunity to compete in excellent conditions. Two years ago, Longines also put its name to the “Rendez-vous à Roland Garros” initiative, which aims to discover the best young players on clay courts in Asia and Latin America, giving them the chance to get a wild card invitation to participate in the junior singles at the French Open.
Tennis stars Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf are committed to supporting charity foundations that the brand is supporting through a range of initiatives.
5 things to know about Roland Garros
– Roland Garros is a gravel tournament being named after a French aviator that was the first man to fly accross the Mediterranean on 23 September 1913.
– Every year the French Open takes place in the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris. In total it takes two weeks this year, from Monday May 22th till Sunday June 11th. During the tournament Men’s singles, Ladies’ singles, double and mixed doubles games are being played.
– Prices for a final ticket range from 281 euro onwards.
– It is striking that this year’s prize money rose by 12% in total compared to last year. A total of 36 million euro will be paid to the players. Both the winners of the singles men and women go home with an amount of 2.1 million euro. The players reaching second place receive 1 million euro.
– Last year Novak Djokovic won the Men Singles. It was his first time, though he played the final three times before. Spanish tennis star Garbiñe Muguruza captured the cup from Serena Williams last year. This year, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are expected to reach number one position. Logic thinking if you know that Rafael Nadal could cry victory at Roland Garros the most times. The Spanish gravel specialist won the tournament no less than 9 times. Bjorn Borg reached second place with his 6 cups. With the women, Chris Evert won 7 times the most with the victories. Stefanie Graf stands in second place 6 times. Roger Federer announced that this year he won’t be present as he prefers to prepare for Wimbledon.
The lunch dessert in Longines’ VIP lounge was sooo delicious.
See the entire Roland-Garros collection in the official Roland-Garros store.