2023 French Open preview
📗 The history
The first French Open, originally known as the “Championnat de France,” was held in 1891 but was only open to male members of French tennis clubs. Luckily, the organizers quickly realized their mistake and introduced a women’s singles tournament in 1897.
- The 1925 event was the first to welcome international competitors, though French nationals still won that year: René Lacoste (yes, that René Lacoste) and “La Divine” Suzanne Lenglen.
- The win marked Lenglen’s fifth of her six career Championnat titles. No wonder they named the trophy after her.
The Championnat was played in various locations throughout the early years, but in 1928, it found its current home: the iconic Stade Roland-Garros (named for French aviator Roland Garros) in Paris.
- The tournament finally became known as the French Open in 1968, when it officially “opened” to both amateurs and professionals. The French still like to refer to it as Roland-Garros, but whatever you call it, one thing’s for sure — c’est magnifique.
✏️ The details
The French Open runs from late May to early June and features 128 women’s and men’s singles players competing through seven single-elimination rounds. The fête will culminate in the women’s singles final on June 10th and the men’s on June 11th.
- But wait, there’s more. There’ll also be 64 men’s and women’s doubles pairs in action, along with 32 mixed team duos. Lucky us.
As for prize money, a grand total of €49.6 million (~$54 million USD) is on the line, up 12.3% from 2022, with both the men’s and women’s singles winners taking home €2.3 million (~$2.5 million USD).
- For context: The French Open was the last Grand Slam to reach full gender pay parity after finally making the move in 2007, something other European tourneys frustratingly continue to lack.
🎾 The playing surface
The most unique aspect of the French Open is the surface it’s played on — clay. Yes, a few other tourneys are also played on clay courts, but the French Open is the only Grand Slam to use the surface.
- Hard-surface courts result in true bounces and fast play, but clay tends to slow the ball down. Players with more finesse and strategy to their game tend to perform better on clay than those who rely on power.
And you can’t discuss the clay surface without mentioning the aptly named “King of Clay,” Rafael Nadal, who sadly won’t feature at his favorite tourney for the first time since 2004 as he deals with a lingering hip injury.
- The Spaniard boasts an astonishing 112-3 French Open match record punctuated by a record 14 titles, so his absence truly leaves the men’s field wide open this year.
💪 Women to watch
🇵🇱 No. 1 Iga Świątek: The reigning champ and world No. 1 is expected to nab her third French Open title in four years. Plus, she’s no stranger to making history at Roland-Garros — her 2020 victory made her the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam singles event. Oh là là.
No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka: If anyone can give Świątek a run for her money, it’s world No. 2 Sabalenka, who just upset Świątek in the Madrid Open final earlier this month. And that’s not even her first trophy this year: Sabalenka already boasts a 2023 Grand Slam victory, having won her maiden title at January’s Australian Open.
🇰🇿 No. 4 Elena Rybakina: But don’t count out Rybakina, who’s fresh off a big clay court win of her own at the Italian Open and has the experience to make a deep Grand Slam run after her Wimbledon victory last year. It’s always the quiet ones.
🇺🇲 No. 6 Coco Gauff: While the aforementioned trio are certainly the ones to beat, Gauff knows how to shine in the City of Light. The 19-year-old served a Cinderella story for the ages last year, advancing all the way to the 2022 finals — her first-ever Grand Slam finals appearance. Does she have more magic up her sleeve?
👊 Men to watch
🇪🇸 No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz: With Nadal out, opportunity’s knocking for his rising star compatriot — dubbed the “new Rafael Nadal” — to continue his incredible upswing. The 20-year-old burst onto the scene with a remarkable 2022 U.S. Open run and is the favorite heading into Roland-Garros after successfully defending his Barcelona and Madrid Open titles this season.
🇷🇸 No. 3 Novak Djokovic: The Joker is the only men’s player not named Rafael Nadal to hoist the French Open trophy in the last seven years, but, like his Grand Slam wins–tying counterpart, Djokovic’s struggled with injury in the leadup to this year’s event. That said, he’ll undoubtedly be fueled by the possibility of overtaking Rafa.
🇩🇰 No. 6 Holger Rune: The 20-year-old Dane is enjoying quite the breakout spring, competing in the finals at three clay court tune-ups and soaring to ATP No. 6 in the process. And at the recent Italian Open’s quarter-finals, he even bounced the Joker. Beating the best to be the best.
No. 2 Daniil Medvedev: Fresh off his first-ever clay court title at the Italian Open last Sunday (and after beating the aforementioned Rune), Medvedev heads to Paris having reclaimed his world No. 2 ranking. And don’t let his disdain for the surface fool you — he’s got that dog in him this season.
📺 How to tune in
The fun began early this morning and will continue with daily tennis over the next two weeks. Follow the full schedule here and tune in on NBC in the U.S. and TSN in Canada. Très bien.