🎾French Open Preview
QUOTE OF THE DAY
I really like Rafa Nadal, he’s the best. Actually, there’s a T-shirt with his signature on my wall.
— Reigning French Open champion Iga Świątek (pronounced shvee-ON-tik), talking about her favorite player: 13-time French Open champ Rafael Nadal. The other thing in 19-year-old Świątek’s room? Her own French Open trophy. What a flex.
📗 The history
The French Open dates back to the late 19th century. The Championnat de France, as it was originally known, debuted in 1891, but was only open to male residents of France. Luckily, unlike some other prestigious pro sports tourneys, the organizers 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, of
frat boypreppy fashion fame) and “La Divine” Suzanne Lenglen.
- The win marked Lenglen’s fifth of six Championnat titles. No wonder they named the trophy after her.
The Championnat was played in various locations in the early years, but since 1928, themajor has been played at the iconic Stade Roland-Garros (named for French aviator Roland Garros) in Paris, France.
- 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, c’est magnifique.
✔️ The details
After being moved to September last year due to COVID-19, the French Open is back to its usual late May to early June two-week spot on the calendar. And although still at limited capacity, the second of tennis' four majors will be played in front of a much larger crowd this year. Nature is healing.
- The women’s and men’s singles events each feature 128 players competing through seven single-elimination rounds. The women’s singles final is on June 12th and the men’s is on June 13th.
- Meanwhile, some star-studded pairs will compete in the mixed, women’s and men’s doubles events. Check out all the draws as they’re announced here.
As for prize money, there’s a total of €34 million up for grabs (approx. $41.5 million USD), with the women’s and men’s winners eachreceiving €1.4 million, largely thanks to our pay equity queen Billie Jean King.
🎾 The surface
Part of what makes the French Open so special is the surface it’s played on: clay. A handful of other big tennis tournaments are also played on clay courts, but the French Open is the only Grand Slam.
- While hard surface courts create true bounces, clay slows the ball down, making for more technical play that tends to favor finesse and strategy over power. Oh yeah, and you have to be ready to cha-cha slide, too.
- Clay also generally makes matches longer and more physically demanding. Add to it that the French Open is the only major without a final-set tiebreaker and matches can stretch for hours, or even days (more on that later).
The legendary Rafael Nadal, aptly nicknamed the “King of Clay,” seems to have mastered the surface. Nadal boasts a 100-2 (not a typo!) record at the French Open, and this year, he’s looking for his record-extending 14th title. Talk about a tour de force.
✨ Memorable moments
With well over 100 years of history, there’s no shortage of epic French Open moments. From record-breaking performances to marathon matches, here are some of our favorites:
Nadal’s first title: How do you choose a favorite when you have 13 titles to your name? We’ll go with the first. In 2005, then 19-year-old Nadal defeated Mariano Puerta in four sets to win his first French Open and first career Grand Slam. The rest is history.
King reigns supreme: When Billie Jean King (BJK) wasn’t championing for equal rights off the court, she was dominating on it. In 1972, BJK won the French Open without dropping a single set, making her just the fifth woman to achieve a career Grand Slam. We’re not worthy.
Six hours later…: At the 2004 French Open, two Frenchmen, Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clément, battled for six hours and 33 minutes, in what is still the longest Roland-Garros match in history. Santoro emerged victorious after two days of play. We’re tired just thinking about it.
Chris Evert makes herstory: Eighteen-time Grand Slam champion Evert defeated her rival Martina Navratilova at the 1986 French Open, giving Evert her record-breaking 7th Roland-Garros win — the most of any woman, a record that still stands today.
💪 Women to watch
Coco Gauff: The 17-year-old won her first career clay court championship with a singles win at the Emilia-Romagna Open earlier this month and followed it up just hours later with her second, taking the doubles title with her partner Caty McNally. Gauff’s poised to keep up that red-hot streak on Roland-Garros’ red, hot clay.
Iga Świątek: The reigning French Open champ dominated last year’s tournament, winning every set en route to her first Grand Slam title, and she’s in good shape for a repeat after winning the Italian Open (in 46 minutes!) earlier this month. Will the 19-year-old star defend her title and trade her celebratory tiramisu for crème brûlée?
Serena Williams: But of course. Though Williams is better known for her success on hard court surfaces, she does have three French Open titles to her name. And she’ll once again be looking to tie Margaret Court’s record for all-time Grand Slam singles titles. Do we hear 24?
Aryna Sabalenka: While world No. 4-rankedSabalenka has yet to win an individual Grand Slam, she’s excelled on clay heading into the French Open. The Belarusian has a 13-3 record on the surface this year, and notched a clay title win at the Madrid Open earlier this month.
👊 Men to watch
Rafael Nadal: The aforementioned King of Clay is the favorite to win his 14th French Open (and 21st Grand Slam, which would overtake Roger Federer for most men’s titles of all time), but he’ll have to contend with a handful of young up-and-comers and a familiar foe chasing his throne.
Novak Djokovic (pronounced JOCK-uh-vitch): Djokovic and Nadal are the undisputed (unless you’re a Federer fan) stars of contemporary men’s tennis, having collectively won 28 of the last 40 Grand Slams. “The Joker” is looking for his second career French Open title and will be fired up after losing to Nadal in last year’s final.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (pronounced see-see-PAS): Tsitsipas is in the midst of an exceptional year, with two titles and a season-leading 33 match wins to his name. The 22-year-old Greek star, who’s still on the hunt for his first career major, advanced to the French Open semis in 2020. It’s the flow for us.
Dominic Thiem (pronounced TEEM): World No. 4 Thiem contended with Nadal in the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals, taking Rafa to four sets in 2019. The Austrian has one Grand Slam title under his belt after winning last year’s U.S. Open, but he’s struggled so far this year. Will this be the start of his redemption story?
🎥 How to tune in
The tournament is already underway and play will continue daily for the next two weeks, with the women’s singles final scheduled for Saturday, June 12th at 9 a.m. ET and the men’s set for Sunday, June 13th at 9 a.m. ET. Follow the full schedule here and tune in to NBC in the U.S. and TSN in Canada. Game, set, match.
🎾Guide to Tennis
Today, tennis is a racquet sport that is played individually or in doubles. Tennis is played on a court — grass, clay or hard surface. The point of the game is to hit the tennis ball over the net so that the opponent can’t return the ball. Points are awarded when one player isn’t able to get the ball back over the net.
Scoring tennis is a bit weird and wacky. Each match is made up of sets made up of games. That’s where the phrase ‘Game, Set, Match’ comes from! The score of each game goes from zero (called love), to 15, 30 and finally 40. If the game is tied 40-40, that’s called deuce, and players have to win two straight points (the first is called advantage) in order to win the game. Get full details on scoring here.
How is it organized?
Men play under the ATP (Association of Tennis Professional) and women play under the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association). Each league hosts tournaments throughout the world and throughout the year, but the most important are the ‘grand slam' events, also called majors, which are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. These events get the most media attention, have the highest payouts, attract the best players and offer the most ranking points (i.e. are the most important to becoming No. 1 in the world).
The most prominent of the majors is Wimbledon which is played in London, England every July. Wimbledon started more than 125 years ago and is played on a grass surface, which makes the game move a lot faster. Wimbledon also has a strict dress code where players must wear only white, a tradition dating back to the 1800s when players were concerned with inappropriate sweat stains showing on clothing. Yup, you read that right.
The best of the best
Although tennis might be old school at heart, it is the only mainstream sport that pays out women and men equal prize money in grand slam tournaments and, for the most part, gives males and females the same airtime on TV. The U.S. Open was the first of the majors to award equal prize money in 1973, while the oldest tennis tournament in the sport’s history, Wimbledon, didn’t reach that milestone until 2007.
Some of the best in the world on the women’s circuit include Romania’s Simona Halep, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and our very own Canadian star Bianca Andreescu! However, the number one in our hearts is superstar American Serena Williams, who blew us away by climbing back into the Top 10 of the WTA rankings after being OOO while she was pregnant with her first baby, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.
Prior to giving birth, Serena dominated the courts as the world record holder for the most Grand Slam wins across female singles and doubles play! You may also recall Serena absolutely slaying in Beyonce’s “Sorry” music video. And did we mention that she was pregnant when she won the Australian Open in 2017? Like WHAT!?
On the men’s side, being the best in the world continues to be a three-way battle between Switzerland’s Roger Federer, Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (pronounced JOKE-OH-VITCH). But Federer is often touted as the best male tennis player of all time with 20 Grand Slam titles. Off the court, he’s a total gentleman and remarkably has two sets of twins!
What about Canadians?
We have to give it up to our girl Bianca Andreescu, who took the tennis world (and our hearts) by storm in 2019. She became the first Canadian to win the Rogers Cup (a tournament held in Toronto and Montreal) since 1969 and then became the first Canadian EVER to win a grand slam, beating Serena Williams (!!!) in the U.S. Open final in September. This helped her skyrocket to a career-high ranking of No.4 in the world. Get. It. Girl.
On the men’s side, our best men’s competitor is Milos Raonic (pronounced RAU-NITCH), who’s highest career ranking was No. 3 in the world. Recently, he’s found himself in injury trouble and hasn’t been in top form. Also, look out for young stars Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime who continue to impress.
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Sports Quick Hits: Monday May 24th, 2021
⛳️Golf: As we mentioned at the top, Phil Mickelson proved age is just a number yesterday with his second-career PGA Championship win. Not only is he the oldest player to win a major, he’s just the fourth to win one in four separate decades. Congrats, Lefty! Now let’s get you some .
🏎️F1: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won yesterday’s Monaco Grand Prix to take his first-ever lead in the . Meanwhile, seven-time world champ Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton wasn’t feeling it in Monaco, finishing in a disappointing seventh as he and Verstappen continue their for the title.
🎾Tennis: wasn’t the only one showing out for Gen Z this weekend. On Saturday, 17-year-old Coco Gauff notched her first career singles title on clay while . Perfect timing before next week’s French Open. Très bien.
Quick Hits Canada - May 17th
🏀Basketball: Back to the Basketball HOF, so we can wax poetic about . The two-time NBA champ and 11-time All-Star is a Toronto Raptors legend after being drafted to the 6ix in 2003. And even though he in 2010, he still has a special place in Raps fans hearts.
- On the court, he set and still holds , and off the court, he set up his own foundation in TO and his hometown of Dallas to help youth with athletics and academics. Something special.
⚽️NWSL: And while we’re talking GOATs, let’s revisit that stellar Portland Thorns win last night. Before it became wildly one-sided, Canadian legend Christine Sinclair of the game...and 50th NWSL goal of her career.
- With that, she’s now tied at second for all-time goals in the league with North Carolina Courage’s Lynn Williams, and trails Sam Kerr by 17 goals. If anyone can top that, it’s Sincy.
🎾Tennis: Serena Williams has hit a new high. Yesterday’s second round Italian Open appearance marked her 1,000th tour-level match, though the milestone didn’t come with a win as she unfortunately lost to Nadia Podoroska.
- Naomi Osaka also lost her second-round match, and defending champ Simona Halep retired in the second set of hers with an injury. Time for some gelato.
🏇Horse racing: Medina Spirit will run once more. The Kentucky Derby-winning, drug test-failing horse was given the all-clear to race in this Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the second race of the Triple Crown, but will undergo additional testing and monitoring throughout the weekend.
- Meanwhile, trainer Bob Baffert has claimed that Medina Spirit’s failed test was due to a steroid found in an antifungal cream used to treat the horse’s dermatitis. We sincerely hope we never have to write that combination of words ever again.
💸Money: Forbes released their annual top 10 highest-paid athletes list, and unsurprisingly but still immensely frustratingly, there were no women included. At a heartstopping $180 million, MMA fighter Conor McGregor topped the list, which also included NBA star LeBron James, NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Dak Prescott and F1 driver Sir Lewis Hamilton.
- The most interesting inclusion on the list is tennis star Roger Federer, who made less than $30,000 from playing tennis last year (he’s been injured since early 2020), but around $90 million in endorsements. Money pwease.