If you thought French food was delicious and rich, prepare yourself to read about French Tennis!

Few countries have a history with so much flavor and depth- France has produced not only the sport itself but also some of its most talented players and, of course, one of its premier tennis tournaments, the French Open, also known as Roland Garros.

Did you know?

The word tennis itself comes from the French word tenez, the term love comes from Oeuf which is French for egg, and deuce derives from a deux, meaning equal.

History of tennis development in the country

The original game of tennis came from a 13th century game played in French monasteries. This game was later adopted as the royal court game jeu de paume (game of the palm) which was the origin of Real tennis which became a hugely popular game among French aristocracy.

At one stage, tennis became so addictive in France, it was banned as monks and soldiers neglected their duties in favor of playing it. It was also outlawed after the French Revolution due to its royal connections.

However, tennis survived the bans and the Revolution and became popular again when Napoleon III opened courts at Versailles in 1861.

Less than a decade later, lawn tennis was born.

In 1891, the French Open was held for the very first time and France’s stamp on international tennis was sealed.

Famous players

In the mid 1920s, Suzanne Lenglen was one of tennis’ first icons, an enigmatic champion who was famous not only for her game, but for her style, too.

Lenglen, known as “Our Suzanne,” won two French Opens and six Wimbledons.

In the late 20s, four men rose to the top of the sport- Henri Cochet, Jean Borotra, René Lacoste and Jacques Brugnon. These four would come to be known as The Four Musketeers.

After the second world war and as tennis entered the open era, the rest of the world started catching up with France and French players were no longer at the top of the international game.

However, the country has still produced some top flight champions over the last few decades as well as some renowned top 100 and 50 players who have contributed to French tennis’ reputation as strong, creative and enigmatic.

Slam champions

  • Yannick Noah delighted the crowd when he and his net game won Roland Garros in 1983
  • Mary Pierce won the title in 2000 beating Seles and Hingis on the way. She also won the Australian Open ‘95.
  • Amelie Mauresmo won two slams (Australian Open ‘06, Wimbledon ‘06) and reached No.1 in the world.
  • Marion Bartoli won Wimbledon 2013

Slam Runner ups

  • Natalie Tauziat, Henri Leconte, Arnaud Clement

The country has also produced some of the players with the most flair in recent times, such as Fabrice Santoro, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who reached the 2008 Australian Open final.

Did you know?

France’s Fabrice Santoro, (Career high 17), led Russia’s former world No.1 Marat Safin 7-2 in their career head, the Frenchman’s flair and touch getting the better of the powerful, slam winning Russian.

On the women’s side Tatiana Golovin and Caroline Garcia have also earned praise for their all court games and entertaining styles.

French tennis has also earned itself a leading name in doubles.

Pierre Hughes Herbet and Nicholas Mahut have proven to be two of the best doubles players in the world. (Number of titles?).

Fun fact- Mahut also created history in his Wimbledon match versus John Isner, the longest match of all time- Mahut won in 11 hours and 05 minutes.

In the women’s game, Kristina Mladenovic is a former Doubles No.1 and has won five Major titles, including three French Opens in womens’ doubles.

Successes of the national teams

The Four Musketeers. won the Davis Cup from 1927 to 1932 and ended the US domination of the competition.

France also won the Davis Cup in 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2017.

The 1991 final win was a surprise one, the French coming up against a US team led by Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Guy Forget beat Pete Sampras in four sets in the fourth tie to give the French a 3-1 before a home crowd in Lyon.

The French have won the Fed Cup three times, in 1997, 2003 and 2019.

In the Olympics, France has won 19 medals in total- 5 Gold, 6 Silver and 8 Bronze and is third in the tennis medal table behind the UK and the USA.

Tournaments in the country

The French Open started in 1891 and went international in 1925. It is one of the four Majors, more commonly known as slams, and is played on Clay.

The event is also known as Roland Garros, named after a fighter pilot who fought in World War I.

The main court is named after Philippe Chatrier, a former player and president of the French Tennis Federation. The second show court is named after none other than Suzanne Lenglen.

The French Open has one of the most famous crowds in tennis. They are known for being very knowledgeable about the sport and very generous to players who play, and behave, well. They will also let players know if they have stepped out of line, as they did when Martina Hingis crossed the net to circle a mark on the court in the Roland Garros ‘99 final versus Steffi Graf.

Paris-Bercy is an indoors Masters (ATP 1000) tournament held at the end of the year.

A WTA tournament was held in Paris, the Paris GDF, from 1993 to 2014.

The country also holds ATP 250 events in Montpellier, Nice and Lyon.

Training system

French tennis training is known for its focus on the techniques of the game. Players have to master techniques across the entire spectrum of the game rather than just focusing on one area. Once the player has mastered the technique of one shot, they can move on to another.

French players play a lot of doubles to help them master net play and the focus is on developing an all court game which could be played on all surfaces.

The French Training system has earned a reputation for being well-structured and effectively helping students progress from one level to the next.

Coaches and tennis academies

Patrick Mouratoglou is a well known coach, working with Serena Williams and Stefanos Tsitsipas. He’s also worked with Grigor Dimitrov. Patrick runs the famous Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, which is just outside Antibes in the South of France. Mouratoglou recently helped coach Stefanos Tsitsipas reach the Roland Garros ‘21 final.

Mouratoglou, whose nickname is the Coach, believes that it is not important whether you win or lose, but it is all about what you learn and how you grow. His ability to communicate such philosophies has helped make him one of the most influential coaches in international tennis.

Other French tennis academies include:

HDN Academy, which is located in Nimes in the South of France. This academy helped Virginie Razzano reach the top 20 and offers extensive match practice to players during the Summer months.

All In Academy Côte d´Azur, which is run by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open finalist, and Thierry Ascione who was ranked 81 on the ATP tour and coached Richard Gasquet.

Looking for tennis academies in France?