Today sees the start of the French Open. Roger Federer and Svetlana Kuznetsova will be defending the titles they won last year, while two former champions, Rafael Nadal and Justine Henin, will be looking to reclaim the singles crowns they each won four times previously.
Although Federer and Nadal have pulled off the rare feat of winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year (Serena Williams is the only other current player to have done this), the red clay of Roland Garros has proven to be a stumbling block for a number of players who thrived on Wimbledon’s grass courts. John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras (who never even reached a final), among those who have been denied the great clay court prize.
The French Open is considered by many to be the most physically demanding of the four slams. Rod Laver, a French Open winner in 1962 and 1969, recalled: “I realised that this was the hardest championship for me to win and because of that it probably meant more than the other three. In Paris you know you have been in a fight, you come off the court exhausted, looking battle stained, your clothes and body smudged with red clay.”
Meanwhile, the late Lew Hoad said of Roland Garros: “The balls are heavy. They water the courts. You’ve got to play some guy you’ve never heard of and you’re out there for three and a half hours. But it’s a great tournament.”
Follow live coverage of the 2010 French open at the official website: http://www.rolandgarros.com
2010 French Open: 23 May – 6 June