French Open 101

If you’ve just started playing tennis, events like the Wimbledon and terms such as “Grand Slam” are likely foreign to you. Even if you are familiar with these tournaments, chances are your kids are not. With the French Open almost a week away, now is a good time to learn the background and basics of this Grand Slam event. We’ve put together a short guide you can share with all of the tennis fans in your family!

What is the French Open?

The French Open is a big professional tennis tournament—also known as a Grand Slam— that takes place over two weeks in late May and early June. This year it runs from May 27 to June 10. The event is sometimes referred to as Roland-Garros, which is also the name of the stadium (Stade Roland-Garros) in Paris, France in which it will take place.

The Stade Roland-Garros was named after the WW1 aviator-war hero Roland Georges Garros and is unique because the courts are made of clay. The French Open is one of four annual Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments and the only one where athletes compete on a clay court. The Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open are the three additional Grand Slams that take place throughout the year.

Here are some fun facts about the French Open:

  1. The first French Open was held in 1891. The tournaments were played on a variety of different surfaces and the game was only open to members of the French Tennis clubs.
  2. The Stade Roland-Garros was built in 1928.
  3. The tournament was opened up to players outside of the French clubs in1925. The Australian Jack Crawford was the first foreigner to win the title in 1933.
  4. None of the stadiums at Roland Garros have a roof. This means that it can get excessively hot and players can even get rained on.
  5. There are singles and doubles events for both boys and girls under the age of 18.
  6. There are single and doubles events for men and women wheelchair tennis players.
  7. Clay courts are unique because they slow the ball down and produce a high bounce, and allow for players to slide on the court. This can completely change a player’s game.

Who will play at the French Open?

The French open will include events for players in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Junior players and players in wheelchairs are included in the singles and doubles events too.

Ten-time French Open winner, Rafel Nadal, is the defending champion in the Men’s Singles this year. Twenty-year-old Jelena Ostapenko is the Women’s Singles defending Champion.

How does it work?

To enter the tournament, players must be ranked in the top 32, get a wild-card spot, or compete in the qualifying round. They are then paired up in the tournament draw and compete over seven rounds (rounds one-four, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals). The player who wins the match then moves onto the next round. The winner of the final round is crowned the grand slam champion.

Where can I watch?

You can catch all of the action over the two weeks on the Tennis Channel and stream live play and replays on NBC Sports or the NBC Sports app. Our recommendation: Pick a player to follow through the tournament or fill out a bracket with the fam!


The French Open is a unique grand slam that your whole family can enjoy following. It’s perfect for opening discussions with your young athletes about the importance of practice and good sportsmanship. It’s also perfect inspiration for getting your whole family out on the courts this spring and summer.