Creation of the Grand Slams – The French Open and the Australian Open
The French Open
The French Open started life in 1891 as a humble national tournament dubbed the ‘Championat de France International de Tennis’ and oddly enough it was won by a Brit resident in Paris, known only by the name H Briggs. He defeated a French national, P Baigneres, but even the score has been lost in perpetuity!
Right up until 1924 the French Open could only be contested by players registered in France so it was clearly a very limited event in its infant stages. From then on in, until the mid-1930’s, the event became the personal playground of three of the four famous Frenchmen known as the four Musketeers, or the Mousquetiares – Rene Lacoste, Jean Borotra and Henri Cochet. They shared the title between them until Australian Jack Crawford, Britain’s Fred Perry and Germany’s Gotfried von Cramm spoilt their party!
The ladies event was contested for the first time in 1912 and local girl Marguerite Broquedis was crowned Queen of the courts. She was obviously enormously skilled as in the same year she claimed the gold medal in singles and the bronze in mixed doubles at the Stockholm Olympics!
But it was the flamboyant Frenchwomen, Suzanne Lenglen, who arguably put the French Open firmly on the map. In her long and glittering career she won over 30 grand slam titles, two gold medals and 1 bronze and the lady who the media called ‘La Divine’ became the first-ever tennis celeb!
The Australian Open
The ‘Down Under’ version of the grand slam tennis tournament only saw the light in 1905 as the Australasian Championships but the event battled to attract a wholly international field primarily because of the huge distances the consummate tennis stars of both Europe and America had to make to compete.
Even the local giants of the game, Norman Brooks and New Zealander, Anthony Wilding, opted to remain in the thick of things in Europe instead of contesting their home event. Brooks, who was later knighted for his dedication to the game, entered the event only once in 1911 and ended up with the title in his pocket and Wilding too had success at both of his Oz Open campaigns, in 1906 & 1909! Brooks went on to become the President of the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia and, today, the men’s singles trophy bears his name!
Local Moll, Maud Molesworth, crushed her Melbourne rival, Esna Boyd Robertson, 6-3, 10-8 to claim the inaugural ladies singles competition in 1922 and the first foreigner to claim the struggling grand slam was Englishwomen, Dorothy Round Little, in 1935!