He Roland Garros Tournament has become one of the Grand Slams most recognized in the world of tennis. Held annually in France, this competition has been played since its inauguration in 1891, when it was still called the French Championship.
Now, more than a century after its first edition, the tournament is known under the name of Roland Garros . Although his name is associated with the world of tennis, the truth is that the history of this Frenchman has little to do with the mythical racket sport.
But Who is really Roland Garros? And why does the highest tennis competition in France use your name? This is all you need to know about this character.
Who was Roland Garros?
Despite his fame in the world of tennis, this young Frenchman, born in Saint-Denis in 1888, did not stand out in sport, but did so at a military level, being one of the great pioneers in the history of aviation in the 20th century. .
Garros was one of the great promoters of the development of piloted flights as we know them today. Thus, thanks to his research and creations, this pilot managed to become a true patriotic symbol for the French, who considered him a true source of pride. Even before achieving recognition, Roland Garros managed to reach an altitude in flight unprecedented in 1911: 3,910 meters, which he would end up surpassing just one year later, in 1912 (4,350 meters).
The first pilot to cross the Mediterranean
This was not the only record that the French aviator managed to break. In fact, he managed to travel from the French town of Saint-Raphael to the Tunisian town of Bizerte, a milestone in air transport to date, since he managed to cross the Mediterranean Sea by air.
Garros managed to reach this distance, 756 kilometers, in less than 8 hours non-stop, landing with just five liters of fuel in the tank. He also did it with a unique airplane to date: made of walnut wood, with 9-meter wings and a single engine.
The Frenchman was not, however, the first pilot to try to achieve this feat: years ago, the pilot Édouard Bague tried to meet the challenge of crossing the Mediterranean, but ended up crashing and his body was never found.
His tragic death in World War I
With the start of the First World War , Roland Garros became a benchmark for the French army thanks to his great driving skills. In fact, he came to devise a system to shoot down enemy fighters that was completely revolutionary.
On April 19, 1915, after being shot down in the German lines, he was imprisoned in a prison camp, from which he managed to escape three years later thanks to a disguise of the enemy uniform and presented himself to the ranks again.
However, shortly after, in 1918, when he was barely 29 years old, the aviator was shot down by German soldiers in the Ardennes while on duty.
Why is the tennis tournament called Roland Garros?
It was not until a decade after his death that the figure of the French pilot and his exploits began to be recognized by the population of his country thanks to tennis.
It was thanks to the rise of this sport in France, caused essentially by the celebration of the final of the Davis cup in 1928, which pitted the French team against the United States. As a result of this, the Parisian government decided to build large sports facilities that would allow hosting these major events.
It was Emile Lesieur, president of the Stade Français rugby union team and a longtime friend and admirer of Roland Garros, who proposed that this stadium project be named after the iconic French aviator. A proposal that was finally accepted by the Frenchmen and that led the pilot to international fame thanks to the tennis tournament.
The construction of these sports facilities that bear his name made him a benchmark for tennis. In fact, just a few years later, the so-called French Championship gave way to the Roland Garros Tournament, which became a Grand Slam in 1948.
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