Aussies at Roland Garros – five years of dominance
As we count down to French Open 2012, tennis.com.au will feature some of the best Australian achievements at Roland Garros.
As we count down to French Open 2012, tennis.com.au will feature some of the best Australian achievements at Roland Garros. The highlights will be revealed in chronological order and when all 20 have been named, you get the chance to vote for your No.1 achievement.
If the 1950s and 1960s were the Golden Era of Australian tennis, then 1965–1969 was pure gold.
In that five-year period five Australian men were crowned men’s singles champion at Roland Garros. Fred Stolle, Tony Roche, Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver all added their names to the French Championships’ honour roll.
Seeded fourth in 1965, Stolle was not expected to win. But when top seed Manuel Santana was upset in the second round, Stolle’s draw suddenly opened up. His first real challenge came in the quarterfinals against the comparatively inexperienced John Newcombe. Stolle won in straight sets then toughed out a five-setter in the semis against Cliff Dyrsdale. In the final Stolle defeated Roche in four sets to win his first Grand Slam singles title.
Roche, however, would have his moment in Paris, 12 months later. In 1966 Roche was seeded third while Stolle was the top seed and Emerson the second favourite. But it was the run of unseeded Hungarian Istvan Gulyas that caught everyone by surprise. Except Roche. The Australian winning his only major singles title in straight sets, 6-1 6-4 7-5.
Coming off a win at the Australian Championships, Roy Emerson was the No.1 seed in Paris, a tournament he had already won in 1963. Top seed status aside, Emerson opened with two four-set encounters, before a pair of straight-set wins propelled him into the final against second seed and countryman Tony Roche. But it was Emerson’s day as he toppled Roche in four sets, 6-1 6-4 1-6 6-2.
Australia’s Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall headed the 1968 French Open field. Both players had hurdles to overcome before meeting in the final – Rosewall accounted for third seed Andres Gimeno, while Laver had his hands full with ninth seed Ion Tiriac. But the final belonged to Rosewall who won in four sets.
French Open 1969 proved to be a repeat of the 1968 instalment, almost. Laver and Rosewall again met in the final, but this time it was Laver who claimed the title. Laver would continue his winning ways in 1969 winning all four majors to complete his second calendar year Grand Slam.
Aussies at Roland Garros – the complete list to date
1965–1969 Stolle, Roche, Emerson, Rosewall and Laver headline five years of dominance