What to Know About the French Open - NBC Chicago

The premier tennis tournament kicks off May 24 at Roland Garros

What to Know About the French Open

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    What to Know About the French Open
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    Rafael Nadal of Spain returns a shot during his men's singles final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 8, 2014 in Paris, France.

    The French Open is the second of four annual Grand Slam tournaments, the most prestigious individual competitions in tennis.

    The tournament, also known as Roland Garros, began on May 24 in Paris and lasts through June 7. 

    It follows the Australian Open in Melbourne and precedes both Wimbledon in London (June 29 to July 12) and the US Open in New York City (Aug. 31 to Sept. 13).

    The French Open is held on clay courts, which are slower than outdoor hard and grass courts. Crushed brick is used to form the upper layer of the red clay court surface, while limestone, clinker and stone make up the remaining layers, as well as drainage pipes.

    The courts are built with 1.1 tons of red clay and 100 people are responsible for maintaining them during qualifying rounds and the tournament, according to the French Open’s official website.

    Here's what else you should know about the French Open: 

    1891: The year the world championships of clay-court tennis were created and first held on the courts of Stade Francais club in Paris. The tournament was reserved for members of French clubs. Women’s singles were added in 1897.

    1928: The year Helen Wills became the first American to win the women's singles title. Donald Budge became the first American to win the men’s singles title in 1938.

    3 hours and 4 minutes: The longest final in women’s singles titles: Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez in 1996 (6-3, 6-7, 10-8).

    9: Spanish legend Rafael Nadal, 28, has won a record-breaking 9 of the last 10 men’s singles titles. Swiss Roger Federer won the 2009 title, while Nadal suffered his first ever defeat at Roland Garros in the fourth round. He won his first French Open title in 2005.

    5: The number of Nadal's losses on clay so far this year, The Associated Press reported. It's the first time he's lost more than three in a year on clay since 2003. 

    10: The number of French men to win the men’s singles title since the tournament included foreign athletes in 1925.

    15 and 20: The number of finals featuring the top two seeds in men’s and women’s singles, respectively. Last year, No. 1 Rafael Nadal defeated No. 2 Novak Djokovic for the 2014 title, while No. 1 Serena Williams beat No. 2 Maria Sharapova for the 2013 title.

    22: The number of matches Djokovic has won in a row heading into the French Open

    17 years and 3 months: Michael Chang was the youngest person to win the men’s singles title (in 1989).

    31.06: The amount of string, in miles, (50 kilometers) used by the official tournament stringers, Babolat, in 2014.

    149: The Roland Garros speed record belongs to American Taylor Dent, who served at 149 mph (240 km/h) in 2010.

    250: The number of ball kids, ages 12 to 16, who worked the matches in 2014. Eighty percent were boys, with eight coming from French overseas territories and protectorates.

    60,000: The number of tennis balls used during the three-week competition in 2014.

    1,650,000: The prize money in euros ($1.7 million) awarded to the 2014 women’s and men’s singles champions, Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal.

    1,800,000: The prize money in euros ($2 million) that will be awarded to the women's and men's singles champions this year, according to the AP.