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Suzanne Lenglen

Born 24 May 1899 in Paris (France), died 4 July 1938 in Paris (France).

Despite popular belief, Suzanne Lenglen – the biggest name that French tennis has ever known – never actually played in Roland-Garros stadium. "La Divine", as she was called, was a contemporary, friend, confidante and indeed inspiration for those for whom Roland-Garros was built, namely the Musketeers. But when she chose to turn professional in 1926 and head off to the United States to play exhibition matches, Lenglen deprived history of a meeting between a stadium which is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Rue du Ranelagh where she was born, and a free, rebellious, avant-garde spirit that was the first ever global women’s sports star.

Her grace, her pirouettes inspired by the world of dance and her style at the forefront of fashion – courtesy of her encounter with famous designer Jean Patou – nevertheless saw her go down in the annals of the competition, from the time when it used to alternate between the Racing Club and the Stade Français, Paris’ two main clubs. It was at the heart of the Parc de Saint-Cloud in 1925 that the Frenchwoman won the first ever edition of the French Internationals, dropping just seven games in five matches. Despite the fact that her performances rarely lasted more than half-an-hour, Lenglen was a crowd favourite in both Paris and London, where she also won six times. The last time she played in Paris, in 1926, she cruised through the three first matches 6-0, 6-0 each time, and conceded the grand total of three games as she wrote her name on the role of honour for the seventh time (having won in 1914 and 1920 – 1923, when the event was reserved for players registered with French clubs)!

She only ever tasted defeat once in Paris in any competition, and that was in the women’s doubles alongside Germaine Golding. This loss came in 1914, when the Divine Suzanne had barely celebrated her 15th birthday. In later life she was struck down with leukaemia and went blind a few months before succumbing to the illness on 4 July 1938. She was cut down in her prime, but lives on today, most notably via the court – the second largest of the stadium – which bears her prestigious name.

Suzanne Lenglen’s record at Roland-Garros:

• 10 wins, 0 defeats, and only 11 games conceded.
• Seven titles in singles (1914, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925 and 1926), six in the women’s doubles (1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925 and 1926) and seven in the mixed doubles (1914, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925 and 1926). Suzanne Lenglen also won six titles at Wimbledon (1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923 and 1925).

 

©FFT