The Pyrenees Are No More – Spain’s Domination of Roland Garros

Louis XIV once said, “The Pyrenees are no more.”  This sparked military conflict as the prospect of Spain and France being ruled by the same person was intolerable for the rest of Europe.  Starting in 1993, Spain reversed King Louis’ notions and erased the Pyrenees in favor of Spanish rule.

Wertheim’s Mailbag

Jon Wertheim’s mailbag this week included a question regarding why French fans are slow to cheer for Nadal despite his stellar play.  Wertheim offered a number of potential reasons for this phenomenon that all seem plausible.  His answers range from Uncle Toni taking a shot or two at French fans to the banana choking incident in 2006 to the French just loving an underdog.  I’d like to add that the neighborly rivalry between France and Spain has a lot of French tennis fans wondering why and how Spain has produced so many Grand Slam champions in the men’s event while France has not had a male Grand Slam winner since 1983.

The Reign of Spain

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is a part of this story, but Amelie Mauresmo’s much more recent two Grand Slam singles titles make the female balance tilt toward France.  So I will nod toward Arantxa’s improbable 1989 French Open crown, two other French Open titles as well as the facilities built for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as sparking a tennis revolution in Spain.  Still, Spain’s reign on the male side of the draw began in 1993.

Consider the following:

1993 – Sergi Bruguera Roland Garros Champion

1994 – Sergi Bruguera Roland Garros Champion, Alberto Berasategui – Finalist

1997 – Sergi Bruguera – Finalist

1998 – Carlos Moya – Roland Garros Champion, Alex Corretja – Finalist

2001 – Alex Corretja – Finalist

2002 – Albert Costa – Roland Garros Champion, Juan Carlos Ferrero – Finalist

2003 – Juan Carlos Ferrero – Roland Garros Champion

2005 – 2008, 2010, 2011 Rafael Nadal – Roland Garros Champion

From 1993 – 2011 Spain has produced 11 French Open Champions in the Men’s Event

From 1993-2011 Spain has produced 5 French Open second place finishes as well

France in that time has not produced a single male finalist.  Gael Monfils’ 2008 four set loss to a less than sharp Roger Federer is about as good as it has been for France during Spain’s conquest (Yes, Cedric Pioline reached the semifinal round in 1998, but the other three semifinalists were Spanish).  I think this contributes to Nadal not being embraced.  Then again, I have never been one to root for a player based upon nationality so it could have nothing to do with this phenomenon.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. jane says:

    Great piece Dan, I enjoyed it. The French-Spanish rivalry could indeed be a reason why Rafa is not embraced by the French.

    After looking at the draw today, I can safely say I think Spains reign will continue!

  2. Dan Martin says:

    I fixed some embarrassing typos. I should not post before editing. Thanks for the kind words, Jane!

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