French Open tennis tournament: who was Roland Garros?

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Birth of a profession

Born on October 6, 1888, in Saint-Denis de la Réunion (the airport also bears his name), this boy, from Toulouse on his father’s side and Breton on his mother’s side, excelled in football and rugby in his youth. not only in the pitches, but also in the little queen. Cycling, in particular, allowed him to recover his respiratory capacities, which had been weakened by pneumonia at the age of 12, which he had to send to Paris, Paris, to continue his education.

Poster of the 1909 edition of the “Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne”.

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In August 1909, at the age of 21, he fell madly in love with flying wings after attending the first air meeting in Champagne, where he spent his summer vacations. There ” Great Aviation Week in Champagne August 22-29 is a revelation for him: he will become an aviator. Profits from his car business prompted him to immediately order his discovery of the cheapest flying machines of the time at the Salon de l’ocomotion aienne au Palais, a Demoiselle Santos-Dumont where he learned to pilot himself before the transition. its patent.

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an aviation star

“Eternal Second”

Returning to France in May 1911, after touring air exhibitions in the United States, he participated in the three major events of the year, the Paris-Madrid air race, the Paris-Rome and the Europe Circuit. Despite his undeniable qualities as a pilot, he always had a haircut while on duty, and journalists nicknamed him “Second Eternal”.

The success of flying over the Mediterranean

Two years later, he gets his revenge here and has already set his first altitude record of 3,910 meters on September 6, 1911, after taking off from the Houlgate beach. Races and air meetings follow each other. Bold and creative, Roland Garros quickly became a star in the discipline. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Europe and South America to watch their evolution in the air. But what he wants is to fly over the seas. He set himself a new challenge: crossing the Mediterranean, a first at the time.

On September 23, 1913, after covering some 780 kilometers, Morane-Saulnier connected Saint-Raphaël to Bizerte, Tunis, in his monoplane. A nearly eight-hour epic run at an average speed of 101 kilometers per hour, marked by two malfunctions that this mechanical genius quickly fixed. This feat made him a hero of his time and one of Tout-Paris’ darlings. Jean Cocteau becomes his friend, among others. The poet and filmmaker, whom Garros sometimes plays with, even dedicated a text to him called “Le Cap de Bonne Espérance”.

Cape of Good Hope, Jean Cocteau.

Cape of Good Hope, Jean Cocteau.

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Aviation pioneer and Great War hero

When World War I broke out, Roland Garros immediately stepped in. Of course he will fight in the air. Military aviation at that time was in its infancy and had almost no weapons. This pioneer will develop the first single-seat fighter equipped with a propeller-fired machine gun. Revolution. Armed with new firing gear, he returned to the front and recorded three successive victories in two weeks before being hit by German air strikes against Belgium at the beginning of April 1915. Forced to land, he was taken prisoner before he could set the plane on fire. His invention, which fell into the hands of the enemy, will inspire the Germans.

The Morane-Saulnier N type is equipped with a propeller field throwing device developed by Roland Garros.

The Morane-Saulnier N type is equipped with a propeller field throwing device developed by Roland Garros.

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Having managed to escape three years later, Lieutenant Garros returns to war despite his deteriorating health due to his captivity. His latent myopia, which becomes so embarrassing, forces him to sneak in for glasses so he can continue to drive. On October 2, 1918, Roland Garros won its fourth and final victory. On the eve of his 30th birthday, on October 5, five weeks before the Armistice, after a battle against the Fokker D.VIIs, his SPAD exploded in midair before falling on the territory of the commune of Saint-Morel in the Ardennes, far from Vouziers where he was buried. not far. Aviation pioneer became the hero of the Great War.

“Le Miroir” magazine celebrates aviators Roland Garros and René Fonck in 1915.

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