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The Musketeers’ Cup

Infographic of the Musketeers Cup

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When most people think of tennis, they imagine white lines and green courts, but those who make it to the French Open to compete for the Musketeers’ Cup find a distinctly different surface.  The red clay at Roland-Garros makes the tournament the most unique venue for any in the sport’s Grand Slam.  Named after a quartet of Frenchmen that led the nation to victory in the Davis Cup in 1928 (the Four Musketeers), it debuted just as the tournament’s popularity was on the rise and shortly after the competition had made the permanent move to Roland-Garros in 1925.  The elegant, wide-barreled cup has drawn the best tennis players in the world for decades.

 

History

In 1891, what is now the French Open began competition as a tennis tournament exclusively for men.  Over time, the sport grew in stature amongst the public, buoyed by the France national team dominating international opponents at the Davis Cup, the championship moved to a purpose-built stadium in the mid-1920s and officially took on the name Tournoi de Roland-Garros.  To honor the four players bringing home such wild success on the world stage, a new trophy was made in 1927 and named the Coupe des Mousquetaires.  (Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste were referred to as “The Four Musketeers” owing to the 1925 box office smash based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas.)

The Musketeers’ Cup, as it is called in English, is modeled on a traditional Roman bowl. Unlike the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, which is handed over to the champion of the Australian Open, it has a rather understated appearance.  The floral bands around the top and bottom of the cup provide a touch of elegance, while the sweeping handles are more whimsical than you might expect for such an important piece of silver – shaped almost like wings, they might echo the messenger god Mercury.  Standing on a black marble plinth with a silver plaque on each side for winners’ names to be engraved, The Musketeers’ Cup is a testament to simple sophistication.

Winners pose with the trophy in a post-match ceremony, then receive a scaled-down replica made by French silversmiths Maison Mellero for their personal collection.

Best Players

Rafael Nadal (9 wins)

There are times when a player seems as though he was born for a particular surface – and Rafael Nadal could be called Exhibit A.  Sliding along the clay of Roland-Garros and whipping returns past opponents, he is one of only three people to win  four consecutive titles.  Beginning with his first French Open title in 2005, he ran off a streak of six wins in seven years, succumbing only in 2009 thanks to an upset by eventual runner-up Robin Soderling.  When he returned in 2010, Nadal reclaimed the Musketeers’ Cup and, after repeating in 2011, needs only one more victory to become the winningest player of all-time.

Bjorn Borg (6 wins)

The laconic Swede was the talk of the tennis world during the second half of the 1970s, with a smooth power game and unflappable temperament, he seemed to be a machine on the court.  He rose to the top of the tournament in 1974 and took home the Musketeers’ Cup the next year before falling short for two seasons.  When he returned to the winner’s circle in 1978, he began a run of four straight titles that was part of perhaps the most successful periods in any individual career – Borg won ten of the 16 majors played until 1981.

Gustavo Kuerten (3 wins)

Known affectionately as “Guga,” the big Brazilian claimed his first French Open championship at the age of 20.  Tennis aficionados point to his unconventional serve and powerful ground game as reasons for his sudden success – something he didn’t initially deal well with.  After two years of unexpected upsets, Kuerten came out on top of the field in 2000 and 2001 to cement his legacy as one of the greats at Roland-Garros in the Open era.  Unfortunately, a spate of injuries slowed him during the next several years, ending his chances for a string of titles similar to his childhood hero, Bjorn Borg.

 

Mats Wilander (3 wins)

When Borg’s run of titles ended in 1982 with his fellow Swede, Wilander, many would have expected another long run from the Nordic nation.  It wasn’t to be, as he found defending his title too difficult a task.  He did return for victories in 1985 and 1988, the latter as part of a run in which he snatched up the Australian Open and US Open, as well.  Somewhat shy and retiring, his easygoing manner on court made it appear as if he was hardly trying, even as he swept aside opponents with aplomb.

Recent Winners

Novak Djokovic (2016)

Stan Wawrinka (2015)

Rafael Nadal (2005-08, 2010-14)

Roger Federer (2009)

Gaston Gaudio (2004)

Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003)

Albert Costa (2002)

Gustavo Kuerten (2000-01)