French Open Roland Garros
South Africa's incredible record on the clay at Roland Garros. Image: Screenshot

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South Africa’s incredible record on the clay at Roland Garros

South Africa boasts an impressive record, particularly in doubles, at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris.

French Open Roland Garros
South Africa's incredible record on the clay at Roland Garros. Image: Screenshot

South Africa boasts an impressive record, particularly in doubles, at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris.

First contested in 1891 as the French Championship, South Africa has never had a men’s singles winner, although Eric Sturgess did lose in the final in both 1947 and 1951.

Ian Vermaak also reached the title match in 1959, but fell short at the final hurdle.

South Africa has never had a women’s singles finalist since the first tournament was played in 1897.

However, the record books show far more success for South Africa’s doubles players on the red dirt.

NOTE: The SAPeople website has reached out to Wikipedia to enquire regarding its continued use of the ‘old’ South African flag in results. An update will be provided should a response be received.


The men’s pairing of Vernon Kirby and Norman Farquharson lost in both the 1931 and 1937 finals.

Eric Sturgess and Eustace Fannin teamed up to lift the title in 1947, but lost the final two years later in 1949.

In 1950, Sturgess partnered with Egypt’s Jaroslav Drobny, but had to settle for the runners-up spot.

Abe Segal and his Australian partner Robert Howe lost the 1958 final.

There was more disappointment for Segal, this time paired with compatriot Gordon Forbes, in the 1963 final.

In 1965, Bob Hewitt and Australia’s Ken Fletcher had to be content with the runners-up cheque against greats of the game Roy Emerson and Fred Stolle.

Hewitt returned in 1972 to the tournament, now known as the French Open, to partner compatriot Frew McMillan to lift the title.

Fast forward to 2009, in the most recent men’s doubles final to feature South African representation, Wesley Moodie and Belgian Dick Norman lost in the title match.


South Africa’s greatest success at the French Open has come in the women’s doubles.

In 1929, Bobbie Heine and Alida Neave lost in the final.

In 1951, Beryl Bartlett and her American partner Barbara Scofield fell short in the final, while a year later, the all-South African pairing of Hazel Redick-Smith and Julia Wipplinger also had to settle for the runners-up spot.

The late 1950s and early 1960s were the golden years in Paris for South Africa’s tennis stars.

In 1959, Sandra Reynolds and Renee Schuurman lifted the title and repeated that feat in both 1961 and 1962.

Schuurman returned in 1963, this time partnered by British player Ann Haydon-Jones to win her fourth title.

In 1967, Annette van Zyl and Pat Walkden lost in the final.

In 1981 there was more title glory for South Africa when Rosalyn Fairbank-Nideffer and Tanya Harford lifted the trophy.

Fairbank-Nideffer won her second title in 1983, this time partnered by American Candy Reynolds.

In 2005, the South Africa-Zimbabwe pairing of Liezel Huber and Cara Black lost in the final.


South Africa has also enjoyed title success in mixed doubles at Roland Garros.

In 1947, Sheila Piercey-Summers and Eric Sturgess were crowned champions and the pair repeated that feat two years later in 1949.

In 1952, Sturgess and his American partner Shirley Fry Irvin lost in the final.

In 1955, Gordon Forbes and his American partner Darlene Hard lifted the trophy.

Despite being partnered with tennis legend Rod Laver in 1959, Renee Schuurman and ‘Rocket Rod’ had to settle for the runners-up spot.

Schuurman had better luck in 1962 when she was crowned champion alongside another Australian, Bob Howe.

In 1966, Annette van Zyl and Frew McMillan teamed up to lift the trophy.

In 1970, Bob Hewitt and legendary female tennis star Billie Jean King were crowned mixed doubles champions.

The final in 1976 guaranteed a South African winner – and loser – as Ilana Kloss and her Australian partner Kim Warwick beat the South Africa-Rhodesia pairing of Linky Boshoff and Colin Dowdeswell.

In 1979, Hewitt returned to lift another title, this time in the company of Australian star Wendy Turnbull.

In the 1986 final, Rosalyn Fairbank-Nideffer and her Australian partner Mark Edmondson had to settle for silver.

In 1990, Danie Visser and Nicole Provis of Australia finished as runners-up.

Visser returned to the 1993 final alongside compatriot Elna Reinach, but once again ended up on the losing side.

In 1995, John-Laffnie de Jager and Canada’s Jill Hetherington were beaten in the title match.

There was back-to-back success for Mzansi in 1999 and 2000 when Piet Norval and Slovenia’s Katarina Srebotnik were crowned champions, while a year later, the all-South African pairing of Mariaan de Swardt and David Adams tasted success.


Sadly, there will be no South African representation in the 2024 French Open after Lloyd Harris lost in qualifying.

There will also be no South Africans in the women’s singles draw.

At the time of publishing it’s unclear which South Africans will be competing in the men’s and women’s doubles as well as the mixed doubles event.