Court Surface at Roland Garros
The following is from ESPN the Magazine:
Believe it or not, an American is to blame for the slow, slippery red clay courts of the French Open. Back in the 1920s, Bill Tilden dominated tennis, which was played mostly on faster courts, with a mix of power and speed. When the French built Roland Garros in 1928, they designed the surface to take pace off his strokes and tire him out by extending rallies.
Construction of the French Open courts has changed little in 77 years -- and the surface still neutralizes the power of the game's big guns. First, as much as 23 inches of stone is packed into a court-sized hole, then covered with about 3 inches of volcanic rock cinder. After 60 tons of crushed limestone is spread over the cinder, the surface is playable, though grayish-white and annoyingly bright.
The solution: 2 tons of red brick dust is rolled and compressed into a thin playing surface. During tournaments, courts are watered 4 times a day and lines are swept with a birch broom after each set. And yes, the objective in building the red surface was attained: France beat the U.S. in the Davis Cup in 1928, then defended the title the next 4 years. As for Tilden, he never won the French Open, slipping in the final in 1927 and 1930.