Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros was born on 6 October 1888 in Saint-Denis, Reunion. He attended the Lycee Janson de Sailly and later, the HEC Paris, an international business school. When he was 12, he contacted pneumonia. It was then that he took up cycling as a way to regain his health. He went on to win an inter-school championship in the sport. He also played football, rugby and tennis.
When he was 21, he started a car dealership in Paris and went on to become the first owner of Garros Bugatti Type 18, later christened Black Bess.
While on vacation in 1909, Garros saw the Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne, an 8-day long aviation meet organized by champagne growers. This was when he realised his ambition to become an aviator. He started his career by flying a Demoiselle monoplane, and earned his license. He graduated to the Bleriot monoplane and entered several flying races.
On 4 September 1911, he set the altitude for the second time by flying to 5610 m. On 23 September 1913, he gained popularity for flying non-stop across the Mediterranean sea in 8 hours. The following year, he joined the French Army in World War I.
In 1918, he was shot down and killed near Ardennes a day before his 30th birthday, presumably by German ace Hermann Habich.
Today, the Stade Roland Garros tennis centre is named after him, to commemorate his memory. The French Open, one of the four Grand Slams, is held here. La Reunion’s international airport is also named after him. There is also a monument in his jonour in Bizerte at his landing site.
The car manufacturer Peugeot commissioned a Roland Garros version of its 205 model in his memory, and several of their past models after this. He is often regarded as the world’s first fighter ace.