'La Divine' Suzanne Lenglen

Joanne C. Gerstner

Suzanne Lenglen earned the nickname "La Divine" from the French press.

PARIS -- There are a lot of statues scattered around the grounds of Roland Garros, celebrating the greats of French tennis.

My favorite, by a long mile, is the super cool statue of Suzanne Lenglen, the first woman in the world to turn pro in tennis, stationed in front of the stadium named after her. She was an eight-time Grand Slam singles champion, between 1919 and 1926 and won 81 singles titles in her career.

Lenglen created an amazing life from her skill, playing tennis around the world and making money off of it. She captivated the French public, too, with the press nicknaming her "La Divine."

She was a tragic hero, dying at age 39, in 1938 from anemia. I can still feel her athletic spirit in the statue, as she looks pretty fierce in her flowing tennis dress, getting ready to smack a volley. Her life ended too short, but her impact on French tennis appears to be eternal.