Top five French Open moments in the Open Era

As the 2021 French Open nears, we take a look at some of the most defining and memorable moments in the history of Roland Garros.

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Roland Garros
Roland Garros

The 2021 edition of the French Open will get underway this Sunday in Paris. After an aberration in 2020, where the tournament had to be played in the spring, the biggest clay court tournament will once again be staged in the summer of Paris this year. With top players from both men’s and women’s section heading to Paris, this upcoming Roland Garros championship promises to be a high-octane event. The qualifiers are already underway. Before we get to the opening day, let us look back on some incredible moments of French Open.

Michael Chang stuns Ivan Lendl in the fourth round of French Open in 1989

Michael Chang
Michael Chang

A physically out of sorts Michael Chang had a daunting task ahead of him. After trailing two sets to nothing, a cramping Chang was on the verge of giving up against the top-ranked player Ivan Lendl in the fourth round of Roland Garros. However, the teenager decided to fight using underarm serves as an annoying weapon. The 17-year-old Chang also started reducing the pace, by moon balling, which further unsettled Lendl. In a remarkable turn of events, Lendl ended up losing the plot, citing bad light and unsportsmanlike behavior by his opponent. In the end, a jaded Chang beat an irritated and perplexed Lendl in five sets, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. The 15th seed Chang also went onto win his maiden Grand Slam title, becoming the youngest male to win a Grand Slam event in the open era.

Monica Seles defeats Steffi Graff in the 1992 finals of French Open

Monica Seles
Monica Seles

As the match started, both Monica Seles and Steffi Graf found their groove, but it was Seles who picked up pace and pouched the first set. In the second set, the German responded by serving better and staying aggressive, keeping Seles at bay. As a result, Graf succeeded in taking the match into a decider. The final set was one of the most lengthy and draining sets played in the history of women’s finals at Roland Garros. Both players traded blows from the back court, and although Graf remained the aggressor, Seles managed to defend well and was suddenly serving for the championship at 8-7. Although Graf had managed to save four match points earlier in the set, but in the end, she couldn’t stop her opponent from crossing the line. Seles won the final set 10-8, which lasted almost 90 minutes. Unfortunately, Seles got stabbed by a deranged Graf fan in Hamburg in 1993, three weeks before the French Open, due to which she was out of action for some time and only made her appearance back in Paris in 1996.

Robin Soderling shocks Rafael Nadal at 2009 French Open

Nadal and Soderling
Nadal and Soderling

Rafael Nadal made his French Open debut in 2005 and won the event as a teenager. The Spaniard also went onto to capture three more titles in Paris in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Coming into the 2009 French Open, Nadal was the favorite to win Roland Garros for the fifth time on the run. However, on a cloudy day in Paris, Robin Soderling stunned the four-time champion with his courageous style of play in the fourth round. The Swede also fired 61 winners, compared to Nadal’s 33. In the end, Soderling won the match in four sets 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2). Soderling also won 27 of the 35 points approaching the net. It was later reported that the No.1 seed was struggling with tendonitis on his knee. Some reports also suggested that Nadal was upset with the separation of his parents. Meanwhile, an elated Soderling went onto reach his first ever finals of a Grand Slam.

Roger Federer completes his career Grand Slam at 2009 French Open

Roger Federer
Roger Federer

After losing to Rafael Nadal in the semis in 2005, Roger Federer also lost the following three finals to the Spaniard. It appeared as though that the Swiss maestro would never been able to get his hands on the Holy Grail in Nadal’s presence. However, after Robin Soderling stunned the four-time champion in the fourth round, Federer surged ahead into the finals and beat the Swede in three sets to win the elusive Grand Slam. Federer himself almost went out in the fourth round, as his opponent Tommy Haas won the first two sets and even had a match-point against him, before he fought back to win in five sets. Later, Federer played another five-setter match against Juan Martin Del Potro in the semis.

Rafael Nadal wins his 10th title at Roland Garros in 2017

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Coming into the finals in 2017, Stan Wawrinka was hoping to do the unthinkable of beating Rafael Nadal in the finals of Roland Garros. However, it was the Swiss who was completely swept away by the King of Clay. Nadal needed just over two hours to dismiss his opponent 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, en-route to capturing his 10th title in Paris. Back then, no other men’s tennis player had won more than seven singles title at the same Grand Slam event in the Open Era. After Nadal’s victory, they unfurled a banner in the stands high above Court Philippe Chatrier court and had a No. 10 painted on the podium. Today, Nadal sits on 20 Grand Slams and will also be looking to win his 14th title at Roland Garros in a few weeks.

Also read: Can Novak Djokovic finally stop Rafael Nadal at French Open 2021?