The French Open is believed to be the most unique Grand Slam tournament. Over the past few years, it has created a reputation of creating some unexpected champions at the expense of some of tennis' greats. Here are the few who made their presence count on the clay court.
Bjorn Borg was one of the few players who felt at home in the French Open. His powerful ground strokes and incredible fitness allowed him to win points easily from the baseline. The Swede won 6 French Open titles in 8 years and continues to hold the maximum number of titles under his belt.
When Rafael Nadal entered the 2005 French Open at the young age of 18, not many would have taken the Spaniard too seriously until he turned 19; the age had nothing to do with his chances, it was the day, which saw him defeat World No. 1 Roger Federer in the semi finals at Roland Garros. Nadal reigned supreme against Mariano Puerta in the final to win his first Grand Slam title.
The Spaniard has since then won 5 out of the 6 French Open tournaments he has played which is a record in itself. He won 31 matches in a row at Roland Garros before bowing out in the 2009 edition after being plagued by injury in his fourth round encounter against Robin Soderling. Nadal however got his revenge in the 2010 final as he convincingly beat Sweden's Robin Soderling to justify his title of ‘The King of Clay'.
If you thought Brazil was not synonymous with tennis and probably had its association with bigger balls, then you would probably have to rethink courtesy this man. Gustavo Kuerten won 3 French Open titles, one of which came about by beating double ex champion Sergi Brugueera.
If Spain is has had a green patch at the French Open, their North European counterparts Sweden had one of their own too. The last glory of that spell came to Mats Wilander, who won three titles (1982, 1985 and 1988) in 7 years. Wilander,who carried the baton from Bjorn Borg reached the final 5 times in his career.
Ivan Lendl's stay at the French Open was quite similar to that of Mats Wilander. Both reached the final five times, won the tournament thrice and beat each other once in four sets in the final. The two also shared a statitic of winning all Grand Slams except Wimbledon. Lendl won the title in 1984, 1986 and 1987 and was the last French Open winner from Czechoslovakia.
Sergi Bruguera started a spell of Spanish domination at the French Open, a spell that continues till today. He defeated double defending champion Jim Courier in 1993 and then went on to win a successive title in 1994.
Apart from Michael Chang in 1989, the Americans had always had bitter memories of the French Open final matches, but Jim Courier was out to change it all as he won back to back titles in 1991 and 1992.
Jan Kodes won three Grand Slams in his career; two of which came at the French Open. The Czechoslovakian who won the French Open in 1970 and 1971 also won a Wimbledon title in 1973.
Andre Agassi's story at the French Open was quite similar to that of Roger Federer. The American lost out twice in the final until finally winning the Roland Garros title in 1999. Like Federer, Agassi too achieved his Career Grand Slam after the capturing the long yearned French Open.
Just one title in a spell of complete domination in world tennis does not tell Federer's story at the French Open. The Swiss has reached the final four times, while emerging as the winner only once which also made him one of the seven players to win a career grand slam.
Juan Carlos Ferrero
Comebacks have always had an awe inspiring impact on audiences. Juan Carlos Ferrero's success at the French Open has truly been a story of perseverance and hard work as he won the 2003 final, after having lost out in the final of the 2002 edition in 4 sets.
Rod Laver was one of the players who witnessed the transition from the French Championships to the French Open. The Australian, whose name now also represents the Melbourne court, lost out in the first French Open final in 1968 to countryman Ken Rosewall but got his revenge in 1969.