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Monday, June 03, 2013 Five Most Memorable Matches at Roland Garros
In 1968, tennis began its Open Era, and the French Open was the first Grand Slam to open its doors to professional players. Since then, Roland Garros has offered us 45 years of clay courts, fickle weather, fashion, and, of course, formidable matches. When going through the history to pick my favorite moments, there were many great instances I had to skip – Rod Laver’s 1969 win that became part of his calendar Grand Slam, for example, or Monica Seles’ championship at the record setting age of 16 years, 6 months old. But it ‘s the French Open, folks, and we can’t give out participation awards (just ask Arnaud Clément)! So here’s a condensed list - five of the most memorable matches in Roland Garros history. Roland Garros

Steffi Graf 1999

5) Steffi Graf won her first Grand Slam in 1987 at the French Open, and, over a decade later, she would win her final Major trophy there too, in 1999. While the time span of her career is impressive enough in its longevity, perhaps more remarkable about Graf’s last Grand Slam title is that, in her defeat of Lindsay Davenport in the quarters, Monica Seles in the semis, and Martina Hingis in the finals, she became the only player in the Open Era to beat the top three seeded players in the same tournament. Not only did the 1999 run mark Graf’s first Grand Slam title in three years, but it also spoke to her sheer determination. Down a set and two breaks in the second set, with Hingis only three points away from winning the match, Graf began to turn the match around, causing Hingis to unravel. Even as Hingis continued arguing line calls and protesting the umpire’s judgment, Graf took the second set and, eventually, won the 18th game of the third set to bring home her sixth and final Roland Garros trophy.

4) In 1984, John McEnroe had a year that even the best of players can only dream of – his year end winning percentage was 96.47% and his record was 82/3. But one of those three losses was a doozy – at the French Open final, Johnny Mac took on Ivan Lendl and began to rout him, taking the first two sets and losing only 5 games. But, in the third, Lendl forged an incredible comeback, using topspin lobs, cross-court passing shots, and McEnroe’s legendary temper to get the best of ol’ John. Lendl ended McEnroe’s 42 match winning streak in the fifth set and denied him his best shot at the elusive French Open trophy; McEnroe would later go on to call the loss “his bitterest defeat.”

John McEnroe 1984 French Open
Fabrice Santoro 2004 3) In 2004, two small-name players, Arnaud Clément and Fabrice Santoro played a six hour, 33 minute match in the very first round of the French Open. Both Frenchman, Clément and Santoro got the local crowd going as they set the record for the longest Grand Slam match on the books at the time (a record that would stand until Isner-Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010 and remains the record at the French Open). The score, 6–4, 6–3, 6–7(5–7), 3–6, 16–14 in favor of the unseeded Santoro, was fought out over 2 days. Santoro, who was 31 at the time, was understandably proud of the showing - the match marked his 15th appearance at the French Open. But the defeated Clément said simply, "Frankly, I don't give a damn…Do I get a medal? If I'm not getting anything… It doesn't count." Harsh words, Clément - but so true.
2) Rafael Nadal is unquestionably the King of Clay, with seven French Open titles under his belt, but in 2009, Rafa played his only loss at Roland Garros – Robin Soderling beat him in the fourth round to end Nadal’s 31-game winning streak on the Paris clay. Soderling remains the only person to beat Rafa at the French, but in fact the upset was outshined by the final match - just three rounds later, in the final, Soderling faced Roger Federer and attempted to deny the Swiss Maestro the one Grand Slam title he had yet to possess. Unfortunately for Soderling, only Rafa has the power to keep Roger from his trophies; Soderling lost in straight sets to Federer, who earned his record-tying 14th Grand Slam and his first (and to date, only) Roland Garros title. Roger Federer 2009 French Open
Michael Chang 1989 French Open 1) Michael Chang was just 17 when he came up against World No. 1 Ivan Lendl in the fourth round of the 1989 French Open. Young Chang was down two sets to one when he started experiencing severe leg cramps in the fourth set, but he managed to hang on to tie the count. Three games into the fifth, still cramping and in pain, he seriously considered retiring. But Chang, young and indefatigable, felt “an unbelievable conviction” as he stepped up to the baseline and chose instead to push through, using every technique he could think of to save his legs. Moonballs, underhand serves, coming up to the service line to receive serves – Chang did what he could to throw off Lendl’s rhythm…and it worked. Chang won the fifth set, and went on to beat Ronald Agénor, Andrei Chesnokov, and finally, Stefan Edberg, to take home the title and the trophy, becoming the youngest ever Men’s Singles Grand Slam winner and forever serving as an inspiration to young tennis players everywhere.

 


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