Best French Open finals
Originally published on 05/06/16 00:00
The world No.1 is just one match away from becoming only the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam. Can the three-time runner-up finally get his hands on the coveted Coupe de Mousquetaires? Or will Murray win his third Grand Slam on the clay courts of Roland Garros?
The 2016 French Open final, between the best two players in the world, promises to be a belter. But can it live up to these classic Roland Garros title matches?
1983: Yannick Noah d. Mats Wilander 6-2 7-5 7-6(3)
A day firmly etched in French sporting history, No.6 seed Noah wrote his name in Roland Garros folklore with an emotional straight sets victory over the higher ranked Wilander, who had lifted the Coupe de Mousquetaires a year before. The home hero threw his arms in the air and hurdled the net in celebration of becoming the first French player to win a major in the Open Era. Unfortunately for France, 33 years later, Noah remains the only player from across the Channel to have a hoisted a Grand Slam men's singles trophy since.
1984: Ivan Lendl d. John McEnroe 3-6 2-6 6-4 7-5 7-5
It was a case of sixth time lucky for Lendl, who had lost his previous five Grand Slam finals. Jonny Mac was in the middle of the compiling the best season the Tour has ever seen but somehow contrived to throw the match away by losing his temper with a cameraman in the third set when two sets up. Lendl broke to gain a foothold, before going on to steal the next two sets, the match and his first Grand Slam title. McEnroe admitted years later that the match still haunts him. He won all three other Slams that year, but never triumphed in Paris.
1999: Andre Agassi d. Andrey Medvedev 1-6 2-6 6-4 6-3 6-4
Agassi became just the second man after Rod Laver to complete the career Grand Slam in the Open Era with his sole Roland Garros title in 1999. He did it the hard way though, coming back from a one-sided opening two sets to claim the championship after two previous final losses. Medvedev had defeated Pete Sampras en route to the final and looked set for a shock triumph before the American turned the tide. Agassi went on to win four more majors, but never again made the French final. His tears of joy on the podium is still one of the most endearing moments in recent tournament history.
2004: Gaston Gaudio d. Guillermo Coria 0-6 3-6 6-4 6-1 8-6
The names aren’t so memorable, but the encounter they played out was. Unseeded Gaudio looked to have run out of steam after incredible run to the final which included wins against Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian. Third seed Coria, who knocked out Tim Henman in the semi-finals, strolled through the first two sets, but lost the third and cramped up in the fourth before wasting two match points in a 14-game deciding set. Gaudio looked as stunned as anyone after snatching victory in the only all-Argentine Roland Garros final. “I don’t know how I won,” he said after. Neither did Coria.
2005: Rafael Nadal d. Marino Puerta 6-7(6) 6-3 6-1 7-5
The year the King of Clay began his ascension to the throne, Nadal swept all before him in his first French Open appearance, beating Roger Federer in the semis before overcoming a one set deficit to defeat Puerta in the final. The 19-year-old fell to his back, a celebration the world would become accustomed to over the next decade, when the unheralded Argentine skewed a forehand wide on match point. The win started a run of nine titles in ten years, and prior to his withdrawal at this year’s tournament Nadal had only ever lost two matches on the terre battue of the French capital.
2008: Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer 6-1 6-3 6-0
One match Roger Federer will certainly want to forget. Nadal hadn’t lost at Roland Garros since his debut in 2005 but some still labelled this as Federer’s best opportunity to complete a career Grand Slam- and pointed at the world no 1s increased use of the dropshot and energy saving tactics in the early rounds as the excuse for a full assault on Nadal in the final. What actually happened that day in Paris was astonishing, as those backing the Swiss could not have been more wrong. Nadal romped to a fourth consecutive title for the loss of just four games.
2009: Roger Federer d. Robin Soderling 6-1 7-6(1) 6-4
Following on from a crushing defeat twelve months earlier, Federer played one of the most controlled matches of his career to defeat Soderling, who had dealt Nadal a first loss in Paris in round four. With the weight of history on his shoulder, the Swiss completed a career Grand Slam and tied Pete Sampras on fourteen major titles with a convincing performance which was all but sealed in a one-sided second set tiebreak. As Federer fell to his knees in celebration the Phillippe Chatrier crowd rose as one, having witnessed one of the most notable achievements in the history of the sport.
2015: Stan Wawrinka d. Novak Djokovic 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4
Having taken out Nadal comfortably in the quarter-finals, there didn’t seem to be anything stopping the Serbian world No 1 from clinching a first Roland Garros title and completing a career Grand Slam in the process. History beckoned when Djokovic took the opening set but Wawrinka responded with a sustained period of scintillating hitting from both sides of the court to leave the pre-match favourite shell-shocked. A perfect down the line backhand winner on championship point was a fitting way to end one of the best individual performances ever seen in a French Open final.