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Best players to never win the French Open

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Originally published on 30/05/16 00:00

Novak Djokovic

Best RG Result: Runner-Up, 2012, 2014 and 2015

The 11-time major winner has done everything right in Paris in the past few years, and it’s probably a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’ Djokovic lifts the Coupe de Mousquetaires to complete a career Grand Slam. His record outside of Roland Garros combined with his three finals and four semi-finals on the clay of the French capital undoubtedly mean he must top this list, no matter how desperate he is to no longer be eligible to appear on it.

Martina Hingis

Best RG Result: Runner-Up 1997 and 1999

Victorious at every other major at least once, the Swiss Miss’s two Paris defeats ultimately denied her joining two of tennis’ most exclusive clubs. Triumph in 1997 would have, in hindsight, given her the Calendar Grand Slam, while success two years later would have meant a career Grand Slam. Three semi-finals prior to her original retirement and a quarter-final run in her 2006 comeback year make Hingis arguably the best female player in history without a French Open title.

Jimmy Connors 
Best RG Result: Semi-Final 1979, 1980, 1984 and 1985
1257 match wins. 109 titles. Eight Majors. But not one of those was a French Open final. In fact, Connors never made it to the final two in Paris, losing in the semi-finals four times to four different opponents. His best chance came in 1980 when he threw away a two sets to one lead against Vitas Gerulaitis, just months after his compatriot had defeated Connors for the first time. No one beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times out of 18.

Kim Cljisters
Best RG Result: Runner-Up 2001 & 2003 
The Belgian’s four career majors all came on hard courts but she had two opportunities to add to that tally at Roland Garros. In 2001, she lost an epic deciding set 12-10 to Jennifer Capriati- the last time the women’s final would go the distance for 13 years. Two years later, she was comfortably beaten by compatriot Justine Henin in what proved to be her last crack at lifting the Roland Garros trophy and adding to her three career clay court titles.

Venus Williams 
Best RG Result: Runner-Up 2002

The older Williams sister has seven major titles on her resume to date, but none of them have come on the Paris clay. Beaten by sister Serena in 2002, Venus has never come as close to lifting the title, despite a series of promising runs to the quarter-finals in the early 2000s. She knew how to shrug off the disappointment of Paris though, as she backed up early exits with victory at Wimbledon on five occasions between 2000 and 2008.

John McEnroe

Best RG Result: Runner-Up 1984

Like Williams, Jonny Mac can also boast seven Grand Slam titles. All away from Paris. All in England and America. The similarities don’t end there, as McEnroe also only has one final appearance to show for his efforts in Paris, when he was defeated by Ivan Lendl in 1984. The loss to the Czech was one of only three suffered by the now TV commentator that year, and combined with his 82 wins still makes for the best single season win rate in the Open Era.

Conchita Martinez
Best RG Result: Runner-Up 2000
One of the best female clay courters of all time, Martinez failed to ever make a huge impact at Roland Garros, a relative surprise considering she collected 19 titles on clay in an 18-year career. Her sole final appearance in 2000 pitted her against home favourite Mary Pierce, and the Spaniard had no answer to the partisan crowd. The Barcelona-born player won her only major at Wimbledon in 1994.

Lindsay Davenport
Best RG Result: Semi-Final 1998
Davenport never made the championship match in the singles draw, her best performance coming two years after she won the doubles title in 1996 when she reached the last four. The former world No.1 also made the quarter-final three times in 11 attempts at Roland Garros. She ended her career with eight singles titles on clay, and a win in Paris would have given her the career Grand Slam.

Stefan Edberg

Best RG Result: Runner-Up 1989 

Like Davenport the French Open stood between the mercurial Swede and a career Grand Slam by the time he hung up his racket in 1996. Edberg’s run to the final in 1989 was very much the highlight hidden among a series of early round defeats. Successful at the other three Slams on two occasions each, Edberg lost as many finals as he won in six career clay tournaments.

Pete Sampras

Best RG Result: Semi-Final 1996

Pistol Pete held the record for the most majors won between his retirement in 2003 and 2009. But his total of 14 Grand Slams did not include a French Open and what’s more Sampras’ stay in Paris was often a short one, as save for 1996, he had often left Roland Garros by the end of the first week. His last four loss came at the hands of Yevgeny Kafelnikov, whose straight sets win included a bagel in the second set.

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