French Open: Top 5 men’s singles finals
Every year in late April the professional tennis tour heads onto the red clay courts of Europe culminating in the French Open Grand Slam played in Paris at the Roland Garros tennis club.
Now discover 5 of the most miraculous championship matches to ever grace court Philippe-Chatrier, including two of the ‘Big 3’ producing an all-time classic back in 2012.
5. Ivan Lendl vs John McEnroe, 1984
Lendl went into the 1984 French Open as the second seed despite not yet having a major to his name but with a fine reputation as a quality clay court player. This was a stark comparison to McEnroe, who had not lost a match in 1984, was the top seed and already had five majors to his name.
This was reflected early in the score line, with ‘Johnny Mac’ racing into a two sets to love lead and then breaking Lendl’s serve in the fourth set to lead 4-2 and two games away from glory.
However, the Czechoslovakian came roaring back to not only save the fourth set but to claim his first of three French Open titles. Lendl remarkably claimed the title at Roland Garros with a 3–6, 2–6, 6–4, 7–5, 7–5 victory.
4. Michael Chang vs Stefan Edberg 1989
The American, Michael Chang became (and remains to this day) the youngest-ever Grand Slam Champion at the age of 17 years, 3 months and 20 days by winning the 1989 French Open title in a five set epic. Similarly to McEnroe in 1984, the favourite Edberg was two sets to one up and had broken early in the fourth set, yet Chang fought back going on to win 6–1, 3–6, 4–6, 6–4, 6–2.
It should also be mentioned that en route to the title he beat the World number one and three-time champion Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, which sent shock waves around the tennis world, with the match being widely remembered as one of the most significant matches in French Open history.
3. Jim Courier vs Andre Agassi 1991
In the 1991 final, Courier claimed his first ever Grand Slam title and his first of two titles on Parisian soil as he came back to win in five sets over former room-mate Andre Agassi.
Agassi was rampant at the start of the match, with Courier having no answers to Agassi’s powerful ball striking. Then during the second set, with eight-time Major winner Agassi 3-1 up, a rain delay occurred. Courier even said himself that this lead to a ”monumental change” in the match as he was able to re-think his strategy against Agassi.
The rain break proved to be costly for Agassi, who lost his break of serve and the second set, giving Courier a foot hold in the match. Despite being broken twice and losing the third set, Courier for the second time rallied winning the match 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
2. Guillermo Coria vs Gaston Gaudio 2004
Gaston Gaudio’s title win in 2004 was simply remarkable. In the final he was facing heavy favourite and World number three Guillermo Coria, to become the first Argentine to win a Major since Guillermo Vilas in 1979. Coria at the time was widely considered to be the best clay court player in the world.
This is a stark contrast to Gaudio who was unseeded in the tournament, ranked just 44th in the world and only had two titles to his name. However, that did not stop Gaudio becoming the first man in the Open era to win a Grand Slam title whilst saving two match points in the process.
After winning the first two sets convincingly, Coria was on top in the third set at 4-4 and 40-0, yet he went on to be broken by Gaudio and lose the third set.
Gaudio won the next set tying the match, as Coria struggled with leg cramps. However, Coria fought back and placed himself on the edge of glory. He was up two breaks of serve in the final set and served for the Championship at 5-4 and 6-5. Incredibly, Gaudio saved two match points before prevailing 0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6. The victory meant Guadio was also the first man to win a Grand Slam tournament final after being bagelled in the first set.
1. Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic 2012
Ahead of the 2012 final at Roland Garros, both players were looking to create tennis history. Nadal was aiming to become the first man to win seven French Open titles surpassing legend Bjorn Borg’s six titles as well as equaling the all-time record held by Chris Evert with seven titles.
However, Djokovic was looking to break a 43 year old record and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all Grand Slam titles simultaneously.
The match was a tight affair with Nadal clinching the first set via a late break of serve. The Spaniard then went on to claim the second set in similar circumstances.
However, the Serbian was not to be denied as he broke the ‘King of Clay’s’ serve twice and won eight games in a row to win the third set and be a break up in the fourth, leading 2-1. However, similar to the Courier final in 1991, rain affected play and this enabled Nadal to regroup. He went onto claim the illusive seventh title thanks to a Djokovic double fault on Championship point winning 6–4, 6–3, 2–6, 7–5.
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