Jelena Ostapenko French Open 2017

The unseeded underdogs who’ve won the French Open

Are you thinking that it is impossible for an unseeded player to win the French Open? Well, think again.

Join Tennishead as we reveal the unseeded winners who have pulled off some of the most shocking wins in Roland Garros history.


Mats Wilander – 1982 French Open

Ahead of the 1982 Championships, World number one John McEnroe withdrew from the tournament due at an ankle injury. On top of this, the four-time defending champion Bjorn Borg chose to not to compete as well due to the authorities saying he had not played enough tennis and tournaments in order to qualify. Therefore, the French Open, for the first time in over four years, was to have a new victor. Yet very little would have thought it was going to be a 17-year-old Mats Wilander.

Wilander came into Roland Garros having won the boys title the year before and was making his first ever main draw appearance at the French Open. It was in the fourth round in which Wilander shocked the tennis world by beating the 1981’s runner up Ivan Lendl over five sets. He followed this remarkable victory up, with wins over fifth seed Vitas Gerulaitis and fourth seed Jose Luis Clerc in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.

In the final, Wilander was up against the 1977 French Open Champion and third seed Guillermo Vilas. The match lasted 4 hours and 42 minutes and Wilander won the match in four sets that included a bagel in the third. The remarkable thing about Wilander’s first ever Grand Slam victory, was that it was his first ever ATP Tour-level title.


Gustavo Kuerten – 1997 French Open

Since Mats Wilander, there was no player who won his first ATP title at a Grand Slam event, until Gustavo Kuerten’s triumph in 1997. Kuerten came through battle after battle producing incredible repeat performances to claim his maiden title. In particular, in the third round the 20-year-old Brazilian produced one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when he defeated the 1995 French Open champion and clay-court specialist Thomas Muster.

In the very next round he defeated fellow unseeded Ukrainian Andriy Medvedev in a dramatic five-setter 5-7, 6-1,6-2,1-6,7-5 to reach the quarter-finals where he would face defending champion and third seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Kuerten stunned the Russian in five sets to reach the semi-finals where then went on to defeat Belgian qualifier Filip Dewulf to reach the final. In the final, Kuerten faced two-time champion Sergi Bruguera.

The Brazilian produced an almost faultless performance, shocking the Spaniard winning 6–3, 6–4, 6–2 to lift the La Coupe des Mousquetaires. At number 66 in the world, he was the second-lowest ranked player ever to win a major and was the first Brazilian man to win a Grand Slam.



Gaston Gaudio – French Open 2004

Gaston Gaudio’s title win in 2004 was simply remarkable. He started the tournament as he finished it by beating a fellow Argentinian, this time Guillermo Canas in the first round in a thrilling five set contest.

He followed this up with another five-set win over 14th seed Jiri Novak. He then defeated 1999 Australian Open runner-up Thomas Enqvist in the third round in four sets before registering his first straight sets win of the tournament over Russian Igor Andreev to enter the quarter-finals.

The quarter-finals saw him go up against the three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten, who he beat in four sets. For the second time, he faced another Argentinian in the form of the eight seed David Nalbandian, who he dispatched in straight sets to set up the only ever all-Argentinian Grand Slam final.

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.



Jelena Ostapenko – 2017 French Open

In 2017, the world number 47 Jelena Ostapenko became the first unseeded woman in nearly 90 years to win the French Open and the first to win a Grand Slam unseeded since Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open.

The Lativian began her French Open campaign by recording a comeback victory over America’s Louisa Chirico.  She followed this with a second round win over Rio Olympics champion Monica Puig.

Ostapenko then defeated Lesia Tsurenko in the third round before defeating 2010 runner-up Sam Stosur in another comeback victory, thus reaching her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final where she beat Caroline Wozniacki in a similar fashion to advance to the semi-finals.

In the semi-finals, Ostapenko was up against Swizterland’s Timea Bacsinszky. It was a tightly contested affair in which the 20-year-old Latvian prevailed, winning 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3.  Ostapenko thus became the first Latvian Grand Slam finalist, bettering Ernests Gulbis’ semi-final run at the 2014 Roland Garros.

Ostapenko faced a formdiable opponent in the form of Romanias  Simona Halep in the final. It was the third seed’s second French Open and Grand Slam final and a win would have taken her to the WTA World Number one spot.

In similar fashion throughout Ostapenko’s tournament, the Latvian lost the first set but rallied remarkably to to win the next two sets and become the first ever Latvian to win a Grand Slam.



Barbora Krejcikova – 2021 French Open

Last year Barbora Krejcikova defeated Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final, 6–1, 2–6, 6–4 to win the title. Widely regarded as a doubles specialist, for the current World number two it was her first ever singles Major title.

However the Czech was extremely close to not completing the feat, as despite breezing through the early rounds, Krejcikova faced a mammoth battle against Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the semi-finals. Krejcikova even saved a match point during their epic final set tie-break, making her the first player since 2005 and third woman in the Open Era to win the French Open after saving a match point.

Krejcikova was the first Czech woman in 40 years to win the singles title at Roland Garros and she even claimed the doubles title in 2021, making her the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win both the singles and doubles events at the French Open.



Join >> Receive $700/£600 of tennis gear from the Tennishead CLUB

? Social >> Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube

? Read >> World’s best tennis magazine

? Watch >> How to enjoy ATP/WTA/Slam tennis on TV

? Shop >> Lowest price tennis gear from our trusted partner

? Gambling>> Betway tennis odds