Roger Federer French Open 2019

Top 5: French Open comebacks

Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? Join Tennishead to discover five of the most miraculous matches to ever grace court Philippe-Chatrier, including a certain Swiss legend snatching a victory from the jaws of the defeat in their historic French Open final run.  


5. Chanda Rubin vs Jana Novotna 1995

Less than two years after her memorable third-set collapse against Steffi Graf in the 1993 Wimbledon final, Novotna again failed to hold her nerve and ultimately had an even bigger fall from grace than in 1993.

This time the match was in the third round at the French Open against 19-year-old American Chanda Rubin. After two very closely contested sets, with Novotna taking the first set 7-6(8) and the American claiming the second 6-4, the Czech stormed through the deciding set taking an ‘unasailable’ lead as she was 5-0 and 40-0 to the good on Rubin’s serve.

It is the biggest lead possible in a tennis set but Novotna somehow squandered her opportunity to wrap up the match and seal her passage into the next round. In Rubin’s service game when she was 5-0 up, she failed to take five match points. The Czech earned and spurned a further four match points at both 5-1 and 5-4, whilst Rubin battled back and eventually leveled the match.

Interestingly, Rubin showed Novotna what it meant to close out a game and a match as the American at 7-6 saved three break points herself and recovered to hold her serve and win the deciding set set 8-6.


4. Steffi Graf vs Martina Hingis 1999

Martina Hingis was World number one heading into the final on the red clay in Paris in a rich vain of form. The Swiss player had just won the 1999 Australian Open in both the singles and in the doubles, whereas Steffi Graff had not won a major in three years, with her best finish in that period coming in the 1998 US Open in the round of 16, making the comeback even greater.

Hingis got off to the perfect start, taking the first set, 6-4, and leading by a 2-0 margin in the second set. Despite losing the break, Hingis broke again to go up, 5-4, allowing her to serve for the set and the match and was even three points from victory after taking a 15-0 lead in her pivotal service game. However, Graf fought back and converted her second break point to level the match at 5-5.

After that, Graf dominated proceedings. The German, stormed to the French Open title only losing two more games in the rest of the match, winning 4-6, 7-5,6-2. Interestingly, in the Open Era, Graf became the first player to defeat the top three ranked players in a Grand Slam tournament as she defeated World number two Lindsay Davenport, World number three Seles and Hingis in the final.

It was Graf’s last ever Grand Slam title and appearance at Roland Garros, whilst simultaneously, Hingis missed out on the chance to complete a career Grand Slam.



3. Ivan Lendl vs John McEnroe, 1984

Ivan Lendl went into the 1984 French Open regarded as a quality court player and as the second seed despite not yet having a major to his name.  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.

The two players met in the final of the championship – and what an incredible match it was. Both ‘Johnny Mac’s’ experience and form showed as raced 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 undefeated record for McEnroe was not to last as 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 as he held his nerve and serve in both the fourth and deciding set to win 3–6, 2–6, 6–4, 7–5, 7–5.



2. Roger Federer vs Tommy Haas 2009

In the last of 16 of the 2009 French Open, Roger Federer was on the precipice of being knocked out of the tournament, despite having reached the final in each of the previous three years. The Swiss maestro was two sets down and one point away from being 5-3 down in the third.

Federer however was able to remain in contention by holding his serve and leveling the third set at 4-4. The following game, he immediately broke the German’s serve taking a decisive lead in the third set. From then on, Federer only dropped two more games with some scintillating tennis winning (4) 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

Federer continued his run all the way to his fourth consecutive final at Roland Garros in 2009, where he finally got his hands on his one and only French Open title. By winning the title he completed the career Grand Slam as well as claiming his 14th major equaling Pete Sampras’ then-record of men’s singles Major titles.



1. Guillermo Coria vs Gaston Gaudio 2004

Gaston Gaudio’s title win in 2004 was simply remarkable and was one of the best comeback’s in the history of tennis.

He was facing World number three and heavy favourite Guillermo Coria in the final, who was widely considered to be the best clay court player in the world, to become the first Argentine to win a Major since Guillermo Vilas in 1979.

This is a stark contrast to Gaudio who was ranked 44th in the world, unseeded in the tournament, 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.

Whilst Coria began to struggle with leg cramps, Gaudio mounted his comeback winning the fourth set to level the tie. However, Coria fought back and placed himself on the edge of glory. He was up two breaks of serve up in the final set and served for the Championship at 5-4 and 6-5.

Incredibly, Gaudio made another incredible comeback to stay in contention in the match saving 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 bagel-led in the first set making the comeback even more extraordinary.


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