Tennis' Biggest One-Hit Wonders During the Open Era
Tennis thrives on its legendary players. In the Open Era, multiple Grand Slam players and players that dominate the sport have been what bring the fans, television ratings and the interest.
Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova all remain a big part of the sport decades after they each retired. Average sports fans remember them. Many players have made surprising runs in Grand Slams that were never able to duplicate in subsequent years.
All of the players listed won a Grand Slam title unless otherwise noted.
10) Iva Majoli: 1997 French Open
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Majoli’s run to the 1997 French Open title came amid four straight appearances in the French Open quarterfinals. She would follow up her French Open title with a run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals and would reach the quarters of the French in 1998 as well. That would be the last time she would advance that deep into a Grand Slam; she retired in June of 2004.
Majoli upset then-world-No. 1 Martina Hingis. She also upset the No. 5 seed Lindsay Davenport in the fourth round. Otherwise, the No. 9 seeded Majoli did not have to defeat any higher-seeded player during her run.
9) Thomas Johansson: 2002 Australian Open
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In 46 career Grand Slam appearances, Johansson only advanced past the fourth round four times. His run to capture the 2002 Australian Open came virtually out of nowhere. Johansson had never made it past the third round in Melbourne until that point, and it was the only time in 13 appearances in Australia that he advanced past the fourth round.
His quarterfinal appearances at the U.S. Open in 1998 and 2000 were the only time he had advanced that far in a Grand Slam.
The tournament was wide open after the top six seeds were knocked out in the first or second round. Only four seeded players advanced as far as the semifinals. Johansson won the tournament by having to defeat only three seeded players. Marat Safin was the only player of note that Johansson defeated on the way to the only Grand Slam title of his career.
Johansson’s run to the 2005 Wimbledon semifinals was the only other time he passed the third round for the remainder of his career.
8) Andres Gomez: 1990 French Open
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The 1990 French Open was the only time in his career that Gomez made it past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam.
The No. 4 seeded Gomez did not have to face a seeded player until the semifinals. He defeated future No. 1 and future French Open champion Thomas Muster in straight sets in the semifinals and then defeated Andre Agassi in four sets in the final to capture his only Grand Slam title.
7) Anastasia Myskina: 2004 French Open
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Anastasia Myskina earned over $5 million in her career and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world. Despite that, Myskina’s title at Roland Garros was the only Grand Slam title of her career and only one of three total. It was the only time in 28 career Grand Slam appearances she advanced past the quarterfinals. She advanced to five other Grand Slam quarterfinals.
Her run to the 2004 French Open was surprising considering in eight French Open appearances, it was the only time at she went past the second round. Myskina defeated former Grand Slam Champions Jennifer Capriati and Venus Williams and the eventual 2004 U.S. Open champion and 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
With her title on the red clay, she became the first Russian female to win a Grand Slam in singles.
6) Shuzo Matsuoka: 1995 Wimbledon Quarterfinals
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Matsuoka took advantage of a wide-open quarter. No. 8 seed Sergi Bruguera dropped out before play commenced and No. 10 seed Marc Rosset lost in the first round, leaving no seeded player remaining in his quarter of the draw after the first round.
He moved through the draw by twice coming back from two sets to one down to advance to a quarterfinal with two-time defending champion Pete Sampras. He captured the first set in a tiebreaker before falling 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
That was the only time in his career he made it past the second round of a major.
5) Brian Teacher: 1980 Australian Open
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Seeded No. 2 in a 64-player draw, Teacher did not have to defeat a higher-seeded player en route to his only Grand Slam Title. He defeated the No. 14 seed, Kim Warwick of Australia, in straight sets in the final. He never made it past the quarterfinals of the other three Grand Slams.
4) Gaston Gaudio: 2004 French Open
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Gaudio had an incredible run on his way to his only Grand Slam title. He defeated No. 14 seed Jiri Novak in the second round, two-time Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals and then countrymen David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria in the semis and finals. He ousted Hewitt in straight sets and then bageled Nalbandian in the third to advance to the finals.
After being shut out by Coria in the first set, he went down 6-3 in the second to fall into a two-set hole. He won the next two sets four and one before winning the third set 8-6 for his only Grand Slam title. Gaudio never advanced past the fourth round in another Slam.
3) Chris Lewis: 1983 Wimbledon Runner-Up
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Lewis’ run to the 1983 Wimbledon final was his only appearance in a Grand Slam Semifinal. He had only a 33-33 career record in Slams. His career high ranking was No. 93.
Lewis came virtually out of nowhere to advance to the final. He lost to John McEnroe in straight sets. Lewis defeated No. 9 seeded American Steve Denton in the first round in five sets. He would not face another seed until he played No. 12 seed Kevin Curren of South Africa in the semifinals. Lewis overcame a 3-0 deficit in the fifth set to prevail 8-6.
2) Barbara Jordan: 1979 Australian Open
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Jordan is the older sister of the more accomplished tennis player Kathy Jordan. Her run to the 1979 Australian Open title made her the epitome of a one-hit wonder. It was in an era when the tournament did not attract many American players.
Although Jordan was seeded No. 5, her run was the only time she advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam. In a draw of 64, only seven players were seeded. She defeated the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds on her way to the title. The second seed was future tennis Hall of Famer Hana Mandlikova.
1) Chris O'Neil: 1978 Australian Open
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O’Neil’s run to the Australian Open title in 1978 is the most unlikely Grand Slam title in the Open Era. There were only 32 players in the women’s field that year. This required the players to win only five matches in a row compared to the seven wins that it takes now with 128 players. She had a career singles record of 19-52, and the Australian Open was her only career singles title. Her career-high ranking was 80.
The only wins over seeded players she needed in her run were over Americans Beth Norton in the second round and Betsy Nagelsen in the final.