The Top 10 French Open Matches in the Open Era
The top ten matches are based on a variety of criteria.
The list only includes matches in the Open era.
All matches are finals unless otherwise noted.
Most matches are between top players who won several Grand Slam titles. Quite a few are matchups of French Open champions. Many are back-and-forth battles that came down to the last set.
Some matches are listed because of their historical or social significance. Think first-ever, youngest-ever, the beginning of an era, or the crowning achievement of a career.
There are plenty of great rivalries including Evert-Navratilova, Federer-Nadal, the Williams sisters and Wilander-Lendl.
With the men's best-of-five-sets format, there is more room for dramatic comebacks than in women's tennis which uses a best-of-three-sets format. Therefore, there are more men's matches in the Top 10.
So without further ado, here are my top picks.
1974: Bjorn Borg Wins First Grand Slam Title
The Swede dominated the French Open—and men's tennis—for much of the late-'70s and early-'80s.
After struggling throughout the first two sets and on the brink of defeat, Borg launched an amazing comeback to capture his first title, beating Spain's Manuel Orantes 2–6, 6–7, 6–0, 6–1, 6–1.
Borg's ability to focus in fifth sets would become his trademark.
Borg controlled the final three sets and would control the tournament for many years— defending his title in '75, and possessing dictatorial control in winning four straight titles from '78 to '81.
Borg holds the French Open record with six championships.
2002: Serena Williams Claims a French Open Title for the Williams Sisters
Has there ever been a better sibling rivalry than the Williams sisters?
For years Venus and Serena Williams notoriously struggled on the clay at Roland Garros.
In the 2002, an all-Williams final guaranteed a Grand Slam win for one of the sisters.
Serena defeated Venus in the final 7-5,6-3.
Serena, seeded third, topped Venus, the No. 2 seed and Jennifer Capriati, the No. 1 seed in order to achieve the feat.
It was the first French Open title for an African-American since Althea Gibson accomplished the feat in 1956 and the a little payback for Serena after she lost the 2001 U.S. Open to Venus in their first Grand Slam final matchup.
Serena Williams holds a 5-2 edge against Venus in Grand Slam finals.
1985: Evert Wins a Thriller vs. Navratilova
In 1984 Martina Navratilova defeated Chris Evert in the French Open final, but Evert came back with a vengeance in 1985 a won a match that both refused to lose.
Evert was seeded No. 2 and though Navratilova was the top seed, Evert came out victorious, winning 6-3 6-7(4) 7-5.
Navratilova gave Evert all she could in a match for the ages between the best in the best women's player of the '70s and the best women's player of the '80s.
While Evert ruled the '70s and Navratilova conquered the '80s, Evert showed she still had some tennis left in defending her Open championship in '86—defeating Navratilova yet again.
Evert holds the French Open record with seven titles. She won in 1974, '75,'79, '80, '83, '85 and '86.
1981: Ivan Lendl Falls to the Greatest
Don't worry Ivan Lendl.
Bjorn Borg left a lot of people in despair during his reign of the French Open.
Lendl fought passionately, but in typical Borg fashion, the Swede played best when it mattered most. Borg dominated the fifth set and won the match 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
This was Borg's last year atop men's tennis and he wouldn't win any Grand Slams after 1981.
1999: Andre Agassi Captures Career Grand Slam
Redemption was hard to harness but Andre Agassi snatched it at Roland Garros in 1999.
Although Agassi had won the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open by 1999, he faltered in his first shot at a Grand Slam title in the French Open in 1990 when he lost the final to Andres Gomez.
Agassi lost another French Open final in 1991, falling to Jim Courier.
In 1999, it looked like more of the same for Agassi. He lost the two opening sets to Andrei Medvedev in overwhelming fashion, 1-6, 2-6.
But Agassi would stave off another finals loss and win 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4 for his first and only French Open title.
1984: Ivan Lendl Denies John McEnroe French Open Championship
With Bjorn Borg out of his way, Ivan Lendl would rule over the French Open in the mid-'80s.
Lendl faced John McEnroe in the 1984 French Open final. McEnroe had plenty of Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles, but this was his best chance to win the French Open.
Indeed, the match was a heartbreaker for McEnroe and pure joy for Lendl. McEnroe won the first two sets and nearly won the last two.
Unlike 1981's final when Lendl struggled in the fifth and deciding set— losing 6-1—Lendl maintained his focus in crunch time winning the match 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5.
There's plenty of Lendl to spread around in this Top 10.
2008: Rafael Nadal Continues His Mastery of Roger Federer
So far, this list has included plenty of close matches between some of the greatest tennis players of all time.
While 2008's French Open final included greats in Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Nadal made sure there was little drama in this match, winning convincingly 6–1, 6–3, 6–0.
Nadal became the first player since Bjorn Borg to win four French Open titles in a row.
So why is this match in the Top 10?
Because it was the beginning of Nadal's command of his rivalry with Federer.
Nadal followed his French Open triumph by defeating Federer at Wimbledon and he began this year by winning the Australian Open—once again defeating Federer in the process.
After being tied 2-2 in Grand Slam finals, Nadal has won the last three finals matches vs. Federer and now holds a 5-2 advantage.
Approaching what has to be his favorite tournament is there any stopping the world's No. 1 player?
1989: Michael Chang Surprises the Field and Becomes the Youngest Winner Ever
Michael Chang's greatest moment came at the expense of the most popular player on this list, Ivan Lendl.
In a fourth-round match against second-seeded Lendl, Chang, the 15th seed, was down two sets, losing 4-6, 4-6.
Suffering severe leg cramps and facing elimination against the experienced Lendl, the 17-year-old managed to frustrate one of the French Open's greatest champions using unorthodox serves and returns.
Chang fought back to win the match 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. The match lasted four hours and 37 minutes and is considered one of the most exciting and thrilling matches ever.
Chang would go on to defeat Sweden's Stefan Edberg 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the final to become the first American male to win the French Open since 1959 and the first to win the tournament in the Open era.
Chang also became the first person of Asian heritage to win a Grand Slam final in one of the most historic performances in tennis history.
1982: The Underdog Bites Back As Unseeded Mats Wilander Wins French Open
Before Ivan Lendl's meltdown vs. 17-year-old Michael Chang in the 1989 French Open, Lendl suffered a fourth-round loss to 17-year-old Mats Wilander of Sweden.
Lendl was seeded No. 2 and Wilander was unseeded. The previous year Lendl had advanced to the final before falling to Bjorn Borg in five sets.
Perhaps Lendl, who had battled all-time greats such as John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, underestimated youngsters like Wilander and Chang.
Wilander shocked Lendl 4-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 and went on to win the French Open after disposing of the No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 seeds.
Lendl exacted revenge in 1987, defeating Mats Wilander for his third French Open title of the decade.
Wilander came back to win the French Open again in 1988.
1992: Monica Seles Outlasts Steffi Graf
What more could one ask for?
Two French Open champions battling it out on the biggest stage.
The best players of the early-'90s in a rubber match for the championship.
The No. 1 seed and the No. 2 seed meeting in the final.
Steffi Graf, playing with a heart reserved for champions, breaking match point five times.
Monica Seles relentlessly forcing the action while defending her title.
Seles entered the 1992 French Open seeded No. 1 and Graf arrived as the No. 2 seed looking to avenge a loss to Seles in the 1990 final.
Seles was the back-to-back defending champion and Graf had experienced plenty of success at Roland Garros, too, winning the French Open in 1987 and '88 and finishing as the runner-up in '89.
The collision course ended in the finals where the two met in one of the greatest tennis matches ever.
Graf and Seles split the first two sets with Seles winning the first 6-2 and Graf winning the second 3-6.
The final set would take 91 minutes and push both players to the edge. Graf fought off several match points before Seles finally put her away winning the third set 10-8 for a final score of 6-2, 3-6, 10-8.
Seles became the first women's player to win three French Open titles in a row since 1955.
The best tennis rivalry of the early-'90s was stopped prematurely when a crazed Graf fan stabbed Seles.
Overall, Seles and Graf split four matches at the French Open.
However, Graf's two victories came in semifinals while Seles defeated Graf in the finals in 1990 and 1992.
Graf would finish her career with six French Open titles second only to Chris Evert's seven championships.
Honorable Mention: Yannick Noah Wins One for the Home Team in 1983
No doubt Yannick Noah's victory ranks among the top ten victories in the minds of the French.
Noah became the first Frenchman to win the title since Marcel Bernard in 1946. Noah defeated the defending champion Mats Wilander in straight sets in the final, 6-2, 7-5, 7-6.
Noah was the only black player to win the French Open until Serena Williams won in 2002.
His son, Joakim Noah, plays for the Chicago Bulls in the NBA and won back-to-back NCAA basketball championships at the University of Florida in 2006 and 2007.