Rafael Nadal and Bjorn Borg are the French Open standards of the Open era. But how dominant were they in their very best years? Which other French Open champions crushed their contemporaries and sealed their place as one of the top-10 performances?
We are defining each performance as a complete Roland Garros fortnight, seven matches. There have been 46 years of professional competition at Roland Garros and noticeable differences if we closely examine each decade.
In the 1970s, some of the early rounds only played best of three to determine a winner. There were more one-sided matches during this time, which indicates that the draws were not as deep.
The 1980s featured three titles apiece from Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander, but it often required more sets and games to finish off the title. Competition was increasing.
The 1990s had the most parity. Many clay-court champions filled the draws and it was difficult to smash through so many styles of great competitors. A few notable champions, who were cut from out list, should be acknowledged:
- 1990 Andres Gomez dropped only two sets and defeated semifinalist Thomas Muster and finalist Andre Agassi.
- 1994 Sergi Bruguera dropped only two sets as he completed back-to-back championships at Roland Garros.
- 1995 Thomas Muster was sweeping every tournament in the midst of one of the great clay-court seasons in history. Though he destroyed finalist Michael Chang, he needed four sets in the opener and five sets to hold off quarterfinalist (and future 2002 French Open champion) Albert Costa.
- 1996 Yevgeny Kafelnikov only dropped one tiebreaker set, but he lost 76 games, which counts a lot when we split hairs at the top. His most notable victory was defeating Pete Sampras in the semifinals, denying the American greater historical acclaim.
- Gustavo Kuerten won three French Open titles (1997, 2001-01) but his best run (2001) needed a five-setter and he dropped five total sets.
The 2000s started out with Kuerten but then turned into Nadal's historical dominance.
Only the most dominant performances crack the top 10, and they have set a standard that will take special results to join the list. Will someone in 2014 make a bid?