French Open crowds are famous for championing the underdog. In 1983, for example, they propelled Frenchman Yannick Noah to victory over defending champion Mats Wilander.
The following year (1984), the boisterous French crowd forced open the jaws of elimination, freeing Ivan Lendl as American John McEnroe had the Czech by the throat, leading two sets to love.
Who can forget how the French crowd turned on teenager Martina Hingis in her 1999 final against Steffi Graf. The hysterical disapproval of the French melted Hingis and swept the German Graf to the finish line.
The passion of the French crowds has often factored into the outcome of the championship match. Last year, underdog Francesca Schiavone felt the heat of the French crowd’s enthusiasm in her victory over Samantha Stosur.
That explains why this year’s field of long shots and dark-horse contenders enter the 2011 French Open with optimism at their chances of winning. Some of the long shots are well-known names in tennis and some are not.
Juan Martin del Potro resumes his clay-court season after a hip injury while Kim Clijsters limps into the French Open with her ankle severely taped. Clijsters has had no preparation time on clay.
Both these stars enter the French Open with the odds of winning it all squarely against them.
But you have to suspect that no man or woman wishes to look at the draw and see del Potro or Clijsters as their next opponent.
These two players, as well as a few others, become long shots with a shot to win...