The season of the red dirt is about to reach its decimal pointand the players are playing the warm-up tournaments for Roland Garros, the only clay Grand Slam of the year. So, we reviewed the best matches played ever by men at Roland Garros, in the Open Era.
- Jim Courier defeats Andre Agassi, 1991 finals [3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4]
The 1991 final, an all-American affair featuring two halfway hostile contemporaries, was sandwiched between showers that splattered Roland Garros Stadium that afternoon. And for the bulk of five ungainly sets, forecasting an imminent champion was as impossible as deciphering the weather.Neither player seemed willing nor able to plot a flattering course, especially Agassi, who wore down, slowed down and ultimately unravelled as the match progressed.After 3 hours 19 minutes of excruciating play and a total of 123 unforced errors on the windswept clay, Courier, a 20-year-old fist-pumping, baseball-loving baseliner from Dade City, Florida, captured the title in his first Grand Slam final by outgunning Agassi, 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, in the first all-American final since 1954.
- Roger Federer defeats Novak Djokovic, 2011 semi-finals [7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5)]
Roger Federer shocked the French Open by beating Novak Djokovic. The Swiss won the match of the tournament, he was the last man to beat Novak Djokovic, six months prior in London, did it again in Paris to stop the Serb’s remarkable unbeaten run at 43 but, more significantly, he confounded pre-tournament predictions to reach the final of the French Open against Rafael Nadal.Not many at Roland Garros, except utopians and tricksters, would have predicted such a scenario before the tournament began.
- Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal, 2009 R16 [6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2)]
It was the first time that Rafael Nadal, the ‘King of Clay’, lost a match at the French Open. The Swedish man, Robin Soderling is remembered even today, especially by the Roger Federer fans, as Soderling cleared the path for Federer to win his first ever French Open, and to complete his career grand slam. The memory of this match seems to grow stronger as its historical significance increases. Till date, Nadal has only lost 2 matches at Roland Garros, and withdrew in one.
- Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe, 1984 finals [3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5]
John McEnroe’s loss to Ivan Lendl in the 1984 French Open finals, no doubt haunts him. It also may have prevented McEnroe from claiming the most dominant season in the open era.McEnroe had finally learned how to win on clay in 1984 and was playing the best tennis of his career.He was well on his way to his first French Open title after cruising through the first two sets. Lendl seemed to have no answer for McEnroe’s serve-and volley game, even on the slow surface.Then, at 1-1 in the third set, McEnroe’s famed emotions got the better of him. Angered by a television cameraman’s headset that was making noise, he grabbed the instrument and yelled “Shut Up” into the attached microphone before tossing the headset aside.Not only did the outburst seem to break his momentum, it put the crowd squarely on Lendl’s side. Lendl eventually won in a match that took four hours and eight minutes. Lendl won two more French Open titles, but this was McEnroe’s first and only appearance in a French Open final. The match is memorable as much for McEnroe’s outburst and subsequent collapse as for Lendl’s comeback.
- Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic, 2013 semi-finals [6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7]
Nadal’s victory over Novak Djokovic in the 2013 French Open semi-final is memorable simply for its high level of play and riveting nature.Nadal had won seven French Open titles by then, but Djokovic was the No. 1 player in the world, and the memory of Djokovic’s epic five-set victory over Nadal in the 2012 Australian Open finals was lingering in observers’ minds.The resiliency of both players highlighted their 2013 encounter at Roland Garros. The revengeful sight of Nadal made him win the very classy match. McEnroe said it might have been the best match ever played on a clay court, and tennis historian Steve Flink told World Tennis, that it was definitely among the finest semi-finals ever played.