The Biggest Surprises in Roland Garros Finals

Over the years, hundreds of tennis players have left very good impressions during their participation at Roland Garros. Here we remember six surprises that occurred in the final

Michael Chang and Jelena Ostapenko

Photos: Flickr-James Phelps, Flickr-si.robi

LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González

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Leer en español: Las mayores sorpresas en finales del Roland Garros

Every tennis player aims to win as many championships as possible but above all one of the so-called Grand Slams. Beyond the prestige of competing in the US Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon, Roland Garros has a mystique incomparable to those already mentioned and great surprises have been experienced on its clay court in its almost 100 years of activities. And it is that said in other words, it is a tournament that is used to see how unknown players become legends.

Paris is the city that hosts this great sporting event, where the clay has become sacred for many and an almost impossible challenge for others. For this reason, the eyes of thousands of fans return to the French capital in 2022, as everyone hopes that in one of their games a new prospect will emerge that will pleasantly surprise them. Of course, reaching the Roland Garros final is not an easy task and beating the favorites is much less so.

For this occasion, in LatinAmerican Post we wanted to remember those epic and well-remembered feats in finals that consecrated or placed low-profile tennis players on the map. No one would have bet on them at first and in the end, they caused quite a stir among the spectators, implying that even in the Roland Garros arena there is room for surprises.

Michael Chang (1989)

At just 17 years of age, Michael Chang arrived in Paris as just another competitor. The American in that 1989 edition was not considered a promise for his country, since his compatriots Andre Agassi and Jim Courier were ahead of him. However, his tournament was phenomenal after eliminating the likes of Pete Sampras in the second round and Ivan Lendl (number 1 at the time) in the round of 16.

On his way to the final, he eliminated other prospects such as Ronald Agénor and Andrei Chesnokov. But without a doubt, the best game in that Roland Garros was played against the Swedish Stefan Esberg. In that last duel against the number 3 in the ranking, he was down two sets to one and saving several breaks in the fourth set. His effort, and perhaps a miracle, helped him win the duel 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 and thus surprise the tennis world.

Monica Seles (1990)

After debuting on the women's circuit at just 14 years of age, the Yugoslav tennis player was leaving very good feelings about the sport. In 1989 she reached a semi-final at Roland Garros for the first time, where she stood up to number 1 Steffi Graf, even winning a set, although she was eliminated. That contest meant the first big step in his nascent career.

Already 16 years old and with significant experience, Monica Seles returned to the Parisian tournament determined to conquer it. And what better scenario to begin her hegemony on clay than facing Graf again. The first set raised her in an incredible way and for the second she certified the surprise that very few expected. In the end, she won 7-6, 6-4 to become the youngest woman to win a Roland Garros.

Gaston Gaudio (2004)

A year before Rafael Nadal's supremacy began at Roland Garros, the French championship experienced an edition of 2004 to remember, mainly for Argentina. And it is that the Latin American nation saw how four of its representatives reached the quarterfinals. In addition to that, it is worth mentioning that this was the last French event that did not see the three best tennis players in the ATP ranking in the semifinals.

To reach the final, Gastón Gaudio won all three sets over Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandián in the quarters and semis, respectively. In the decisive match, he battled heroically against his compatriot Guillermo Coria, who came back in two sets (0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6). This match was as strange as it was chaotic, full of cramps and nerves on both sides, but without leaving behind the essence of what true elite tennis is.

Stanislas Wawrinka (2015)

The 2015 Roland Garros is probably one of the most remembered of the last decade. Rafael Nadal looked unstoppable and this was demonstrated by his five titles in a row on French clay. Likewise, in the quarterfinals, 7 of the 8 best tennis players in the ATP ranking were cast. Precisely, the Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka (number 8) left more than one speechless with his performances.

Eliminating Roger Federer with category and without much effort in three sets is not done by just anyone, and he did it in the quarterfinals. It was the first time he had reached a final in Paris and he was facing none other than Novak Djokovic, number 1. However, the Swiss played a memorable match to come back from the Serbian (4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4) and thus be in charge of cutting Nadal's streak at Roland Garros with his first title.

Jelena Ostapenko (2017)

One of the last surprises that were experienced at Roland Garros was played by the Latvian tennis player. In 2016 and at the age of 19, she managed to participate for the first time in the French tournament, being eliminated in the first round against another young promise like Naomi Osaka. However, the following year she came back stronger and was the only tennis player to reach the quarterfinals without being seeded, dispatching Caroline Wozniacki and Timea Bacsinszky.

In the final she ran into Simona Halep, number 3 in the ranking and who already knew what it was like to play those instances on clay. The Romanian won the first set and came close to repeating in the second, but Jelena made up ground and forced the decisive third set. There, once again, she came back from an uphill game to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and thus mark a milestone in the sporting history of his country.

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