Six of the best French Open finals - Roland Garros classics
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Six of the best French Open finals – Roland Garros classics

All eyes will be on Roland Garros for the second grand slam event of the year, so we’ve picked out six of the best French Open finals.

Rafael Nadal has been the king of clay with 14 titles, although such has been his dominance in Paris, we’ve had to look elsewhere for thrilling deciders.

Andre Agassi v Andrei Medvedev (1999)

Agassi was the hot favourite to become only the second man in the Open era since Rod Laver to win the career grand slam when he faced world No 100 Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 final.

The popular American had already dispatched defending champion Carlos Moya in the fourth round, but thoughts of joining the greats seemed a pipe dream when he took just three games in the first two sets.

However, luck was on his side as the heavens opened during the third set and when the players returned to the locker room, Agassi’s coach Brad Gilbert told him exactly where he was going wrong.

Agassi returned to court transformed and reeled off the next three sets 6-4 6-3 6-4 for his one and only French Open title, after which the tears flowed followed by the start of his trademark kiss and bow to all four corners of the court.

French Open finals, tennis

Jim Courier v Andre Agassi (1991)

Eight years earlier, Agassi was fully expected to win his first grand slam, but the rain that came to his rescue against Medvedev proved his undoing in the final against fellow American Courier.

The match already had a bit of niggle because coach Nick Bollettieri decided to side with Agassi instead of Courier, who was offered the services of Jose Higueras instead.

That decision proved to be critical when play was interrupted in the second set with Agassi holding a 6-3 3-1 lead.

Agassi later complained that he was offered no advice during the rain delay, but Higueras told Courier to stand further behind the baseline and grind down his opponent in the slower conditions.

Courier squared the match upon the players’ return and although Agassi took the third set, the next two went to the underdog for the first of his four grand slam titles.

Ivan Lendl v John McEnroe (1984)

Imperious McEnroe had won all 42 of his matches in 1984 and had dropped just one set when he came up against Lendl in the French Open final.

A sixth grand slam title and a first at Roland Garros looked in the bag when he served and volleyed his way into a two-sets lead against a man that had lost all four previous finals in majors, including the French Open three years earlier when he was beaten in five by Bjorn Borg.

But the spark for McEnroe’s collapse came in the third set when he let fly a verbal volley down a headset which had been left on the sidelines by a cameraman.

The left-hander went on to lose that set but broke twice in the fourth to go 4-2 up only for his metronomic serve to start letting him down.

Lendl took advantage to win his first grand slam 3-6 2-6 6-4 7-5 7-5, an outcome which McEnroe later recalled was “the worst loss of my life. Sometimes it still keeps me up at night”.

French Open finals, tennis

Michael Chang v Stefan Edberg (1989)

In 1989, Chang appeared in the French Open final standing on the brink of history.

The American teenager had already beaten world number one and three-time champion Lendl from two sets down in one of the most memorable matches in French Open history despite suffering from debilitating leg cramps which led him to serve underarm occasionally.

Chang raced out of the blocks against Edberg, taking the opening set 6-1, but the Swede took the next two and seemed on course for a fourth grand slam title.

His opponent had other ideas, though, taking the last two sets 6-4 6-2 to win his one and only major, and become the youngest player ever to win a grand slam at 17 years and 109 days old, a record which still stands today.

Guillermo Coria v Gaston Gaudio (2004)

A year before Nadal won the first of his French Open titles, an unassuming all-Argentinian battle took centre stage on Philippe Chatrier where Coria was fully expected to beat unseeded compatriot Gaudio in a match guaranteed to produce a first-time grand slam winner.

Coria, widely viewed as the world’s best clay-court player, had dropped his first set of the tournament against Tim Henman in the semi-finals, and was firmly in control at 6-0 6-3 against the world number 44, who was being totally outplayed.

Midway through the third set, Coria started to struggle with leg cramps and the cracks started to show when he blew it serving at 40-0 and 4-4 as Gaudio clawed his way back into the match.

Despite his struggles, Coria managed to take a 4-2 lead in the decider, serve for the match twice and hold two match points, but lost the fifth set 8-6 against a player who had previously never reached a grand slam quarter-final and never did again after his French Open triumph.

Novak Djokovic vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (2021)

Djokovic had to recover from beating four-time defending champion Nadal in an epic semi-final that lasted over four hours and looked in big trouble when losing the first two sets.

However, Tsitsipas had become the first Greek player to reach a major final by edging out Alexander Zverev in a five-set marathon and he just couldn’t keep up the ferocious pace he had set early on.

His Serbian opponent turned the tide in the third set and then took complete control of the contest to prevail 6-7 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4, becoming the first man in the Open era to achieve a double career Grand Slam.

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