Best French Open Matches in the Open Era

By Jeff Stinger

Out of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the French Open has the most unique look and feel of them all, as the red clay courts of Roland Garros have been settings for some of the most defining matches in the sport’s history. The display of talent has certainly improved around the 80s and, since then, there have been countless memorable battles at the event. Which of those legendary matches in Roland Garros have a special place in our hearts?

Nitrobetting is ready to volley the latest news, tennis odds, and updates all year round. This time, let’s count down the five best French Open matches in the Open era (in chronological order) and how they’ve shaped the current landscape of modern-day tennis.

Top 5 Greatest French Open Matches of the Open Era

READ MORE: 2023 Roland Garros Betting Preview

Chris Evert def. Martina Navratilova (1985)

Women’s tennis was all the rage even back in the 1980s, with the enduring rivalry between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova paving the way for what a fierce rivalry should be. Navratilova and Evert have gone head-to-head 65 times entering the final round of the 1985 French Open, with the former winning 15 of the last 16 meetings against the latter. However, Evert eked out the victory over Navratilova in three sets. She’d also go on to win their final-round rematch the year after to give Evert seven women’s singles titles in Roland Garros; a record that still stands to this day.

Michael Chang def. Ivan Lendl (1989)

From the early to mid-80s, Ivan Lendl was the top dog at Roland Garros, winning the men’s singles title in ‘84, ‘86, and ‘87. But near the turn of the decade, the guard started to shift and Michael Chang was coming for Lendl’s throne. Chang and Lendl had a thrilling five-set fourth-round battle in 1989, with Chang needing to battle through leg cramps in the fourth set and getting clever with “moonballs” as his shot of choice given his physical setback. Lendl was frustrated and had no answer for those moonballs, as the 17-year-old Chang went on to complete the upset of his top-seeded foe in five hard-fought sets en route to becoming the youngest player to win a Grand Slam singles tournament at the time.

Monica Seles def. Steffi Graf (1992)

A new women’s singles rivalry was born in the early 90s, as Monica Seles and Steffi Graf set the stage for one of the best French Open matches of all time. Seles was 18 years old and the No.1 seed, while Graf was 22 and locked in as the No. 2 seed to set up a finals clash for the ages. The two would be deadlocked at one set apiece before playing a 90-minute deciding set that Seles would take with a final set score of 10-8. Many tennis fans still fondly look back on this match as a huge turning point not just for the popularity of tennis, but also for female athletes in general.

Serena Williams def. Venus Williams (2002)

Come the new millennium, a pair of siblings began to dominate the scene, as sisters Serena and Venus Williams were on top of their respective games. The two would collide at a Grand Slam final for the very first time in the 2022 French Open, with Serena beating her older sis 7-5, 6-3. While there weren’t any thrilling deciding sets in this particular matchup, it was still a foreboding result that would dictate the reign of the Williams household on the WTA Tour for many years to come.

Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic (2013)

Most newer tennis fans would likely point to this grueling endurance test of a semifinal clash in 2013 between two all-time greats as their choice for the best tennis match of all time, period. Rafael Nadal had won seven French Open titles to this point, yet the World No. 1 male tennis player, Novak Djokovic, had just defeated Nadal for the Australian Open title earlier that year. What resulted was a four-and-a-half-hour marathon that went the full five-set distance, as the two future Hall of Famers traded blows until the final serve. Nadal defeated Djokovic for his seventh of a whopping 14 French Open titles, while Djokovic had to wait until 2016 to finally get one over Rafa for his first-ever title at Roland Garros.

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