5 greatest French Open women's singles finals of all-time

Court Philippe Chatrier
Court Philippe Chatrier

The French Open held its first women's singles championship in the year 1897, six years after the inception of the tournament.

From 1897 till 1926, the winners were all from France. The fist overseas player to win the French Open was Dutchwoman Kea Bouman in 1927.

It has been 18 years since the French Open had a French winner - that was Mary Pierce in the year 2000.

Without a doubt, the greatest claycourt player of all time in the women's field is American Chris Evert, who won an all-time record of seven titles in Paris. Evert is to the women's game what Rafael Nadal is to the men's game on clay.

Other noteworthy champions who won numerous titles on the Parisian clay include Suzanne Lenglen, Steffi Graf, Justine Henin, Helen Wills Moody and Margaret Court. The winner is awarded a replica of the Suzanne Lenglen Cup, named in honor of the great Frenchwoman who won six titles here.

Over the years, tennis fans around the globe have been enthralled by some high quality tennis in Paris. Although in terms of prize money and audience the French Open ranks the lowest among all Grand Slams, there has been no dearth of classic final matches here.

We take a look back at five of the greatest French Open finals of all time.

# Steffi Graf vs Martina Navratilova (1987)

Steffi Graf with the 1987 French Open Trophy
Steffi Graf with the 1987 French Open Trophy

For years, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert dominated the Women's field and managed to each win 18 Grand Slam titles. The new guard had to takeover and one of the youngsters who shook the tennis world with flair and supreme skill was German starlet Steffi Graf.

Graf entered the 1987 French Open in decimating form. The No. 2 seed dropped only one set to fellow teenager Gabriella Sabattini en-route to her march to the final. The final saw Graf face-off against top-seeded Navratilova who had already established herself as a legendary figure in tennis. The match was evenly poised with the pair winning a set each.

In the third set, the more experienced Navratilova had an opportunity to win the title, serving for the match at 5-4. She was broken in that game, and again at 6-7, handing Graf her first Grand Slam title at the age of 18.

# Arantxa Sanchez Vicario vs Steffi Graf (1989)

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario lifts the 1989 French Open trophy - her maiden Grand Slam trophy
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario lifts the 1989 French Open trophy - her maiden Grand Slam trophy

Two-time defending champion Steffi Graf was in imperious form having won the Golden Slam the previous year and the Australian Open earlier in 1989. She came into the French Open as the overwhelming favourite.

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the Spaniard was seeded seventh and was yet to make her big break in the Grand Slams. She would meet Graf in the final. It was not to be a 42nd consecutive win for Graf as the Spaniard playing in her first Grand Slam final took the first set in a tiebreak, withstood the might of Graf who levelled the match in the second set, to take the third set 7-5.

The final score read 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-5 and it was the first of 3 French Open titles that Arantxa Sanchez Vicario would win.

# Chris Evert vs Martina Navratilova (1986)

Navratilova and Evert posing with the 1986 French Open runner-up and winners trophies respectively
Navratilova and Evert posing with the 1986 French Open runner-up and winners trophies respectively

1986 was the third straight year that the two American legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova would meet in the final. Navratilova defeated Evert in 1984 quite comfortably, while Evert won an epic three-set contest in 1985. The match-up against the greatest clay court player of all-time, Chris Evert vs the greatest grass-court player of all-time, Martina Navratilova was always an enticing contest.

The two women with 18 Grand Slam titles apiece had faced off against each other on numerous occasions over a 15-year period with Evert dominating the first six years and Navratilova edging it in the next nine years.

The 1986 French Open final saw top-seed Navratilova face-off against second-seeded Evert. Navratilova started off very strong and took the first set in a breeze. Playing with renewed determination and grit, Evert won the next two sets to clinch her seventh career French Open and 18th and final Grand Slam singles title.

# Jennifer Capriati vs Kim Clijsters (2001)

2001 French Open Champion Jennifer Capriati
2001 French Open Champion Jennifer Capriati

After a hiatus due to personal reasons, former teen sensation, Jennifer Capriati scripted a fairytale comeback by winning the Australian Open of 2001. Although she entered the French Open that year with a respectable seeding of No. 4, few would have predicted a second Grand Slam title in a row for the American.

Belgian, Kim Cjisters, aged only 19 and playing in her first Grand Slam final, did her best to make sure that wasn’t going to happen. Clijsters won the first set comfortably 6-1 breaking the Capriati serve twice. Clijsters couldn't maintain the momentum in the second set as a single break of her serve handed Capriati the set 6-4 to level the match.

The third set was an all-time classic and holds the record for being the longest set in French Open finals history in terms of the number of games played. Clijsters all through the third set looked to have the upper hand coming very close to taking the match but it was Capriati who with a steely resolve held on to win her second Grand Slam title of the year. The final score read 1-6, 6-4, 12-10 in Capriati's favour.

# Monica Seles vs Steffi Graf (1992)

Monica Seles at the 1992 French Open Final
Monica Seles at the 1992 French Open Final

6 June 1992 was a day to remember in Roland Garros history as two players with a much talked about rivalry played an absolute classic final at the Court Phillippe Chatrier Arena. The stage was set for an enthralling contest as two-time defending champion and top-seed Monica Seles faced off against her greatest rival, German Steffi Graf.

Both women were chasing their third title at Roland Garros but left-handed Seles was looking to become the only woman in the Open Era to win a hat-trick of titles at Roland Garros.

With two breaks of serve, Seles quickly wrapped up the first set. However, Graf chasing her first French Open title since winning the Golden Slam in 1988 was determined to win at Roland Garros again as she scripted a comeback taking the second set 6-3. However, Graf looked nervous as she squandered a break of serve after winning one of her own and her serve looked shaky throughout.

The third set was a titanic clash as the two players raised their game to the next level. At 5-3, Seles had four Championship points but all of them were saved by Graf. Then, Seles lost her own serve as Graf drew the score at 5-5. After that, both players would hold on to their serves for the next couple of games. Seles eventually took the match in what was her sixth Championship point. The scoreline read 6-2, 3-6, 10-8 in Seles's favour.

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Edited by Vineet Aiyer
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