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5 lowest-ranked women to make the finals of French Open ft. Iga Swiatek & Jelena Ostapenko

Iga Swiatek at the 2021 French Open
Iga Swiatek at the 2021 French Open
Dr. Balraj Shukla

In the women's singles finals of the 2022 French Open, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek will meet World No. 23 Coco Gauff. It is unusual to see a player outside the top-20 reach the finals of a Major. However, there have been a few occasions since the introduction of computerised rankings where a player has had a deep run.

The first computerised rankings in women's tennis were introduced in 1975. These rankings serve as a measure through which players can enter specific events based on their position in the rankings list. Chris Evert was the first player to be ranked No. 1 at the end of the season and gave her thoughts on the matter at the time.

β€œBefore the computer rankings, what they did was rank you at the end of the year, and I was No. 1 in 1974, probably because of the French Open and Wimbledon. When the computer rankings came out it was explained primarily as a basis for getting into tournaments, seedings, cut-offs, but the players already knew who was No. 1 or No. 2. It just legitimized everything on paper,” Chris Evert said.

The draw ensures through the seeding system that the higher ranked players converge only during the later rounds of the tournament. In a Grand Slam, 32 players are seeded and seeded players can face each other only in the third round. Lower-ranked unseeded players, however, can face seeded players in the first round itself. Hence, it would take quite an effort for the lower ranked players to have a deep run in a Major.

Nevertheless, since the Slams are placed at the highest echelons of tennis, the lower ranked players see them as an opportunity to get some propulsion in their rankings. We take a look at the five lowest ranked women who have made it to the Roland Garros finals, ever since the introduction of the computerised rankings.

#5 Barbora Krejcikova

Barbora Krejcikova with the 2021 French Open Women's Singles Trophy
Barbora Krejcikova with the 2021 French Open Women's Singles Trophy

Barbora Krejcikova was ranked No. 33 and was unseeded at the 2021 Roland Garros. En route her run to the title, she saved a match point in the semifinals against Maria Sakkari.

The Czech met World No. 32 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the finals, making it the lowest ranked French Open final ever since the introduction of computerised rankings.

Krejcikova won the final 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, becoming the first player since Hana Mandlikova in 1981 to win the match. She also lifted the women's doubles title, partnering with Katerina Siniakova. This made her the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win both the singles and doubles titles in the same edition of the French Open.

Krejcikova became the third player ever to lose in the first round at as the defending champion at Roland Garros this year. She lost to home favorite Diane Parry in three sets.

#4 Marketa Vondrousova

Marketa Vondrousova
Marketa Vondrousova

At the age of 19 years, Marketa Vondrousova made the finals of the 2019 French Open. She was then the World No. 38 and became the first player since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009 to reach the finals of a Major as a teenager.

Vondrousova defeated four seeded players en route to the finals - Carla Suarez Navarro, Anastasija Sevastova, Petra Martic and Johanna Konta. She faced eighth seed Ashleigh Barty in the finals. Barty won the match 6-1, 6-3 to win her first ever singles Slam title. The run helped Vondrousova break into the top 20 in the rankings for the first time.

Ahead of the 2022 French Open, Vondrousova was ranked No. 35 in the world. However, she had to have surgery due to a wrist injury and the Czech player was forced to pull out of the competition.

#3 Jelena Ostapenko

Jelena Ostapenko lifts the 2017 French Open Women's Singles Trophy
Jelena Ostapenko lifts the 2017 French Open Women's Singles Trophy

Jelena Ostapenko was ranked No. 47 when she entered the main draw at Roland Garros in 2017 and had never won a singles title in her career. However, at the 2017 French Open, she became the first player since 1979 to win a Slam for her first tour-level title.

For the first time since Margaret Scriven in 1933, an unseeded female player won the French Open. Ostapenko defeated third seed Simona Halep in the finals after dropping the first set. The following year, she became the first player since Anastasia Myskina in 2005 to lose in the first round as the defending champion at Roland Garros.

At the 2022 French Open, she was seeded 13th, but lost to unseeded opponent Alize Cornet 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 in the second round.

#2 Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek poses with the French Open trophy
Iga Swiatek poses with the French Open trophy

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek's success story started at the 2020 French Open. She was ranked No. 54 in the world and defeated previous year's runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the first round. En route to the finals, she also defeated top seed Simona Halep in the fourth round.

Swiatek became the second Pole since Jadwiga Jedrzejowska in 1939 to make the final of the French Open. In the finals, the Pole defeated Sofia Kenin to win the first ever tour level title of her career.

The then 19-year-old won her maiden Grand Slam in spectacular fashion, dropping only 28 games in the entire tournament. It was the second least number of games dropped to win a major since Steffi Graf's tally of 20 in 1988.

#1 Florenta Mihai

Messages of regret and appreciation for the one that was Florenta Mihai from @Simona_Halep and @irina_begu http://t.co/kG8AQMD5kj

Romania's Florenta Mihai is the lowest ranked women's singles finalist ever since computerized rankings were introduced. In 1977, Mihai was ranked No. 56 ahead of Roland Garros. She notably defeated third seed Helga Masthoff in the third round and seventh seed Janet Newberry in the semifinals en route to the final round.

Romanian Florenta Mihai passed away aged 60. She was runner-up of @rolandgarros 1977 (singles & mixed doubles) and played 15 ties of @FedCup

Mihai lost to top seed Mima Jausovec in three sets in the final. The Romanian also finished as a runner-up in the mixed doubles event, partnering with Ivan Molina. The following year, Mihai achieved her highest singles ranking of No. 29.


Edited by Keshav Gopalan

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