Roland Garros (the French Open for you non-tennis fans), is the second leg of the four majors. The tournament is played on red clay, which is often regarded as the most physically and mentally demanding of the major surfaces. To excel here, you’ve got to be the best of the best, which is exactly what we’re counting down.
The ALL-TIME BEST 10 TENNIS PLAYERS AT ROLAND GARROS!
10. Rod Laver
The Rocket only conquered Roland Garros once, but he likely would have had many more if there wasn’t a ban against professionals during the prime of his career. Further still, just think how many total slams he would have won if it wasn’t for the ban.
9. Mats Wilander
Wilander boasted three titles on the crushed brick, but is most known for snagging his first at age 17. Mats, while maybe not the most physically gifted, was an instinctive player who mentally outmatched his top opponents. Clay court tennis is often compared to chess…and Wilander is Kasparov.
8. Ivan Lendl
Lendl was a masterful player on clay, snagging three Roland Garros crowns. The man was a machine, who was in amazing shape. If his endurance didn’t win out, his massive forehand stopped many an opponent in their tracks.
7. Gustavo Kuerten
Guga took to the clay like a duck to water (Lt. Dan not included). He took home three titles, but probably his biggest accomplishment was becoming a fan-favorite at an event known for its fickle spectators. It really is a shame that the Brazilian had mounting injuries that shortened his promising career, or he might be higher on this list.
6. Martina Navratilova
Martina won two championships, and might have won more, as she didn’t play the event for several years early in her career. Navratilova also posted an outlandish 18 doubles/mixed doubles titles on the clay. When factoring in both singles and doubles, Martina might be the best tennis player of all-time.
5. Justine Henin
Henin has four championships at Roland Garros. She even grabbed three in a row (2005-2007). The really amazing part of Henin’s run is that her serve-and-volley style shouldn’t, in theory, lead to much success on the dirt. Justine’s mental toughness and guile overcame any weaknesses in her game, and made her an all-time great.
4. Steffi Graf
Probably the greatest women’s tennis player of all-time, Graf tallied a crazy six titles. Dominating with a masterful forehand and underrated backhand, Steffi mowed through draws on the red clay. Probably her biggest achievement was in 1988, that year she completed the “Golden Slam” (all 4 majors and an Olympic Gold medal in singles). Insane part was, she won all 5 tournaments in one calendar year!
3. Chris Evert
Evert has the all-time women’s record with seven titles. She even took home her first at the tender age of 19. Probably the craziest stat though, is that she only missed the semifinals once in her career. Evert was a monster on clay, probably the best ever on the women’s side.
2. Bjorn Borg
Icy cool demeanor and unflappable strokes, two characteristics you need to win at Roland Garros. Borg did that…six times, including four in a row (1978-1981). Bjorn was nearly unbeatable in Paris. One can’t help but wonder how many titles he would have won if he didn’t retire at any early age.
1. Rafael Nadal
What does it take to be #1? (Thanks a bunch Nelly!) Well, how bout this…59-1. Yeah, that’s his career record at Roland Garros up to 2014. The only guy to beat him was Robin Soderling in 2009. That’s good for ridiculous eight titles, the most in the Open Era. Some more craziness, he won the title the first year he played Roland Garros. He’s also won four consecutive titles…twice. Rafael Nadal is not only the best tennis player in Roland Garros history, but the best clay court play in the history of the game.
Tomorrow, the MOST ANTICIPATED 10 EVENTS OF JUNE!