The Top 10 Female French Open Champions
- Chris Evert – The draws Evert faced in the 1970s may not have been terribly deep, but Evert won this title 7 times with her first title coming in 1974 and her final title coming in 1986. Evert’s final two triumphs were three set thrillers against her #1 rival Martina Navratilova. Evert gets the top spot for rebounding and winning Roland Garros in 1985 and 1986 after Navratilova had seemingly figured her out on clay in 1984.
- Steffi Graf – Graf’s title haul of 6 will always carry questions about what a healthy Monica Seles would have meant as Steffi won Roland Garros in 1993, 1995, and 1996 without Seles in the draw. Still, Steffi’s 1999 run to the title places her in the second slot. Steffi won in Paris in 1987 and dominated Roland Garros in 1988. Steffi was runner-up at the French Open in 1989, 1990, and 1992. Steffi entered the 1999 French Open with many considering her to be a shadow of her former self. Graf defeated Lindsey Davenport and Monica Seles on her way to the final. She then dug deep and broke Martina Hingis’ will in a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 championship match.
- Monica Seles – Monica Seles was perhaps poised to become the greatest Female French Open champion ever. Many “what ifs” surround her career. In 1989, Seles pushed Steffi Graf hard in a 3 set semifinal loss. In 1990, Seles defeated Graf to take her first Grand Slam title. Her solid 1991 win over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and epic win over Steffi Graf in 1992 were awesome displays. Seles blasted her way past world #1 Martina Hingis to reach the 1998 Roland Garros final. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario turned back Seles’ quest for one more title.
- Arantxa Sanchez Vicario – Sanchez Vicario did the seemingly impossible by beating Steffi Graf to win the 1989 French Open title. In 1994, a zoning Mary Pierce who blasted Graf off of the court in the semifinal round could not keep her error count low enough to defeat the Spaniard. Finally, Sanchez Vicario upset Monica Seles in the 1998 final after surviving a quarterfinal battle with Serena Williams that involved some drama. ASV’s runner-up finishes in 1991, 1995, and 1996 help her cause.
- Justin Henin – Henin has one more title in Paris than either Seles or Sanchez Vicario have. Henin’s mastery and variety of spins as well as her court coverage made her a tough opponent on clay. I have her behind Seles due to my belief that Monica would have won at least 4 Roland Garros titles had she not been stabbed. I have her behind ASV due to Sanchez Vicario being so consistently solid at Roland Garros for a decade. It is splitting hairs as Henin could easily be 3rd or 4th on this list.
- Martina Navratilova – This pick is mildly controversial because Martina does not have as many Roland Garros trophies as does Serena Williams. However, Martina was runner-up 3 times when losing to Chris Evert on red clay in the final. She also was runner-up in 1987 to Steffi Graf. Her 6 championship appearances, 2 titles, and comprehensive 6-3, 6-1 win over Chris Evert in 1984 all place Martina ahead of Serena at this point.
- Serena Williams – Serena has largely been a feast or famine player in Paris. Serena learned lessons from her 2001 US Open loss to Venus Williams and came into 2002 with a great deal of determination. Serena played a lot of warm-up events and put on a great display of clay court tennis to win her second major title. Serena lost a controversial semifinal match to Henin in 2003 and after that got no further than the quarterfinal round prior to winning the 2013 Roland Garros title. Serena was beaten early in 2014, but rebounded with a 2015 crown in which Serena battled health problems and determined opponents to claim her 3rd Roland Garros title. Serena can climb on this list as she is still an active player.
- Maria Sharapova – She is the most shocking entry of the bunch. Sharapova is a great ball striker, but her movement is her weakness. This is especially true when changing directions during a point is required. Clay to me is a frustrating surface precisely because changing directions is so difficult on clay. Sharapova’s slow pace of play between points and return game allow for her to take advantage of aspects of clay enough to win big matches on dirt. Her success from 2011-2014 is a credit to her willingness to compete. Sharapova posted a 26-2 record over that four year period that included 2 titles and 1 runner-up finish. That is enough for Maria to be placed at #8 on this list. Maria like Serena can climb on this list.
- Margaret Court Smith – Court holds 3 French Open titles. Two of those victories came against what most would consider to be weaker fields than most of the champions on this list faced. She did defeat a very young Chris Evert in 1973 to claim her final French Open title. Court also won 2 amateur French Championships that do not count in an Open Era analysis, but those 2 titles in Paris are still impressive.
- Mary Pierce – Mary Pierce stormed into the 1994 Roland Garros final mowing down all of the competition in her path including Steffi Graf. She then lost due to committing so many unforced errors versus Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. In 2000, Pierce defeated Martina Hingis en route to a French Open title. In 2005, Pierce again reached the championship round falling in a one-sided final to Henin.
Tune In Tomorrow to see My Top 10 Male French Open Champions as a Great Deal of Mystery Surrounds Who Should Receive the Top Spot