Out of all the grand slam events, the French Open tends to be the one where the status quo plays out more often than others. That’s thanks to players like Rafael Nadal, who cleans house on the clay surface. With upsets being rare, there still those moments where the underdog comes out on top. Throughout all the most significant matches, around half of them have been upsets. Overall, you can always expect high caliber tennis from the French Open, whether its unexpected defeats or two evenly matched opponents, you’re in for a pleasant time.
Do you remember the 1989 surprise?
Virginia Razzano Beats Williams in 2012
The year is 2012, and Serena Williams is in her prime. She comes into the French Open as a fifth seed and gains a 5-1 advantage in the second set tiebreaker against Virginie Razzano. Things are looking good.
Razzano was the number 111 player in the world at the time of this match, so keep that in mind. She rallies back against Williams and becomes the only person to beat Williams in the first round of a Grand Slam event!
Robin Soderling Stuns Rafael In Fourth Round
Here’s an outstanding fact about Rafael Nadal. The tennis legend has only lost two of his 88 matches at the French Open. That’s a different level of dominating. The first loss came in 2009 against the 23-seeded Robin Soderling.
The Swedish man completed the gigantic feat in only four sets, which is surprising because Nadal had won the previous four French Open titles. He had also beaten Soderling one month earlier on a clay court 6-1, and 6-0. At the Open, Soderling made it to the finals, but he lost to another legend: Roger Federer.
Justine Hardenne Falls To Tathiana Garbin
Between 2003 and 2007, Justine Hardenne secured four French Open titles. She appeared unbeatable until she met her match. In 2004, she received her only loss to Tathiana Garbin.
The Italian won in straight sets as the 86th ranked player in the world. Hardenne did have to battle a virus in their match, but in sports, there are no excuses, only results. Her defeat became the earliest exit by a defending champion in 15 years.
Just ahead, the youngest player to ever win the French Open shocked the world!
A 1989 Surprise From Michael Chang
For it to be his only grand slam victory, it couldn’t have played out any better. Michael Chang entered the 1989 French Open at only 17, but he was on a mission. After he beat the top-seeded Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, the tennis world went wild.
He then went into the final against third-seeded Stefan Edberg. Down 2-0 before rallying. The 15h-seeded Chang also overcame severe leg cramps that almost made him retire. Good thing he stuck through and became a champion in the process!
Matina Navratilova Gets Handled
If you want to talk about great runs in tennis history, then Martina Navratilova’s name should get brought up. Heading into the 1983 French Open, she had won three of the previous four grand slams and went 254-6 over three years. Her only loss in 1983 came courtesy of a 17-year-old.
Kathy Horvath took down Navratilova in the fourth round in three sets. That’s what’s so great about upsets; they come from the most unexpected people sometimes.
Ivan Lendl Folds To Huet
We’ll preface this one with the fact that Ivan Lendl was 33 at the time of this upset. He was also a three-time French Open champion when he faced off against Stephane Huet.
Huet was from France and had a 297 world ranking at the time. He had the pleasure of facing a champion in the first round, but no saw what was coming next. In three sets, Huet defeated Lendl, who would go on to retire the next year.
Justine Hardenne Loses In The First Round
It looks like Justine Hardenne couldn’t catch a break at the French Open. This upset came at the hands of a 179th ranked player by the name of Aniko Kapros (pictured) and is one of the biggest in the history of the tournament.
The match was in the first round in 2002. Kapros secured the victory in three sets, losing only one of the final 13 games of the game. That’s either excellent preparation or a lack of focus from Hardenne. Whatever it was, we’re sure she was highly upset.
Up next, something that no one expected…
Gustavo Kuerten Upsets Everyone
It was a long 15 years that passed by, and no unseeded player won the French Open. Then, in 1997, a man by the name of Gustavo Kuerten took the field by storm.
Heading into the French Open unseeded, Kuerten was eager to prove himself, but he had no idea he could win it all. Ranked number 66, Kuerten became the second-lowest ranked grand slam champ and the first Brazilian to win. The man even beat three defending champions on his way to the crown.
A Loss In The Final For Hingis
Losing in the finals can be tough. It’s even tougher when it’s an upset and you’re favored to win big. Martina Hingis knows about this too well thanks to her defeat in 1997.
Hingis had won four out of five grand slams in 1997-98, working her way to becoming the youngest number one ranked player at only 16. At the French Open in 1997, Iva Majoli played spoiler to the young star in the final. Interestingly enough, Hingis went 71-5 in 1997, and this was her only loss on grass or clay.
First Round Blues For Angelique Kerber
Angelique Kerber was on a tear in 2016 after winning two grand slams. Heading into 2017, she certainly had a ton of confidence and momentum, so the French Open was just another day in the park for her.
The grand slam started and Kerber had the pleasure of facing Ekaterina Makarova in the first round. Kerber proceeded to become the first top seed to get booted in the first round, losing 6-2, and 6-2. Kudos to Makarova for the upset.
Stefan Edberg Falls In The Second Round
This one must have been tough to swallow. Stefan Edberg (pictured) was on a roll heading into the 1987 French Open coming off an Australian Open victory. He also made it to the semifinals in both the Wimbledon and US Open.
Eric Winogradsky was from France and had a ranking of 152 in the world. He was such a longshot he even needed a wild card to enter the tournament! Winogradsky must have been locked in when he knocked out Edberg in the second round.
An Unseeded Player Takes Down The Three Seed
Winning as an unseeded player is difficult. Only one woman has accomplished it in the open era, and her name is Jelena Ostapenko. She worked hard up to the final where she faced Simona Halep.
Halep was a number three seed, so everyone assumed this would be a cakewalk for her. However, when an unseeded player gains that much momentum, they become scary. Ostapenko ended up pulling it off, but Halep came back the following year to claim the French Open title.
Andre Agassi Falls
It was a tough French Open for Andre Agassi. He reportedly headed into it overweight and ended up committing 63 unforced errors. The TV commentators even said it appeared he had “simply given up” late in his match against Chris Woodruff (pictured).
Woodruff ranked 72nd at the time and was in his first French Open. He ended up taking down Agassi in the second round but didn’t get much further after that. He also never made it past the third round of any Grand Slam in his career
As far as upsets go, we’ve shown you the best. Now here are the greatest final matches from the French Open…
Nadal Takes Down Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal doesn’t tip-toe around when it comes to the French Open. No matter who the opponent is, he deserves to be the favorite no matter what. This was even true in the finals of the 2008 French Open when he faced Roger Federer.
Nadal flat out crushed all of the others and didn’t drop a set in the tournament. Against Federer, he only lost four games on his way to securing his fourth French Open title in a row. Master of clay, Nadal strikes again.
Borg Defeats Manuel Orantes
Bjorn Borg headed into the 1974 French Open as an 18-year-old upstart. People knew he would be great; they didn’t think it would happen that soon. In the final, he squared off against the veteran Manuel Orantes.
The teen lost the first two sets but would turn things around over the next three. He would go on only to lose two more games, showcasing that he had the maturity of a seasoned vet. At the time of his victory, he was the youngest to win a grand slam.
Chris Evert Secures The Victory
For three consecutive years, two of the greatest players ever went head-to-head in the final of the French Open. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova made winning look easy, and their rivalry at the Open was even of the tennis season.
For the 1986 clash, it was something of a rubber match. Navratilova began strong and won the first set. Then, Evert stuck to her grit and won the next two games, clinching her seventh French Open title.
Steffi Graf Loses In 1989
Steffi Graf’s semifinals match win at the 1989 French Open was her 41st grand slam singles match victory in a row. She was also ranked number one and was the favorite to win the open. Unfortunately for her, there wouldn’t be a 42nd consecutive win in the final.
The seventh-seeded Arantxa Sanchez would bring an end to Graf’s reign in her first major final. After winning the first set and dropping the second, the pressure was on to claim victory. She showed she was ready for the moment and took out Graf.
Next, how one Frenchman became an icon…
The Frenchman Takes Home The Trophy
Decades had gone by, and the French were still waiting for one of their own to take home the French Open title. In 1983, Yannick Noah represented their best chance at that. He was a number six seed and reached the finals against Mats Wilander.
He had only lost one set up until that point, so things looked great for the French. Because he was facing a higher seed, he was still the underdog. He then went to work and performed well in crucial moments, becoming a national icon in the process.
Take Home The Trophy, Jennifer Capriati!
Teen prodigy Jennifer Capriati won the Australian Open in 2001 before coming into the French Open. Despite her pedigree, not everyone thought she was going to be able to pull the whole thing off, especially against her opponent.
Kim Clijsters made it to the finals to face Capriati and was favored to win even though it was her first trip to a grand slam title. The two would go on to play the longest final set in a women’s title match at the French Open. Clijsters was close so many times, but in the end, the prodigy prevailed.
A 2019 Shake-Up That Shook The Open
It’s disheartening to see a high seeded player get bounced from the tournament so early. It’s also fantastic when the lower seed advances and you can tell they have a ton of excitement bubbling inside of them. Petra Matric had the honors of knocking off Karolina Pliskova in the 2019 French Open.
The two made their way to the third round where Matric played her best game yet. “The key was to focus on my game and try to dictate instead of letting her dictate, which is her biggest strength,” said the number 31 seeded Martic on her victory over number two seed Pliskova.