The French Open first began in 1891 as the French Championship and showcased the best tennis players that French clubs had to offer. In 1925, the competition opened itself up to international amateurs. The evolution of the tournament continued in 1968 when it officially became the French Open and allowed both amateurs and professionals to compete. It was the first Open of its kind, and as such has a rich history filled with jaw-dropping records. Rafael Nadal might have the most Men’s Singles Titles today, but do you know who set the record first?
Max Decugis Won The Most Men’s Singles Titles Before It Was Cool
Before the French Open was available for everyone to compete, Max Decugis dominated the competition. During his pre-1925 run, he set the record for most Men’s Singles Titles with eight. He won his first title in 1903 and his final one in 1914.
Decugis held the record for decades. Between 1925 and 1967, the closest anyone got was Henri Cochet with four. When the tournament opened itself up to everyone it held until Rafal Nadal burst onto the scene in 2005.
Rafal Nadal Is The Modern Day Gold Standard
Rafal Nadal won his first French Open Men’s Singles Title in 2005. Since then, he hasn’t stopped and has claimed a total of 11 men’s singles crowns. His most recent win came in 2018.
Still going strong today, it’s not hard to think Nadal’s record will only grow. He has won more titles at the French Open than any other tournament, and currently holds the number two professional ranking in the world. Could another big win bump him back up to number one?
Chris Evert Holds The Women’s Singles Titles Record
In one amazing 13-year span, American tennis star Chris Evert won seven Women’s Singles Titles at the French Open. Despite the presence of the Williams sisters today, that record, set in 1986, still stands.
By the time she retired, Evert established herself as one of the greatest tennis players the world had ever seen. Not only does she hold the women’s record for most French Open Titles, but she also holds the record for Grand Slam single’s finals reached (34), and most consecutive years to win a Grand Slam Title (13)!
Martina Navratilova Was A Doubles Goddess
Paired up with Chris Evert in 1975, Martina Navratilova won her first of seven Women’s Doubles Titles at the French Open. She accomplished the feat with four different partners: Evert, Anne Smith, Pam Shriver, and Andrea Temesvari.
When Navratilova retired in 2006, she had one of the longest professional tennis careers in the history of the sport. It’s hard enough to play any professional sport for 15 years, so just imagine how dedicated she was to her training, in order to last 31 years!
Max Decugis Is The Most Decorated Male In French Open History
Max Decugis makes another appearance on this list with an unbelievable record that has stood for nearly 100 years. From 1902 through 1920, the Frenchmen won 29 French Open Titles, blowing away the next closest competitor.
To reach his record, Decugis had to win at every level of the tournament. You already know he won eight Men’s Singles Titles. He also won 14 Men’s Doubles Titles and seven Mixed Doubles Titles. Rafal Nadal comes in a distant second with his 11 overall titles.
Rafal Nadal Was Unbeatable For Five Years
For a span of five years from 2010 through 2014, Rafal Nadal never lost a Men’s Singles Title at the French Open. The Spaniard took down the best of the best in that time and established himself as the biggest name in the tennis world.
Before Nadal won five in a row, four other competitors won back-to-back titles: Jaroslav Drobny, Nicola Pietrangeli, Tony Trabert, and Frank Parker. And if you think Max Decugis held the record pre-1925, you’d be incorrect.
Paul Ayme Didn’t Like Losing
With the French Open being limited to only French tennis club members prior to 1925, certain stars found it easy to win. Max Decugis was the best, but Paul Ayme holds one record he never got: most consecutive Men’s Singles Titles.
Ayme won the title four years in a row, from 1897 until 1900. Those wins counted as the only Grand Slam wins of Ayme’s career. The streak is what he was best known for after he retired.
Monica Seles Could Barely Drive When She Won Her First Title
Do you remember how old Monica Seles was when she won her first French Open title in 1990? Barely able to legally drive, Seles was 16-years and six-months-old when she staked her claim at the top of the castle.
Starting young was a huge advantage for Seles. She played in her first professional tournament when she was only 14-years-old. When she put her racket away for good in 2008, she had won over $14 million in prize money.
No Male Was Younger Than Michael Chang When He Won It All
Michael Chang made a name for himself at a very young age in the tennis world. He was 12-years-old when he won his first national title at the USTA Junior Hard Court singles. Five years later he took the French Open by storm and won the Grand Slam Title.
Chang continued to play tennis until 2003. He won 34 overall titles and peaked as the number two ranked professional in the world in 1996. In 2008 he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Andre Vacherot Shocked Everyone With His Record Win
Andre Vacherot was 40-years and nine-months-old when he won his fourth French Open Title. The historic win took place in 1901 and made him the oldest male tennis player to ever win the Grand Slam tournament.
Prior to his 1901 win, Vacherot won three consecutive French Open Titles from 1894 through 1896. His brother, Michael Vacherot, also competed in tennis professionally, but was not nearly as successful, only winning one Grand Slam Title before retiring.
Zsuzsa Körmöczy Broke Barriers At 33-Years-Old
The year 1958 was a big one in the tennis career of Zsuzsa Körmöczy. Not only did she become the oldest woman to ever win the French Open Title at 33-years-old, but she also reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
To celebrate her accomplishments, she was named the Hungarian Sportswoman of the Year. It was the first year the award was ever given out, and she continued to dominate the tennis circuit in 1959, barely losing in the finals at the French Open.
There Have Been Four Unseeded Male Winners
When anyone enters a competition like the French Open, they are placed in their tournament bracket through seeding. Amazingly, not everyone who has won the title entered the French Open seeded.
In the tournament’s history, four male tennis players have won it all without any seeding. They were Mats Wilander (pictured) in 1982, Gaston Gaudio in 2004, Marvel Bernard in 1946, and Gustavo Kuerten in 1997. Of those names, Wilander and Kuerten were the most successful, both earning number one professional rankings during their careers.
Two Unseeded Women Have Won The Title
Like men, women are given seeding before starting the competition. Two times in the history of the women’s tournament seeding hasn’t mattered. In 1933 Margaret Scriven became the first unseeded woman to win.
Over 80 years later in 2017, Jelena Ostapenko (pictured) repeated the seemingly impossible feat. After the win, she became the 12th ranked professional female tennis player in the world. By the end of her rookie year, Ostapenko pushed her way into the top ten and was named the seventh best female tennis player in the world.
Justine Henin tied This Record In 2007
Justine Henin met Monica Seles in the history books in 2007 when she won her third consecutive Women’s Singles Title at the French Open. Seles completed her three-peat in 1992. Together, the pair holds the modern record for most consecutive title wins.
Before the modern era, Jeanne Matthey and Suzanne Lenglen won four consecutive titles apiece. Like others on this list, they set the record before the French Open was actually “open,” meaning we have to count the two records separate from each other.
Suzanne Lenglen Is The French Open’s Most Decorated Female
Suzanne Lenglen made her name at the French open in the 1920s, where she established herself as one of the best French tennis players in the world. From 1920 through 1926, she won six Women’s Single’s Titles.
Lenglen’s first win actually came in 1914 on a hardcourt surface. The rest of her record-setting wins took place in the ’20s. Her record stood until Chris Evert won her seventh Women’s Singles Title in 1986.
Suzanne Lenglen Wasn’t A One-Trick Pony
Winning six Women’s Singles Titles wasn’t the only great accomplishment Suzanne Lenglen achieved. By the time she retired, she had also set the record for most Mixed Doubles Titles for a woman.
Can you guess who one of her partners was? In 1914 and 1920 she won the Mixed Doubles Title with Max Decugis. Her four other titles were won alongside Jaques Brugnon, a right-handed player who won 407 total matches and took home 21 career Titles.
Max Decugis Holds The Mixed Doubles Record For Men
Whether you want to talk about the French Open before or after 1968, Max Decugis holds the record for most Mixed Doubles Titles for men with seven. He won his first Mixed Doubles Title in 1904 and his final one in 1920.
For his final title, he won with Suzanne Lenglen. Coming in second place with three Mixed Doubles Titles for men are Ken Fletcher and Jean-Claude Barclay. Fletcher notably won his three titles in consecutive years from 1963-1965!
Gigi Fernandez Shares This Record With Martina Navratilova
From 1984 through 1988 Martina Navratilova set the record for most consecutive Women’s Doubles Titles won. She stood alone with her record until 1995, when Gigi Fernandez won her fifth straight title.
Both women won their titles with different partners. Navratilova won four titles with Pam Shriver and one with Andrea Temesvari in 1986. Gigi Fernandez won her first title in 1992 with Jana Novotna before joining forces with Natasha Zvereva to win her last four.
Simone Matthieu Did This First
Martina Navratilova is one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, but if you look back at history Simone Matthieu set a certain record first. Before the modern era began, Mattieu won six Women’s Double’s Titles.
Matthiew won her first two doubles titles in 1933 with Elizathes Ryan. In 1936 she changed partners and won three more with Billie Yorke. Then, in 1939 she won her final doubles title with Jadwiga Jedrzejowska. Navratilova, as you’ll recall, won seven, breaking the decades-long record in the modern era in 1988.
Maurice Germot Was The Champ For An Entire Decade
You can probably call this an unbeatable record. For ten straight years starting in 1906, Maurice Germot never lost a Men’s Doubles Title match. His undefeated streak is still at the top of the charts today, and only one other male has gotten close.
Roy Emerson came close to matching Germot’s record when he won six consecutive Men’s Doubles Titles in the early ’60s. Daniel Nestor holds the modern-day record; he won three straight doubles titles from 2010 through 2012.