Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now




Top 9 Female French Open Finalists: Chris Evert Best of the Best

Posted on April 21, 2010 by JA Allen
Chris Evert is No. 1 for the Ladies Tour at the French Open

Chris Evert is No. 1 for the Ladies Tour at the French Open

How do you measure the greatness of an athlete within their respective sport? What factors determine the degree of greatness over a period of time––years or decades?

Further, how do you determine who is No. 1 in any given list or ranking? First you must find a pattern and then you must determine the significant components of the ranking––does each factor merit being used as part of the overall equation?

Sometimes it does, without question––like the score in a game. The highest or lowest score wins as in football or golf.

It is not always a simple task to determine who is the greatest because such discussions invariably have subjective components.

For this ranking, first consider the number of times a woman made it to the French Open finals since 1968 (Open Era) as the initial demarcation of greatness. To be considered she must have made it to the finals of the French Open at least 3 times.

Within the number of appearances, measure the wins against the losses in a given number of tries.

No. 1 Chris Evert ––Nine French Open Finals

Chris Evert winning seven of nine final appearances remains the undisputed leader on the clay at the French Open in Paris surpassing even her male counterparts in some estimations.

Evert won 7 French Open titles in 9 final appearances.

Evert won 7 French Open titles in 9 final appearances.

Clay brought out the strengths of Evert’s game––her patience, determination and her ability to construct points. She was tireless and unflappable on the red clay at Stade Roland Garros––hence her nickname, the Iron Princess.

The fact that she owns the clay court record with an 125-match win streak from 1973-1979 illustrates her prowess on the surface. During that run she lost only seven sets.

It was the one surface on which Evert generally prevailed over her arch-rival Martina Navratilova whose one weakness might have been the slow clay. They met in four finals on the red dirt with Evert coming out on top in three––all Evert’s wins over the Czech were three-set finals.

In all Evert appeared in nine finals at the French Open in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, winning them all except in 1973 and 1984.

Evert’s winning percentage stands at 92.4% [73-6].

No. 2 Steffi Graf  –– Nine French Open Finals

Steffi Graf also appeared in nine French Open finals, winning six of them over the course of her career. Like Chris Evert, the German is also considered a natural on the red clay.

"Fraulein Forehand" won 6 titles on the red clay of Stade Roland Garros.

"Fraulein Forehand" won 6 titles on the red clay of Stade Roland Garros.

The German appeared in four consecutive finals at Stade Roland Garros from 1987-1990, winning two of them. She is tied with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for consecutive French Open final appearances.

Graf’s last final came in 1999 when she defeated Martina Hingis in a memorable match with the young Swiss suffering a huge melt down after mounting what most would have surmised as an insurmountable lead.

It marked Graf’s final appearance at the French Open and was her last grand slam victory, the 22nd of her stellar career.

Graf used a superior service game combined with a lethal inside out forehand drive and a backhand slice to nullify her opponents. Her foot speed on court also made it almost impossible to get anything past the wily German who stalked the baseline waiting to pounce.

Even her volleying skills were more than adequate on the red clay.

Graf appeared in the French Open Finals in 1987-1990, 1992-1993, 1995-1996 and 1999. Winning six in all Graf’s winning percentage at the French Open was 89.7% [87-10].

No. 3 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario –– Six French Open Finals

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario made six trips to the finals at Stade Roland Garros, winning the French Open title three times in 1989, 1994 and 1998 where she defeated Steffi Graf, Mary Pierce and Monica Seles respectively.

Sanchez-Vicario never gave up on a point on the red clay.

Sanchez-Vicario never gave up on a point on the red clay.

The fiery Spanish lady, nicknamed the Barcelona Bumblebee by the irascible Bud Collins, proved to be a handful to any opponent standing on the other side of the net.

Like a terrier, the tenacious Sanchez-Vicario refused to give up on a point, running down balls and fighting for each and every point as if her life depended on it. It was her all out competitive spirit that Rafael Nadal parallels today.

It made the young lady from Spain a winner.

At the time she won her first French Open title, she was the youngest player ever to win it at age 17. Monica Seles, however, soon supplanted this record by winning her first French Open championship at age 16 years and six months the following year.

Sanchez-Vicario’s winning percentage is 83.7% [72-14].

No. 4 Martina Navratilova –– Six French Open Finals

The French clay was not Navratiova's favorite surface over the years.

The French clay was not Navratiova's favorite surface over the years.

Martina Navratilova, who appeared in six French Open finals, never truly loved the red clay.

Her serve and volley style of play, although successful at times on the red dirt, did not provide the Czech-American with enough weapons to stand toe to toe with the game’s best players rifling passing shots by her as they stood on the baseline on the opposite side of the net.

The red clay worked to neutralize Navratilova’s game, allowing additional time for her opponents to react and move into place––time very often not available on grass and hard courts.

Navratilova won at Stade Roland Garros twice in singles. In 1982 Navratilova defeated Andrea Jaeger and in 1984 she finally overcame Chris Evert in straight sets during the French Open finals.

Navratilova is tied with Chris Evert and Steffi Graf for appearing in four consecutive French Open finals.

Navratilova’s winning percentage is 82.3 % [51-11] at the French Open Championships where she participated in 13 tournaments on the red clay.

No. 5 Justine Henin –– Four French Open Finals

Henin resumes her French Open campaign in 2010.

Henin resumes her French Open campaign in 2010.

Justine Henin is the only active player on this list. When she retired from tennis in May of 2008, just prior to the commencement of activities in Paris, Henin was in line to win her fifth French Open title.

Everyone thought she would do exactly that until the Belgian stunned the tennis world by announcing her retirement from the game.

Now, officially active again, Henin heads into action on the clay.  There is still no one who stands out as a challenger to Henin at the 2010 French Open Championships.

Many expect the Belgian to pick up her fifth French Open trophy in five appearances.

Justine Henin’s game is made for the red dirt where her pin-point accuracy and her mental acumen give her the necessary edge over bigger and more powerful opponents.

Henin plays smart aggressive tennis aided by a powerful one-handed backhand that allows her more reach and more variety on that side.

Still a bit rusty, Henin will need to hone her match strength prowess. Even so, the Belgian seems destined to head back to the top of the women’s game.

Henin has competed in 8 French Open tournaments, making it to four finals and winning all four including three consecutive times from 2005-2007.

Her over all winning percentage at Stade Roland Garros stands at 90.5% [38-4].

No. 6 Monica Seles –– Four French Open Finals

At 16 years, 6 months, Seles remains the youngest French Open champion.

At 16 years, 6 months, Seles remains the youngest French Open champion.

Monica Seles won the French Open three times in four appearances. Her three wins, however, were consecutive from 1990-1992.

She is tied for most consecutive wins with Justine Henin in the modern era.

Seles also holds the record for the youngest champion ever at 16 years and six months. She won that first championship in 1990, defeating defending champion and world No. 1 Steffi Graf in the process.

Seles’ grunting became the talk of the tennis world early on. But it was the little Yugoslavian’s aggressive style of play and her early return of the ball that made her game so dominating in the early 90s.

Seles stepped into the court and hit the ball hard on the rise which robbed her opponents of valuable time to react. It was on the clay where her tactics reaped large dividends, giving her three championships. Moreover, Seles loved the crowds in Paris.

It was unfortunate that after Seles was stabbed on court in Germany in 1993, she never recaptured her winning form or her obvious joy on court.

Seles competed at the French Open 11 times. Her winning percentage stands at 87.1% [54-8].

No. 7 Margaret Court –– Three French Open Finals

In the Open Era, Court won the French Open Championship 3 times.

In the Open Era, Court won the French Open Championship 3 times.

Margaret Court of Australia won the French Open three times in the modern era––1969, 1970 and 1973.

Prior to the modern era, Court also won the French singles title in 1962 and 1964. In all Court played in ten French Open contests but only four of those occurred in the modern era.

The Aussie phenom holds more records in the sport of tennis than any other player living or dead. She rules the tennis world with her impressive career in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Her career, however, spans two eras and puts her in both worlds. Even considering just her marks in the modern era, Court still ranks very high when considering her appearances in French Open finals.

Court’s total winning percentage at the French Open in the modern era remains at 95.8% [23-1].

No. 8 Mary Pierce –– Three French Open Finals

Mary Pierce won her county's championship in the year 2000.

Mary Pierce won her county's championship in the year 2000.

Mary Pierce’s game had a unique flair as did the French woman herself, often verging on the melodramatic.

Pierce made it to three French Open finals but like Mima Jausovec, only won once on her native soil in 2000 against Conchita Martinez.

She lost in 1994 to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and in 2005 to Justine Henin.

Most often Pierce was sidelined with injuries that forced her to endure long absences from the tour.

Although not officially retired, it is expected that the French woman will not compete on tour again in singles.

Pierce participated in 15 French Open Tournaments. Her final winning percentage at Stade Roland Garros is 75.9% [44-14].

No. 9 Mima Jausovec –– Three French Open Finals

Mima Jausovec found success on the red clay at Stade Roland Garros.

Mima Jausovec found success on the red clay at Stade Roland Garros.

Mima Jausovec was unique in some respects because her only grand slam success came on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros where she made the French Open finals three times but found victory only once in 1977.

There she defeated Florenta Mihai 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 to secure her single grand slam trophy.

The following year Jausovec made it back to the finals of the French Open but was defeated by Virginia Ruzici 6-0, 6-3. Her only other appearance occurred in 1984 when Chris Evert sent her packing 6-1, 6-2.

This explains why, in all probability, not many have never heard of this woman from Yugoslavia who was ranked as high as No. 12 in the world in 1983.

In all Jausovec appeared in 14 French Open tournaments. Her total winning percentage at the French Open was 71.7% [33-13].



Leave a Reply


  • Current Poll

    Which 2017 Hall of Fame Inductee is Less Deserving of Enshrinement?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...
  • Post Categories



↑ Top