Five Biggest French Open Shocks

Rafael Nadal has won the French Open title 13 times and has been dubbed the "King of Clay" so there is a good chance a defeat he suffers at Roland Garros will make our top-five list.

Rafael Nadal celebrating his French Open win of 2020

With the 2022 French Open set to get underway on Sunday, we take a look at the biggest shocks to have happened at the second Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Robin Soderling’s Famous Fourth-Round Win Over Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal has only tasted defeat on three occasions during 17 appearances at the French Open but the biggest surprise of the lot was his fourth-round defeat to Robin Soderling in 2009.

The King of Clay went into the match with an undefeated record of 31 matches at Roland Garros, which had included a first round 6-2 7-5 6-1 success over Soderling in 2006.

However, he was soon disconcerted by the Swede’s aggressive approach in their 2009 meeting and succumbed to a shock 6-2 6-7 6-4 7-6 defeat.

Soderling was playing some of the best tennis of his career at the time and went on to reach the final where he lost in straight sets to Roger Federer.

The Swede proved that his run to the final was no fluke by finishing runner-up to Nadal in the 2010 final, going down 6-4 6-2 6-4.

Nadal did not lose another French Open match until the 2015 quarter-finals when beaten 7-5 6-3 6-1 by Novak Djokovic.

Jelena Ostapenko’s 2017 Triumph

The women’s tournament has had a much more open feel since Justin Henin lifted the trophy four times between 2003 and 2007 but Jelena Ostapenko’s 2017 triumph stands out as the biggest upset since the turn of the century.

The Latvian had not won a WTA-tour level event prior to her shock French Open success which was clinched with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory over third seed Simona Halep.

Ostapenko became the first unseeded player to lift the trophy since Margaret Scriven in 1933 and the lowest ranked winner (47) since the ranking system was introduced in 1975.

Ostapenko reached a ranking high of fifth in the world in March 2018, but she is still awaiting her next WTA tour tournament success.

The Latvian’s only other notable appearances at Grand Slams have come at Wimbledon with a run to the quarter-finals in 2017 and the semis in 2018.

Michael Chang’s Success in 1989

Michael Chang won the title as a 17-year-old in 1989 and remains the youngest ever winner of the men’s tournament.

He was seeded 15th going into the event and had to pull off two huge performances – defeating world number one Ivan Lendl in the fourth round and third seed Stefan Edberg in the final.

Chang suffered from severe leg cramps during his five-set win over Lendl when he had to come from two sets behind.

However, the American struggled to build on the promise of his teenage years and never won another Grand Slam title.

Roger Federer’s Loss to Luis Horna

Roger Federer has not lost a Grand Slam first-round match since the 2003 French Open when going down 7-6 6-2 7-6 to unseeded Peruvian Luis Horna.

The result opened up the bottom half of the draw and Horna’s second-round conqueror, Martin Verkerk, went on to reach the final.

Dutchman Verkerk was hammered 6-1 6-3 6-2 by Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final and never advanced beyond the third round in any of his other Grand Slam appearances.

Steffi Graf’s Heaviest Slam Defeat

Steffi Graf reached eight French Open finals between 1987 and 1996 (winning five of them) but she suffered a hammering at the hands of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the 1991 semi-finals.

Graf was beaten 6-2 6-0 and her tally of two games won stands out as the lowest in any Grand Slam match she ever contested.

Rob has around 20 years journalism experience and has written and commentated on the likes of football, cricket and rugby. He also has an impressive background in racquet sports and regularly provides content on the likes of tennis and badminton.
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