Three most surprising French Open Champions
The French Open is one of the toughest Grand Slams to win, with the slow clay surface proving to be too grueling a hurdle for many a player. Spaniard Rafael Nadal has won at Roland Garros an incredible eleven times, and with the Australian Open having come to a close, all eyeballs are on the upcoming Grand Slam, which Paris will host. We take a look at the three most surprising French Open champions.
3. Gaston Gaudio (2004)
The 44th-ranked Gaston Gaudio became just the third unseeded player in the Open era to win a French Open title. Having never advanced past the fourth round in any of his 20 previous Grand Slam tournaments, the Argentine faced former No. 1 player Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals and won in straight sets, and proceeded to get the better of fellow countryman David Nalbandian in the semis.
In the final, Gaudio was steamrolled by No. 3 player Guillermo Coria in the first two sets, but the former was back on track after Coria developed cramps. Gaudio fought off two match points to win the match and the French Open 8-6 in the fifth set.
Including qualifying rounds, Gaudio played in 34 Grand Slam singles tournaments in his career, and the 2004 French Open proved to be the only time he advanced as far as the last-eight.
2. Francesca Schiavone (2010)
No seed ranked lower than 10th had won the women's French title in the Open Era before the wily Italian Francesca Schiavone came along in 2010. Schiavone was the No. 17 seed when edged four players ranked in the top 12, to win her first Grand Slam singles title two weeks shy of her 30th birthday.
Before she finished her unexpected run through the 2010 French Open by beating Samantha Stosur in the finals, Schiavone had beaten No. 12-ranked Li Na, No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 5 Elena Dementieva, who retired after losing the first set. Schiavone was the first Italian woman in the Open era to even get to the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament.
1. Gustavo Kuerten (1997)
The Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten won three French Open titles, but the 1997 success topped the charts. The No. 66 player was 20 years old and playing in just his third Grand Slam event, and in the quarterfinals, Kuerten found himself behind two sets to one against No. 3-ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the defending French Open champion, but pulled that one out by winning the last two sets 6-0, 6-4.
Kuerten got by Filip Dewulf in the semifinals, and that left Sergei Bruguera as the final opponent. But he was merely a spectator, as Kuerten dismantled Bruguera 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in less than two hours. Gustavo Kuerten is the lowest ranked player in the Open era to win a French Open crown.