With the French Open just around the corner, there is no better time for a run-down of the best players to have graced the most gruelling Grand Slam of them all – the red dirt of Roland Garros.
5 – Justine Henin
Dimunitive Belgian Justine Henin was the queen of Roland Garros in the first decade of this century, getting the better of powerhouses such as Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams to land four titles.
Henin won her first French Open in 2003, beating Serena in the semis before overcoming compatriot Kim Clijsters in the final – going on to win the subsequent US and Australian Opens to hold three of the four Grand Slam titles at the same time.
Henin was unable to replicate that sort of domination in all the majors ever again but found a welcoming return in the French capital, winning a hat-trick of titles from 2005-2007 to cement her place in our top five.
4 – Steffi Grafhttps://youtube.com/watch?v=yPAox_mn__M
Steffi Graf is one of the best female players of all time and was equally adept on any surface as she claimed 22 Grand Slam titles during her career, lying behind only Serena Williams (23) and Margaret Court (24) in the all-time list.
The German’s road to domination began in 1987 when she landed her first French Open title, defeating world number one Martina Navratilova in a three-set thriller to announce herself on the major scene.
Graf’s second French Open success came the following year in what turned out to be a golden period for her as she completed the calendar Grand Slam, demonstrating her all-round brilliance.
Graf would go on to win six titles at Roland Garros, her second favourite venue in terms of number of successes, ironically behind only Wimbledon – the fastest surface in the game – where she won seven times.
3 – Bjorn Borg
Bjorn Borg is an undoubted great of the game and the housewives favourite of the 1970s and 80s as he amassed 11 Grand Slam titles in total.
For whatever reason he was never able to win the US Open despite reaching the final on four occasions, while he only made one appearance at the Australian Open, but he was a master in both Paris and Wimbledon until his retirement in 1983.
Although he couldn’t match his feat of five successive titles on the grass of SW19 at Roland Garros, he won six titles in total, his first coming in 1974 to prevent a Jimmy Connors Grand Slam.
He followed that up with another victory the following year and, after missing the tournament in 1977, he came back to bookmark his place as the world’s best with four successive French Open crowns from 1978-1981.
There have been few in the Open era to have matched that feat and he rightfully deserves his place in the top three of our list.
2 – Chris Evert
Chris Evert may be down in fifth place in the all-time list of women’s tennis Grand Slam winners, behind the likes of Graf, Williams and Court, but no-one can match her tally of seven French Open titles.
Such was her dominance on the clay that she reached at least the semi-finals in all but one of her 13 appearances at Roland Garros, falling in the third round in her last showing there in 1988.
Having reached the final in 1973, Evert began her reign of success the following year, making it two out of two in 1975. After three years of absence from 1976-1978, the American superstar returned with back-to-back success, with further glory coming in 1983, 1985 and 1986 to demonstrate her longevity at the top.
1 – Rafael Nadal
Evert may have been the queen but there is no doubting who the ‘King of Clay’ is, and it is quite ridiculous that one player can win a specific Grand Slam tournament on so many occasions.
The fact that Rafael Nadal has won at Roland Garros 12 times, yes 12 times, is almost impossible to believe but he has dominated the tournament since he first turned up in 2005, while there are legitimate excuses for the rare occasions (2009, 2015 and 2016) that he hasn’t won them all.
Nadal is the sole reason that bona fide legends of the game, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, have only managed to win it just once, and that despite his advancing years, he remains the favourite to make it a lucky 13 this year as well.