Welcome to French Open Flashbacks, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable narratives from Roland Garros over the past 20 years. After recapping Charleston's classics, Stuttgart's standards, Madrid’s magic moments, and Rome's records, our retrospective heads to the culmination of the clay season in Paris - up next is an emotional and unlikely triumph at home for French duo Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia in 2016.
For more classic moments, check out our other French Open Flashbacks:
1999: Stefanie Graf wins 22nd and final Grand Slam title
2014: Halep serves notice in run to first final in Paris
2001: Capriati confirms comeback with brave battle in record-setting final
THE MOMENT: It had been 45 years since the last all-French duo had lifted the doubles trophy at Roland Garros - but in 2016, it suddenly seemed like the unlikely pairing of Kristiina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia could be the next to bring home the title.
The good friends had only teamed up earlier that year with an eye on making it to the Olympics in Rio. They showed early promise in Brisbane, their first tournament together that year, despite narrowly losing out in the final to the powerhouse team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza - but it would take them a few weeks to regain that rhythm.
Everything clicked once the tennis calendar turned to clay: Mladenovic and Garcia started in Charleston and put together a head-turning 15-match winning streak, winning titles in Charleston, Stuttgart and Madrid and reaching the quarterfinals in Rome.
The French pair that had started the year just looking for match play had evolved into one of the biggest threats of the year - just in time for Roland Garros, their home Grand Slam.
Mladenovic and Garcia arrived in Paris shouldering the weight of a nation’s expectations, and hoping to mark a major career milestone. Neither player had won a Grand Slam in singles or doubles, although former Junior champion Mladenovic came armed with a strong resume in the form of two mixed doubles trophies at 2013 Wimbledon and 2014 Australian Open with Daniel Nestor.
“I think playing doubles has given me more experience,” Mladenovic told press before the start of the tournament. “I have a solid track record winning some Grand Slam tournaments, and mixed doubles has been very good. It's more experience. It has helped me. I think there is a reason why I've managed big events like this one quite well.”
Seeded No.5, Mladenovic and Garcia looked dialed in from the start, dropping just one set between the first round and the semifinals. With each passing round, the French fans got louder and louder, and the stadium was rocking when the pair took down Svetlana Kuznetsova and Margarita Gasparyan in a thrilling three-set battle 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to book their spot in the championship match.
But it wouldn’t be Paris if there wasn’t any drama.
In a tug-of-war first set, the French team nearly saw their 5-0 lead evaporate as No.7 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina clawed their way back. Garcia held serve to fend them off, claiming the decisive ninth game to take it 6-3.
The Russian veterans kept fighting back and took the second set, but Mladenovic and Garcia scored the decisive break in the third set and Garcia once again served it out to secure the victory.
THE MEANING: As Makarova's return floated long past the baseline on match point, Mladenovic collapsed to the clay in tears, with an already crying Garcia running to join her.
It was just starting to register what they had achieved: a first Grand Slam title for Garcia, and Mladenovic’s first in women’s doubles and third Grand Slam crown overall - achieved at home in France.
But beyond the pair’s personal achievements, it was an unforgettable moment for French women’s tennis fans, who hadn’t had much to cheer for since Mary Pierce lifted the singles and doubles trophies there in 2000.
“Winning a Grand Slam in France with another French player, Kristina, someone who I like very much and we have lived incredible things together, is something, which, for the time being, is above anything I have lived before,” Garcia said in her post-match press conference.
“These are emotions. You know, winning a Grand Slam is something nobody will take away from you in your life. You've won it. Your name will be on the cup, as well.”
After Paris, the pair continued their success throughout a solid 2016 season - despite crashing out in the first round of the Olympics in a baffling 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 upset by Japan’s Misaki Doi and Eri Hozumi. They bounced back strongly by reaching their second Grand Slam final at the US Open. They picked up another final in Beijing, and featured in both the WTA Finals and the Fed Cup final.
Mladenovic and Garcia officially parted ways in early 2017: after reaching the Australian Open semifinals together, Garcia announced that she would be pulling back from doubles to focus on singles. Mladenovic has continued to rise up the doubles rankings, peaking at World No.1 and adding three more Grand Slam titles to her impressive haul.
But though their partnership might have dissolved, their unforgettable triumph in 2016 remains one of the most exciting French Open moments of the last two decades.
“We've known each other when we were really young, when we were kids,” Mladenovic said in Paris. “Now we are 22 and 23. We are winning Roland Garros on the central court. Almost crowned with people.
“We have the impression that people are singing the National Anthem, Le Marseillaise. They were saying, Caro, KiKi… It's loads of emotions frankly.”