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 classicsStuttgart's standardsMadrid’s magic moments, and Rome's records, our retrospective heads to the culmination of the clay season in Paris - up next is Anastasia Myskina's historic 2004 triumph in the first ever all-Russian Grand Slam final. 

For more classic moments, check out our other French Open Flashbacks:
1999: Graf wins 22nd and final Grand Slam title
2000: Pierce fulfills destiny, rings in millennium with Roland Garros double
2001: Capriati confirms comeback with brave battle in record-setting final
2003: Henin fulfils lofty goals with first of four Roland Garros crowns
2011: Li becomes Asia's first Grand Slam champion in historic triumph
2014: Halep serves notice in run to first final in Paris
2016: Mladenovic, Garcia delight home fans with fairytale triumph in Paris
2017: Ostapenko powers to Roland Garros title out of left field

THE MOMENT: The Russian revolution was coming to tennis - but when would it strike? By 2004, the army of Russian players amassing in the upper echelons of the rankings had been breathlessly reported by the media for several years. In terms of sheer numbers, it was unarguable. Anna Kournikova's success had been a game-changer at home: on her Grand Slam debut at the 1996 US Open, she had been one of two Russian players in the competition. By Roland Garros 2004, the country fielded nearly one-tenth of the main draw with 12 entrants, eight of whom were seeds.

But the top of the game remained intransigently homogenous. Eighteen of the past 19 Grand Slam trophies had gone to either the USA or Belgium; the Russians, while still young, seemed perennially fated to bubble under. In Paris, though, everything changed in a hurry.


At 22 years old, Anastasia Myskina was perhaps garnering less attention than her teenage compatriots such as Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova - but the Muscovite had nonetheless been her country's No.1 player for much of the past two years, becoming the first woman playing under the Russian flag to crack the Top 5 in March after defeating Jennifer Capriati and Kuznetsova to win her seventh career title in Doha. (Previously, Belarusian Natasha Zvereva had hit World No.5 in 1989 playing for the Soviet Union.)

Flipping the usual path to a major trophy, Myskina's toughest tests came earlier on: she needed to come from a set down to defeat two future Top 10 players, Alicia Molik 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round and, saving a match point, No.11 seed Kuznetsova 1-6, 6-4, 8-6 in the fourth round. But her second-week performance would be a tactical masterclass - and astonishingly nerveless, considering her inexperience compared to the calibre of opposition.

Myskina's flat strokes and ability to create sudden winners out of nowhere were generally more suited to fast courts, but as damp conditions slowed the Parisian clay, her usual aggression morphed into canny defence. No.4 seed Venus Williams was ensnared 6-3, 6-4 before Myskina reprised her Doha win over Capriati, this time needing only 61 minutes to triumph 6-2, 6-2. Both Americans were bamboozled by the No.6 seed's adjustments: "I was expecting her to come out and play her normal game," said a confused Capriati afterwards. "She totally just threw me off my rhythm. She was hitting with no pace on purpose."


Neither was Myskina afraid to pivot again to aggression when she needed to: a scintillating final game found her upping the ante again, swatting a clean return winner on her first match point.

Fittingly, Myskina's opponent in the final would be her childhood friend and fellow 22-year-old Elena Dementieva. The No.9 seed had more pedigree in major tournaments, having reached the 2000 US Open semifinals as an 18-year-old - and, like Myskina, had endured a more turbulent first week than second. Dementieva had needed to battle past World No.101 Mervana Jugic-Salkic 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4 in the first round, and in the third round was trailing No.19 seed Anna Smashnova 0-6, 7-6(2), 0-1, down a break in the decider, when the Israeli was forced to retire due to cramp.

Like Myskina, Dementieva had hit her stride against more illustrious opposition, dismissing No.5 seed Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 6-3 in the fourth round and No.3 seed Amélie Mauresmo 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals - but despite the straight-sets scoreline, her 6-0, 7-5 semifinal defeat of No.14 seed Paola Suárez had been a good deal shakier than Myskina's laser focus.

Though the pair's head-to-head had been level at 4-4 going into the final, Myskina holding her nerve to deliver another watertight performance as Dementieva struggled, particularly with her troublesome serve, was one of the few consensus predictions of a crazy Parisian second week that actually came to pass. But although the 6-1, 6-2 title match was few onlookers' definition of a classic contest, neither its historical significance nor Myskina's astounding feat of conceding just 14 games in the final three matches of her maiden Grand Slam title run can be denied.


THE MEANING: If 2004 brought Myskina her finest moment in the sport, it also contained her greatest disappointment: losing to Justine Henin from 5-1 up in the deciding set of their Athens Olympic Games semifinal and then, still devastated from the defeat, also missing out to Alicia Molik in the bronze medal play-off. But there would be plenty more highlights to come in career, mostly on Myskina's preferred fast courts: defending her Moscow title later that year, a pair of Wimbledon quarterfinal runs in 2005 and 2006 that involved a number of superb contests, and - adding to the significance of what she had triggered in 2004, leading Russia to the Fed Cup trophy in both 2004 and 2005.

For this Roland Garros run would open the floodgates. "You were writing, 'The Russians are coming,' for how many years? OK, finally, you ask, we deliver," joked Dementieva's coach - and 1974 Roland Garros and Wimbledon runner-up - Olga Morozova after the all-Russian final had been set. By the end of the season, the first ever Russian Grand Slam champion had been joined by the second and the third as Maria Sharapova captured Wimbledon and Svetlana Kuznetsova completed the triptych at the US Open, defeating Dementieva in a second all-Russian affair.


The country would never enjoy a year as magical as 2004 again: Sharapova and Kuznetsova both went on to become multiple major champions, but no new name has since joined them. Injuries would prematurely halt Myskina's career, meanwhile, with the former World No.2 playing her final match at the age of 25 at Roland Garros 2007.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, though, Russia's establishment as a tennis power would be cemented as the country dominated the medal table, Dementieva finally tasting glory as the gold medallist with three-time Grand Slam finalist Dinara Safina taking silver and two-time major runner-up Vera Zvonareva bronze. And though there have been leaner years than in the halcyon '00s days, Russia has steadily maintained a solid Top 100 presence ever since - and these days, there's no shortage of exciting young talent, from Daria Kasatkina to Anastasia Potapova. In 2020, Russia is bubbling under once more - but you wouldn't bet against the floodgates opening again.


Tennis United Episode 8