Welcome to Roland Garros Rewind, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable matches from the past two decades at the French Open. Here are eight classics, from Stefanie Graf’s epic win over Monica Seles to Ashleigh Barty’s roller coaster victory against Amanda Anisimova, laid out in chronological order.
Roland Garros Round Reviews:
Serena, Sharapova and more first round classics
Davenport, Schiavone and more second round stunners
Ivanovic, Henin, Sharapova and more third round clashes
Svitolina, Safina and more French Open fourth round thrillers
Serena surges, Stosur stuns and more French Open quarterfinal clashes
1999:  Stefanie Graf def.  Monica Seles 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4
Stefanie Graf and Monica Seles had a habit of meeting on the greatest stages, facing off against each other in six Grand Slam finals and 10 times in majors overall. As the German chased a record-equalling ninth Roland Garros final appearance she was tasked with overcoming an opponent who had defeated her in the 1990 and 1992 finals in Paris.
It was the American who made the better start, opening up a 3-0 lead, and while this was clawed back by Graf, Seles, who had won an Australian Open quarterfinal between the pair earlier in the year, took the tiebreak.
Despite a tumble midway through the second set, Graf was not undeterred. By that point she had started on serve confidently and had established a lead for herself thanks to a break in the fourth game crafted by a neat dropshot.
In blustery conditions amid intermittent thunderstorms, the German served out to level before the match reached its thrilling climax.
The momentum seemed firmly with the five-time winner when she broke immediately in the decider, yet Seles rallied to move into a 3-2 advantage on serve. The decisive moment arrived in the ninth game as Graf claimed a crucial break which she protected in a confident manner on serve, forcing her opponent to hit a return long after a typically powerful delivery.
“Honestly, I came here to get in a few matches before Wimbledon, not really thinking I'd be doing that well,” she proclaimed in the aftermath, having reached her first Grand Slam final since 1996.
Graf, who retired a matter of weeks later, would create history just a couple of days later as she defeated Martina Hingis in the final, becoming the first player in Grand Slam history to overcome the top three seeded players to lift the title, having overcome Lindsay Davenport in the quarters.
2000:  Mary Pierce def.  Martina Hingis 6-4, 5-7, 6-2
Mary Pierce’s semifinal victory over doubles partner Martina Hingis in 2000 may not have been her crowning glory at Roland Garros and it may not have provided her signature moment on Paris’ clay – that had come a couple of days earlier against Monica Seles when she played an outrageous leaping tweener lob winner – but it was no less remarkable an achievement against the world’s No.1 ranked player.
If her defensive instincts were sharp against the American, they were also on point against the Swiss as she broke in a high-quality eighth game after scrambling. Although Hingis succeeded in wiping out that advantage, Pierce broke again to seal the set.
The standard remained at a dizzyingly high level in the second. Long rallies were commonplace, with both women exploring the court’s full dimensions and showing a fine understanding of angles and depth. Pierce made the first breakthrough, but from 1-3 down Hingis clawed her way back into the match by winning six of the next eight games.
Pierce’s confidence remained high going into the decider, claiming the first game as she showed super soft hands on a dropshot and then landed a backhand plum on the line. Although Hingis responded with a virtually identical winner, the home player was in the ascendancy, dominating the forecourt and making her opponent cover huge amounts of ground. This translated into a 6-2 victory in the decider, which was nevertheless and enthralling watch.
Pierce would go on to lift the title, becoming the first and so far only Frenchwoman to win on Roland Garros’ clay during the Open Era, while she completed a historic double as she and Hingis won the doubles by overcoming Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suárez in straight sets.
2003:  Justine Henin def.  Serena Williams 6-2, 4-6, 7-5
Justine Henin broke Serena Williams’ 33-match winning run at Grand Slam events when she surprisingly unseated the American at Roland Garros in 2003, though this classic match was to be one remembered for controversy.
Backed by a strong Belgian support, Henin, who had recorded a straight-sets victory in a clash between the two in Charleston a matter of weeks earlier, was the dominant figure in the opening set. Purposefully keeping the ball bouncing high and out of Serena’s strike zone, she was able to dictate the terms of the match with a combination of her quickness, intelligence and shot making giving her the edge.
Serena, who had won the previous four majors, responded in champion style, striking a succession of powerful backhands that proved too hot even for the speedy Belgian to return. It meant that she was able to level the match up.
And the momentum continued into the deciding set, in which Serena was in the ascendancy when serving at 4-2. A couple of disputed calls whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and though the No.1 seed said that this in itself was not decisive, Henin nevertheless broke back and began to turn the match around after that moment.
Victory guaranteed Belgium its first major champion as Henin overcame countrywoman Kim Clijsters, 6-0, 6-4 in a one-sided final. It signalled the start of her dominance in the French capital, where she won four titles in five years.
2009:  Svetlana Kuznetsova def.  Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3
A finalist in 2006, Svetlana Kuznetsova was back in the French Open semifinals three years later, tasked with the challenge of overcoming Samantha Stosur, the No.30 seed, but a player who had already accounted for No.4 seed Elena Dementieva.
It proved to be a veritable dogfight of a match, with Kuznetsova blowing hot and cold through periods of the match, which was ultimately decided by a single break of serve in the third set.
For much of the opening couple of sets, though, it was the 23-year-old Russian who was in command. She took a strong read of the Stosur serve in the opener and chalked up three breaks en route to the lead, while she also looked good in the second as she held a 4-2 advantage.
Stosur had been clinging to the coattails of her opponent in the opening stages of the second, with a marginal lack of precision costing her, but she maintained an aggressive attitude and started to make her shots. Although Kuznetsova’s level improved again, the Australian nicked the tiebreak from 5-2 down to force a deciding set.
Having been on the wrong end of 22 winners in that second game, Kuznetsova was better able to control the deciding set. Greater inroads were made into Stosur from her own groundstrokes, while her serve rarely came under serious threat. Indeed, a single break was all that was required to seal the set, that coming in the sixth game.
Kuznetsova would go on to face No.1 seed Dinara Safina in the final and claimed the trophy after a 6-4, 6-2 win.
2013:  Maria Sharapova def.  Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 2-6, 6-4
Maria Sharapova once described herself as being like “a cow on ice” when playing on clay, yet in 2012 she proved herself among the world’s best on the dirt as she claimed French Open victory. She was back a year later to defend her title and set up a final meeting with Serena Williams after proving too good for Victoria Azarenka.
With the head-to-head record favoring Azarenka 7-5 ahead of this encounter, it proved a predictably tight affair, with both players having their periods of control in the match. Although Sharapova lost the opening game on serve, she was thereafter immaculate for the duration of the first set, with the Belarusian struggling to control her forehand.
Early in the second set, Azarenka faced a moment of major danger on her serve but after holding to lead 2-1 she began to settle into the match and find something akin to her best level. Sharapova now wobbled and after double faulting on set point, she had something of a reprieve as the light drizzle became a steady rain, forcing the players off court.
Having had an opportunity to collect her thoughts, Sharapova settled down and cut a more impressive figure in the deciding set once more. Indeed, she raced to a 5-1 lead but twice double faulted when serving for the match. Given a second opportunity, however, the Russian grasped it eagerly, sealing victory with an ace.
Sharapova’s run would be ended by Serena in the final, though she returned 12 months later to win a second major in Paris.
2015:  Serena Williams def.  Timea Bacsinszky 4-6, 6-3, 6-0
Although Serena Williams had won both her previous matches against Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets, she had found the first set against the Swiss particularly troubling. In the French Open semifinals of 2015, she stumbled against the player then ranked World No.24 only to recover, setting up her 20th Grand Slam title.
The context of Serena’s win was quite remarkable given that she was toiling with illness.
“I don’t think I have ever been this sick. I can’t believe I won because I got the flu after my third-round match and haven’t been getting better,” Williams told ESPN. “Hopefully, this is the worst. I thought I was going to lose and suddenly I was one set all and thought: ‘I really don’t feel like playing a third set because I am so tired.’”
Not only did Serena win the deciding set, she did so in style, dispatching a Top 25 opponent without so much as dropping a game.
It seemed an unlikely outcome in the early stages of the match, during which Serena was left coughing and spluttering as Bacsinszky flashed numerous winners by her as she claimed the opening set.
A major upset seemed possible midway through the second set as the Swiss broke to lead 3-2, though Williams, who was often reliant on big single shots to win points due to her physical condition, responded to win four successive games and level the match.
From there, the momentum was irresistibly in her favor, and not only did she steam into the final, she recovered sufficiently to win another three-set thriller against Lucie Safarova, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2.
2017:  Simona Halep def.  Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova were both chasing their first Grand Slam title when they met in the semifinals of Roland Garros in 2017. The Romanian went into the match holding a 4-1 career head-to-head record against her Czech rival, though this was the first encounter on clay. Although it proved an enthralling match, again it was Halep who ultimately prevailed.
Halep might have felt fortunate even to be in the semis, having recovered from a set and 5-1 down to overcome Elina Svitolina in the previous round, but she was certainly eager to make the most of her opportunity as she chased down the World No.1 ranking, which would have come alongside victory in the final.
Predictably, it was a clash between the foot speed and tenacity of the doughty Halep and the power of her Czech opponent. With the surface favoring Halep, she claimed the opening set but Pliskova, who had previously admitted her surprise at progressing so well in Paris, responded in the second with a flurry of winners as the unforced errors that undermined her in the first were largely forgotten.
Crucially, Halep held firm when placed under pressure at the beginning of the deciding set and established an advantage shortly afterwards that she did not allow to leave her grasp.
Through to a second major final, it proved an unsuccessful visit for the 25-year-old, who was shocked by Jelena Ostapenko, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
2019:  Ashleigh Barty def. Amanda Anisimova 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3
Ashleigh Barty was given a major scare by Amanda Anisimova – the first player born in the 21st century to reach the semifinals (or indeed quarterfinals) of a major – before ultimately prevailing to become the first Australian finalist at Roland Garros since Samantha Stosur in 2010.
This proved a match of tremendous swings. Barty opened up the stronger, blowing away the 17-year-old as she established a 5-0 opening-set advantage in just 13 minutes and then fashioning two set points. However, out of the blue she was clawed back and lost it 7-4 on a tiebreak.
It was Anisimova who opened the second the stronger, maintaining the momentum she had gathered in winning the first. The American, who had defeated defending champion Halep, closed to within three games of the final as she moved 3-0 up, winning 12 straight points, but lost her first set of the tournament as Barty roared back.
Despite having apparently regained her composure, Barty lost serve early in the deciding set but was crucially able to break back and took command thanks to her ability to hit winners down the line and strike cunning drops that her young opponent was not savvy to.
Anisimova’s spirit was undiminished, but although she was able to save five match points, there was not to be another miraculous twist in this most remarkable of matches.
Barty would go on to beat Marketa Vondrousova, another up-and-coming talent, in the final, making her the first Australian to win in Paris since Margaret Court in 1973.