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 Ana Ivanovic's rise to the top of the rankings en route to the 2008 French Open title.
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
2004: Myskina makes history, ushers in Russian dynasty
2011: Li becomes Asia's first Grand Slam champion in historic triumph
2012: Sharapova reclaims World No.1, completes Career Slam in Paris
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: Ana Ivanovic’s first experience in a French Open final was over before it barely even got started.
It was still a historic occasion, with the 19-year-old becoming the first player from Serbia to reach a Grand Slam final - one year before Novak Djokovic’s first major breakthrough. But it was the occasion that ultimately got to Ivanovic in 2007: looking visibly intimidated, she won just three games against World No.1 Justine Henin, whose 6-1, 6-2 victory earned her a third consecutive French Open title.
"I started getting nervous," Ivanovic told press afterward. "I couldn't control the serve, and she used that well."
By the time she returned to Paris a year later, she had firmly established herself as a major threat. The Serbian had started the 2008 season with a run to the Australian Open final, and turned heads in Indian Wells, where she defeated World No.3 Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final, as well as World No.4 Jelena Jankovic, Francesca Schiavone and Vera Zvonareva along the way to her third WTA Tier I title.
But as the French Open approached, another storyline suddenly gripped the tennis world: World No.1 Henin, the favorite to win again at Roland Garros, announced her immediate retirement from the sport. She also requested for her name to be removed from the rankings, creating a domino effect that sent ripples down the Top 10. As the second-ranked player, Maria Sharapova replaced Henin the new No.1, but the ranking would be up for grabs at Roland Garros: Ivanovic, now ranked No.2, was one of the players in contention, but she would have to reach the final again to claim it.
Ivanovic made a great case for herself as she tore through the draw, and didn’t lose a set on her way to the semifinals, knocking out Caroline Wozniacki in the third round before dropping an statement 6-0, 6-0 victory against Petra Cetkovska in the fourth, and easing past No.10 seed Patty Schnyder in the quarterfinals.
Standing between Ivanovic and her second French Open final - and the top of the rankings - was a very familiar face: fellow Serbian Jelena Jankovic, who was eager to avenge her loss at Indian Wells. The stakes couldn’t be higher as both players were in vying for the No.1 ranking, which made the semifinal a sudden death battle for the top spot.
It was a topsy-turvy fight from start to finish, as Jankovic started off with a 3-0 lead before Ivanovic reeled off the next 16 of 18 points to take the first set. Jankovic halted her opponent's momentum with an emphatic seven-game run to claim the second set and take a 2-0 lead in the third. Willing herself back into the match with her signature fist pumps, Ivanovic turned around a 4-3 deficit with a barrage of winners to claim the victory, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
THE MEANING: While Ivanovic celebrated being back in the French Open final, the news that she was set to become the World No.1 was met with disbelief. It seemed that while the battle for No.1 had dominated the headlines in the tennis world, no one had informed Ivanovic that she was one win away from achieving it.
"Being No.1 is a dream come true for me," Ivanovic said. "It was a big surprise because I was so focused on the tournament. This is a great achievement and something that I'm very proud of.
“It hasn't exactly hit me yet because it won't be official until Monday. I'm sure we'll have a big celebration then."
But before any celebrating, there was the final, where Ivanovic was up against three-time Grand Slam finalist Dinara Safina. After such a rollercoaster semifinal, the championship match was a more straightforward affair, with Ivanovic winning 6-4, 6-3 in a gutsy performance to take the French Open crown.
In a fateful twist, it was the recently retired Henin who presented champion Ivanovic with the trophy during the ceremony - a year after defeating the Serbian at the same venue.
“I’m just so happy I kept my composure until the end,” Ivanovic said. “Last year’s final was a great learning experience.”
“I feel so happy. I have no words to describe that. Winning a Grand Slam is something I dreamed since I was a little kid, so achieving that goal is very thrilling.”
After her win in Paris, Ivanovic would go on to become a Top 20 mainstay, but struggled with injuries and with the pressure of her new top status, as well as heightened media attention. She spent 12 weeks at No.1, but wouldn’t reach another Grand Slam quarterfinal in her next 17 appearances. Ivanovic retired at the end of 2016 with 15 career trophies to her name.
While her stay at the top of the rankings was ultimately brief, it was a sign of bigger things to come for Serbian tennis: the same way that Ivanovic’s 2007 run to the final inspired Djokovic to championship match in New York, now it was Djokovic’s 2008 Australian Open triumph that gave Ivanovic belief in Paris. Djokovic would go on to become the ATP World No.1 in 2011, and has so far amassed an impressive 17 Grand Slam titles. The childhood friends had both trained together on the same makeshift tennis court in an empty swimming pool as youngsters in Belgrade - and now they were leading a Serbian wave of rising tennis talent.