Taking it to another level at RG

Sveta, Sam, Gael, Rafa ... these are the names synonymous with Roland-Garros success.

 - Kate Battersby

There are just a handful of players whose career achievements are absolutely synonymous with Roland-Garros. For these individuals, this is the tournament they have in mind all year, where they are more consistent than anywhere else. The crowds at courtside know they are watching the competitors who are most likely to play a key role and go deep in the draw. But the roll-call of names whose record truly stands up to that examination is shorter than you might think ...

Gael Monfils

His Roland-Garros record: Win-loss 31-11; his best showing was a 2008 semi-final; he's also reached three quarter-finals and made three appearances in the last 16.

But what about…? You mean the fact that he also reached the semis at the US Open in 2016? Right, but at Flushing Meadow his career win-loss record stands at 24-11, with just two quarter-finals and two appearances in the last 16.

And besides… He was born in Paris, so the Roland-Garros crowds are cheering their hometown hero. But all nationalities feel the ripple of anticipation when the incomparably charismatic Monfils is about to play. His fitness coach Gaetan Olivier says Monfils “thinks about Roland-Garros every day of the year”.

Monfils on Roland-Garros: “Always I come here with one dream, one goal – to have this trophy at the end. I hate to lose here. It is just so special. The crowds are behind me. They give you those great vibes that I need as a player. I know that if something magic can happen, it’s probably going to happen here.”

Gaël Monfils smash dunk Roland-Garros 2017 Richard Gasquet
Svetlana Kuznetsova

Her Roland-Garros record: Win-loss 52-14; her best year was lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in 2009; she was runner-up in 2006 and has also recorded one-semi final, four quarter-finals, and five appearances in the last 16.

But what about…? You mean the fact that she has also won the US Open (in 2004) and been a finalist there (in 2007)? Indeed she has, but at Flushing Meadow her career win-loss record stands at 35-14, very similar to the remaining two Grand Slams; and while she has made the last 16 there five times, she has gone no further (other than the two years she reached the final).

And besides… Roland-Garros means so much to her that her desire to win sometimes actually hinders her on-court performance here. Watching her wrestling her own emotions is part of what makes her so compelling in Paris.

Kuznetsova on Roland-Garros: “This is my biggest trouble – that it is too special for me here. All the matches are so emotional. I’m praying every day to just play my game and leave emotions in the locker room, but it wouldn’t be me. We say in Russia ‘this is my cross that I have to carry’. I should let it go. I won it already, so I should just have fun and enjoy it. And everywhere I do that, except Paris!”

Samantha Stosur

Her Roland-Garros record: Win-loss 37-14; her best year was as runner-up in 2010, and she's also advanced to three semi-finals and made two appearances in the last 16.

But what about…? You mean the fact that she won the US Open in 2011? Absolutely, but her career win-loss record there is a leaner 22-12, with two quarter-finals and one appearance in the last 16.

And besides… Forever and a day Stosur has battled not just the player at the other side of the net, but her own confidence. On the way to the 2010 final here, she bested an assortment of current and previous No.1s including Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic; but come the championship decider she lost to Francesca Schiavone, who was then ranked 17th.

Stosur on Roland-Garros: “I love playing on these courts. It doesn’t get much better than this. Obviously these courts are the best in the world, and if you’re confident you can do really well here. I’ve been able to get over the loss [to Schiavone] and look at the whole of what I’ve been able to do here, and I think it’s great. I guess it would be a nice romantic love story where there’s hopefully still a great finish at the end.”

And finally…

Rafael Nadal

His Roland-Garros record: quite good, actually. Win-loss 79-2, which looks like a misprint (and not only because he withdrew with a wrist injury after the first two rounds in 2016, so was not defeated that year). His best year was arguably La Decima of 2017, when he won his 10th title without dropping a set, for the total loss (over seven matches) of just 35 games. His wins in 2008 and 2010 likewise came without the loss of a set, but the unique achievement of La Decima perhaps tops those two.

But what about...? Mmm, maybe skip that question in his case. Even three US Open wins can’t compare with making tennis history at Roland-Garros.

And besides… He’s Nadal – the greatest clay court player of all time, and he isn’t done yet.

Nadal on Roland-Garros: “The Coupe des Mousquetaires means so much to me. All the things that have happened in this tournament have been magical for me. Every win has been unique. This is always the most important event of the year for me, with the most pressure, where I am most nervous. I am not a kid any more and it only gets more special as the years pass.”