Who broke new ground at the Paris fortnight?

The Parisian Slam was a proving ground for many breakout stars

Mirra Andreeva, quarts de finale, Roland-Garros 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Chris Oddo

At Roland-Garros this year the clay has been the canvas of dreams for many of the tour’s top players. Those who raised silverware on the final weekend are obvious examples, but over the course of the last three weeks, there have been many others who will leave Paris with the pride of achievements in their hearts. 

Paolini Power 

Jasmine Paolini had never been beyond the second round in Paris in her five previous appearances on the terre battue. But the 28-year-old late bloomer is a much improved player in 2024 and demonstrated her newfound form – and self-belief – in an inspiring run to her maiden Grand Slam final this week. 

She also reached her maiden major doubles final alongside Sara Errani, falling to Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova in the final.

Carlitos surfaces

In May most were convinced that winning Roland-Garros would not be in the cards for Carlos Alcaraz, especially after he pulled out of Rome due to his lingering forearm injury. But he has proven that he doesn't need much of a warm-up to shine on the Grand Slam stage.

Alcaraz roared to the title in Paris, his first on the fabled Parisian clay, and in the process became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces.

Andreeva the teen sensation 

Mirra Andreeva’s Grand Slam career may be short, but it is quickly becoming the stuff of legend. Last year in Paris, not long after her 16th birthday and in her first main draw at a Grand Slam, Andreeva became the youngest player to reach the third round at Roland-Garros since 2005. 

Never one to rest on her laurels, she cruised into the semi-finals this year, becoming the youngest woman to reach the last four at a Grand Slam since Martina Hingis in 1997.

Zverev pushes through 

Remember 2022, when Alexander Zverev left the court in devastating fashion, after tearing three ligaments in his right ankle during his semi-final with Rafael Nadal? That was the second of three consecutive semi-final losses for the German, but his ship came in this year in Paris when he waltzed past Casper Ruud to reach the final

“It’s all part of my journey,” Zverev said, who fell in a dramatic five-set final to Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday in Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Iga the match point maven 

Iga Swiatek has won major titles before, and here in Paris she has dominated the field ever since she rumbled to the title as an unseeded 19-year-old in 2020. But this year was extra special because of where Swiatek was in the second round against Naomi Osaka. Facing match point in the final set of her showdown with the four-time Slam champion, Swiatek emerged victorious, 7-6(1), 1-6, 7-5. 

Swiatek dropped 17 games in that match, and went on to drop 17 games in her next five matches as she became just the fourth player to win a Roland-Garros women’s singles title after facing match point in the tournament. 

“For sure it gives me the feeling that I should always believe in myself, that I can find my tennis even if I'm in big trouble,” the Pole said after claiming the title on Saturday. “Sometimes it's going to add up like that; sometimes I'm gonna lose. But when you're trying your best, it's always the best solution, because you have no regrets.”

Grigor cracks a milestone 

Since his debut in Paris in 2011, Grigor Dimitrov has been an integral part of the fabric of the tournament. A fan favourite, with an elegant yet physical game, Dimitrov has a knack of connecting with fans on a visceral level. 

This year in Paris he finally took a step that he has long yearned for. On his 14th appearance, Dimitrov reached his first quarter-final, becoming just the 13th active player to reach the last eight at all four majors

“It was the only Slam that I never felt I could get that extra step,” an emotional Dimitrov told the crowd on Sunday, after vanquishing Hurkacz in three thrilling sets. “Today, fifteen years later, I made it, so I’m very happy with that.” 

First time for six 

Six players reached the round of 16 at the Grand Slam level for the first time this year in Paris. All of them were women. Let’s hear from them: 

Elisabetta Cocciaretto: “Everyone has his journey, so I will enjoy mine and keep improving.”

Anastasia Potapova: “I really want to get used to this and stay here as long as I can to be seeded on the Grand Slams and maybe higher and higher.”

Olga Danilovic: "I practise for these kinds of moments," said a tearful Danilovic in the on-court interview. "When they come, I really want to take the best out of them and to enjoy being here. And to enjoy to suffer as well. In tennis, at the end, sometimes you really need to suffer, like I did today."

Clara Tauson: “I’ve been here for some years. But I’m still young, it’s an amazing feeling – getting through to the second week of a Slam is something different and I felt that today. Hopefully this can happen more consistently.” 

Clara Tauson, 3e tour, Roland-Garros 2023 ©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Varvara Gracheva: “I will remember that moment until the end of my life. After the interview, they said it's your first French Open as a French player with the French crowd. I said yes. I couldn't believe what a wonderful atmosphere it was.”

Emma Navarro:  “I've had a really great week and a half here in Paris. “It's always a learning experience, always a good experience. Yeah, I'm moving forward in a better place than I was when I came into this week.” 

Sasson supreme  

Israel’s Guy Sasson claimed the quad wheelchair singles title on Sunday, winning his first major on his Paris debut. The 44-year-old world No.3 gained revenge for Australian Open final heartbreak against Sam Schroder to lift his maiden Slam title in his third overall appearance at the majors. 

Sasson won 6-2, 3-6, 7-6[10-7] to halt No.2-seeded Schroder's 18-match winning streak. In the previous round Sasson defeated top-seeded Niels Vink. 

"It's a huge win. First of all, it's first time for me in Roland-Garros. It's first time that I won a Grand Slam," Sasson said.

A first for a team, a sixth for Pavic

Mate Pavic and Marcelo Arevalo won their maiden Grand Slam title as a team by defeating  Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori for the Roland-Garros men’s doubles title on Saturday.

The 7-5, 6-3 victory for the El Salvadorian-Croatian duo marked a massive milestone for Pavic: with the title he becomes just the sixth man in the Open era after Mark Woodforde, Todd Woodbridge, Daniel Nestor, and Bob and Mike Bryan to complete the career Grand Slam and win Olympic doubles gold.

“I think I'm going to need some time for all of that, just to get to my mind what I really achieved today,” said a blown-away Pavic, of his achievement. 

Coco expands her trophy case

Twenty-year-old Coco Gauff was stopped in singles by Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals, but the American found another route to glory in Paris by winning her maiden major doubles title alongside Czech Katerina Siniakova. Sunday's triumph was Gauff's third crack at a Grand Slam doubles final.

"Doubles I definitely didn't think it would happen to me, to be frank," Gauff said. "I think that was one of the few times in my life after I lost the first two finals, I thought, 'well, okay, I reached that point, maybe I should focus on singles.'

"Here, I didn't even expect to play. I think it's funny how life teaches you those lessons that sometimes it's better just to be relaxed and the good things will happen."