Unseeded women who won the Roland Garros title

Roland Garros is often considered the most elusive slam by tennis pundits. Winning the clay court slam as an unseeded player is an other-worldly achievement. In women’s tennis, only four women have been able to achieve this feat. Three of these instances took place in the Open Era and each of them was in the last decade.

1) Margaret Scriven

British player and former World No.5 Margaret Scriven was the first ever left handed woman to win a Grand Slam title. In 1933, Scriven defeated 4th seeded Hilde Krahwinkel, 5th seeded Mary Heeley in the quarter-finals and 3rd seeded Simonne Mathieu in the finals to become the first ever unseeded tennis player to win the Roland Garros. Scriven’s remarkable run continued at the French Open as she successfully defended her title in 1934, seeded second. The Brit’s title defense is the last instance where a British woman has won the same Grand Slam singles tournament two years in a row. 

2) Jelena Ostapenko

Jelena Ostapenko had never won a tour level title in her career and she lost the first set of her first round match against Louisa Chirico at the 2017 Roland Garros. Ostapenko would win two sets from behind to progress to the second round in order to face 2016 Rio Olympics Gold Medalist, Monica Puig. Ostapenko defeated Puig comprehensively in straight sets and won a relatively easier match in the third round against Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-4. She faced 2010 French Open finalist Sam Stosur in the fourth round. Ostapenko defeated the veteran Australian 2-6 6-2 6-4. Out of all the quarter-finalists, Ostapenko was the only unseeded player.

She defeated the then World No.2 Caroline Wozniacki in three sets to enter the final four stage. The Latvian defeated Timea Bacsinszky 7-6 3-6 6-3 to face third seed and the then World No.1, Simona Halep in the finals. Ostapenko smashed 54 winners in the finals, winning her first tour level title and maiden slam 4-6 6-4 6-3. She became the first ever Latvian (men or women) to win a grand slam title.

She became the second woman to win a slam as a maiden tour level title. She is the lowest ranked woman (47th) to win a grand slam and the second after Margaret Scriven to win it unseeded. 

3) Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek was ranked No.54 in the world ahead of the 2020 French Open. She had only once reached a tour level final which was at the 2019 Lugano Open, wherein she was the runner-up. In the opening round of the 2020 Roland Garros, she defeated fifteenth seed Marketa Vondrousova in the first round. In the fourth round, she defeated World No.1 Simona Halep, dropping only three games in the entire match.

Swiatek later defeated two qualifiers in the quarterfinals and semi-finals to set up a final clash against fourth seed Sofia Kenin. Swiatek won the match 6-4 6-1, becoming the lowest ranked player to win the title since the introduction of computerized rankings. As of April 2023, Swiatek is the World No.1, with two French Open and once US Open title to her name.

4) Barbora Krejcikova

Barbora Krejcikova achieved two feats at the 2021 French Open. For the second consecutive year, an unseeded woman won the singles title at Roland Garros. Krejcikova had won only one tour level title of the three finals she had reached, one of them being a WTA 1000 event. The Czech was ranked No.33 in the world ahead of the 2021 French Open. She defeated three seeded players en route her title win and also saved a match point in the semis.

In the same edition, Krejcikova also won the women’s doubles title, making her only the second player (since Mary Pierce in 2000) to win both the singles and doubles titles in the same edition of Roland Garros.

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