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French Open: Biggest shocks

The elite tend to come to the fore in Grand Slam competitions, but upsets do occur and there will be plenty of lower-ranked players hoping to claim a notable scalp at this year's French Open, which gets underway in Paris on Sunday.

The French Open is the only Major to be played on a clay court, so is considered a specialist event, which is why Rafael Nadal has gone on to take the men's title on 14 occasions. 

That may mean it is less susceptible to strange results than the other three Grand Slam tournaments, but the French crowd have still witnessed some major surprises down the years. 

We take a wander back down memory lane and have picked out five occasions when an underdog has rocked the tennis world by taking out a leading light.

What2023 French Open
WhereParis, France
WhenSunday 28th May - Sunday 11th June 2023
How to watchbet365 Sports Live Streaming and Eurosport
OddsMen's Outright: Carlos Alcaraz 5/4, Novak Djokovic 15/8
Women's Outright: Iga Swiatek 8/11, Aryna Sabalenka 7/2

Rafael Nadal v Robin Soderling, fourth round 2009

One of the biggest shocks in French Open history came back in 2009 when the King of Clay himself, Nadal, fell victim in the fourth round to Swedish 23rd seed Robin Soderling. 

Even the most optimistic of punters would have failed to envisage such a scenario given Nadal was bidding for his fifth straight French Open title. 

The Spanish top seed had won his opening three matches in straight sets but ultimately proved no match for Soderling, who was a deserved four-set victor. 

Soderling eventually finished runner-up to Swiss superstar Roger Federer, but Nadal got his revenge on the Swede in 2010 as he clinched a fifth French Open title at his expense. 

Nadal has gone on to triumph in Paris 14 times, only failing to record success on four of his 18 visits, which is why this is considered one of the biggest upsets of all time.

Serena Williams v Virginie Razzano, first round 2012

Serena Williams had not won the French Open since claiming her maiden title in Paris in 2002 and her recent vulnerabilities in the French capital were highlighted by home player Virginie Razzano in 2012. 

Despite winning the opening set, the American fifth seed crashed out against the world number 111, with that defeat being the first time in her career that she had lost in the opening round of a Grand Slam. 

Razzano went on to lose to Arantxa Rus in the next round but it was a defeat that spurred on Williams as she responded by taking the title the following year with victory over the defending champion, Maria Sharapova.

Novak Djokovic v Marco Cecchinato, quarter-final 2018

French Open champion in 2016, Novak Djokovic went into this quarter-final clash with unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato as a resounding favourite. 

However, things didn't go to plan from the off and Cecchinato was soon in control as he won the opening two sets. Djokovic attempted to rally and took the third set, but the Italian had enough in reserve to prevail 13-11 in an epic fourth-set tiebreak and tee-up a semi-final showdown with Dominic Thiem. 

Cecchinato became the first Italian player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since 1978 and was the lowest-ranked player to make the last four in Paris for 19 years. 

In the style of a true champion, Djokovic came back stronger and won both Wimbledon and the US Open later that season.

Roger Federer vs Luis Horna, first round 2003

Federer claimed only one of his 20 Grand Slam titles at the French Open, yet it was a big shock when he lost his opening round match to unseeded Peruvian Luis Horna in 2003. 

Fifth seed Federer was comfortably beaten 7-6 6-2 7-6 by Horna, who lost his next game to eventual runner-up Martin Verkerk and never failed to go beyond the third round of a Grand Slam in his career. 

For Federer, it was only the beginning as he claimed his maiden Grand Slam title just months later at Wimbledon. It was also the last time that the Swiss maestro lost his opening match of a Major.

Jelena Ostapenko v Simona Halep, final 2017

It was expected to be routine work for Simona Halep in the 2017 final as she had experienced a French Open final before and was also seeded three. 

But Jelena Ostapenko had other ideas and the Latvian came from a set behind to become the first unseeded player to lift the trophy since Margaret Scriven in 1933. 

The world number 47, who had turned 20 during the tournament, was also the lowest-ranked player to win the Paris Major since 1975 and had been 100/1 to be crowned champion before a ball had been served. 

Halep did go one better in 2018, however, as she defeated American ace Sloane Stephens to take the French Open title.

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