LOS ANGELES, CA – The 1999 and 1992 French Open finals were voted the Greatest Matches in the WTA Tour’s 30-year history by fans and the media, respectively.
In the 1992 final at Roland Garros that was chosen by the worldwide media, Monica Seles won a marathon battle against Steffi Graf 6-2, 3-6, 10-8.
In the 1999 final selected by fans, Graf pulled off a tense and dramatic rally to stun Martina Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
The winning matches were selected after more than two months of online voting on the WTA Tour website (www.wtatour.com). Fans and media made their choices from a list of 16 memorable matches from the Open era in WTA Tour history.
In the ’92 Seles-Graf match, Seles broke for a 3-1 lead in the third, but Graf rallied to take leads of 6-5 and 7-6. Seles stood her ground and served for the match at 8-7, yet Graf held on. Finally, facing a sixth match-point against her in the 18th game of the third set, Graf’s forehand nicked the tape and fell back on her own side. The crowd’s cheering reduced Graf to tears and Seles graciously admitted that both players deserved to win the match.
“It was a very high quality and intense match from the very beginning until the end,’’ Graf said. “I was 5-3 down and gave myself the chance to get back into the match. It went back and forth and eventually Monica ran out the winner. The thing that stands out in my mind was how supportive the crowd was that day toward me.’’
The ’99 Graf-Hingis match was all about intensity and drama. Hingis was in the pressure-packed position of being the overwhelming favorite, while Graf seemingly had nothing to lose.
The match will forever be remembered for what happened with Hingis leading 2-0 in the second set. Hingis thought a forehand return clipped the baseline, and when the umpire couldn’t find the ball mark left in the clay court, Hingis marched around to Graf’s side of the court to point it out. She was issued a point penalty (She had earlier broken a racquet) and was now just one indiscretion away from being defaulted. It was the reprieve Graf needed.
Graf won six straight games at one point that essentially spelled doom for Hingis, who eventually left the court to go to the bathroom. While she was gone, Graf joined the crowd in doing the Mexican wave.
Down match point, Hingis had one more trick up her sleeve and unleashed a Michael Chang-like underarm serve, which threw Graf off. But Graf recovered and used her trademark forehand to carry her the rest of the way to victory.
Hingis, just 18 at the time, had to be coaxed back on court by her mother for the trophy ceremony and held up well while speaking in French afterwards.
Immediately afterwards, Graf said it was “one of the craziest matches’’ she had ever played.
“I would like to thank the fans for selecting this match,’’ Graf said. “My memories from that day were that it wasn’t the best tennis, but it was very exciting. I certainly did not expect to be physically and mentally ready after beating Lindsay (Davenport) and Monica (Seles) in two tough matches.
“It was amazing since I hadn’t played in a Grand Slam final since my knee surgery and I did not show the same level of competitiveness in important moments during matches up until that point. When I look back now, it was the biggest win I ever achieved during my tennis career.’’