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Filling The Void

Filling The Void: Three in a Row on the Clay

A classic #1 vs. #2 matchup between two of the best to ever play the game. Monica Seles clashes with Steffi Graf in this memorable French Open Final

Roland Garros plate on an old Peugeot car by Ivan Radic is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Filling The Void: Three in a Row on the Clay

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

The conversations dominating the news cycle continue to be related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Nations around the globe are beginning to look toward the future, as talks of how to safely “reopen” are more and more commonplace. While those decision-makers around the world continue to try and strike a balance between public health safety and a return to some sense of normality, we here at The Turf continue to revisit sports from the past. Our “Filling The Void” series continues while we become more and more hopeful each day that the world may start spinning again.

Today we take you back to the red clay of Roland Garros. In the summer of 1992, we were treated to a legendary battle between a veteran 22-year-old and a burgeoning teenager who was taking the game by storm.

Today: 1992 French Open Ladies’ Singles Final – Monica Seles vs. Steffi Graf

Graf, who turned professional in 1982, spent much of the decade working her way up the women’s rankings without a lot of fanfare. By the time the late ’80s rolled around, she had established herself as one of the top competitors on tour. She had begun piling up major championships, including two French Open titles in 1987 and 1988. That same year, a 14-year-old Seles played her first tournament as an amateur before turning pro in February of 1989. That June she would reach her first Grand Slam singles semi-final – where she would lose to then #1 ranked Steffi Graf. She would end her debut season ranked #6 in the world.

As the decade changed from the ’80s to ’90s, Seles’ rapid ascent to the top of the women’s game continued. She would win her first Grand Slam on the clay of the French Open in 1990. Her opponent – Steffi Graf. By the time this rematch rolled around, Seles was ranked #1 in the world and was looking for her third consecutive French Open title. Graf entered this match as the second-ranked player in the world and was also looking for her third title on the clay.

The Rivalry Epitomized

This was the 8th time these two ladies had clashed. Graf had won 5 of their previous 7 encounters, and this one is considered to be one of their most epic duels.

Seles jumped out to an early lead, dominating the first set. She found herself up 3-0 in a matter of minutes, and ultimately took the first set by a score of 6-2. Graf used the new set to make some adjustments to her game. That, along with her experience, got her back into the match. She would take the second set 6-3, forcing a third and decisive set.

The final set proved to be memorable. It lasted 91 minutes and took 18 games before it was finally decided. Seles would claim her third consecutive French Open title by winning the third set 10-8. It proved to be a defining battle for this storied rivalry. They would face each other 7 more times over the course of their careers, but none of those matches proved on the level of this contest. It was widely regarded as one of the best women’s matches of the 20th Century.

See You Tomorrow. Stay Safe. Stay Smart. Wash Your Hands.

Joe is an actor who grew up eating, living and breathing sports. He spent many an afternoon on the soccer or baseball field in his youth (and even gave several other sports a shot) before a series of events put him on the path to pursuing a performing career. Subsequently, he's worked almost every other type of job you could imagine while trying to support that endeavor. Whenever he's not working any of those jobs, he can often be found watching, playing or discussing sports in some way. Most of that banter revolves around the Mets, Giants, Rangers or Manchester United. His short term goal is to fully convert his fiance into a rabid sports fan, not someone who leaves the room whenever he turns a game on.

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