Tennis is one of the most popular sports in France, partly because Paris hosts a major tournament every year: one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, Roland Garros (or the French Open) gathers a major part of the international tennis community in a small portion of the Western tip of the city. Being that popular, this sport has seen several top French players sprout with time and rise to the apex of tennis rankings. This short Top 5 French Tennis Players will try to list the most important ones!
1.) Suzanne Lenglen
The first player in this Top 5 French Tennis Players is a true icon of French tennis. Born in Paris on the 24th of May 1899, Suzanne Lenglen was the first female French tennis player to rise to international fame. Trained by her father from the time she was 11, she won her first major tournament in 1919 at age 20 against the seven-time winner Dorothy Lambert Chambers. During that game, her father gave her a flask of Cognac when she was starting to be exhausted, which gave her the energy she needed to win: from that day, she started bringing Cognac to every game as a pick-me-up.
In the course of her amazing career, which lasted no more than 7 years, she won 12 Grand Slam tournaments (6 times in Wimbledon, 6 times in the Paris Open), making her by far the most victorious French female tennis player. She revolutionized the game, being the first woman to wear specially made short skirts for instance. After her sudden death from sickness, her name was given one of the main courts of the Roland Garros complex where the French open is held.
2.) Yannick Noah
The second player on this list of the Top 5 French Tennis Players has earned his spot through a huge career during which he has performed a miracle that hasn’t been repeated since. He is the first and only French male tennis player to have won the French Open, and any Grand Slam tournament, for that matter! Born in Sedan, France, on the 18th of May 1960, Noah started playing professionally at the age of 18, and went on to become the French player to win the most tournaments (he won 23) and to hold the best spot in the ATP ranking (he was 3rd in the summer of 1986). After retiring in 1991 and having a short return in 1995, he became a popular singer and an occasional actor, finding success in his new career. His son Joakim Noah is a famous NBA player with the New York Knicks.
3.) Amélie Mauresmo
Amélie Mauresmo deserves her third spot in this top 5 French Tennis Players without a doubt. Born in 1979 in Saint-Germain-En-Laye, she has had an amazing 16-year-long career from 1993 to 2009 during which she was ranked 1st twice. She won 25 tournaments, including two Grand Slams in 2006 (Australia Open and Wimbledon), making her the most victorious French player in the Open Era (since 1968). She entered the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2015 and coached the Scottish champion Andy Murray from 2014 to 2016.
4.) Mary Pierce
Born in Canada on the 15th of January 1975, Mary Pierce is a French-American tennis player who played for France during her career. From 1989 to 2006 she impacted the world of tennis deeply, winning more than 500 games for 18 single tournaments including two Grand Slam tournaments: the Australian Open in 1995 and the French Open in 2000. She went to the finals a shocking amount of time, losing 23 times in the last round of a tournament, 4 times in Grand Slam tournaments. Those amazing results earned her a Third spot in the WTP rankings during her career and the 4th spot in this Top 5 French tennis players.
5.) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tsonga is the first player on this list who still plays today and is considered by many to be the best French tennis player of his generation. Born on the 17th of April 1985 in Le Mans, this huge (he’s 6’2” for 200 lb) player has been playing at a top level for almost a decade and has had some great results. With 15 singles tournaments won and 26 finals appearances, Tsonga was ranked 5th in 2012, and he is currently 11th.
Having been to the finals of the Australia Open and the semi-finals of two other Grand Slam tournaments, he has had better results than any other French player of this generation but is yet to win one of these major tournaments to go down in history at the side of Noah or Lenglen. As the only player on this list who hasn’t won a Grand Slam tournament, he logically comes in fifth in the Top Five French Tennis Players.
Honorable Mention: René Lacoste
Before this list comes to an end, I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate another French tennis player, not for his sportive achievements, but rather for his fashion style and business acumen. He did win 7 Grand Slam single tournaments and was a major tennis player, but he is better known as the creator and president of the luxury sporting goods brand Lacoste! Indeed, before becoming a household name in the field of fashion, René Lacoste, born in 1904 in Paris, had an amazing career as a professional tennis player! As you will notice on this picture, he already had an impeccable style as a player! He was also famous for being the first player to stop wearing long-sleeved shirts and switch to polos, earning him some jokes in the beginning, but his results showed the world who was right.
This list of Top Five French Tennis Players now sadly has to come to an end: as tennis is one of the most popular sports in France, you can be sure that other talents will appear with time, hopefully managing to, one day, win the French Open again! If you want to read some more about French sports, here’s an article ranking the Top Ten French Soccer Players.