Hana’s Top Five Roland Garros Matches

  • by Tripp, Georgia-USA, May 23, 2024

Because Hana Mandlikova was known as a serve and volley player people sometimes forget what a great clay court player she was. Of course she grew up on that surface in the former Czechoslovakia so it’s not a surprise that she knew her way around a dusty red clay court. Hana’s first big wins as a professional tennis player were mostly on clay. She won the Italian and French junior titles in 1978 on her to becoming the first top ranked junior girl player. The first two tournaments titles that she won as a pro came on clay courts in Barcelona and Madrid that same year. In 1979 she would also capture the Austrian Open played in Kitzbuhel.

Many Fed Cup tournaments involving Hana were also played on clay. Hana led Czechoslovakia to titles in 1983 in Zurich and in 1984 at Sao Paulo each being played on slow red clay. Her three set win over that year’s Wimbledon runner up and former French Open runner up Andrea Jaeger in Zurich was her brightest moment of the season and one of her biggest clay court victories. But the French Open was where Hana’s clay game was at its dramatic best with her artistic flare. She finished with a 39-11 mark as Paris was the grand slam event that she most frequently played. 

From 1980 through 1986, Hana only failed to make her seeding once in 1985 losing in the quarterfinals. Winning the 1981 French title is surely one of the cornerstones of her career and a testament to her all court game.

On the eve of this year’s French Open, and in looking back at Hana’s French Open history, I decided that I would pick the five matches that I thought were her most crucial at this event.

1981 Semifinal d. Chris Evert (1) 7-5, 6-4

Relive her 1981 French Open here (link)

Hana Mandlíková’s Stunning Victory Over Chris Evert at the 1981 French Open

On her way to the 1981 French Open title, Hana pulled off a rare and stunning defeat of Chris Evert on clay. In fact, this was only Chris’ second defeat ever in Paris. The only previous loss that she suffered was to Margaret Court in the 1973 final. This was also Chris’ first defeat on clay since Tracy Austin defeated her at the 1979 Italian Open. Hana used her strong serve, flat forehand, and abrupt changes of pace off of her backhand side to keep Chris off balance. Although Hana used her athletic net game to great effect she also outgunned Chris from the baseline. Considering the opponent and the event this is possibly Hana’s greatest ever singles match victory. Chris would retire having lost to only five players ever in Paris.

Evert Mandlikova : Hana’s Top Five Roland Garros Matches

1981 Final d. Sylvia Hanika 6-2 6-4

Relive her 1981 French Open here (link)

Hana Mandlíková Triumphs Over Sylvia Hanika to Win the 1981 French Open

Hana’s Top Five Roland Garros Matches

Hana Mandlikova came from behind in both sets to beat Sylvia Hanika of West Germany 6 – 2, 6 – 4 and become the first Czechoslovakian woman to win the French Open. Hanika, the powerful 21 – year – old left – hander from Munich, however, didn’t make it easy for the young Czechoslovakian star. Hanika won the first seven points of the match and took a 2 – 0 lead But gradually the pattern changed. As Mandlikova tightened her game and drove accurately for the lines, Hanika became erratic. Hana reeled off six games in a row and wrapped up the first set in 32 minutes Hanika played her best tennis at the start of the second set and ran up a 4 – 0 lead, although the third and fourth games were long, grimly contested affairs of several deuces. Mandlikova then resumed control and cut her rival’s lead to 4 – 2. In the seventh game, Hana double – faulted for the only time in the match and Hanika had a point for 5 – 2. But Hana saved the situation with a smash and went on to Win that game and the next three. “This is a step toward becoming the world’s No. 1,” Mandlikova said as she sat between her parents at a news conference afterward.

1982 Quarterfinal d. Tracy Austin (3) 7-6, 6-7, 6-2

Relive her 1982 French Open here (link)

Hana Mandlíková’s First Victory Over Tracy Austin in Paris

Surely one of the most satisfying victories of Hana Mandlikova’s career was her first win over Tracy Austin in Paris. Of their previous seven meetings, all but two of them went to three sets and one of Hana’s straight sets defeats was a 7-6, 7-6 verdict. Many times Hana had taken sets from Tracy and looked as if she was going to defeat the former world’s number one. But it was not until this day that Mandlikova came through. Using the same kind of tactics that she had used to defeat Chris Evert the year before, Hana used slices, topspins, and hard flat drives mixed in with occasional forays to the net to beat Tracy 7-6 in the first set. She then built a 5-2 lead in the second set and looked set to serve the match out. But to Tracy Austin’s credit she broke back and eventually took the set. However Hana Mandlikova didn’t let the opportunity slip away this time as she used some big serves, delicate drop shots, and well placed volleys to put Tracy Austin away.

Austin Mandlikova : Hana’s Top Five Roland Garros Matches

1984 Semifinal : lost to Martina Navratilova (1) 6-3 2-6 2-6

Relive her 1984 French Open here (link)

Hana Mandlikova Challenges Martina Navratilova’s Grand Slam Quest

Navratilova Mandlikova : Hana’s Top Five Roland Garros Matches

At 1984 French Open, Hana Mandlikova emerged as the primary challenger to Martina Navratilova’s Grand Slam pursuit. Mandlikova made her mark by halting Navratilova’s 54 match win streak in January of the same year, Navratilova started anxiously against Mandlikova and dropped a set for the first time in the tournament. Mandlikova, the only player to have beaten her this year, dominated the early exchanges with spectacular service returns and passing shots. But, suddenly she lost her touch. Two crucial service breaks in the last two sets went against her, and Navratilova, whose service had improved steadily throughout the match, finished off her opponent by winning the last four games.

1986 Quarterfinal d. Steffi Graf (3) 2-6, 7-6, 6-1

Relive her 1986 French Open here (link)

Hana Mandlikova Ends Steffi Graf’s Winning Streak in a Thrilling Comeback

In the spring of 1986, Steffi was riding a long winning streak that included wins over Martina, Chris, and Hana having won three consecutive tournaments. As she ripped through her side of the draw some weren’t wondering IF Steffi would win this tournament but in how big of a romp. At first, Hana could not find her range and even though she was hitting the ball well she was missing by inches. The match seemed firmly in Steffi’s grasp when she had match point at 5-3 in the second. But when she hit a forehand long the crowd sensed that if Hana could break she would be back in the match. With the crowd behind her, Hana broke Steffi and began the long road back with big serves and powerful forehands that went right into Steffi’s forehand causing her to hit late and open up spraying the ball wide and long repeatedly. Once the second set was in hand Hana took charge of the third set early and ran away with it in a romp hitting dazzling forehand winners in powerful baseline exchanges and extracting errors from Steffi’s feared forehand. The win served as a reminder that Hana was still a formidable force on the tour.

Chris Evert Hana Mandlikova 1983 Roland Garros

Those are my picks as Hana Mandlikova’s five greatest matches at the French Open. However, Hana played many more memorable matches at Roland Garros… In 1979 she upsets Sue Barker to reach her first slam quarterfinal. She lost to Wendy Turnbull … As a young upstart, Hana reached the Semifinal in 1980 and took a set from the great Chris Evert (LINK), a feat she had previously achieved at that year’s Italian Open… Then there were Hana’s two great performances at the 1983 tournament. She faced that year’s new clay court contender, Italian Open champion, Andrea Temesvari. While Andrea was having a great year on tour, including a thrilling three set loss to Martina Navratilova at the Family Circle Cup, Hana was still struggling with her health and confidence. Many assumed that Temesvari would upset Mandlikova in their 4th round encounter (LINK). Instead the former champion of Roland Garros easily swept aside the talented young Hungarian in straights sets punctuated by a forehand up the line by Hana and a fist pump. Next Hana had to play Chris Evert eager to avenge her 1981 Semifinal loss to Hana. In perhaps the match of the tournament (LINK), Hana won the first set with a sparkling array of baseline and drop shot winners mixed in with timely serve and volley tactics. Unfortunately, the four time champion dug in her heels, and Hana could not sustain her high level of play. Evert would win the match and rout Andrea Jaeger in the semis and Mima Jausovec in the final. As well as Hana Mandlikova had played in Paris that year, had she managed to beat Evert, Hana might have won a second French title… Feel free to share your memories of these and other great matches involving Hana in Paris.