Best never to win the French Open
Pete Sampras has a record 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles to his credit, but none of them came on the courts at Roland Garros. In fact, Pistol Pete's best finish at the French Open was a trip to the semifinals, a feat he achieved just once. Although his 62.5 win percentage (90 wins - 54 losses) on clay isn't shabby, it's nothing compared with his 75.9 win percentage (148-47) on carpet, 80.7 win percentage (423-101) on hard courts and 83.5 win percentage (101-20) on grass.
Novak Djokovic has compiled six Grand Slam titles in his career, including titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. He's a two-time ATP Player of the Year. He's been the world's No. 1 ranked player for over 100 weeks. But, a French Open title has evaded him. He came closest in 2012 when he reached his lone French Open final, only to fall to Rafael Nadal in four sets.
Thanks in large part to Venus Williams' very vocal advocacy of the importance of equality in tennis, the French Open awarded equal prize money to men and women in 2007 for the first time ever. Although she won the mixed doubles title in 1998 with Justin Gimelstob and the women's doubles championship in 1999 with sister Serena, Williams has never won a singles title at the French major.
Jimmy Connors reached the French Open semifinals four times, but a win at Roland Garros -- and therefore a career Grand Slam -- eluded him. Perhaps his best chance at the championship would have come in 1974, the year he won each of the other major tournament titles, but he was banned from the French Open that season for signing a contract to play World Team Tennis.
John McEnroe is undeniably one of the greatest tennis players of all time, but a French Open singles title eluded him. The closest the mercurial American came to the major clay title was in 1984. McEnroe took the first two sets off Ivan Lendl but could not maintain that energy, and Lendl engineered a five-set comeback. One of McEnroe's 17 Grand Slam titles did come on the French clay, though. In 1977 he won the mixed doubles title with childhood friend Mary Carillo.
With one of the best serve and volley games of all time, it's no surprise that Stefan Edberg found success on the Wimbledon grass. But the first-ever player to achieve the "Junior Grand Slam" was foiled in his attempts to achieve a career Grand Slam. Edberg reached his only French Open final in 1989, where he lost to Michael Chang, the youngest ever male Grand Slam winner.
At the age of 12 and playing in the French Open girls' singles draw, the Swiss Miss became the youngest player ever to win a Grand Slam junior title. Many fans thought she acted like a 12-year-old in 1999 during her second trip to the French Open finals. Hingis was three points away from beating Steffi Graf but then suffered a meltdown of massive proportions. In tears after losing, Hingis had to be convinced by her mother to return to the court for the trophy ceremony.
Boris Becker reached the semifinals at Roland Garros three times -- in 1987, 1989 and 1991 -- but he never made it to the finals and never had a chance to capture the one major title that eluded him. In fact, none of his 49 singles titles came on clay courts, although he did win a gold medal on the surface in the 1992 Summer Olympics with partner Michael Stich in men's doubles.
Kim Clijsters made her Grand Slam finals debut in the 2001 French Open, taking the first set against Jennifer Capriati in convincing fashion before ultimately losing 12-10 in the third. She also reached the finals in 2003 but fell to compatriot Justine Henin. Clijsters does have a French Open doubles title, however.
Tracy Austin reached the quarterfinals in two of the three French Opens in which she participated (advancing that far in 1982 and 1983), but she never broke through in the major. At her final appearance at the event in 1994, as she attempted a comeback from a near-fatal motorcycle accident, Austin was knocked out in the first round.
Although Bill Tilden earned a mixed doubles championship at the French Open in 1930, he was held without a singles title at Roland Garros. Twice, in 1927 and 1930, he finished as the runner-up. Despite that hole in his tennis resume, Tilden still is widely considered to be the greatest tennis player of his era. He won the U.S. Championships singles draw seven times (including six straight from 1920-1925), claimed nine U.S. doubles titles, earned three Wimbledon singles titles and led the U.S. team to seven straight Davis Cup championships.
Spain's Conchita Martinez was raised playing on clay courts and reached either the quarterfinals or semifinals of the French Open every year from 1989 to 1996, but a title win eluded her. Martinez's best shot came in 2000. She advanced to the finals after beating three-time French Open champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the semis but could not best Mary Pierce.
Brazilian tennis star Maria Bueno won seven Grand Slam titles during her career and reached at least the quarterfinals in each of the first 26 Grand Slam singles tournaments in which she was entered. Although she was the runner-up at the 1964 French Championships, Bueno was never able to capture the winner's trophy at Roland Garros. She did, however, win one of her 11 women's doubles Grand Slam titles and her only mixed doubles Grand Slam title at the French Open.
Because a large part of Pancho Gonzales' professional tennis career occurred prior to the Open era, he was not eligible to compete in Grand Slam events between 1949 and 1967. The first major tournament in which he played was the 1968 French Championships, where, despite the fact he was 40 and semi-retired, Gonzales reached the semifinals. He never won the event at Roland Garros, but one can only speculate as to what he might have achieved had he been allowed to compete throughout his entire career.
Patrick Rafter's breakthrough performance came at the 1997 French Open, where he reached the semifinals, but it would be his best-ever finish at the event. In seven other appearances at Roland Garros, Rafter fell in the first round three times, the second round twice, and the third and fourth rounds once. None of the Australian's 11 singles title wins came on clay courts.