Mauresmo to Muster, Evert to Nadal—10 Rome champions to remember

Mauresmo to Muster, Evert to Nadal—10 Rome champions to remember

The Italian Open has always been one of the most prestigious clay-court tournaments in tennis, so it's no surprise the combined ATP-WTA event has crowned its fair share of storied winners over the years.

The Italian Open, or the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as it’s now known, has always been one of the most prestigious clay-court tournaments in tennis. And if the tours weren’t on hold right now, this would be finals weekend at the Foro Italico. So this year, we thought we’d honor the long-standing event with our Top 10 champions in the Open Era.

#10: Jim Courier (USA)

Eight players in the Open Era have won the Italian Open three or more times, so the first two names on the countdown are two of the two-time winners—and that brings us to Courier. The American slid to back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993, eventually extending his winning streak to 15 matches in a row before falling in the 1994 quarterfinals. He also won the 1989 doubles title with Pete Sampras.

Other two-time men’s winners: Ilie Nastase, Bjorn Borg, Vitas Gerulaitis, Andres Gomez, Ivan Lendl

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#9: Amelie Mauresmo (FRA)

Not only did the Frenchwoman win back-to-back titles at the Foro Italico in 2004 and 2005, but she had already been to three finals before that in 2000, 2001 and 2003. Mauresmo’s only pre-final defeat in that six-year span came against Jennifer Capriati in the 2002 quarterfinals, a loss she would avenge two years later in a memorable final.

Other two-time women’s winners: Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Jelena Jankovic, Elina Svitolina.

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#8: Maria Sharapova (RUS)

The most recent player to join the three-time winner’s club in Rome is Sharapova. Having said early on in her career that clay was the surface she’s least comfortable on, the Russian went on to conquer Rome in 2011, 2012 and 2015. It turned out to be one of two WTA events she won three times, alongside another clay-court tournament in Stuttgart. Roland Garros also ended up being the only major she won twice.

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#7: Thomas Muster (AUT)

Once labeled the King of Clay after putting together a 40-match winning on the surface and winning his first—and only—major title at Roland Garros in 1995, Muster was the most successful men’s player at Rome in the 1990s. Though he won the Masters 1000 event three times in 1990, 1995 and 1996, that ‘King of Clay’ crown has obviously been passed down to a certain Spaniard in the years since…

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#6: Gabriela Sabatini (ARG)

The first in a quartet of four-time champions on our list is Sabatini, who won the title four out of five years in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1992. In the last three of those finals, she beat the player who would eventually go on to win Roland Garros those years—Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1989 and Seles in 1991 and 1992. In between all of those title runs was a semifinal loss to Martina Navratilova in 1990.

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#5: Serena Williams (USA)

The 23-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 is known for her power, but she’s been one of the best players on clay throughout her career, as well. She’s conquered Rome four times, first doing it as a 20-year-old in 2002 and then three more times in her 30s in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Her win at the Foro Italico in 2002 was her first WTA title on clay.

“This is pretty high up there because a lot of people insist that I’m not a clay court player, although I am,” Serena said afterwards. “I kind of grew up on clay a little bit, so I don’t know, it makes me feel really good, especially going into Roland Garros. I’m definitely looking forward to doing well there.”

A few weeks later, she won Roland Garros—and the next three majors in a row, too.

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#4: Novak Djokovic (SRB)

The Serbian is the only player ever to complete a career Golden Masters, which means winning every Masters 1000 event at least once, and Rome has been one of his happiest hunting grounds. Not only has Djokovic triumphed in the Italian capital four times in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2015, but he’s also finished runner-up five times in 2009, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2019 (totaling nine final appearances in the last 12 years).

“I feel very comfortable here. I feel at home,” Djokovic said en route to his fourth Rome title in 2015. “I always get a lot of support here, and it motivates me to try my best to win every single match.”

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#3: Conchita Martinez (ESP)

Sabatini, Serena and Djokovic were all four-time champions as well, but none of them had a stretch of dominance like Martinez. The Spaniard won the tournament four years in a row from 1993 to 1996, winning 20 matches in a row and 40 of 43 sets played. She even extended her winning streak to 24 matches by reaching the 1997 final, where she fell to Mary Pierce.

To this day, Martinez is still the only man or woman in the Open Era to win four successive Rome crowns.

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#2: Chris Evert (USA)

The WTA legend holds the women’s Open Era record for most career titles in Rome with five, winning in the Italian capital in 1974, 1975, 1980, 1981 and 1982. And the first three times Evert won in Rome, she also went on to win in Paris for three of her all-time women's record of seven French Open championships.

The American’s resume in Rome doesn’t stop there, either. She also holds the women’s record for most finals with seven, having been a runner-up to Evonne Goolagong in 1973 and Manuela Maleeva in 1984.

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#1: Rafael Nadal (ESP)

No one really comes close to Nadal when it comes to Rome. The Spaniard has won the tournament an incredible nine times in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2019, and he’s been in the final a total of 11 times, finishing runner-up twice in 2011 and 2014—both times to Djokovic.

After beating Djokovic for the title in 2019, Nadal expressed how much Rome means to him.

“What means the most to me is this trophy,” he said. “Rome is one of the most important tournaments of the year, a big part of the history of our sport. To be able to win here again is the main thing.”

Rome is one of four tournaments Nadal has completely dominated over the course of his career. He’s won Monte Carlo 11 times, Barcelona 11 times and Roland Garros 12 times. Throw in his nine titles in Rome and that’s 43 titles across those four events, just over half of his career haul of 85 trophies.

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