Many times, a player is a finalist at a major one year, and then, in a year or two (or more), she becomes the champion. But not all runners-up ever get to hold the bigger trophy. Here are some French Open finalists from the last 25 years who had to be content with their runner-up trophies:
Most fans assumed that Hingis would win at Roland Garros at some point, and in 1997, having already won the Australian Open, she was the top seed in Paris. Hingis knocked off Aranxta Sanchez Vicario and Monica Seles, but was stopped in the final by Iva Majoli. She would go on to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but Majoli stopped her from winning the Grand Slam. Two years later, Hingis beat defending champion Sanchez Vicario in the semifinals, but lost the final to Steffi Graf.
Also expected by many to win the French Open, Martinez reached the final in 2000, only to lose to Mary Pierce. Martinez won only one major, Wimbledon (1994), the last one she was ever expected to win.
Clijsters lost a heartbreaking final to Jennifer Capriati in 2001. Capriati defeated her 1-6, 6-4, 12-10. The Belgian star would get another shot at the title in 2003, but she lost again, this time to countrywoman and rival Justine Henin, who won the first set 6-0.
Venus was a French Open finalist only once, in 2002, and she lost the final to her sister, Serena.
In 2004, Anastasia Myskina won her only major, defeating countrywoman Dementieva 6-1, 6-2 in the final. This was the breakthrough year for Russia; Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon and Svetlana Kuznetsova won the U.S. Open.
This Russian had two chances, but couldn't capitalize on either. In 2008, she lost to Ana Ivanovic, and in 2009, she lost to countrywoman Kuznetsova.
Stosur did a lot of heavy lifting in the 2010 event: She took out Simona Halep, Justine Henin, Serena Williams, and Jelena Jankovic. It was a brilliant run--until the Australian met the deeply inspired Francesca Schiavone in the final. Schiavone, in one of the most riveting French Open finals ever played, defeated Stosur 6-4, 7-6.
One of the four Fighting Italians of her era, Errani lost to Maria Sharapova in the 2012 final.
Safarova made it to the final in 2015 by going crazy on all kinds of opponents. She took out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, two-time champion Maria Sharapova, soon-to-be champion Garbine Muguruza, and former champion Ivanovic. But she couldn't keep her amazing run going all the way; she lost to Serena Williams in the three-set final.
Of all of the above "almost won" French Open finalists, four--Dementieva, Safina, Errani, and Safarova--did not win any majors. The 2018 runner-up, Sloane Stephens, is still standing at the 2019 French Open.