The second major of 2019 begins this Sunday, as the focus of the tennis world turns to the red clay of Roland Garros for the French Open. In this article, we analyse the chances of the leading candidates in the men’s singles.
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Many will consider the Spaniard as the overwhelming favourite to retain his crown, his dominance over the event is possibly the greatest of any player over a single tournament in the sport’s history. However, he has had a mixed 2019 so far.
He started strongly, reaching the Australian Open final, but subsequent injury issues have resulted in a fairly disappointing start to clay season by his standards with semi-final defeats in Monaco, Madrid, and Barcelona.
However, after capturing his ninth Italian Open with a dominant victory over Djokovic, the omens are good for an unprecedented twelth Roland Garros title which would be his 18th major. Nadal will also be defending 2000 ranking points, so anything other than victory will prove damaging in the fight to regain the number one ranking.
His closest challenger could be the 2016 champion, Novak Djokovic. Having emerged from a career slump, the Serbian has reasserted himself as the dominant force in tennis over the last year or so, winning Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.
Since then, Djokovic has been on an inconsistent run. Although he added another Masters title to his collection in Madrid and reached the final in Rome, early exits at other tournaments suggest that Djokovic can be vulnerable in the initial stages of events if he doesn’t get going quickly.
Nevertheless, if Nadal fails to continue his historic dominance at Roland Garros, look no further than the Serbian who will be waiting in the wings in a bid to close in on Federer’s major record.
The Austrian talent has proven himself as one of the best clay-courters on the tour, reaching his maiden Grand Slam final here 12 months ago. On that occasion he succumbed to Nadal but has shown this year that he is able to beat the Spaniard when playing his best tennis.
His dangerous one-handed backhand will need to be firing if he is to be successful here but, after winning the Barcelona Open, Thiem will be hopeful that he can announce himself on the biggest stage with a first Grand Slam title.
It has to be said that a favourable draw will go a long way to determining whether he will be able to reach the latter stages of the tournament in a fresh condition.However, should his route to the final open up kindly then he probably has the best chance of posing a threat to the big two.
The young Greek has been something of a revelation over the last 12 months, announcing himself with deep runs into Masters events in North America, in addition to reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open with a fantastic victory over Roger Federer. He has since won the first three titles of his career and beat Nadal on clay in Madrid.
Tsitsipas is undoubtedly set to be one of the poster boys for the tour in the next few years and seems to be on his way to big things.
It’s difficult to see him winning the French Open this time, given the strength of the field on clay, but stranger things have happened and a strong showing could announce the arrival of the next tennis superstar.
The Swiss great will return to Paris for the first time since 2015, trying to add to his one and only French Open title in 2009.
Clay has never been the preferred surface for Federer but the great man is still capable of producing wonderful tennis and beating anyone when he is in the mood. Taking into account Federer’s age, recent niggling injury worries and clear prioritisation of Wimbledon, heroics shouldn’t necessarily be expected here.
Expect to admire and enjoy some sublime Federer tennis but a second French Open title at the age of 37 is probably beyond reach.
Alexander Zverev, Fabio Fognini, Juan Martin Del Potro, Stan Wawrinka