The thing that is possibly most special about this upcoming French Open, is how ‘open’ the competition is. We have all seen what Rafa Nadal does on clay in the past, especially at Roland Garros, but the ATP tournaments that have taken place in preparation for the slam have proven that there are players that could cause problems for Rafa, in the tournament that the Spaniard has practically owned for the last ten years.
Having said that, Rafa won on his hallowed turf in Barcelona earlier this year, so discounting him from his 12th Roland Garros title in the last 15 years would be foolish. A spectacular performance between the World Number 2 and the Greek technician Stefanos Tsitsipas showed the world that Rafa was not showing any signs of slowing down on the clay, but hinted at the fact that there is plenty of fresh talent coming through the ranks that may one day knock the Spaniard off his perch.
World number 1 Novak Djokovic obviously has to be mentioned in the conversation, although the Serb has only picked up 2 clay titles since 2016, suggesting that clay isn’t necessarily his best surface.
Although a fantastic tennis player, I would frankly be surprised to see Novak pick the Roland Garros trophy up at the end of the competition, ahead of some of the other options that are looking strong.
I used to be a massive Dominic Thiem fan, and there was a time where I would seriously back Thiem to go all the way. He has had a slow year this year however, not picking up any ATP trophy due to injury, and one would argue that this Roland Garros tournament might come a little too early for Domi to pick up the trophy at the end of it. A clearly very gifted player on clay, due to the speed of his groundstrokes and his serve, I would not completely rule Domi out, and it would depend on whether Rafa or Novak pick up first seed – as this would determine who Domi would play in the semis – a crucial tie that would determine whether the Austrian would get to the final.
Daniil Medvedev is a player that has really excited me recently. The Russian pairing of Daniil and Andrey Rublev are two of the most entertaining players to watch on the ATP circuit, and they both really could do some damage on clay this season. Backing either of them to get to the final is once again a very bold call, but the vast number of players that could cause problems in this tournament, is what makes it such a special Grand Slam. Andrey Rublev did beat Rafa on clay in 3 sets earlier in the year at Monte-Carlo, and even a result like this is enough to send the minds of tennis fans racing, as to what we are about to witness in Paris.
The other player worth mentioning is the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who gave Rafa one of the most entertaining matches of tennis I have seen in a while. Draw permitting, a replay of the Barcelona final could be very interesting in Roland Garros. I have been a critic of Tsitsipas’ consistency in the past, but he is now developing into a really promising player, and could be one of the best equipped player on the circuit to cause Rafa serious problems.
In conclusion, I’m struggling to pick between Tsitsipas, Rublev, and Nadal to lift the title on the 13th June, but it certainly promises to be an historic final in Paris this summer!