A usual name or a new name to be etched into the record books? Who will mount a challenge at Roland Garros?

No matter what has happened over the last few weeks, I still am at the conclusion there will be four if a push five contenders in the main draw at Roland Garros.

As the younger players continue to adapt and improve in the best of five format it asks the question, who will be the next first time major champion. We have already seen Dominic Thiem win in New York, could we see a repeat, a new name or a usual name win the second major of the year?

Dominic Thiem, is this his time in Paris ?

In usual circumstances I would say he is a contender but it has not been ideal preparations for the Austrian. 

Thiem has been talking about burn-out of late and also had this knee injury which has been bothering him and took him out of Miami, Monte-Carlo and Belgrade.

He returned in Madrid and lost in the final four against Sascha Zverev, I did think the Austrian played well in the tournament but that lack of match rhythm was on show as he just ran out of steam losing 3-6 4-6 to Zverev in the semi-final.

Thiem then played in Rome and was gone by round two against the impressive Lorenzo Sonego in three close sets of tennis, his level was good but that bite and rhythm was missing and he was still missing that final level.

Do I think he will win in Paris this year? I don’t think so, even with adding Lyon to his schedule I think it is too much of a tight turnaround to get up to speed.

Tsitsipas is getting closer, Monte-Carlo triumph will give him a boost coming back to Paris.

Tsitsipas has had some big wins on the clay in his career and recently won the Monte-Carlo Masters to kick off the clay court season in good form followed up by being the runner-up in Barcelona.

Madrid didn’t really happen for him, Casper Ruud stood in his way and in Rome he had plenty of opportunities to see off Djokovic but couldn’t get over the line.

It was only earlier this year the Greek defeated Nadal from two sets down in Melbourne, this has been his best season without doubt and I see enough in his game to think he can mount a challenge.

He plays with a great intensity, I think it has been a downfall at times in some defeats but because of the standard he plays out it does stand out more.

I think he is a potential contender, the early rounds need to be problem-free for the 22 year old and I think then we will see him come into his best.

Has the Madrid win put Zverev in as a contender?

I think Sascha Zverev can be seen as a contender. His week in Madrid was very good, he won against Nishikori, Evans, Nadal and Thiem all in straight sets before coming from a set down against Berrettini to win another Madrid Open title.

In Rome he saw off Kei once more but fell to Nadal. 

At the US Open he came soo close to winning a title there but squandered a two set lead. He hasn’t been able to bring his form against the top players from Masters 1000 events to Grand Slam events.

Win/Loss record vs Top 10 opponents at Masters 1000 – 14/10

Win/Loss record vs Top 10 opponents at Grand Slams – 0/9

Not ideal but I do think he has to be considered a challenger, I would be surprised if he goes out before the quarter finals.

Federer to return to Grand Slam action after 16 months

It has been a while since Roger Federer played a Grand Slam match, 30th of January 2020 when he lost to Novak Djokovic in three sets.

It will be lovely to see the 20 time major champion back but it will be a case of how far will the Swiss go and not whether he will be contending or not…

We know never to write Federer off, he has only payed once at Roland Garros in the last five years and made the semi-finals in 2019 but I can’t see many trees being pulled up in Paris.

Is Grand Slam title No.21 and Roland Garros title No.14 on the horizon for Rafael Nadal?

Year on year we continue to run out of superlatives for Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, his record over his 16 years in Paris has been nothing but extraordinary.

13 titles in 16 appearances, 100 wins and 2 defeats, it is simply unheard of. His record against top ten players at Roland Garros is 27 wins to 1 defeat, that one defeat was to Djokovic in 2015 who then lost to Stan in the final!

Because of his incredibly high standards over the last few years clay court seasons go through a theme of: expectation, concern, triumph and then we do a full circle back to expectation once more.

Every defeat is under the microscope on the clay courts, He has lost 42 matches on clay in 18 years which is quite a phenomenal record but with them being few and far between they stand out more than most.

Based on what I’ve seen the last few weeks, I think he is the outright favourite.

Novak Djokovic has found his rhythm as the weeks have gone on during the clay court season, but is it enough? 

It isn’t often I would have doubts over the world number one winning a tournament but I haven’t seen Djokovic at his best yet and that isn’t a problem.

Monte-Carlo and Belgrade ended in loss to Dan Evans and Aslan Karatsev respectively, he skipped Madrid and has had a lengthy week in Rome but there have been frustrations on show.

I do think as the tournament grows then we will see the world number find his groove and I expect him to push through the early rounds with ease but I’m not too sure whether he will win it.

He wants this, it will close the gap on Nadal and Federer to one and then going to Wimbledon will be absolutely fascinating! I would never rule anything out with Djokovic in contention but just imagine going to Flushing Meadows later in the year with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer all on 20 Grand Slam titles, it would be insane!

World No.2 out of contention in Paris?

I love the Russians game but two words for Daniil Medvedev’s chances, forget it.

He has vocally said in Madrid and Rome he doesn’t like the clay courts, he has won 11 matches and lost 20 on the clay courts, 8 of those wins were in 2019 and has won 1 of his last 4 and has never won a match at Roland Garros in four attempts, fifth time lucky?

There isn’t much more to say, I do think he could be some hell of an all-court player if he found comfort on the dirt but who knows when or if that will be.

I do think it is a great testament to how he has played on hard courts that he got to World No.2 without picking up points on a clay I think deserves some respect!

Any other contenders?

I cannot see other title contenders but maybe some to keep an eye on.

Andrey Rublev – I think the Russian has slightly ran out of steam. He has played a lot of tennis, maybe too much? I thought his trip to Barcelona wasn’t needed, he has it in him to go far but it depends how ready he is.

Matteo Berrettini – The Italian will be disappointed it didn’t work out for him at home in Rome but he won the title in Belgrade and was runner-up in Madrid. I like the way he is playing right now and I wouldn’t rule anything out. In the best of five format I would like to see him against a big name.

Schwartzman and Agut – they can cause problems, we know this, the problem is they haven’t found their best form on the clay courts just yet. Will they? We will have to wait and see on that one…

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