The second Grand Slam of the season is upon us, as the best players in the world assemble in Paris for two weeks of high-level competition.
Despite the absence of Roger Federer, who has decided to skip the entire clay season this year, the 2017 edition of the tournament calls for some must watch tennis. Apart from Federer, all of the players are ready to showcase their best tennis. Will we see a familiar face raise the Coupe des Mousquetaires or will the next generation of ATP stars make their mark?
The spotlight is placed on Spaniard Rafael Nadal this year, as he attempts to make history – again – by aiming for a tenth title in Paris. Nadal arrives as the clear favorite after a nearly perfect preparatory season. He won the titles at Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid before suffering his only defeat on clay in Rome, against the Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Nadal, who had not reached a Grand Slam final in nearly three years, showed that he is still capable of winning big tournaments. He reached the final in Australia earlier in the season, but it was Federer who had the final word. Without his long-time rival in the draw, will the Spaniard be able to go all the way in Paris?
Nadal seems to have all of the necessary tools to cement his title as the “King of Clay” in Paris. Even his draw is quite favorable. If logic prevails, he would meet Milos Raonic in the semi-finals. His section of the draw does not present any obvious threats, but a meeting in the third round against the resilient Frenchman Gilles Simon could present a tough obstacle to overcome.
He could possibly face Thiem, who served him his only loss of the clay season, in the semifinals, but only if the Austrian manages to find a way to solve the defending champion, Novak Djokovic.
Projected road towards his tenth title in Parid: Benoit Paire (1R), Robin Haase (2R), Gilles Simon (3R), Jack Sock (4R), Milos Raonic (QF), Novak Djokovic (SF), Andy Murray (F).
Will Novak Djokovic be able to defend his title? The Serbian has had a rather difficult 2017 season so far. He came and went rather quickly at the Australian Open, falling in the second round to the world no. 177. After Melbourne, he experienced a series of early eliminations, until the former World No. 1 made a drastic change to his entourage.
Going all in, Djokovic arrived in Paris alongside his new coach Andre Agassi. Will Agassi’s presence be enough to get Djokovic back on track? In any case, his recent run to the final in Rome gives him a glimmer of hope to turn his season around.
In order to defend his title, the Serb will have to remain focused, given the presence of Dominic Thiem, David Goffin, Lucas Puglia and Mischa Zverev in his quarter of the draw.
Projected road towards his second title in Paris: Marcel Granollers (1R), Janko Tipsarevic (2R), Mischa Zverev (3R), Lucas Pouille (4R), Dominic Thiem (QF), Rafael Nadal (SF), Andy Murray (F).
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 26, 2017
Although Andy Murray currently holds the title of World No. 1, he does not have an easy path at the French Open this year. The Brit is far from having his best season. At the Australian Open, was ousted in the fourth round by Mischa Zverev. On clay, he has only made one quarter-final appearance and was eliminated in the first round in the last tune-up tournament prior to Roland Garros, at the Masters 1000 event in Rome.
The draw presents several challenges for Murray. He could meet Juan Martin del Potro as early as the third round. The Argentinean proved that he is a dangerous opponent after his impressive run in Rome and could do some serious damage this week in Paris.
Also noteworthy is the presence of the young Alexander Zverev and Kei Nishikori in his section of the draw.
Projected road towards his fourth career Grand Slam title: Andrey Kuznetsov (1R), Martin Klizan (2R), Juan Martin del Potro (3R), Thomas Berdych (4R), Kei Nishikori (QF), Stan Wawrinka (SF), Novak Djokovic (F).
Still in search of his first Grand Slam title, the Canadian Milos Raonic will definetly be one to watch this week. Raonic has a rather straightforward path to the fourth round, but he will need to save his best tennis for a potential quarter-final match-up against Rafael Nadal.
Projected road towards his first career Grand Slam title: Steve Darcis (1R), Mikhail Youzhny (2R), Gilles Muller (3R), Grigor Dimitrov (4R), Rafael Nadal (QF), Novak Djokovic (SF), Andy Murray (F).
— Internazionali Bnl (@InteBNLdItalia) May 26, 2017
Alexander Zverev is a notable name to watch out for this year. The young German took home the most important title of his career in Rome, which landed him in the top 10 for the very first time. However, “Sascha” is not the only Zverev to keep an eye on. His elder brother Mischa has also put his name on the map. After coming out of the qualifying rounds, he will play in the final at Geneva tomorrow.
The youthful Dominic Thiem, the tournament’s sixth seed, will also be in the spotlight. After two consecutive finals appearances in Barcelona and Madrid along with a blockbuster victory over Nadal in Rome, everything is possible for the young Austrian in Paris.
Among the most notable match-ups in the first round is the match between the young sensation Alexander Zverev against Fernando Verdasco and the match between Novak Djokovic and Marcel Granollers.
All projected draws are based on player rankings.
Roland Garros action begins Sunday, May 28. Click here for the full TSN broadcast schedule.