The French Open 2019 is going to bring about another fascinating battle for a tennis Grand Slam. The action starts on May 27th and it will deliver a roller coaster ride of top tennis action for its two-week duration. It’s almost with bated breath that punters and fans alike are going to be waiting to see if it is Mr Roland Garros himself, Rafael Nadal, who rules the famous French clay courts once again.
Nadal back for another title defence
It has been Nadal who has taken the French Open title in the last two years. Those were, remarkably, his 10th and 11th French Open Grand Slam titles. It has been a staggering carer that the Spaniard has had at the event and he may not be done yet. Although the build ups during the regular clay swing of the season, didn’t quite gone to plan for him.
The Spaniard could only manage semi-final places at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, two clay tournaments which he has had rich successes at before in his career. Granted he has had to once again fight his way back to full fitness after his knee injury, but still. It is Nadal on clay and you don’t expect him to lose. This is Nadal, who once went 81 straight matches undefeated on clay. It’s the man who has earned 57 clay titles in his illustrious career.
Can Djokovic complete the sweep?
So if not Nadal, where are the main challenges going to come from at Roland Garros? Novak Djokovic’s name will be tossed around of course, but like Nadal, this has been a limited season of action for the Serbian. After his win over Nadal in the final of the Australian Open, right through to the Monte Carlo Masters in April, it was very little time on the court and some uncharacteristic losses from Djokovic.
There is still time in Madrid and Rome for him to get his game up to a higher level ahead of the French Open 2019. But of course, every step forward that he will make during that time, Nadal too will be making progress towards peak fitness. Djokovic will be heading to the French Open as the current holder of the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Grand Slam titles.
Back in 2016, Djokovic was in exactly the same position going to Roland Garros, with the chance to win four straight Slams. He took the title for the first and only time of his career so far at the French Open that year. In doing so, he achieved that rare feat of holding all four of tennis Grand Slam titles at the same time.
Federer treads softly, Thiem starting to roar
Roger Federer picks and chooses his tournaments with care these days. It has paid off for him this season against. His first title of 2019 came in Dubai and his next two appearances he was runner up at Indian Wells and then he lifted the Miami Open title. It’s not a bad return of W18-L2 for the season that the legend had under his belt ahead of the clay swing of the season. With each passing Grand Slam even though, it is going to get tougher and tougher for Federer to handle such a demanding fortnight.
If not one of the big three, then who? Dominic Thiem seems to be the man that punters will likely put their trust in to break through and land his first ever Slam. The Austrian has had a good season with two titles under his belt. For his title success in Barcelona, he had to get past the King of Clay, Nadal in the semifinals. Thiem did so in straight sets, raising his stock before the French Open. That title came after his tremendous success at the BNP Paribas Open where he defeated Federer in the final.
Will there be a breath of fresh air coming through and grabbing a Slam at Roland Garros this year? Just three players beyond Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won a Grand Slam since 2010. Those are Andy Murray (who is nowhere near back to fitness after his hip surgery and is therefore not taking part), Stan Wawrinka (a former French Open title holder) and Marin Cilic.
In total, here is where the last 37 Grand Slam titles have gone:
- Djokovic 14 (1 at the French Open)
- Nadal 11 (7 at the French Open)
- Federer 5 (1 at the French Open)
- Murray 3 (0 at the French Open)
- Wawrinka 3 (1 at the French Open)
- Cilic 1 (0 at the French Open)
Even with the superstars of the game now all into their 30’s, it has been so difficult for any burgeoning player to come through at the Slams. There’s a reason for that. It is the pinnacle of the sport, so the cream often rises to the top. It is what they breathe for. It’s that new level of intensity and importance, those saves of break points, those high first-serve percentages, the handling of pressure and expectation; that’s when the greatest rise to the occasion.
Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are still the top three ranked players in the world (in that respective order). One day, of course, there will be a justifiable reason for punters to back the field at a Grand Slam against them. Even though none of the big three showed up with any form at the start of the clay swing of the season 2019, it may still end up being a shock if one of them don’t manage to peak at the perfect time to lift the trophy in Paris.