The dusty clay of Paris is almost upon us, get ready for long rallies and lingering camera shots of fashionable Paris people you don’t know but could imagine enjoy lots of red wine with blue cheese as they drag on long cigarettes in bourgeois coffee shops. Stereotype alert.
As always lets start with the Ladies, and never far from the headlines Serena Williams has been ‘dissed’ by the French Open organizers by not granting her a seeding, essentially leaving her out in the draw wilderness with her ranking of 453 due to being off the tour whilst giving birth.
This will make the other 32 seeds mighty ‘nerveux’, but Serena in her comeback to the tour in March has a 2-2 match record and clay is unforgiving if you are underdone so don’t expect a second week showing from the former world number 1.
The hot player from this clay court season is Petra Kvitova, a winner in Prague and Madrid; it’s been a career renaissance of sorts after coming back from career threatening hand surgery after a home invasion 18 months ago. The other player to watch is last weeks Rome winner Elina Svitolina who demolished world number 1 Simona Halep in a lopsided final, Svitolina will look to go further than a Quarter Final showing last year.
The 2017 surprise Roland Garros Champion world number 5 Jelena Ostapenko will come in with a pedestrian 12-11 match record on the season and will need to survive week 1 to build confidence to make another title run.
Other big names to watch out for are Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams, 2016 French Open Champ Garbine Muguruza and this years Australian Open Champion Caroline Wozniacki.
World number 1 Halep is becoming the ‘best player to never win a Slam’ and nobody wants that label, the Romanian will be desperate to finally break through. I just can’t see it happening, I picked her to win the Australian Open where Wozniacki outlasted her and she hasn’t won a clay lead up event.
This is so wide open, I’m going with the hot player right now, Petra Kvitova, if the weather is hot the ball will fly which will help the aggressive Czech hit through the court more, she knows how to win a Slam and has the form, I’m picking Kvitova.
The men is not so wide open, its Rafa Nadal and daylight is second. Looking at the TAB odds to win the event, Rafa is at $1.45, next is Alexander Zverev at $7, that should tell you everything. The Spaniard has been dominant this clay season, winning Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, his only loss coming against Dominic Thiem in Madrid. Zverev has been playing well, the German won Munich, Madrid and lost a tight 3 setter against Rafa in the Rome final.
The problem for Zverev is his Grand Slam form sucks and he lost 1stround in Paris last year. Thiem could be the wildcard here, the Austrian has had an impressive clay season, has made the Semi’s in Paris the last 2 years and has the game to beat Nadal, the question is can he do it over 5 sets?
Novak Djokovic has come back well from elbow surgery and will be encouraged by a semi final showing last week in Rome where he pushed Nadal in two tight sets (7-6,6-3). Stan Wawrinka will be in the draw but is still working his way back from a knee injury, Andy Murray is still out after his hip surgery and Roger Federer is saving himself for the grass court season.
Essentially this is Nadal’s to lose and it will take a monumental upset, see Robin Soderling in 2009 to upend the King of Clay. The only player I think could do it is Thiem, he’ll be seeded 8 so they could meet in a Quarter Final depending on the draw which is released tomorrow. Regardless I’m picking Nadal to win his mind bending 11thtitle at Roland Garros.