Ash Barty is retired, Novak is back and the Russians are still banned at Wimbledon. Storylines at the Slams are forever changing; making Melbourne seem light years ago, yet the French Open is days away.
On the Womens side new world number one Iga Swiatek has been hotter than a Carolina Reaper, winning Doha, Miami, Indian Wells, Stuggart and Rome. The 20 year old is on a 28-match win streak and the 2020 French Open Champion is the raging favorite, but could run into the 2018 Champion Simona Halep in the 4th round who loves the dirt as it suits her road runner play defense style.
On the flip side of coming in hot last years Roland Garros Champion Barbora Krejcikova hasn’t played in 3 months due to an elbow injury which means she’ll be an early round upset special, so look for that with a possible 3rd round against either Sloane Stephens or the 26th seed Sorana Cirstea.
World number 3 Paula Badosa is Spain’s great hope on the clay, although her season has cooled off since winning the title in Sydney, but she’ll be a chance here and should make a 4th round against the Australian Open finalist Madison Keys.
Also keep an eye out for Bencic, Jabeur, Sakkari, and Sabalenka, they are likely to make a second week run. The absence of Barty, a former French Open Champion looms large, she’d be right in the mix, but alas.
A blockbuster first round is Osaka v Anisimova, the winner of that tasty treat should make a 3rd round against the pocket rocket 4th seed Sakkari.
So, who wins the tournament? Iga is coming into this with more confidence than an uppity Chihuahua in a doggie park, but can she run it all the way to the title? I’m not so sure, the longer these winning streaks last the closer they are to ending, unless you’re Esther Vergeer.
The looming danger match for her is Halep, if she gets through that I see her going all the way to the final. If she can make it that far she’ll win so I’m tipping Iga Swiatek to win her second Grand Slam and keep the streak alive.
Over to the men, lets face it, the Australian Open was poorer without Novak in it, you can lay the blame for that wherever you like, but he left a big hole in the draw.
Now, he’s back in Paris to defend his title, also with confidence after winning Rome last week over Tsitapas, but the draw has done the Serbian no favours.
In fact it’s done the tournament no favours as it’s put Novak, Rafa and the new teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz all in the same half.
Rafa v Novak is lining up as a Quarter Final and before that Rafa has an interesting first round against Aussie Jordan Thompson and a potential second round against former French Open Champion Stan Wawrinka.
The nineteen-year-old Alcaraz, who many have tipped to win the title is coming in hot, having won Rio, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid, where he beat Rafa and Novak back to back, he was the first player to ever do that on clay.
The question is how will he handle all this attention, especially in the cauldron of a Slam semi final against either Novak or Rafa, if that eventuates.
The bottom half of the draw is soft and wide open. The 2nd seed, Medvedev is just now coming back from injury and hasn’t played in two months
The 19th seed Alex De Minaur could make an interesting 3rd rounder against 14th seed Denis Shapovalov, which would likely see him play Tsitsipas in the 4th round.
The 4th seed Greek must see this as a real chance, last years Roland Garros finalist in a part of the draw that has no Rafa, Novak or Alcaraz. It would be a lost chance if he didn’t make the final Sunday.
So, who wins? I do wonder if by the time either Rafa/Novak/Alcaraz make it to the final they aren’t somewhat damaged by the brutal run the draw has given them or they could be emboldened by it.
It’s anyone’s guess which player makes it through the bottom half, Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Sinner, Shapovalov, Ruud, Cilic, Rublev or even a few long shots such as Carreno Busta, De Minaur, Hurkacz or David Goffin are all capable of being there at the end but are more likely cannon fodder when they do.
In the top half Alcaraz is in a tricky section of the draw before he gets to a semi against Rafa/Novak. A potential second rounder against Kokkinakis, a third round against Gasquet or Seb Korda, a potential 4th round against the big hitting Khachanov or huge serving Americans Taylor Fritz or John Isner, so it’s not totally locked in the Spainard gets to the semis, no matter how hot he is coming in.
I think the winner of the tournament comes from the Rafa/Novak Quarter final. Rafa has been dealing with rib and foot injuries so that could be a factor in this, especially if it’s a five set physical battle.
I’m picking Novak to win this French Open; he’ll be desperate to add to his 20 Slams after the debacle in Melbourne and has found form at the right time after the Rome victory last week.