The Grand Slam previews are back!!! The big news leading into Roland Garros is that Rafa Nadal is out with the hip injury that’s plagued him since the Australian Open. Also out for various reasons are Murray, Osaka, Halep, Muguruza, Kyrgios, Venus, Raducanu and Berrenttini.
Throw in the retirements of Roger and Serena, and the tennis landscape is changing. The casual fans are asking themselves “who is this that I’m watching?” but as with any generational transition the ‘who’ becomes the ‘known’ and the channel changer stops changing the channel.
The women’s game have created their own ‘Big 3’. Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina have won the last four slams and three other major events this year between them. There’s a very good chance the winner in Paris will come from this trio.
World number 1 Swiatek has Rybakina (4) on her side of the draw but won’t meet until the semis, other potential obstacles for her are a 4th rounder against either Azarenka (18) or the smooth hitting Barbora Krejcikova (13) and a potential Quarter final could be Coco Gauff (6) or the big hitting Madison Keys (20).
Consider whoever Swiatek plays she’ll be favorite as clay is her best surface.
Down in the bottom half of the draw second seed Sabalenka has an interesting 1st rounder, Ukranian Marta Kostyuk, who has a no handshake policy when playing Russians. Sabalenka though, seems unfazed, commenting “I don’t want to waste my energy on this kind of stuff….so, if she hate me, ok, I can’t do anything about that”.
Beyond that Karolina Pliskova (16), the always unpredictable Ostapenko (17), Frenchie Caroline Garcia (5) and roadrunner Sakkari (8) are potential match ups for the power hitting Russian. Also on the line for Sabalenka is the number one ranking if Swiatek fails to make the semis, it’s a touch of added pressure.
Ok, time for a prediction. I like Rybakina’s lead up to Paris; she hasn’t played too many matches on the clay but has won a lot of matches this season. If the weather stays hot, especially in the second week the court will play quick, which suits her perfectly. I’m picking Rybakina to win her second major.
Over to the men, Carlos Alcaraz is the man to beat. The 20 year old has already won 10 career titles, including last years’ US Open. In Madrid last year he beat Rafa and Novak back to back on clay, the first player ever to do so. This season he has a 30-3 record with titles in Madrid, Barcelona, Indian Wells, and Buenos Aires. That’s a lot of winning for a player who missed the first few months with injury.
His game suits the clay perfectly; he can power the ball when needed, whippy kick serve, delicate drop shots and roadrunner defense. A potential semi with Novak is likely and the Serbian has been scratchy since winning the Australian Open with an 8-4 record.
Alcaraz could face Tsitsipas in the quarters, but the Spaniard has never lost that match up.
Down in the bottom half the Ironman Medvedev has already played 44 matches this year winning 5 titles, he’s racked up enough frequent flyer miles to holiday on Mars. The Russian comes in with extra confidence on the clay in winning Rome last week.
Potential match ups for the second seed are Aussie de Minaur (18) or Borna Coric (15) in the 3rd round, the Italian Sinner (8) in the Quarters and another young gun Holger Rune (6) in the semis.
So, who wins? Alcaraz to me is the clear favorite. If Novak get’s to the semi’s without burning too much fuel then it could get very interesting, but I’m thinking he has Wimbledon lurking in the back of his mind and whatever happens in Paris is gravy.
Medvedev is intriguing, considering in six French Opens he went out in the first round four times, but the way he plays defense is incredible. That lanky awkward frame junks balls back better than anyone and I think the Rome win is significant.
But, I’m going with Alcaraz to win his second slam.