Will Be the Men’s Favorites at The French Open?

After the seemingly endless saga that was Novak Djokovic’s attempt to get to the Australian Open, the tournament itself made for an excellent kick-off to the 2022 season. And now that the drama is behind us, the clay court season is beginning in earnest. There are plenty of good tournaments to come in the months ahead (including on the hard courts of Indian Wells), but before we know it we’ll be in Slam mode again, and looking to Paris for the French Open.

We’re still a ways away from the end of May, but let’s take a look at some of the early favorites on the men’s side.

Rafael Nadal

Fresh from last month’s Melbourne victory over Danill Medvedev, Nadal will be looking to extend his own record-breaking haul of 13 French Open titles. While he currently sits only fifth on the ATP Tour ranking ladder, we can somewhat disregard this when it comes to the courts of Roland Garros. Simply put, he’s a clear favorite if he’s healthy. The Guardian’s statisticians note that as of 2020, over 10% of Nadal’s total career wins have come at the French Open. Though he did falter there last summer, there’s no reason to believe it was anything more than a blip (particularly given that we now know he might not have been entirely healthy).

Novak Djokovic

For all his recent trials and tribulations –– disqualification from the 2020 U.S. Open now seems a distant memory in light of what’s come since –– Djokovic remains the top-ranked men’s player (though Medvedev is hunting the position). Thanks largely to Nadal’s dominance in Paris, Djokovic has only won the French Open twice. However, he is the defending champion. The question is, can he play? Some outlets are reporting a loophole in France’s vaccine passport laws; having had Covid in December and recovered, the unvaccinated champion might be exempted from having to show a vaccine pass in order to enter the tournament. If that’s not the case however, it seems unlikely Djokovic will do what’s needed to play.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Last year’s French Open runner-up, Tsitsipas established himself as a clay court contender in 2021, taking the scalps of Medvedev and Alexander Zverev en route to the final –– and then seizing the first 2 sets of a 5-set final before succumbing to Djokovic. Prior to the start of last year’s tourney, you could have had 8/1 odds on the rising Greek talent (which would nearly have been quite a good bet!). The oddsmakers have taken note of Tsitsipas’s progress particularly on clay however, and currently, the tennis odds at Ladbrokes have Tsitsipas situated just a hair behind Nadal and Djokovic. And if Djokovic cannot play, expect Tsitsipas to be installed as a clear second favorite. He’s certainly one to watch.

Dominic Thiem

After an injury-plagued couple of seasons, Dominic Thiem will be desperate to make an impact at the French Open. Having dropped from number 3 to number 37 in the world rankings, the 2020 U.S. Open champion has unfortunately stalled his comeback once more, having entered and then pulled out of January’s Cordoba Open. Thee silver lining, perhaps, is the withdrew from the ATP event in Argentina due to a finger injury, rather than the wrist trouble that has kept him sidelined since June of 2021 If, as he estimates, he’s 90-95% fit, then we should expect to see a man with a chip (and a volley, and a baseline drive) on his shoulder come May. And lest we forget, Thiem was Nadal’s heir apparent as de facto king of clay before Tsitsipas came into his own.

The new school

Barring injury, Carlos Alcaraz could well become Spain’s youngest Grand Slam winner in Paris this spring. At 16, he was the youngest player to win an ATP 500 event; at 18, he shocked the U.S. Open with a victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas. He’s also coming off an impressive Australian Open showing, and has physically turned from gangly teenager into muscular athlete. Mentally, he seems to be ready too. Experience? There may be too many clay court specialists in this tourney for him to triumph this time, but the oddsmakers are giving him at least a reasonable chance.

One of those clay specialists –– or a budding one anyway –– is 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti. The Italian went on something of a rampage on clay courts last season, including, notably, in Lyon, where he reached the semi-finals before being beaten 2 sets to 1 by Tsitsipas. Some luck in the draw and a view he has unfinished business in France might see Musetti ruffle some highly ranked feathers –– though to call him a favorite or contender is probably a bit much.

That just about rounds up the list. With Roger Federer ruled out due to ongoing recovery from surgery, Alexander Zverev having had a decidely shaky start to the year, and Medvedev openly detesting clay, the contender list looks to be comprised primarily of the names above. Though the truth of the matter is if Nadal’s not 100% (you never know these days) and Djokovic doesn’t show, the field will be pretty open. The likes of Matteo Berrettini and Diego Schwartzman can make noise on the clay as well, and if Stanislas Wawrinka returns in form, he too should be considered a threat.

If you’re looking for a true early favorite though, the answer is easy. It’s Nadal. Just like it always has been.


What do you think?

Written by Virily Editor

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