As much of America is preparing for the holiday weekend, getting ready to spend it at the beach or by the pool or at a BBQ, across the globe in France, over 100 of the world’s best tennis players are preparing for the second major grand slam tournament of the year, the French Open.
The tournament, the only such major to be held on the clay courts, begins today (Sunday), and will conclude on June 9th. Here, we’ll preview the men’s draw, a battle of the King of Clay vs the Field.
Is Rafael Nadal Poised to Win 12th French Open Title?
This preview could easily be written in just a few words: Rafael Nadal will win his unprecedented 12th French Open title, which would also be his third in a row.
There, done. Now we can all go to the USA sportsbooks and make some money on what has been one of the most sure of sure bets in the world of sports in recent memory. That’s not to say Nadal wins the French every year, but if you’ve bet on him to win every year, it’s a bet, that since he won his first title at Roland Garros in 2005, that has only failed three times. In life, people say there are only two things that are guaranteed, death and taxes. In the past 15 years however, Nadal winning the French Open tennis can be added to that list.
This wouldn’t be an in depth look at the upcoming major if we didn’t preview some of the names that could potentially upset the King of the Clay. Nadal is the favorite to land this tournament at around -110, with Djokovic +250 and then Dominic Thiem at +700. Roger Federer is unfancied on this surface at +2500.
Novak Djokovic – Is 2019 Finally the Year Djokovic Dethrones Nadal in Paris?
After a few years of injuries, lack of confidence and an inability to get consistently deep into major draws, there is no denying that Novak Djokovic is back. That’s not a good thing for the rest of the field because when Djokovic was at his finest, he was almost unstoppable and almost impossible to defeat.
Currently the world ranked #1, the 32-year-old pro of 16 years, Djokovic has been having a fine 2019 season. On the year, he has lost just five ATP tour-level matches and is a perfect 7-0 in grand slams. He enters the French having won the year’s first major, the Australian Open, where he defeated Nadal in the finals, as well as last year’s Wimbledon and US Open as well (3-for-3 in his last three majors).
So far, Djokovic is 10-2 on clay this year as well, having fared well in the tune-ups to French Open and winning the ATP Masters 1000 event in Madrid, the top clay court tournament outside of Roland Garros. While Djokovic has yet to beat Nadal in the finals of the French Open, he is one of few men (Nadal has just two losses at the French in his career) who have beaten Nadal at the slam period. Overall, Djokovic owns the head-to-head with Nadal as well, but only by a brief margin, 28-26.
While many cite Federer and Nadal as tennis’ greatest rivalry, Nadal and Djokovic has been great too. Especially given the level of competiveness. If ever there was someone who could beat Nadal at the French Open, it’s the man who’s already done it. If both Djokovic and Nadal reach the finals, could this be the year when the Serbian upsets the Spaniard?
Roger Federer – Will Federer’s Return to Clay Yield Results?
Much has been said about the twilight of Roger Federer’s career and each time, the seemingly unaging Swissman returns to show us he’s not finished yet. The 37-year-old Federer is one of the best to play the game, but if there were a chink in the armor, a Kryptonite to his superman-esque performances, it would be the clay courts and their king.
Federer has never excelled on clay but has still been better than most. His problem is always that when he reaches a French Open final, as he has five times, Nadal has been waiting on the other side. And Nadal has never lost a final when he has reached one at Roland Garros. Federer’s lone French Open win came in 2009, when Nadal was shockingly upset by Robin Soderling before the two even had a chance to meet.
In 2019, Federer and Nadal are in the same half of the draw, meaning a semifinal matchup is the best we can hope for from two of the all-time greats of the sport. It might seem a tough ask given this is the first time since 2015, that Federer is even entering the French Open, having recently skipped the tournament to refine his form and stay healthy for his best major, Wimbledon.
Federer enters this year’s edition, ranked third in the world, having lost just three matches on the year and two titles, at the ATP 1000 Masters in Miami and the ATP 500 event in Dubai. It will take a bit of a heavy-lift for Federer to win the French Open, but if anyone is capable of a Herculean effort, it’s him. He’ll just likely need to do something he’s never done first, defeat Nadal at the French Open.
The Rest Of The French Open Field
Despite them all now being over 32 years, an almost unheard of age to still be winning majors in tennis, the Big Three continue to maintain their stranglehold over the sport, especially at the grand slam level.
Others in with a shout include last year’s runner-up, Dominic Thiem. He is the third favorite at +700. Then there is Juan Martin Del Potro (40/1), who has never reached the finals of the French. Alexander Zverev (33/1), who is coming off a victory at the Geneva Open, hasn’t gotten past the quarters. Stefanos Tsitsipas is worth a mention and can be backed at 20/1.
There’s a reason why the Era of the Big Three has been dubbed as such. Since the French Open in 2005, only eight majors, won by four men, have broken through. That means 48 of the last 56 majors have been won by Djokovic, Nadal or Federer, including each of the last nine. This should be no exception.
- He may be the short-priced favorite, but take Nadal (at odds of around -110) to win the French Open once again.