Roland-Garros 2018 Preview
In the 122nd edition of the French Open, there is no doubt that Rafael Nadal is the man to defeat. This is probably the most physically demanding tennis tournament of the season.
He won Roland-Garros tournament ten times till now. He managed to get the title last season after a 2 years break. Completed the season with his 16th Grand Slam title, as he won US Open in September. Early in the season, he reached quarter-finals of Australian Open.
Made a long pause in the next two months, in order to prepare for the clay-court season. Actually, this season is the main part of the year for the Spaniard. Since then he has fourteen victories in a row without a single set lost.
Nadal had two important victories in Davis Cup against younger Zverev and Kohlschreiber. But he also won Monte Carlo Masters and ATP Barcelona. Players such as Khachanov, Thiem, Dimitrov, Nishikori, and Goffin were defeated without trouble.
However, the alert came in the 3rd round of Madrid Masters when he succumbed to a straight-sets defeat against Thiem. It was one of the least impressive performances from Nadal in recent years on clay.
No doubt that such a stung will be decent alert for Rafa who still has room for improvement at Rome's Masters. He used to dominate Roland-Garros from 2005 to 2008, from 2010 till 2014th and surely wants to increase the winning run.
On his road to the title last year, Nadal didn't lose a single set. He only lost seven games to Dominic Thiem in semi-finals and six games to Stan Wawrinka in the finals.
Currently the youngest player in ATP top 20. Surely stands out as one of the favourites of the tournament. However, it still remains to be seen if he can make that extra step at the biggest tournaments. Without any doubt, he has the advantage over most of the ATP players.
But the limits could be that he has only reached the fourth round of any of the Grand Slam's so far (Wimbledon). At the French Open, he reached the third round so far as his personal best in 2016. He exited in the first round to Fernando Verdasco last season.
Much has changed since the last year, as Sascha now comes from two straight titles in the clay season. He did well to raise the form in a bit lower ranked Munich tournament, but impressed at Madrid's Masters. He won in Nadal's city without losing a single set.
The German is without any doubt one of the most improved players over the last season. But still remains to be seen whether he can make the big impact when it's needed the most. Lack of experience at Grand Slams and especially at Roland-Garros could be his problems.
Quality, experience, rankings, but...
Players such as Dimitrov, Cilic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Kevin Anderson or Isner are all inside the top 10 now. However, they can't be considered as strong favourites due to different reasons.
Bulgarian "baby Federer" only came to the third round at Roland-Garros. This isn't that surprising since he prefers faster courts. He reached semi-finals of Monte Carlo, however, without some impressive victory this season at clay.
Names like Kohlschreiber, Goffin, Simon, and Jaziri aren't enough to make a statement.
Cilic is one of those guys who is permanently close to the top of the rankings. But there is something that can't be neglected. He is simply not that great clay courter in order to win big competitions.
His game-style is anything but suited well for the clay court, while the results aren't speaking in his favour. He suffered a loss to Nishikori in Monte Carlo and an early exit in Istanbul against Jaziri.
Giant Argentinian Del Potro chooses to skip a bit of clay-court season. Surely he is giving more attention to faster courts. After winning Acapulco, Indian Wells and losing to Miami's finals, it's only a logical thing.
A victory over Dzumhur was expected in the first round of Madrid. But Lajovic surprised him in three-setter in the next round. Even though there's still time to improve, his lack of appearance at clay tournaments might be speaking about his real targets. His game style isn't most appropriate for such a demanding court as clay.
John Isner and Kevin Anderson, such great servers can make many troubles to a lot of players. It's hard to see them enduring a lot at the clay-court tournament which is played in best of five sets. Kevin had better warming up for the Roland-Garros.
Still, if any of them manages to break through to the quarter-finals, it would be a decent success.
He was the only one being able to defeat Nadal on clay courts so far during the season. Dominic Thiem surely deserves to be watched out separately from the rest of the draw.
He already showed great skills on clay reaching two semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2016 and 2017. His other Slam-best personals are 4th round to each of the other 3 tournaments.
He got stopped against Djokovic in 2016, whom he destroyed in next year's quarterfinals. He is now fired up to make that extra step. Dominic is one of the rare players to have won at least once per year against Nadal on clay courts in the last three years. For sure he represents a threat to the Spaniard.
However, both best out of five sets matches were easily won by Nadal. This is a question mark for the Austrian if he manages to get through to the last stages of Roland Garros.
His aggressive baseline play, his defending, his mental game & his tie-break win percentage, is what makes him one of the several favourites.
Players such as Tsitsipas, Coric, Rublev, Shapovalov, Chung or Edmund, are some of those who will be watched a lot. Grand Slam is a unique competition where the players usually get a day of rest between the matches.
Such guys can improve and sneak into the final phases of the competition.
Canadian Shapovalov reached the semi-finals of Madrid winning over Paire, Raonic & Edmund. Edmund won against Djokovic and Goffin, while Tsitsipas reached the finals of Barcelona losing to Nadal.
He previously won over claycourt specialists Ramos, Carreno-Busta, Schwartzman, and Thiem all in three sets.
Some of those younger players are yet to explode this season. Best out five systems might not work in their favour once we enter the "second week" of the competition.
On their way back to the top or not
Tennis does suffer in recent years since some of the players aren't at their best anymore. Of course, names like Murray and Federer will be missed.
First out of those who used to play far more competitive tennis is Novak Djokovic. The Serbian is having problems remaining near the world-class players for almost two years.
Everything started exactly here when he won his first Roland Garros. He completed that four Grand Slams losing much of his motivation.
Whether it's a lack of motivation, determination or training process, Novak doesn't lack experience. There would be no better place to get back on the big scene but the French Open.
The very ending of the tournament is highly unlikely with less than mediocre claycourt season for now. It's obvious he needs match practice as well.
Novak will be defending quarter-finals from the previous season when he lost in three sets to Thiem. In case of him not repeating similar result, he will suffer further in the rankings drop later on.
Others players like Berdych, Fognini, Wawrinka, Gasquet, Tsonga, Monfils or Verdasco, will be fun to watch. Everyone that follows tennis for years does want at least some of them to reach the last stages of the competition.
We cannot exclude their chances, especially when in Grand Slams a slower increase in form is possible.
No doubt that all of them have the desired quality, but they all showed close to nothing so far at clay courts. Their hopes can't be high, neither the hopes of the domestic nation.
The second week of competition would be a decent result for most of those guys. Some are veterans or troubled by injuries. We can't be sure how their body reacts to these best out of five sets rounds.
Stan Wawrinka will be the one to watch out of these guys. He reached the finals last year and he is the winner of this competition back in 2015 over Djokovic.
Similar to the Serb, he needs to defend way too many points. Otherwise, it will be unlikely to see him as a seed player in Wimbledon. Drop-in rankings is causing worries.
Stan appeared two days ago in Rome losing to Johnson with four games won as for the claycourt season.
Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori & Lucas Pouille
These three players seem to be like the dark horses of the competition to us. They all had disadvantages during the season, but they can explode at any time.
Most important for them would be to be fit and without injury worries. They are all in perfect playing years. However, seems that the biggest opponent is their own selves and their own bodies.
Nishikori came out of nowhere for the claycourt season to defeat Berdych, Cilic, and Zverev. Then he lost to Nadal in Monte Carlo finals.
Raonic prefers faster courts, but this year he might be able to progress further than his best 4th round in 2014. Raonic never won an ATP claycourt tournament. But with the stamina and serve he has, everyone inside top seeds would like to avoid him.
Despite he doesn't have great claycourt results, Milos is capable of beating top guys. He proved it a few days ago winning over Dimitrov in three sets in Madrid.
Lucas Pouille had some good moments on hard this season as he won ATP Montpellier. Also, he reached the finals of Marseille and Dubai tournaments earlier in the season. He is yet to shine on clay suffering defeats against Mischa Zverev, Millman, and Paire.
On the other hand, he had great victories in Davis Cup over Seppi and Fognini. The lack of many matches played can be his advantage in case he gets an easier opponent in the first round.
Many of the important players weren't mentioned here since we tried to focus on those winning mentalities. We also didn't mention players who already achieved something more in the world of tennis.
In any way, it all comes down to Rafael Nadal when predicting the winner of the tournament. Many will try, but it's difficult to see any other winning this one.
The Spaniard rocks with a best out of five sets rule. Everything else remains open since there are plenty of contenders for the ending phase.
We may see some young guy impressing, or some of the dark horses get through to the finals. Maybe some of the huge experienced names get back to where they belong.
Be aware that Roland Garros may surprise us. There are many outsiders like Verkerk, Gaudio, Puerta or Robin Soderling.
However, only one non-seeded player managed to reach quarter-finals in the last six editions. Albert Ramos Vinolas back in 2016.
This is why bettors believe Roland Garros is one of the most profitable and predictable tennis tournaments.