We are entering the best time of year to be a tennis fan. Starting May 27, we’ll have the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, the French Open. Just over one month later Wimbledon will take place, which leads us into the US Open in September.
This year’s French Open has a different look than years past. For starters, the greatest tennis player of all time and current No. 2 player in the world, Roger Federer, will not be playing in this year’s tournament, and neither will three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray. Secondly, 2015 French Open winner Stan Wawrinka and 2016 winner Novak Djokovic are both coming off of injuries. This leaves them both with lower seeds than usual (they’re typically both in the top 5), 20 for Djokovic and 23 for Wawrinka, meaning they’ll both face harder paths to the final. Here’s the best few they’ll have to go through to find success this year.
There are very few cases where I’ll take one player/team over the field in a given tournament, but this is one of them. Betting on Rafael Nadal to win the French Open is one of the safest bets in all of sports. Since 2005, there have been only three years where the Spaniard has not won this tournament: 2009, 2015, and 2016. In 2005, appearing in the French Open for the first time in his career, Nadal won at 18 years of age. Nadal would then go on to win every French Open until 2009, snapping a streak of 31 consecutive victories at the French Open — a record he then broke by winning 39 straight from 2010-2015. Nadal’s total career record at the French Open is an astonishing 80-3, with one of the losses being a withdrawal due to injury, meaning he’s 80-2 in matches he’s actually played in. If that isn’t enough for me to prove to you how good Nadal is, last year he won the French Open winning every match in three sets; the sets are best three out of five. Yep, he didn’t drop a single set.
I’ll be very, very surprised if Nadal doesn’t walk away with his eleventh French Open title. I’m not guaranteeing anything though, because I don’t want to wind up on the Freezing Cold Takes twitter.
I’ve already mentioned Djokovic and Wawrinka, so let me introduce the rest of the field at the French Open.
Alexander Zverev is a 21-year-old German who looks to be the future of tennis. Currently ranked No. 3 in the world, (will be the 2 seed due to Federer’s absence) this is his big chance to prove to the tennis world that he is legit. Unlike the early 20th century, don’t expect the German’s to find success in France, as Zverev is still yet to ever make it to a quarterfinal, which is a solid indicator of how good a player is, at a Grand Slam tournament.
Marin Cilic is the third seed in the tournament, but you still shouldn’t expect much from the 29-year-old Croatian. He’s only ever made it to or past the quarterfinals of the French Open once, and I wouldn’t expect him to make much noise this year. However, next month when it’s Wimbledon time, remember his name.
Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov burst onto the scene back in 2014 making the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the semifinals of Wimbledon. However, the 27-year-old has never found much success in France, or at all apart from 2014 if we’re being honest.
Fifth-seed Juan Martin del Potro is one of my better bets for someone to knock off Nadal. I still doubt it will happen, but the Argentine has had a late revival in his career that included a run to the semi-finals of the US Open. He’s had some success in the past at the French Open and he also won the US Open a few years ago, so don’t be too surprised if he makes a run this year.
John Isner enters as the No. 9 seed, the highest seeded American, but don’t be shocked if he’s eliminated very early. Isner is most famous for taking 3 days to win a single match at Wimbledon. After that, he’s famous for losing early at Grand Slam tournaments.
If you’re into “rooting for the little” guy, then I have a very literal suggestion for you to cheer for. The No. 11 seed is Diego Schwartzman, who is a 5’7” Argentine. Schwartzman isn’t a household name, but he’s had a solid tun recently. Last year he made the US Open quarterfinals, and this year made a solid run in the Australian Open before being eliminated by Nadal.
The 10 seed Pablo Carreno Busta is, in my opinion (I wouldn’t put too much stock in my opinion though), the second most likely player to win the tournament. Last year he advanced to the quarterfinals of the French Open, and the semifinals of the US Open. With a solid start to 2018, don’t be shocked for the Spaniard to make waves in France this year.