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2024 FRENCH OPEN PREVIEW



For the first time since 2004 when Gastón Guadio unexpectedly lifted the trophy, the men’s draw for Roland Garros has never been more wide open. As far as the women are concerned, can anyone stop clay court queen Iga Swiatek?


Impeccable weather, beautiful scenery, and a croissant on the side - the tennis world is gearing up for yet another stellar Grand Slam tournament in the French capital in what is sure to provide many storylines and history-making moments.


Can Jannik Sinner become the first Italian to claim the men’s world No.1 ranking? Will Swiatek make it four French Open titles at the age of 23? How will Rafael Nadal fare in what most likely will be his final hurrah on a stage that holds dear to his Spanish heart?


Thursday night’s official draw has created mouthwatering clashes and fascinating permutations along with a route to the final for the main contenders and perhaps a smokey or two.


AUSSIE WATCH:


The lack of exposure to clay back home is a topic of conversation that always arises during the clay court swing, so it doesn’t present as a shock that Australians find the surface as their least preferable. In saying that, there are still a handful of names flying the Aussie flag to watch in the coming days.


Womens:


Ash Barty’s famous triumph at Roland Garros in 2019 now seems a distant memory with only two Aussie women entering the main draw.


One of those entrants, Ajla Tomljanovic, has experienced a gruelling 18 months suffered through injuries - recently withdrawing at 0-3 in the first set of her match at the Parma Open.


The 30-year-old will face Australian Open semi-finalist Dayana Yastremska in the first round in what should be a back-and-forth tussle from the baseline.


Meanwhile, Daria Saville is also handed a tough opening round draw - set to face Italian 12th seed Jasmine Paolini who has made a breakthrough in 2024.


Mens:


In more positive news, Alex De Minaur will once again be Australia’s firm hope at a major tournament with a real opportunity to exploit a favourable draw and progress deep into the tournament.


Despite growing up in Spain and learning his craft on the clay, De Minaur has underperformed around this time of year, but the 11th seed has the weapons required to stifle the big guns deep into the second week. With a potential date with Daniil Medvedev, a player who has openly admitted to “hating” the clay, projected in the fourth round, the stars are aligned.



An all-Aussie affair will witness Alexei Popyrin and Thanasi Kokkinakis battle it out for a chance to potentially meet 22nd seed Adriano Mannarino in a quarter containing Taylor Fritz and multiple-time French Open runner-up Casper Ruud.


Keep an eye out for 25-year-old Adam Walton - arriving in Paris with a world of confidence having claimed a challenger title in Taipei last week. A tough assignment against the home crowd awaits against Arthur Rinderknech.


Other Aussies in Action:


Christopher O’Connell v Filip Misolic (Qualifier)

Rinky Hijikata v Luciano Darderi

Aleksandar Vukic v Zhang Zhizhen

Max Purcell v Henri Squire (Qualifier)

Jordan Thompson v Maximilian Marterer


REST OF THE FIELD:


Official/Potential Notable Matchups in the Early Rounds:


Womens:


Iga Swiatek v Naomi Osaka (Round 2)


Although clay is her least preferred surface, four-time major winner Naomi Osaka isn’t a player who any of the WTA tour wish to lock heads with.


The Japanese starlet is slowly finding her feet again on tour after a lengthy layoff due to pregnancy, but Iga Swiatek presents an entirely different proposition in slower conditions which will hamper Osaka’s strengths off the forehand wing.


Nonetheless, this potential second round match is worthy of a quarters or semis slot.


Elena Rybakina v Angelique Kerber (Round 2)


On paper, these are two massive names in tennis who have both tasted success at Grand Slam level.


For Kerber, the French Open remains the only major she has failed to claim with her best result was a quarter-final showing in 2012 and 2018. At 36, the German is no slouch - appearing in the fourth round of Rome this month where she kept it tight against Swiatek.


However, Rybakina is already one of the most established players in the women’s game and is now the new Kerber - consistently dominating matches on her terms and will be one of the favourites to walk away as champion.


Danielle Collins v Martina Trevisan (Round 2)


Perhaps not a clash that catches the eye at first glance, yet this is shaped for an entertaining affair with an upset on the cards.


Since announcing her retirement in January at year’s end, Collins has played with a sense of freedom and is ironically playing some of the best tennis of her career. Back-to-back titles in Miami and Charleston paved the way for a 15-game unbeaten streak before reaching the semis of Rome and the final in Strasbourg this week.


Having played an incredible amount of tennis over the past few months, Martina Trevisan could be one to pounce. The Italian reached the semis at Roland Garros in 2022 and shouldn’t be underestimated on the clay.


Smokey: Sloane Stephens


On the downward trajectory since winning the US Open in her own backyard, Stephens has improved her performances and results over the past 12 months and is paired in the bottom half of the draw to potentially meet Sabalenka in the third round. A finalist at the 2018 French Open, underestimate the American at your peril as she still has the tools to cause problems to a player like Sabalenka who when things aren’t going all her way, is capable of spiralling out of control.


Favourites:


Let’s be honest, this is Iga’s tournament to lose and it all depends on her performance level and how she is feeling. The only contenders that stand out are the hard-hitters of Rybakina, Aryna Sabalenka, and Coco Gauff who all shouldn’t be counted out entirely - especially the two more experienced challengers with Rybakina defeating the Pole in their only two meetings on the clay and Sabalenka getting the better of Swiatek in the Madrid final last year. The slower conditions in Paris will favour Swiatek to dictate rallies and control the rhythm at her own pace. Expect to witness a fourth Roland Garros title added beside her name.


Rafael Nadal v Alexander Zverev (Round 1)


The match that everyone is eagerly anticipating, it’s very difficult to judge how 14-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal will perform given his inconsistency due to multiple injury layoffs.


Never write off a champion, but fourth seed Alexander Zverev is capable of blowing the Spaniard out of the water and will look to seek a change in fortune after being forced to retire against Nadal in the 2022 semi-finals - sustaining a serious ankle injury that forced him off the court in a wheelchair.


There’s no escaping the elephant in the room involving Zverev’s court hearing next week for domestic abuse allegations. At the Australian Open, it impacted him early in the tournament as he struggled to find his best tennis before making a semi-final run.


Court Philippe-Chartier may well be primed for one of Nadal’s greatest-ever victories.


Jannik Sinner v Borna Coric (Round 2)


At the peak of his powers winning his maiden Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park, it’s been a frustrating couple of months for Jannik Sinner - hampered by an ongoing hip issue that saw him withdraw from Madrid and Rome.


If fully fit, Sinner has every chance to go all the way, but it remains a big question mark for someone who hasn’t played an awful lot of tennis in the lead-up.


A possible second round meeting with former world No.12 Borna Coric has upset written all over it.


Novak Djokovic v Lorenzo Musetti (Round 3)


Styles win fights, and this particular matchup provides the perfect example.


30th seed Lorenzo Musetti, referred to by many as a clay court specialist, is notoriously known for letting slip a two set lead against Djokovic at the 2021 Roland Garros in the fourth round before retiring in the fifth set due to cramps.


Last year the 22-year-old defeated the 24-time Grand Slam champion again in Monte-Carlo to further instil the self-believe necessary.


Given Djokovic’s struggles this year added with two losses to Italian opponents Luca Nardi and Sinner - an upset is already brewing in the third round.


Smokey: Alejandro Tabilo


The Chilean raised eyebrows in Rome when he completely dismantled Djokovic in straight sets, playing out of his skin. Although the world No.1 wasn’t at his best, Tabilo has the skillset and craft as well as power from the baseline to trouble the world’s best on the red dirt. He opens proceedings against a qualifier before a potential meeting with Grigor Dimitrov and Jannik Sinner await in round three and four respectively.


Favourites:


Injury-riddled seasons for Alcaraz and Sinner in years past would have opened the door completely for Djokovic to collect another piece of silverware to his cabinet, but the 37-year-old’s form is a genuine cause for concern. This could be the year for either Casper Ruud or Stefanos Tsitsipas to go one step further after both faltering at the French Open final on different occasions - because if not now, then when? It takes a brave person to back against a 24-time Grand Slam champion, but experience could prove vital in the top half of the draw where he avoids Sinner and Alcaraz until the final. It truly is up in the air at this point with fitness the main issue for the top seeds, yet a Djokovic-Alcaraz final wouldn’t be all that surprising.


CATCH ALL THE ACTION ON STAN SPORT FROM SUNDAY MAY 26TH.




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