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In the shadow of Nadal's farewell, a new king of clay could be crowned at Roland Garros

Who will dominate Roland Garros this year?
Who will dominate Roland Garros this year?Profimedia
Over the past few years, we've been used to the main favourites in the men's singles being clear in advance, but that hasn't been the case in the women's section of the tournament. This is confirmed by the fact that since 2005, the French Open has seen only four different male winners but 13 different female champions. Will this year's Roland Garros be any different? The indications suggest so.

Former WTA circuit player Kateřina Teruzzi has provided an insight into the upcoming French Open, which is expected to see the farewell of clay champion Rafael Nadal and perhaps confirm the emergence of a new generation in men's tennis.

Djokovic's test of endurance

World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic has yet to win a tournament this season and his performances have been erratic. However, it is worth noting that Novak knows exactly what to do to ensure his form rises as Roland Garros begins. That's one of the reasons why he accepted the opportunity to compete this week in Geneva, where he celebrated his 37th birthday. I dare say he will be tennis and physically ready.

The question is whether he will be as mentally tough as we know him from previous years. This time he will not be in an easy position. The course of this season has sent a clear signal to other tennis players that Novak is "beatable". Knowing this fact can have a big impact on the overall setup of his opponents, and thus on their game and ultimately on the whole match. Anyway, it is very difficult to beat the Serb at any Grand Slam.

On the other hand, Jannik Sinner, the winner of this year's Australian Open, has a stunning record of 28 wins and 2 losses in 2024. However, he injured his hip at the Madrid tournament and didn't even play his last match. He hasn't played again since. Similarly, Carlos Alcaraz was stopped in Madrid by renewed problems with his right forearm.

Swiatek against the rest of the world

The situation in women's tennis is different. Last week, world number one Iga Swiatek became the third woman in history to dominate both the Madrid and Rome tournaments in the same season. She captured the prestigious tournament in the Italian capital without losing a set and is a hot candidate for her fourth Roland Garros title.

Not only is her game full of lifted shots which are very effective on clay, but she has always managed to take it to another level at the French Open. I also admire how she can concentrate and stay mentally strong and focused for this particular Grand Slam. She's only lost one match in Paris in the last four editions, which is almost reminiscent of Rafael Nadal's early career.

Together with Swiatek who (especially on clay) belongs to a slightly different category, the women's tennis top players are very diverse in terms of game and it will be interesting to watch during the tournament. The success of the other female co-favourites can certainly be decided by the current conditions in Paris. Whether the days will be cold, rainy and the balls will be heavy and slow, or on the contrary, warm and the courts dry, where the lifted shots bounce faster and higher. This will play a big role.

Elena Rybakina managed to beat the world number one on clay in Stuttgart this year, but it was at an indoor tournament. The aforementioned Kazakh and also Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka have a very strong game. Apart from these two sharpshooters, it will be interesting to see if Ons Jabeur will wake up with her creative tennis on clay, how the tournament will go for American Coco Gauff, whose game combines all the styles mentioned above, and how this year's Roland Garros will suit Wimbledon holder Marketa Vondrousova. She can also play well on clay and the Parisian crowd has already seen her in the 2019 final.

Nadal remains purely positive 

Fourteen-time champion Rafael Nadal's form has been on the rise since his return to the competitive circuit, but he is far from top form. That has been especially evident in his movement around the court. In exchanges, he has been later on the ball, which means his strokes are not as accurate and aggressive and he can't dictate the pace of play as he would like.

Even so, he knows that all the attention of this year's Roland Garros will be on him. It must be extremely mentally challenging for him to go into the match knowing that he is not at his best, especially at a tournament that means so much to him.

Most players tend to compare how they are playing now and how they were playing before the break (injury) and often knock themselves down. In this respect, too, Nadal confirms what a professional he is. We don't see negative emotions or excuses from him. Never mind that he got the third-seeded Alexander Zverev for the first round. He always gives everything 100 per cent and either that is enough for greater success or not.

Grand Slams are a different discipline

Taking a comprehensive look at all the facts, one would like to say that we are in for a Roland Garros full of surprises. In my opinion, the Grand Slam is still a bit of a different discipline. It lasts two weeks. It is usually one of the highlights of the tennis season. The players are under the scrutiny not only of the media, the public, the fans, but also, for example, the sponsors. There is enormous pressure on tennis players and it depends on how they cope with it.

The opening rounds of grand slams are usually tricky for the favourites, but if they overcome their pitfalls, it is very difficult to stop them in the later stages of the tournament. As they say in tennis circles, "There is no art to winning when you can, but when you can't."

Kateřina Teruzzi
Kateřina TeruzziFlashscore

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