Nadal farewell and world's best struggling: Three key talking points ahead of French Open

Rafael Nadal holds the trophy after winning the the French Open in 2019
Rafael Nadal holds the trophy after winning the the French Open in 2019AFP
The 2024 French Open gets underway at Roland Garros on Sunday with Novak Djokovic (37) and Iga Swiatek (22) defending their singles titles.

Ahead of the second Grand Slam tournament of the season, AFP Sport looks at three talking points:

Nadal leads parade of farewells

Rafael Nadal might not add to his record haul of 14 French Opens, but he will still comfortably be one of the standout stars at the tournament, win or lose.

The 22-time major winner, whose career twilight has been darkened further by injuries since January last year, will play the tournament for the last time.

Now ranked a lowly 305, former world number one Nadal was champion on his debut in 2005 when he was still a teenager. At this French Open, he will celebrate his 38th birthday.

He boasts a legacy unlikely ever to be matched - just three defeats in 115 matches in Paris.

Also playing their final French Open are Dominic Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 runner-up to Nadal, and Andy Murray who made the final in 2016 and remains the only British man since Bunny Austin in 1937 to reach the championship match in Paris.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 champion, has yet to clarify his plans but if he were to keep playing he'd be 40 by the time the 2025 edition rolls around.

Djokovic, Alcaraz and Sinner woes

World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic will be targeting a fourth French Open title to break a tie with three-time winners Mats Wilander, Gustavo Kuerten and Ivan Lendl.

However, the record 24-time Grand Slam champion will arrive in Paris without a title in the season for the first time since 2018 unless he clinches the Geneva trophy this coming week having decided to take a last-minute wild card at the Swiss event.

Djokovic has yet to make a final this year with runs to the Australian Open and Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals his best efforts.

Meanwhile, world number two Jannik Sinner, who took Djokovic's Australian Open crown, has been burdened by a hip injury which forced a withdrawal in Madrid.

Third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz joined Sinner in sitting out the Rome Open to recover from an arm injury.

Mums the word

Former world number one players and Grand Slam title winners Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber return to the French Open after taking time out to start families.

Osaka, 26 and a four-time major winner, has endured a bittersweet relationship with Roland Garros.

In 2021, she was fined for opting out of mandatory media commitments before withdrawing from the competition after just one match insisting she was protecting her mental health.

Osaka missed the 2023 event with pregnancy before giving birth to a baby girl in July.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber also returned to the tour this year after 18 months away after having a daughter.

Ten years older than Osaka, Kerber's ranking stands at 331. She is a two-time quarter-finalist in Paris.

As the new mums return to the French Open, two other top-five players, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic sit out the 2024 edition as they are both on maternity leave.


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