The second grand slam of the year is finally here and we breakdown the favourites and their chances in the men’s draw.
The 115th edition of Roland Garros has been rocked by two high profile withdrawal, effecting the seeding. World number three Roger Federer – who has not missed a grand slam since 1999 – pulled out due to injury and French hopeful Gael Monfils withdrew due to illness.
Nonetheless, the ATP season has set up a number of interesting story-lines. Lets start at the top shall we?
Despite the world number one’s recent mishap against Andy Murray (more on that later) he remains the one to beat. Boasting a win/loss record of 37-3 and five titles for 2016, the Serb has been in outstanding form. Before his loss to Murray in Rome, Djokovic had dropped just two sets to top ten players.
That helped him to five titles this year, with his win in Madrid arguably being the most important for his aspirations on the Parisian clay courts.
Roland Garros is the final obstacle to overcome for Djokovic in his pursuit of a career Grand Slam, something he surely deserves.
Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei is waiting for Djokovic in the first round and he a collision course with seventh seed Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals should they both remain unbeaten.
Just a season ago Murray was outspoken about his distaste for the clay court swing, now he is beating the world’s best players.
The Scot will arrive in Paris full of confidence following his straight sets victory over Djokovic in the Italian Open final. While it was his first title of the season, Murray has enjoyed some great results.
In Madrid, he defeated clay court master Rafael Nadal in dominating fashion. He also reached his fifth Australian Open final in January, establishing himself as a persistent player in the grand slams.
If his current form is anything to go by, 2016 could be the year he makes his first appearance in the Roland Garros final.
Murray will face a yet to be determined qualifier and could potentially meet fifth seed Kei Nishikori in a mouthwatering clash as early as the last eight.
Unfortunately for Wawrinka, he has not impressed on any surface this year. While he has two titles, they were against depleted draws. In fact, the Swiss has not beaten a top 17 player this season.
Added to that, his clay court season has also been average, winning three out of his six matches, so it’s hard to see him reaching the final.
That said, the Swiss ace was in a similar slump of form last year – he was seeded eighth – before he battled past Federer and played arguably the match of his life against Djokovic in the final to win his second grand slam title. Expect the defending champion tag to help Wawrinka up his game.
With Federer’s absence, Wawrinka is bumped up to third seed and takes on Lukas Rosol in his opener, Should they hold seed, he will have his hands full against the powerful Milos Raonic in the quarters.
The King of Clay has showed glimpses of his old self on his favourite surface, winning back-to-back titles at the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona in April.
Nadal has improved much since his first round loss at the Australian Open in January and will be eager to make a point on Court Philippe Chatrier, a place where he has claimed no less than nine Roland Garros titles.
Before his lost to Murray in the semi-finals Madrid, Nadal was on a 13-win streak on the red stuff, dropping only three sets. These are certainly worrying signs for his competitors.
The Spaniard has a tough first task against the big serving Sam Groth and is on track for a quater-final against local hero and sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The Japanese superstar has been bubbling under for a couple years now and looks destined to eventually claim a grand slam title.
Clay is a surface that suites his attritional style of tennis so don’t be surprised to see him get a few sets off the bigger names. Being on course for a quarter-final with Murray, he is going to have to if he wants to reach his second grand slam semi-final.
In terms of results, Nishikori has just one title to his name for the season, dropping just one set one his way to winning the Memphis open. But he has performed well in the clay court swing, winning ten out of his lat 13 matches.
The fifth seed opens his 2016 Roland Garros account against Italy’s Simone Bolleli.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga impressed in the 2015 edition, reaching the final four. The Frenchman seems to save his best tennis for his home crowd and we can expect the same this year.
David Ferrer reached the final at Roland Garros as recently as 2013 and is traditionally a force to be reckoned with on the slower surface. He is also one of the few – like Wawrinka – playing in Geneva this week, where he reached the semi-finals at the time of writing.
Finally, Frenchman Richard Gasquet can defeat anyone on his day and will also benefit from the partisan crowd.