Roland Garros 2017: Four things to look out for

The jewel in the crown of the clay court season begins on Monday at Roland Garros with the start of the year’s second grand slam.

With the action set to get underway in just under a week’s time, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the key talking points ahead of the tournament.

Rafa Resurgence

One of the most welcome returns of the year so far has been that of Rafael Nadal, the 14-time Grand Slam champion has come back with a bang after two disappointing seasons.

Nadal has been in sensational form so far this year, losing in the final of the Australian Open to Roger Federer, while claiming titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. It looked like all bets were off on the ‘King of Clay’ claiming a tenth Roland Garros title until his recent defeat to Dominic Thiem in Rome.

The defeat in Italy could have just been a blip, but we’ll find out for sure next week. One thing is certain, though and that is Nadal’s famous tunnel vision will be focused on only one thing – picking up the winners trophy on June 11.

Top two in terrible form

With the world’s top two ranked players suffering drastic losses in form the tournament is as open as it has ever been.

Djokovic’s form has been on a roller coaster ride since winning his maiden title at Roland Garros last year. Winning tournaments one week only to suffer an early exit the next. He put in his best performance for quite some time last week at the Italian Open only to lose in the final to Alexander Zverev in straight sets. That result and his newly announced coaching arrangement with Andre Agassi should at least give the defending champions and his fans some hope ahead of Paris.

Murray’s loss of form is more baffling, the world number one has slumped badly in recent weeks with his opening match defeat in Rome to Fabio Fognini his third loss in his last four matches. Even Murray himself seems at a loss to explain his poor recent play, but he has promised to work hard to rectify it. The arrival of coach Ivan Lendl in Paris may also help, but that said, the rest of the top ten must be extremely optimistic about their chances of going deep into the draw.

Svitolina the favourite?

In the women’s draw the absence of mum-to-be Serena Williams, the poor form of Angelique Kerber and injuries to reigning champion Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, mean the tournament is as open as ever.

One person who could take advantage of this is Elina Svitolina, the Ukrainian has been in sparkling form this year winning four titles so far – the most recent in Rome where she beat Simona Halep.

Svitolina has come out and said she does not consider herself the favourite, even though everyone else does. The key for her, however, could be mental as she is yet to make it to a Grand Slam semi-final.

This year would be as good a one as any for the talented 22-year old to finally overcome those demons.

Can the young guns step up?

With Roger Federer out and Murray and Djokovic struggling, there is a great opportunity for one of the tour’s young guns to step up and claim a maiden Grand Slam. Two players in with a shout are Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem of Austria.

The 20-year-old Zverev has come into his own in recent weeks, winning in Germany and beating Djokovic in the final in Rome. If he can keep things going into Paris then he definitely has a chance.

Thiem is also in good form. After losing to Nadal in the finals of both Barcelona and Madrid, the 23-year-old finally upset the Spaniard in Rome, handing Nadal his first defeat of the season on clay. The world number seven slipped up in the semi-finals to Djokovic, but he is certainly in with a shout at Roland Garros.

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