The French Open, or Roland Garros is scheduled to begin on May 22 at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris. After two weeks of riveting competition between the top ranked players in the world, the title for the Men’s and Women’s championships will be decided on June 4 and June 5. The clay-court championship is the second of four Grand Slams to be played every year, and begins four months after the conclusion of the Australian Open.
Roland Garros this year will feature a few notable absentees. 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, who turned 40 this year will not be making an appearance in the tournament owing to a long layoff from injury. Serena Williams, winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles has also opted out of the tournament for similar reasons. Her sister, 2002 runner-up Venus Williams won’t participate either, nor will 2016 finalist Andy Murray.
While some of tennis’ most well-known faces won’t be making an appearance, plenty of others have emerged in the race for Championship. Let’s take a look at three favourites heading into the French Open this year.
3. Carlos Alcaraz
19-year-old Alcaraz burst onto the world tennis scene when he won the Miami Open earlier this year, becoming the youngest champion ever in the torunament’s history. Before that, he made his Grand Slam debut at the Australian open where he was knocked out in the third round, and was a semi-finalist at the Rio Open. But it was his performance at the Madrid Open that made the world sit up – Alcaraz defeated World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (semi-finals) and Rafael Nadal (quarterfinals) back-to-back, becoming the first ever man to do so on clay. He defeated third-ranked Alexander Zverev to bag his second Masters 100 title, and his fourth title of the season. Alcaraz became the youngest man to emerge victorious in both the Miamo Open as well as the Madrid Open, and his world ranking leapt to number six. The teenager has proved he’s capable of beating the world’s best on the biggest stages, and is a genuine contender to win his inaugural Grand Slam.
2. Rafael Nadal
The 35-year old Spaniard is arguably the most succesful player in the history of Roland Garros. Nadal has won the title a record 13 times. His four-year streak between 2017-2020 was broken in 2021 when he lost to defending champion Djokovic in the semi-final in four sets. A foot injury has plagued his career for the last several months, even casting his participation in the Australian Open earlier this year in doubt. But Nadal fought the odds to claim his record-breaking 21st major title, defeating Daniil Medvedev after coming back from two lost sets. Since 2004, there have only been four occasions on which he has not gone on to win the championship – Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinkra and current champion Djokovic are the only other players to have won the title in all those years. While Nadal has struggled with injury issues, writing off the Clay King in his favourite tournament would be a fool’s endeavour.
1. Novak Djokovic
The Roland Garros defending champion and World No. 1 Djokovic emerges as the obvious favourite to walk away with this year’s laurels. He was won the tournament twice in his career history, the first occasion being in 2016 where he defeated Andy Murray in the final in four sets. In 2021 he took down the fearsome clay-court champion Rafael Nadal, handing the Spaniard only his third loss in 108 games in the semi-final. After losing the first set, the Serb came back strongly to hammer the defending champion 6-3, 7-6 and 6-2 to enter the final. He blew past Stefanos Tsitsipas in five hard-fought sets to claim his 20th Grand Slam title. The 34-year-old will regret missing out on the Australian Open, where his participation in the tournament was cancelled after his visa was revoked owing to COVID-19 health concerns. Now he will want to prove himself on the clay court, and hopefully lift his third Roland Garros cup.