Don’t expect too much from me in the next week or so during this year’s French Open – the small matter of getting married is going to be my focus.
Instead, a very vague preview here of the second slam of the year will likely be all the updates until a week today.
First, some talking points, and there are a lot of them.
Two greats will undeniably be missed.
Right, firstly and briefly let’s get the negative news out of the way. Despite whole host of intrigue and excitement detailed below, this year’s French will miss the Australian Open winners and true tour golden oldies. Roger playing it ultra safe and Serena understandably prioritising other things in life. The very real prospect of Federer winning all four majors this year is no more, and Serena’s absence will leave the draw very open. We welcome their respective returns and certainly hope they both return here once more.
Is Rafa unbeatable? Djokovic snapping at the heels and Andy could find perfect tonic amidst slump.
The women’s draw is so open, but beneath the surface so too is the men’s. A lot of people will have Nadal down as favourite, but that Rome loss may just leave the door open for others to exploit a no-longer bulletproof confidence.
Through humiliation and injury, Rafa has painful memories here in the last two years, it will be a more tentative King of Clay from now on.
Newly Lacosted Novak will no doubt be hungry to reaffirm his authority on the tour and with the appointment of a certain Andre Agassi to his team, will gain a lot of wisdom and nous on how to return to winning ways in style. Again – he remains beatable, so this will be of particular intrigue.
World number one Murray is in a right old mess, and it isn’t really clear why; injuries have played their part of course, but with the other contenders either struggling or absent, this should be his time. Maybe it is that exact reason; the Scot dwelling too much on this opportunity. One hopes that he turns up here, the tour needs it.
Wawrinka, Tsonga and the new blood of Zverev and Thiem are all very much in contention – the above three are hardly unbeatable.
Brave Kvitova returns, Pliskova dismisses and Kristina dares to dream.
As mentioned, the women’s competition is really open and littered with fascinating mini-stories. Angelique Kerber continues to struggle this year, the world number one may go far here, but it would be against the formbook somewhat, and her confidence cannot be that high. 2nd seed Karolina Pliskova is all too keen to dismiss her own chances, but although this isn’t her favoured surface she has the game to hurt anyone, but that plan-B still isn’t accomplished enough to save her if things go awry.
Perhaps the biggest story will be the return of Petra Kvitova who survived an horrific knife attack only five months ago – she is the kind of player who could easily power her way throughout to the latter stages despite everything that has happened.
Home-grown starlet Kristina Mladenovic is justifiably bigging herself up as a contender, she is well-liked at home and has now added singles titles and results to her other accolades, this is looking very much like the Real Deal.
Other contenders have to include Simona Halep, Johanna Konta and the current form-player Elena Svitolina.
A final word for last year’s victor Garbine Muguruza. So refreshing and emphatic was her win last year that it would seem absurd not to tip her again, But we’ve seen this so many times – the second album year, the sudden surge of attention and expectation that can derail anyone’s rhythm and confidence.
Any of the above can triumph here, it will be fascinating to see how it all unfolds.
Head says – Rafa Nadal
Heart says – Jo-Wilfired Tsonga
Head says – Angelique Kerber/Karolina Pliskova
Heart says – Simona Halep/Kristina Mladenovic
Image courtesy of the Times Delhi