French Open

French Open men's singles: 5 talking points

2018-05-26 12:45
Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal (AP)

Paris - Rafael Nadal eyes his 11th French Open title while former champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka battle their way back from injury.

Here are five things to watch out for in the men's singles which get underway at Roland Garros on Sunday:

1. Nadal favourite for 11th title

Spanish great Nadal boasts an incredible record of 79 wins and just two defeats at Roland Garros having won his first career Grand Slam title in Paris as a 19-year-old in 2005. Now he aims for a 17th major and with Roger Federer and Andy Murray not playing, the 31-year-old is odds-on favourite to become just the second player in history to win 11 singles titles at any major after Margaret Court who won the Australian Open in 1960-66, 1969-71 and 1973. Nadal arrives in Paris in prime form, winning clay court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. Nadal says he is unconcerned over the absence of Federer who is skipping the event for the second year. "It's bad news for the tournament but not for myself if I win. For me, the victory means exactly the same."

2. Djokovic eyes Grand Slam first

He may have been plagued by a persistent elbow injury which has seen his world ranking tumble to 22, his lowest for over a decade, but the 2016 champion has extra incentive to win a 13th major. Victory would make him the first player in the Open era - and just third overall - to win each of the four Grand Slams twice. Australian greats Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the other two men to achieve the feat. Djokovic made the semi-finals in Rome last week where he lost to Nadal and looks rejuvenated having restored his coaching relationship with Marjan Vajda.

3. Zverev has youth on his side

Second seeded German Alexander Zverev has never advanced beyond the fourth round of a major and slumped to defeat in the first round at Roland Garros last year. But if he takes the title this year, not only will he be the first German men's champion since 1937 but also the youngest men's major winner since 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro captured the 2009 US Open. Zverev, 21, has titles on clay this spring in Munich and Madrid but lost the Rome final to Nadal.

4. Dimitrov looks to end drought

Fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov is bidding to win his first Slam title on his 31st appearance at the Slams. However, should he fail, he still has a long way to go to beat the all-time waiting game. It took Goran Ivanisevic 48 attempts to win his first major at Wimbledon in 2001. The Bulgarian has never reached the Roland Garros fourth round, but did have a run to the Monte Carlo semis last month. Spare a thought for Tomas Berdych, meanwhile, who will be playing in his 58th Slam at the French Open and is still without a major title to his name.

5. Home winner? Not likely

It's been 35 years since France last boasted a homegrown men's champion at Roland Garros when Yannick Noah triumphed. Noah is also the only Frenchman to claim a major in the Open era. France haven't had a men's finalist in Paris since Henri Leconte in 1988. It's a far cry from the days immediately after the event went truly international. When Marcel Bernard won the 1946 trophy, it marked the ninth victory by a Frenchman in 16 editions. In recent times, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has come closest, making the semi-finals in 2013 and 2015. This year, world number 16 Lucas Pouille is France's top hope but he has never advanced beyond the third round in Paris and has just one match win to his name on clay in 2018.

 

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