|Dates: May 28 – June 11 Premises: Roland Garros, Paris|
|Reception: Live text and radio commentary on selected matches on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, on the BBC Sport website and app|
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the French Open kicks off this weekend with an added layer of intrigue.
With 14-time men’s champion Rafael Nadal absent due to injury and two-time women’s champion Every Christmas not having the same dominance as last year, the identities of both singles winners are extremely difficult to predict with any sense of certainty.
Nadal’s absence for the first time in 19 years will be felt strongly by organizers and fans, but his withdrawal has opened up the men’s draw even further and gives many players an added incentive to win.
And the fear of injury to Świątek, whose number one position in the WTA world has been threatened Aryna Sabalenka AND Elena Rybakina, also leaves this draw open.
Cameron Norrie, seeded 14th, he leads the British charge in a place where domestic players have had limited success this century. No Andy Murray or Emma Raducan will perform at Roland Garros, and no British woman has qualified for the singles.
The clay court tournament will begin on May 28 and end with the finals on June 10 and 11.
Will Alcaraz take over Nadal’s crown? Or Djokovic to claim a record 23rd title?
While nothing is certain in sports, Nadal lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires came as close as nothing.
Not in this year. Nadal, who has only lost three of the 115 games in his Roland Garros career and is known as the “King of Clay”, is out due to a long-term hip injury.
Before last week’s announcement that the 36-year-old wouldn’t be able to play Nadal has already fallen behind Spain’s world number one Carlos Alcaraz and a 22-time major Serbian champion Novak Djokovic as a favorite in the eyes of many observers.
After a dominant start to the season, Alcaraz is likely only the fifth player since 2005 to win the title.
After missing the Australian Open through injury, the 20-year-old US Open champion returned to win four of his next six tournaments – Buenos Aires, Indian Wells, Barcelona and Madrid, as well as reaching the final in Rio de Janeiro and the semi-finals in Miami. final exams.
Successive titles in Barcelona and Madrid helped extend Alcaraz’s record to 20 wins in 21 games on clay this season. Then an unexpected twist took place in Rome.
Alcaraz have lost to Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan in the Italian Open in their last 32 matches and have shown fallibility unheard of in previous weeks.
Djokovic has won five of the last seven Grand Slam tournaments he has played in and knows that a third win at Roland Garros will put him ahead of Nadal for most men’s singles titles.
But his preparations were far from smooth.
The 36-year-old, who celebrated his birthday this week, missed the Madrid Open with an elbow injury and did not look entirely comfortable in Rome before losing in the quarter-finals.
Still, Djokovic has the pedigree, experience and history of winning the biggest titles – even in the face of adversity.
Who could challenge Alcaraz and Djokovic?
Russia Daniil Medvedev he surpassed Djokovic and finished second after winning his first career clay court title in Rome.
Medvedev, 27, has long been seen as a hard-court specialist and few thought he would ever succeed on a surface he once described as only suitable for “dogs playing in the mud”.
Young Dane holger rune, who defeated Djokovic in Rome before losing to Medvedev, has shown his talent in an impressive clay court season and the 20-year-old world number six is tipped to go far in Paris.
Norway Kacper Ruud, who lost to Nadal in last year’s final, had a poor start to the season to reach the semi-finals of Rome while the 2021 runners-up Stefanos Tsitsipas a new challenge is also expected.
The 27-year-old Norrie never made it past the third round, finishing 24th Dan Evans AND Jack Draper these are the remaining Brits in the draw.
Murray, 36, retired over the weekend prioritize the grass court season in preparation for Wimbledon.
Are we witnessing the beginning of a new “big three”?
For many years since Serena Williams was in her glamor, the women’s game has seen the revolving door of major champions.
Last year, Swiatek became a dominant force, ranking No. 1 in the world as Australia’s Ashleigh Barty retired, and went on to win Roland Garros and US Open titles.
The 21-year-old from Poland is enjoying another successful season, although understandably not reaching the level of last year when she won 37 games in a row.
Swiatek has won two titles so far in 2023 – Doha and Stuttgart – but is under increasing pressure from Belarus’s Sabalenka and Kazakhstan’s Rybakina.
Sabalenka won her first major title at the Australian Open in January, and Rybakina won the Wimbledon title in between Swiatek’s two major wins last year, the trio quickly becoming the new “Big Three” of the WTA.
Complementing her natural power with improved movement, Sabalenka has won more titles (three) and reached more finals (five) than anyone else this season.
On clay, the world number two lost to Swiatek in the final in Stuttgart before avenging that defeat by defeating her to win the trophy in Madrid.
However, she suffered the shock of leaving early in Rome, leading to her saying she was “exhausted”.
Meanwhile, Rybakina moved up to the third favorite behind Świątek and Sabalenka after winning the biggest clay court title of her career in Rome.
The triumph came under special circumstances, however, as three of her six opponents withdrew due to injury.
Among them was Świątek, when the decisive set of their quarter-final was still served, and Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, when Rybakina led 6-4, 1-0 in Saturday’s final.
Rybakina had not previously been considered a force in the red earth, but says she always felt she could “play well on clay” and attributed her success in Rome to “experience and better preparation”.
The win placed her in fourth place in the world – although if ranking points had been awarded at Wimbledon, she would have been in the top three alongside Świątek and Sabalenka – and means she won’t be able to face one of the top two until the semi-final at 12:00 p.m. Roland Garros.
Who else could challenge?
While Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina each won one of the top three clay court tournaments leading up to Roland Garros, as well as winning the last four Grand Slams between them, several French Open champions have come out of the shadows in recent years.
Latvia Elena Ostapenko she was one of them in 2017 as an unseeded 20-year-old, and her performance in the semi-finals in Rome was a reminder of just how effective her surface play can be.
American teenager Coco Gauf lost to Świątek in last year’s final, but the sixth seed failed to combine back-to-back victories on European clay while the third seed Jessica Pegula – also Gauff’s doubles partner – has maintained consistency this year.
Fifth Seed Carolina Garcia she aims to become the first French singles champion since Mary Pierce in 2000, but has only reached the quarter-finals once, in 2017, and has also lost her last 32 matches in Madrid and Rome.
From a British point of view, Raducan is injured after wrist and ankle surgeries, and six other women failed to qualify, leaving the nation without a Grand Slam women’s singles representation for the first time since the 2009 US Open.