The season of Roland Garros begin on 24th May and ends on 7th June this year. As Rafael Nadal, the four-time defending champion defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2014 final to win his ninth French Open title and his fourteenth Grand Slam title, he had become the first player to win five consecutive titles – makes you think about the situation if Roger Federer hadn’t won that lone title in between; that would have been legendary. It is the kind of brutality that Nadal has shown on this kind of surface, especially at the biggest tournament on clay.
I was saddened by Simona Halep’s loss to Maria Sharapova in last year’s final more than Djokovic’s loss though. I thought that Simona had enough to win, which didn’t really happen in the end. I have mostly wished to have a new champion at each slam, and world’s only clay grand slam had only two for the last ten years, and both are still playing. The rest of the world has been denied this slam for too long. May be this year will provide one, as 2015 seems to be the year which has brought more balance to clay than any other surface – the title is more open than ever. Let’s see the chances – it still favours the champion, but with changes.
1. Rafael Nadal: The first name in the list remains the same. Nadal has been the undisputed king of clay for so long, and his recent troubles even in his favourite surface might not carry to the grand stage. But he has still weakened from what he used to be, and he is no longer the invincible person whom he used to be, as he had his early exits in too many tournaments, and he just had his first loss on clay to the less competent clay player of the Big Four, Andy Murray. Still, he is always back at the French Open, and considering how hard working the man is, we can only expect him to make things work better. He has been the risk-taker, and luck favours his kind. 43–6 record in clay court finals, 66-1 at the French Open and 81 consecutive wins on clay – this is his yard even when not in form. Let’s not worry about the fact that he is ranked 7 now.
2. Novak Djokovic: With the current form, he is the best on the court. There cannot be many arguments against that. He is the world number one and is going to stay there for a very long time as the total points suggest – he has already had more time at the top of the tennis world than Nadal, and has more weeks at the top than any other active men’s player except Federer who holds the record. Nadal has denied him more than once, and lets see how he will face the Djoker at a time when he is at his worst form on clay, and with Djokovic at the peak of his career – Australian Open reclaimed; can Novak Djokovic claim the title which has stayed away from him and complete his list of slams? We will see. This might be his best chance to do the same.
3. Andy Murray: Just now, we have to think that Murray has more chances than Federer. Madrid Open is the second clay title which he has won one after another, and he hadn’t won any before that. This last title is special because he defeated the king of clay, Nadal in the final to claim the glory. He hasn’t lost a match after his marriage and is going on with an awesome post-marriage winning streak. But what gives him more confidence than anything else should be that straight sets win against Nadal – the race is now open and the world of clay is no longer a property of Nadal. This is his time to re-write his records on clay, and this could be the slam in which he silences the critics and becomes the integral part of Big Four rather than make it more inclined towards the Big Three who have won more slams than him. After all, he is the current world number three.
4. Roger Federer: Eternal favourite – this is what Federer remains. Even at his age, the father of four is not someone who will be an easy challenge even in a tournament which he has only won once in his career. But one of the greatest players of all time won’t go away that easily as he did make a nice comeback to his least favourite surface by winning the Istanbul Open and remains the world number two as of now. He is the legend, and beating him at a grand stage needs a lot of work. Federer might not be the best at his game now, but he is still at a higher level in the all-time best list. He can surely have another grand slam at his less interesting venue, and it will do nicely – what is there to lose for the man who has nothing more to prove?
David Ferrer might bring surprises this time too, and the young Kei Nishikori brings the Asian hopes to the draw. In the women’s division, it is more difficult to guess though, but Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams should remain the top contenders once again. Simona Halep, the last year’s runner-up and current world number two will have something to say about that. Then there is Petra Kvitová who won the Madrid Open. Caroline Wozniacki, Eugenie Bouchard and Ana Ivanovic also remain good contenders to the title. The women will bring the biggest surprises this time too, even in the doubles division. I would hope for new names on the trophy – may be Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep, but Roger Federer winning will always be the biggest joy to watch! Let’s also see what happens with Internazionali BNL d’Italia!
***The images used in this blog post are from the Official Facebook Pages of the tennis players.