Scouting Report: As Nadal Chases History, Can Djokovic Or Tsitsipas Stop Him?
The world’s best players are ready for Roland Garros, the season’s second Grand Slam. Rafael Nadal will chase more history at the tournament where he has rewritten the record books, while World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas will be among the leading players trying to stop him.
Before play gets underway, ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch in Paris.
1) Will Rafa Overtake Roger? Nadal and Roger Federer are tied for the most Grand Slam titles with 20 each. After missing out on an opportunity to pass the Swiss at the Australian Open, Nadal has another chance to stand alone atop the major record books at the tournament he has already won 13 times.
The legendary lefty brings momentum to Paris after winning his record-equalling 36th ATP Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. Nadal, who is 18-3 on the season, will try to improve his 100-2 record on the terre battue. The third seed will play Alexei Popyrin, whom he defeated in Madrid earlier this year, in the first round.
2) Going For No. 14: Nadal has lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires 13 times, and he is the favourite to do so once again this year. The 34-year-old was victorious here last October, when he bulldozed through the field without dropping a set. To put what he is trying to do in perspective, if Nadal triumphs this fortnight, he will have the same number of Roland Garros titles as former World No. 1 Pete Sampras owns major crowns (14). When Nadal won in Paris last year, he became the first player in the Open Era to win 13 tour-level singles title at one tournament. The most trophies any other man has captured at a Slam is nine by Djokovic at the Australian Open.
3) Djokovic The Top Seed: While Federer and Nadal will be battling at the top of the Grand Slam leaderboard, Djokovic will be trying to reel them both in. The 2016 champion, who is the top seed, will pursue his 19th major trophy. The Serbian star, who triumphed at the Australian Open earlier this year, will attempt to complete the Melbourne-Paris double for the second time (also 2016).
Djokovic has only lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires once, but he has tallied 74 match wins at Roland Garros, ranking second behind Nadal (100). The World No. 1 will carry momentum into France, as he clinched the Belgrade Open title on Saturday.
4) Tsitsipas In Form: The Big Three take many of the headlines, but Tsitsipas arrives in Paris as the leader of the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. The Greek star captured his first Masters 1000 crown at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, and he added another trophy in Lyon. At the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, the 22-year-old held championship point against Nadal before the Spaniard rallied for the win. Tsitsipas will have good memories from his efforts in Paris last year, when he pushed Djokovic to five sets in a memorable semi-final thriller. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion also lost a heart-breaking five-setter in 2019 against 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka.
5) Roger Back In Paris: Federer, the 2009 Roland Garros titlist, will return to this event for the first time in two years. The eighth seed is seeded lower here than he has been since 2002 (also eighth), but he remains a tough opponent. The 39-year-old’s .759 winning percentage is good for third among active players. If he advances to the quarter-finals — a stage of the tournament the Swiss has reached 12 times — Federer could play Djokovic in a blockbuster showdown. Nadal is also in their half of the draw.
6) Thiem Time: Fourth seed Dominic Thiem has twice made the Roland Garros final, but will this be the year he goes one better in Paris? The 27-year-old knows what it takes to win at the Grand Slams, having lifted the trophy at the US Open last year. Thiem can become the first Austrian player to claim two major titles. His countryman, Thomas Muster, won Roland Garros in 1995.
Thiem has not found his best form this clay-court season, losing three of his past four matches. But starting with his first-round match against Pablo Andujar, the 17-time tour-level champion will try to unlock the top levels of his game throughout the tournament.
7) Medvedev Leads Russian Contingent: Team Russia won the ATP Cup earlier this year, and members of that team have played a major role on the ATP Tour this season. Reigning Nitto ATP Finals titlist Daniil Medvedev reached his second Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, but he has only tallied a 1-2 record on clay. The second seed has never won a match at Roland Garros, but he will attempt to turn that around this edition.
Seventh seed Andrey Rublev is second on the ATP Tour this year with 29 wins, trailing just Tsitsipas, who has 33. The 23-year-old made the quarter-finals on the Parisian clay last year. Entering this year’s Australian Open, Aslan Karatsev was relatively unknown, with his ATP Cup team calling him their “secret weapon”. The Russian broke free of that “secret” label quickly by qualifying at Melbourne Park and surging to the semi-finals. Karatsev has maintained his momentum, most notably lifting his first ATP Tour trophy at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and beating Djokovic on clay at the Serbian Open. This is his Roland Garros debut, and he is the 24th seed. Another Russian, Karen Khachanov, is the 23rd seed.
8) #NextGenATP Stars: Two of the 32 seeds in the singles draw are #NextGenATP stars: 18th seed Jannik Sinner and 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime. Last year, Sinner made an impressive run to the quarter-finals, where only eventual champion Rafael Nadal was able to stop him. It was a straight-sets match, but the Italian held up well in baseline rallies. Auger-Aliassime lost his main draw debut here last year against Yoshihito Nishioka. Two #NextGenATP players advanced through qualifying, with both Carlos Alcaraz and Jenson Brooksby set to compete in the Roland Garros main draw for the first time.
9) More Players To Watch: Norway’s Casper Ruud, the 15th seed, has quietly become one of the most dangerous clay-court players on the ATP Tour. The Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus is playing the best tennis of his career, making Masters 1000 semi-finals on clay in Monte-Carlo and Madrid this year. He has made the third round here the past two editions.
For unseeded players, British left-hander Cameron Norrie is third on the ATP Tour with 23 victories this season. Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who claimed his third tour-level title at the Millennium Estoril Open, leads the Tour with 17 clay-court wins in 2021.
10) Can Anyone Stop Mektic & Pavic? The favourites in the doubles draw are Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, who have earned six crowns together this season, including three at Masters 1000 events. The team that has won the past two Roland Garros titles is Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies. Mies is recovering from right knee surgery, so Krawietz will try to triumph with Horia Tecau. Other pairs to watch include Colombian stars Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, 2018 champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, and Australian Open titlists Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek.
Source: Tennis – ATP World Tour