Clay court chaos: Why the French Open men’s title is up for grabs

Jerick Baluyot

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Clay court chaos: Why the French Open men’s title is up for grabs

LIVING LEGENDS. Serbia's Novak Djokovic hugs Spain's Rafael Nadal during a practice session.

Gonzalo Fuentes/REUTERS

Uncertainty looms even with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the French Open forefront as young stars continue to pose a challenge

MANILA, Philippines – Forget the usual Roland Garros favorites – this year’s men’s singles is wide open, with a thrilling mix of young stars and seasoned veterans all vying for the title.

For the past 20 seasons, it’s only been the tennis GOATs (Greatest of All Time) – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer – who would be considered favorites to win this title, but this year, it’s a whole lot different.

Clay king wobbles

Nadal, the legendary “King of Clay” with his record 14 titles, had recent struggles in Madrid and Rome, raising questions about his peak performance.

Will Rafa end his career with a victory on Philippe Chatrier? Experts suggest that his chances to add another title might be bleak at best.

What’s up with Novak?

While 2023 was such a good year for Djokovic, this year has been a different story. He’s been 5-3 since Melbourne and his recent clay court woes prove to be a pain in the head (pun intended).

If you’ll take a look at his records since 2016, he tends to get into a slowdown, at one point, during an Olympic year. That means, there will be no surprises if he gets upset in the early rounds of Roland Garros this year.

New blood on the rise

While both Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz are odds-on favorites to win Roland Garros this year, winning the title might not even be a reality for either player.

Sinner aggravated a hip injury while competing in Madrid few weeks ago, while Alcaraz hasn’t been the same since he won Wimbledon last year. 

Suffice it to say, none of them might win the French Open.

Uncharacteristically open field

Since Nadal, Nole, Sinner, and Alcaraz collectively aren’t performing well during the clay season, this opens up the field to at least four other top players who can go deep in this year’s French Open men’s singles: Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

From this list, Ruud seems to be the most ripe for the picking. Experts also predict that he might take home the title.

He’s just won his first ATP 500 title in Barcelona, which could potentially be the icebreaker that he needed to finally win the French Open, after being the runner-up for the past two years. He’s 11-3 on clay this year, which only solidifies his potential to win his first major title here.

Rublev seems to be a good candidate to win it all, as well. Fresh from his Madrid Open win, he might have finally figured out how to manage the nerves and the pressure to remain calm during the latter stages of majors. His explosive groundstrokes need a steady and calm mental fortitude to finally win his first major.

Tsitsipas and Zverev both tend to perform better on clay, which makes them a natural contender for the title. Although both had mixed results during the clay season, there have been some notable victories as well.

With the usual favorites in limbo, this year’s French Open might have a Tsitsipas or a Zverev emerging victorious in the end.

A tournament of surprises

With no clear favorite, Roland Garros 2024 promises a captivating two weeks.

It could be a veteran’s final stand, a young star’s coming-of-age story, or a seasoned player adding to their legacy. Whatever unfolds, prepare for a thrilling and unpredictable French Open! –

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