Roland Garros 2020 started in Paris last week with Rafael Nadal bidding to retain the title he won back in 2019. The Spaniard will want to continue his legacy on the clay courts having won the competition on an un-matched 12 prior occasions – a record for any player in any one of the four major tournaments. With this sort of form in Paris, Nadal is deserving favourite coming into this year’s competition but with the likes of Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem both finding exceptional form already, this is far from a forgone conclusion!
It would not be right to refuse Andy Murray an honourable mention. Following his extensive surgery, he is back to competing at the highest level. Whilst he may not be up there to contend the trophy just yet, I am sure you will agree it is great to see him back on the court. Perhaps one of the greatest comeback stories came about early this year with Tyson Fury coming back from mental health issues to win the WBC title. How does Andy Murray – Wimbledon Champion 2021 sound?!?
Dominic Thiem recently picked up his first Grand Slam in New York last month, seeing off fellow up and coming star, Alexander Zverev, in the final. There is a sense that the era of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic may soon be coming to an end, and with Federer not competing this time, there is one less of the trio to contend with! Who is going to push the other two big guns at this year’s tournament?
World Number 3, Thiem, has been knocking on the door of Grand Slam titles for some time now but was finally able to convert last month, clinching the US Open. 2020 seems to have been a good year for the young Austrian, reaching the Australian Open Final early this year as well. Primarily an aggressive baseline player with strong groundstrokes all over the court, he is highly adaptable when it comes to the different surfaces, making him very consistent. This is evident at the French Open in particular, where he reached the Final in 2018 and 2019. Can Thiem build on his already strong form and end Nadal’s dominance of the Parisian clay?
Another young up and coming talent is Stefanos Tsitsipas. Currently ranked 6th in the ATP rankings, he is the youngest player in the top 10, aged just 22. He blew up quickly onto the scene shocking many by winning the ATP Finals in 2019 and is the youngest winner of the year-end championships in eighteen years. His all-round game, accompanied by a huge serve, means he is highly regarded throughout the tour. Although he is yet to win a major, he is on an upward trajectory and it could be his year to reach that next milestone.
The Women’s competition has been blown wide open, with World Number 1 Ashleigh Barty announcing she will not travel to Europe to defend her title. When interviewed, the Australian told CNN that, “with the health risks that still exist due to Covid, and her inability to train with her coach due to the state border closures in Australia, her preparation had been severely disrupted”. A Grand Slam without the World No.1 and reigning champion… COVID really has shaken things up!
The injured Serena Williams will also be out of this year’s competition; hopefully we will see her return later in the year and find form so she can chase a 23rd Grand Slam to equal Margaret Court’s all time Grand Slam Record. Whilst this is an obvious loss to the competition, it does afford the opportunity of a new champion to be crowned this year! Let us take a look at a couple of potential candidates to lift The Suzanna-Lenglen Cup and my predictions for some strong performances:
With Barty pulling out the tournament, the former 2-time Grand Slam winner will go into the tournament as favourite. She is very familiar with the clay at Rolland Garros, winning the competition back in 2018.
Simone made a strong start to 2020, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open early in the year. Since Tennis resumed, her form has picked up where it left off with her winning the Italian Open in September. She has also made the final in Paris on a couple of occasions – is this her year to reclaim the Suzanna-Lenglen Cup?
The 23-year-old Lithuanian can be considered a bit of a wild card for this year’s tournament. Since winning The French Open in 2017 aged only 20, she has struggled with consistency. That being said, her devasting ground strokes make her well suited to the clay and she obviously feels at home in Paris. Her ability to strike big to all areas of the court make her a dangerous opponent and one I am sure many players would be happy to see in the opposite side of the draw! Her high-risk high-reward approach leaves little margin for error. A very exciting prospect and my one to watch for this year’s title!
Who do you think will reign victorious?
Author: James Richardson, Account Developer – Accident, Health, Sports & Contingency