Some way, somehow, we have actually made it to the 2020 edition of Roland Garros. Despite being almost 6 months past it’s usual tournament date, the French Open officially kicks off on Sunday the 27th of September.
With a lead in consisting of… 1 event… clay court form is at an all time low for both the mens and womens sides. Luckily, we have the US Open to work with after Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem triumphed in New York just a few short weeks ago. Let’s take a look at the mens and womens singles events. As well as provide a prediction for who we think will triumph in Paris this year.
Rafael Nadal: For well over a decade, you simply have not been able to entertain the thought of anyone winning the mens singles titles in Paris other than Rafael Nadal. He has won the event 12 years out of 15. With his only defeats coming at the hands of Robin Soderling in ’09 and Novak Djokovic in ’15. He withdrew due to injury in ’16.
But this is not a normal Roland Garros. It is staged in autumn instead of spring. They will be using different balls and potentially heading indoors for some matches. This means Nadal has had his advantages seemingly lessened. This, coupled with the fact he skipped the US Open and lost to Diego Schwartzman in his only lead in event in Rome, means there are chinks appearing in the armour of the GOAT of Clay. Laying in his path to the final are Alexander Zverev and Fabio Fognini (a previous nemesis on clay). Plus his Australian Open conquerer from earlier this year, recent US Open champion Dominic Thiem.
Dominic Thiem: Speaking of Thiem, the 2018 & 2019 Roland Garros finalist finally captured his maiden grand slam title a few weeks ago in New York. On paper, his best surface is clay and it represents a significant portion of his success on tour.
Despite being the form player on tour, Domi has a draw fraught with landmines to contend with. His projected run includes match-ups with Grand Slam champions Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka. As well as young gun Casper Ruud, and either hometown hero Gael Monfils or recent Nadal defeator Diego Schwartzman. As I said before – it’s a rough draw. And this all occurs before a potential run in with Nadal in the semi-finals. Yeesh.
Novak Djokovic: Public enemy no. 1 in tennis at the moment (and forever it seems), the world no. 1 arrives in Paris in fantastic form. Djokovic has to contend with a host of young guns in his half of the draw. Headlined by Denis Shapovalov, Matteo Berrettini, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitisipas, Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev. None really pose a threat over 5 sets on clay, in my opinion. The 2016 Roland Garros champion won the lone lead in event in Rome and legitimately has not lost on tour for the entire year – with a record of 31 wins and 0 losses. Technically, he lost to Pablo Carreno-Busta at the US Open a few weeks ago. But I would classify the result less of a legitimate loss than a normal defeat because he defaulted due to a freak accident.
Speaking of which, that default has turned Novak into even more of a pariah than he already was. After hosting an event in his home country of Serbia during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in several ATP players contracting the virus, Novak headed to New York as the unbackable facourite to win the title. Instead, he accidentally hit a lineswoman in the throat with an errant tennis ball he had hit behind him in frustration on court. A complete accident, but enough to see him defaulted in the match and kicked out of the tournament. It seems he cannot catch a break at the moment. And is deservedly in the firing line of media, fans and fellow players alike. To be honest, it’s hard to argue the point that he is deservedly copping this criticism, as he was at fault for both incidents.
The Rest: Other than the 2020 version of ‘The Big 3’ aka Thiem, Djokovic & Nadal – do I see anyone else winning the title? Well, no. Not really. Gotta keep it real.
Have you ever played roulette before? Picking the womens singles winner of the 2020 Roland Garros is going to feel like that. With only 1 lead in event to realistically go off, the most recent grand slam champion (Naomi Osaka) not playing due to injury, and the world no. 1 and defending champion (Ash Barty) not playing – it’s anyones title.
Simona Halep: The top seed and world no. 2, Simona headlines the womens draw and is a former winner of the title in Paris (2018). She also captured the title in Rome in the lead-in event. This helps position her as the frontrunner for the title this year. Halep looks set to face her 2019 nemesis, Amanda Anisimova, in the 3rd round. Anisimova became the youngest grand slam semi-finalist in the past 12 years at just age 17 last year.
After that Halep would likely have to contend with Marketa Vondrusova, the 2019 Roland Garros Runner Up. As well as former semi-finalists Kiki Bertens & Johanna Konta. Not the worst draw, but quite a few potential landmines along the way.
Serena Williams: Serenas search for her elusive and record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title continues after her shock loss at the US Open. Since winning her 23rd Slam whilst pregnant at the 2017 Australian Open, Serena has lost 4 finals and semi-final. About to turn 39, Serena is racing father time in her bid to unequivocally claim her mantle as the GOAT of Womens tennis by edging out Margeret Court on 24 grand slam singles titles. She is a 3 time winner in Paris, but clay is definitely her worst surface. She’s also going to have to deal with Elina Svitolina, the 3rd seed, in the quarter-finals. Plus her US Open nemesis from a few weeks ago – Victoria Azarenka.
Victoria Azarenka: Speaking of which – Vika is back! After a red-hot return to form and a first-time victory over Serena Williams at a grand slam (after 11 attempts), Azarenka is primed for a run in Paris this year. She has the firepower needed to blow anyone on tour off the court. As such, Vika is a dark horse to win her maiden Roland Garros title. If she ousts Venus & Serena Williams, Svitolina and Halep on her way to the final, she will be almost impossible to stop.
Karolina Pliskova: On the other side of the draw, second seeded Pliskovas hunt for her maiden grand slam title continues. It seems that at every slam you will see her name up the top of betting odds and predictions. But she usually fails to deliver her best tennis consistently at the key moments. Add to that a very tough draw, and things aren’t looking ideal.
She has to contend with former champion Jelena Ostapenko and former finalist Sloane Stephens in rounds 2 & 3. From there she has to cast aside a plethora of Grand Slam champions. This includes Garbine Muguruza, Sofia Kenin, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber. Kvitova and Kerber aren’t at their best on clay, but are still experienced and crafty players on the red dirt.
Mens Singles: Novak Djokovic
Womens Singles: Victoria Azarenka