The second Grand Slam tournament of the season starts on May 30th at Roland Garros courts in Paris. The only clay Grand Slam will finish on 12th and 13th June when we will know both singles winners. There will be 128 men and 128 ladies hoping to get as far as possible in the draw, but just two of them will be lucky enough to put their hands on the trophy. Who will these two tennis players be? Here is our prediction.
French Open 2021 Men’s Singles draw:
Men’s tennis on clay is usually about the only question. Can someone beat Rafael Nadal?
This year in Paris will be no different. Rafael Nadal is a huge favorite between our readers and also at the bookmakers’ offices.
He won Roland Garros thirteen times, and he keeps an excellent series of four wins in a row (2017 – 2020). The potential win on June 13 will make it five in a row, and the 21st Grand Slam tournament win. That will make him the tennis player with the most Grand Slam wins in history.
For three years, I am the one who claimed that his reign on the clay is near to the end. Now, I am a bit doubtful.
Just look at his competitors. First of all, we can skip Roger Federer, who, with all the respect, does not have a tiny chance to beat Nadal on clay or win French Open. From the ATP Top 10, I also do not see Medvedev, current no. 2, to make a deep run in Paris. The clay is just not their favorite surface.
That left us with four players that can eventually beat Nadal.
Alexander Zverev is the one who beat Nadal (6:4 6:4) this year on clay. It was in ATP 1000 Madrid tournament in the quarterfinals, and Zverev won the event at the end.
However, when Zverev faced Nadal again in Rome a week later, the story was quite different (3:6, 4:6). I do not think Zverev can overcome Nadal in the best of five matches.
Dominic Thiem is my favorite player for years. I am a big proponent of him, and I expect him to win Roland Garros one time. Just look at my pre-season predictions when I picked him as French Open winner three times in a row. And I always failed.
This season I am a bit skeptical about Thiem. He had some injuries, and his performance is far from optimal. Losses with Zverev in Madrid and Sonego in Rome give us a big hint not that this is not the season he would like to have. To underline it he lost with Norrie in Lyon and we all know this is not Dominic Thiem we saw last spring.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has a good clay season so far. He started with a win at Monte Carlo (defeats Rublev in the Final), and then he reached the final in Barcelona. He lost with Nadal (4:6 7:6 5:7) there, but the match was open till the last ball.
The losses in the following tournaments (Madrid with Ruud, Rome with Djokovic) were probably just the result of less focus and fatigue. He was back at his best when playing in Lyon last week, and I expect he will quickly go through the first rounds in Paris.
Novak Djokovic is the one who can eventually beat anyone on clay. Even Nadal can not be so sure against him as we saw in the Rome final (Djokovic – Nadal 5:7 6:1 3:6). I also believe that Novak has just one plan for this and the next season, and that is to win all four Grand Slams in one year.
However, the losses with Evans at Monte Carlo and Karatsev at Belgrade make me think if he will reach the second week of the French Open.
Now it is time to correct the question from the beginning. Can Zverev, Thiem, Tsitsipas or Djokovic beat Nadal?
Yes, they can, but not this year, not in Paris and not at the best of five sets.
My winner pick: Nadal
French Open 2020 winner: Nadal (def. Djokovic 6:0 6:2 7:5)
Our pre-season French Open 2021 Winner pick: Thiem
Readers poll: (as of 05/23) Nadal 62%, Djokovic 17%, Tsitsipas 8% – for actual results, go here.
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French Open 2021 Ladies Singles draw:
Iga Swiatek was a big surprise last year, but her win was deserved. She was error-free and just rolled over all opponents.
However, it is always harder to repeat the run. Can she pull it again?
I saw four possible trophy holders this season: Halep, Barty, Sabalenka, or Swiatek. And I know that in ladies’ tennis everything is possible. Just look at last year’s results with Podoroska, Siegemund, and Trevisan in the quarterfinals. Maybe we will be surprised again with Gauff or Ferro or someone else, but I will stick with the four names I mentioned above. That is my pool for French Open.
The problem is that Halep and Barty had injuries just two weeks before French Open. Halep withdrew from the tournament which makes me sad. I would stick with her as my pre-season pick if she would be 100% fit. But she is not.
That leaves me with Swiatek, Sabalenka and Barty.
Barty and Sabalenka met in Stuttgart and Madrid final. They split the results with the Stuttgart trophy going to Barty and Madrid triumph to Sabalenka. The exciting part is the two bagels we saw in both finals mentioned above.
The last tournament in Rome did not finish well for both of them. Sabalenka lost to Gauff in the round of 16, and Barty withdrew from the quarterfinal match against the same player.
Though I expect Ash Barty to be in Paris, I think her withdrawal from the Rome quarterfinals was preemptive.
Iga Swiatek had an excellent week in Rome, where she won the final 6:0 6:0 against Pliskova. Her performance in Rome reminds me of her run in Paris last season. But again, repeating is always harder than making the run for the first time.
That is the reason I am going with Sabalenka as my winner pick for French Open 2021.
My winner pick: Sabalenka