Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2017 French Open in his own way.
If you’re a tennis fan, welcome to the most wonderful time of the year.
Year after year after year, the arrival of Roland-Garros typically means that the sprint is well on and that tennis won’t really stop until the middle of the fall, blazing through the short grass season, the North American swing, and then the shift to Asia until the end at the two respective Tour finals.
Tennis never really stops but, starting today, it really doesn’t. So it’s only right that we stop and assess the main draw. There are 256 players competing in the men’s and women’s draw over the next two weeks: who’s hot and who’s not? It’s time for the 2017 Roland-Garros power rankings.
1. Petra Kvitova
For reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the result of her first round match, Petra Kvitova would have ranked at No. 1 simply for having come back so soon after the horrific attack that nearly derailed her career. That she won said match only makes her return all that more inspiring and triumphant.
2. Rafael Nadal
Death, taxes and a Rafael Nadal clay court win. At 30 years old, Rafael Nadal is still the overwhelming favourite at just about any clay court event he competes in. Look, the folks from Deadspin already showed us that no one is beating him, and The Ringer mentioned that even a vincible Nadal is still an unconquerable foe on his favourite surface. That’s probably why Roger Federer stayed home and skipped Roland-Garros altogether this year. Because what’s the point?
3. Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic righted the ship ever so slightly by reaching the final of the 2017 Internationali BNL d’Italia just before the French Open but then again, that’s a relative term: only a few months ago a loss in the final against a 20-year-old, even one as promising as Alexander Zverev, would have been considered disappointing.
4. Dominic Thiem
If Rafael Nadal doesn’t win La Decima with his tenth career French Open, it’ll probably be because Novak Djokovic has. And if it’s not the Serb in his place, then it’ll be because it’s Dominic Thiem.
9. Elina Svitolina
10. Karolina Pliskova
On the women’s side, the French Open is, Deadspin would tell you, anyone’s but we’ll give the edge and the nod to Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova. The two are seeded, respectively, No. 5 and No. 2 but don’t let that confuse you: no one on the WTA has impressed as much in 2017. That’s why they’re the two players atop the Porsche Race to Singapore for the WTA Finals.
12. Simona Halep
Did you know that Simona Halep, a mainstay in the WTA Top 10 for a while now, has yet to capture a Grand Slam title? Of course, these titles aren’t the only endgame in tennis, but they’re one way to judge a player—especially a player’s legacy. And if Halep doesn’t win Roland-Garros this year, on what’s traditionally been her best surface at an event with Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams absent, will she ever?
15. Alexander Zverev
16. Andy Murray
We’re grouping the two together in that we don’t necessarily expect the moon from them but wouldn’t be surprised if they delivered it.
30. Kristina Mladenovic
If we’re being totally honest, Kristina Mladenovic’s best shot at this title is probably in doubles. This isn’t meant to insult her singles abilities but rather to compliment her for her doubles play.
50. Sam Querrey
Sam Querrey has enjoyed a career renaissance of sorts over the past few years, and we’re thrilled for him, but one shouldn’t expect the American to do much in Paris. He’ll be fine for a round, maybe two, then it’s donzo. No shame there.
100. Jelena Jankovic
The name says Jelena Jankovic but what we really mean is “token player who takes advantage of a favourable draw to win a match or two.” But don’t call this quite the fall from grace for the Serb, almost 10 years after she was first ranked No. 1 and with 629 total WTA wins to her name. She’s earned this latter part of her career.
127. Eugenie Bouchard
128. Bernard Giudicelli Ferrandini
We were surprised, when the Fédération Française de Tennis’s Bernard Giudicelli Ferrandini announced (via Facebook Live!!!!) the 2017 Roland-Garros wildcards, to see that the man didn’t wear glasses. Because not granting Maria Sharapova one, even if just for the qualifying draw, sure seems myopic now with hindsight. (HA!)
As for Eugenie Bouchard, we’re grouping her with Ferrandini since she basically defaulted to the myopic decision to overlook an injury and play Roland-Garros and “deal with the consequences after.” Play now and suffer later, amirite?!
150. Roberta Vinci
Roberta Vinci had a largely winnable match against Monica Puig in the first round and had she won, coupled with Angelique Kerber’s stunning loss, would have faced a top section of the draw well within her reach. But she lost, which the 34-year-old has made more often than not so far in 2017.
Monica Puig’s first round press conference.
200. Bernard Tomic
Bernard Tomic, in suffering a 6-4, 6-0 and 6-2 loss in his first match in Paris against Thiem, basically said, “Yeah, oh well.” Them’s the one with all the promise now but not so long ago, Thiem would have been grouped alongside him. Oh well.
The point of the tournament so far!
230. Monica Niculescu
Here is the “lamb to the slaughter” part of these power rankings.
256. Angelique Kerber
Celine Dion, a long time ago, once sang in French that the first would be last and the last would be first. This isn’t exactly that, but the first part of her lyrics certainly hold true considering Kerber’s loss in the first round. More and more this season, Angelique Kerber is the No. 1 player in the world in name only.
257. Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova is not playing in Roland Garros and there’s not a single thing she can do about it. It’s a little sad really: she’s been made an example of and has certainly served her punishment already, but doesn’t it feel like she’s still being punished?
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG