A grind in more ways than one, two solid months of clay court tennis has finally reached its crescendo – Roland Garros 2018 is upon us.
From Charleston to Rome, Marrakech to Madrid, it’s all lead up to this, and in so doing given us two fields that could hardly look more different. On the men’s side, 32-year-old Rafael Nadal seems to have as clear-cut a run to taking the title as he ever has, while on the women’s, chaos continues to reign. Indeed, Nadal achieving La Undécima seems almost a foregone conclusion, while the only certainty in the women’s field is that with six potential world number ones, a young champion looking to defend her title and the return of a plucky young American called Serena Williams, there’s bound to be a few surprises.
Whatever happens over the next two weeks, you can check this space (and unlike my eye infection-interrupted Australian Open, that means to the end of the tournament!) for a look at the biggest matches of the day. Here’s to a great tournament!
Kicking things off, we’ve got a trio of centre-court matches, read on for a preview of each:
Victor Troicki (SRB) v Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)  – First on Philippe Chatrier
Two players with exceptional shotmaking abilities and the propensity to go AWOL, what could go wrong? Such is the story of RG 18’s first featured match on Chatrier, where Dimitrov will get the chance to avenge his five-set loss to Troicki at the same point here two years ago. Of course, Troicki hasn’t been quite the same player who was a top-20 regular for some time now, but he’s got more than enough left to trouble Dimitrov should the Bulgarian deliver one of his patented disappearing acts. No, you wouldn’t bet on the upset, but in any case it’s sure to provide a few sizzling exchanges to go along with the head-scratching moments (Troicki withdrew before the match was played and after this article was published).
Lucas Pouille (FRA)  v Daniil Medvedev (RUS) – Third on Philippe Chatrier
Entering the tournament as the highest-seeded of the local hopes for the first time in his career, Lucas Pouille will be expected to lead the French charge at Roland Garros – whether he’s ready for it, well… that remains to be seen. Briefly entering the top 10 after his run to the Dubai final in February, Pouille’s form since has been abysmal, winning only one of his last five matches, which makes him ripe for an upset against the power hitting of the 6’6 Medvedev. Assuming he does come to play, Pouille will have employ the same defense and patience as he did in his two victories over the Russian last year, and that means the French faithful could be set for a particularly stressful start to their tournament.
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)  v Kateryna Kozlova (UKR) – Fourth on Philippe Chatrier
A year removed from her stunning French Open triumph, Jelena Ostapenko is no longer just a fresh face on the WTA scene, yet still remains a ways removed from the sport’s elite. Maybe it’s unfair to expect the soon-to-be 21-year-old to already be at the top of the rankings, but when you play the tennis we know she’s capable of, it’s hard not to. Certainly she could do with making a statement of intent here, and if she needs any extra motivation she won’t have to look far, with Kozlova holding a 2-0 head-to-head advantage. What’s to say the fiery Latvian isn’t keen for a bit of cold-hearted revenge?