Since arguably the GOAT of the tennis world stepped into retirement, many other stars have dreamed of filling the huge void left by the Swiss legend, Roger Federer. And while Federer has traded the practice courts for the starting grid of the recent Miami F1 grand prix, those who are looking to step into that void are embarking on their preparations for the next grand slam title. With Federer’s racket firmly zipped inside the case, here are a few names to look out for as challengers to the legend’s crown and the upcoming French Open title.
When it comes to success at the French Open at Roland Garros, fans and punters alike have not had to look much further than Rafael Nadal. While Federer is possibly the GOAT, the Spaniard has certainly made the clay courts of Roland Garros his second living room. The rivalry between Nadal and Federer will always be remembered as one of the fiercest in the sport. Their first encounter right back in 2004 at the ATP Masters 1000 in Miami, Florida was won by Nadal (6-3, 6-3) and their final encounter was won at Wimbledon 2019 by Federer (7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4). And over 38 other matches in between, Nadal got the better of Federer, 24-16. Although Nadal has won a record 14 French Opens, he has also proven himself on the lawns of Wimbledon (2), on the hard courts at the US Open (4) and down under at the Australian Open (2). The Spaniard is a doubt for the tournament though with a hip injury sustained at the Australian Open in January.
Another serial grand slam winner who also has a legitimate claim to the GOAT status, Novak Djokovic will be looking to take full advantage at the French Open, if Nadal’s hip injury keeps him out of the tournament in Paris. The Serb has won twice on the Roland Garros clay, although neither of those wins in the final came against Rafael Nadal. In 2016, Djokovic overcame Andy Murray (3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4) to win his first French Open title, and the winner of 22 grand slams overall added a second Musketeers’ Cup in 2021 with an incredible comeback win over Stefanos Tsitsipas (6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4). Without Federer or Nadal, Djokovic goes into the tournament as one of the hot favourites to add a 23rd grand slam trophy to his collection. The upcoming odds for the French Open will be heavily influenced by whether Nadal participates in the tournament but whether the Spaniard plays or not, experts will be heavily backing the Serb to build on his triumph in Australia, where he defeated Tsitsipas again (6-3, 7-6, 7-6) to win his 10th Australian Open title.
And Tsitsipas is certainly knocking at the door to win a major championship. He can consider himself unfortunate to have run into the immovable object of Novak Djokovic in the two finals he has appeared in. But perhaps it is a case of third time lucky at this year’s French Open. And at the tender age of 24, Tsitsipas has time, and certainly the ability to establish himself as one of the greatest in the game. The Greek, who is currently ranked 5th in the world, is a renowned clay court specialist and will be looking to make up for the disappointment of going out in the fourth round of last year’s French Open (5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6) on the Parisian clay to Holger Rune of Denmark.