All eyes turn to the 2021 French Open at the end of May, after the French public authorities threw a spanner in the works deciding to postpone the 2021 Roland-Garros tournament by one week, which will now be held from 24 May to 13 June.
With an extra week to play with many tour players have planned their tennis calendar around the competition in Paris, avoiding competitions in the interim. Rafa Nadal is coming off a pulsating Barcelona Open title win, after dispatching a resilient Stefanos Tsitsipas saving a match point in a thrilling three-set victory.
Nadal, the undoubted “King of Clay” will turn 35 during this year’s French Open and is equal on Grand Slams as counterpart Rodger Federer. The build-up to the tournament has mainly been focused around Rodger Federer’s return and the veteran’s chances against a man that is acclaimed to be the best player ever to play on the red dirt.
With Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem occupying the three fixed odds favourite spots, it is hard to envision another Men’s Singles challenger. Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza are the top three women’s favourites with Serena Williams being priced at 14/1 to claim a 24th Grand Slam.
Men’s French Open
It’s common knowledge that Nadal is a clay court demon, with 13 French Open Grand Slams to his name. Nadal won the competition last year without dropping a single set, the Spaniard is the epitome of consistent on clay.
But the French Open journeyman is not without challengers, Novak Djokovic will, as always, be lurking in the background having made the final for the fifth time at Roland Garros last year. Djokovic drew first Grand Slam blood this year, beating Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open to start his 2021 off with a bang.
Dominic Thiem has broken into the top five of late, as the Austrian rallied to capture a maiden US Grand Slam last year. Many believe the 27-year-old to achieve great things, and undoubtedly the French Open is his best chance. The red dirt is the perfect conditions suited for Thiem, and his results at Roland Garros proved that.
Daniil Medvedev has managed to carve out a path to a top-three ranking through his consistent and unforgiving play style. The Russian’s form at Roland Garros does not reflect his third-seeded spot, in four appearances he has been knocked out in the first round every time. Stefanos Tsitsipas is another who could pose problems, he enters the tournament after a number two place finish against Rafa Nadal at the Barcelona Open and has also made the final four at the French Open last year.
The French Open delay has also enticed the great Rodger Federer to test out his strings at the Geneva Open from 16-22 May prior to the French Open.
Many believe Rodger Federer’s long-awaited Grand Slam return on his least favourite surface is a part of a plan to peak in time for his beloved Wimbledon. Federer has not competed on clay for the last four years and will be looking to shed the rust of his racket in Geneva.
Women’s French Open
The women’s competition is slightly more open, with the bookies finding it hard to separate the top 15 players. Iga Swiatek last year came from obscurity to become the youngest player since Monica Seles to win the tournament.
Included in the competition is the mighty Simona Halep, a three-time finalist and one-time winner at the French Open. Halep’s durable play style and elite court coverage make her a constant threat on the red dirt.
Further down the list is Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, who is always knocking on the door for another Grand Slam and she also currently occupies the world number one spot. Barty, a former French Open winner, has missed a number of Grand Slams, including this one last year.
One woman who has reached the upper echelons of the sport is that of Naomi Osaka. At just the young age of 23, Osaka has four Grand Slams attached to her résumé and seems to be destined to win a plethora of titles in the near future. The American, has, however, struggles on clay in her last four appearances at Roland Garros and has been knocked out in the first round twice.
There are a host of other chances in what seems to be an unpredictable Women’s French Open tournament. Serena Williams is on the cusp of her 40th birthday but her age doesn’t seem to matter to her, making it to the semi-finals of her last two Grand Slams and as a three-time winner her she’ll be expected to go into the later rounds.
Both the men and the women’s French Open could hardly look different. Nadal will be the man to conquer while the women’s draw is a difficult affair to predict. Despite the various differences, however, the tournament is shaping up to be an intriguing competition with some of the best tennis in the world on show.