Rafael Nadal has won the French Open a record 14 times. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Charlie Cowins
Rafael Nadal has won the French Open a record 14 times. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Charlie Cowins

The king of clay, Nadal, says goodbye to the French Open

Tennis OlyBet 16.05.2024

The time of the Big Three in men’s tennis reached an end in September 2022, when Roger Federer played his retirement match at the Laver Cup. However, this year’s Roland Garros may be the last slam tournament where we see Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic playing together.

The 37-year-old Nadal was forced to miss practically the entire previous year due to injury(s). This January, he did return to the court, but only briefly, because he suffered another setback in the warm-up tournament of the Australian Open.

To the delight of tennis fans, it did not turn out to be that serious this time, and in mid-April, Nadal was back on the court, taking part in both the Barcelona and Madrid tournaments, to which he added the one in Rome last week.

In short, the Spaniard has been trying to get himself in shape at all costs to say his farewell to the fans at the French Open. Yes, Nadal has made it clear in many interviews that this season will most likely be his last.

Deep down, he would love to continue playing – this would also allow his one-and-a-half-year-old son to have the memory of his father playing – but Nadal’s body seems to want otherwise.

A week before, nothing is set in stone

How close to the limit his body is, was well illustrated by the fact that a week before the tournament, Nadal was not sure whether he would participate in the French Open. Or to put it more precisely – he has been signed up for the tournament, the question is just what condition he will be in.

“If you ask me right now, which way I’m leaning to, I’d say I’m still trying to play and do my best. Physically, I have some problems, but not to the extent to keep me away from the most important tournament of my career. If I feel I’m ready enough, I’ll still be there fighting for the same thing I’ve been fighting for the last 15 years. Even if it seems impossible now,” he said after falling out of the tournament in Rome.

Thus, it is not to be expected that the 14-time winner of the French Open would be able to triumph on the courts of the Roland Garros tennis complex this year, although… you never know. However, it cannot be considered a merely symbolic farewell tournament either because Nadal is still able to continue to play exceptionally high-level tennis.

It is not even set in stone that this is Nadal’s last sand slam. As he replied in Rome when asked if he could still be seen playing in the Italian capital: “I don’t know if it was my last time here or not. Yes, the odds that it was the latter are certainly higher today, but I’m not a guy to make decisions on the spur of the moment. So, 98% it was, but until it’s not 100%, I’m not going to make a statement about it.”

Djokovic is getting old as well

If the 14-time champion Nadal is no longer the favourite in France, who is? Djokovic will enter the competition as the defending champion, but the Serbian has also shown this year that age is catching up with him.

Already in 2023, he became the oldest winner of the tournament by lifting the third French Open trophy. Besides, Djokovic, who will be 37 during this year’s competition, has no tournament wins to show for this year! At best, he has reached the semi-finals, at the Australian Open and Monte Carlo.

True, in both cases, he lost to the upcoming superstars, namely Jannik Sinner and Casper Ruud, but how to explain the losses to Alex de Minaur (ATP 12th), Luca Nardi (123rd) and Alejandro Tabilo (32nd) in other tournaments?

The keyword here is age, although the betting offices don’t dare to look past the Serbian, seeing him as the number two favourite after Carlos Alcaraz.

The Troubles of Alcaraz and Sinner

Despite being only 21 years old, the Spaniard already has two Slam victories to his credit, but somewhat surprisingly, they have not come in France. From there, he has a quarter- and semi-final place to show for it in the last two years.

Even this year, Alcaraz has not been all-powerful: at the Australian Open, he was limited to the quarterfinals, and in subsequent tournaments, he has reached the top four only once, when he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the Indian Wells final. To top it all off, Alcaraz also withdrew from the Madrid tournament due to a hand injury.

This could be good news for this year’s Australian champion Jannik Sinner, who also won in Miami. However, the Italian, who holds the second place in the world ranking, is also plagued by troubles.

He had to sit out the recent Madrid tournament due to a hip problem. Sinner stated after that, that he was going to take as long as he needed to get over the problem. “I have to do it, even if it hurts me and my fans. I don’t want to throw away three years of my career just to get back on the court as soon as possible. Taking care of my body is more important to me than anything else,” he said.

Chances for Ruud and Tsitsipas

Considering all the above, it doesn’t seem a bad idea to bet on last year’s finalist Casper Ruud or on the finalist a year before that, Stefanos Tsitipas. Both men also did well in the sand tournaments leading up to Roland Garros, reaching the finals in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. If in the first case, the Greek player won 6:1, 6:4, then in the second the Norwegian 7:5, 6:3.

Alexander Zverev and Holger Rune could also be classified among the dark horses. However, Daniil Medvedev, who reached the final at the Australian Open, should rather be left out of this list, because the Russian has generally not shone the brightest on the sand.

Nadal is not the only one saying goodbye in Paris because Andy Murray has also given himself up for the French Open. Although for doubles.

There is only one favorite among women

With the men on one side, let’s move on to the women, where… all eyes are on Iga Świątek. The 22-year-old Pole won in France last year, the year before that and in 2020. Just three years ago, she “lowered the bar” when she was limited to the quarterfinals.

She did the same at this year’s Australian Open, where she fell out of the competition in the third round, but since then Świątek has once again risen to a formidable momentum, winning three WTA 1000 tournaments in Qatar, Indian Wells and Madrid. And where she has not triumphed – in Dubai and Miami – she still reached the semi-finals or the fourth round.

In short, the Pole is the unwavering number one favorite ahead of the French Open, but if you’re hard-pressed to mention other names they could be Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Arõna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari, Elena Rõbakina, Mirra Andreeva or Danielle Collins?

As you probably already got it, we’ve reached the traditional women’s tennis, where, figuratively speaking, anyone can win. But that’s one of the reasons why we love it so much!

This year’s French Open will take off with qualification on the 20th of May. With a 99% probability, Estonian Mark Lajal will also get his start there. The main event starts on May 25th and the champions will be decided in Paris on June 8th and 9th respectively.


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