Nadal is looking for his 14th French Open and 21st Grand Slam, meanwhile Swiatek is aiming to defend the title si.robi/wikimedia commons

The second Grand slam of the year is underway! The French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, which started yesterday (30/05), could be a historical tournament as Rafael Nadal, the thirteen-time champion, will be searching for his 14th French open and 21st Grand slam in order to become the most decorated men’s tennis player ever. In the women’s game, world number 9, Iga Świątek, will be looking to be the first woman since Justine Henin in 2005, 2006 and 2007, to defend the title she won last year as a 19-year-old.

What’s been going on?

The tournament was postponed by a week by the Fédération Français de Tennis (FFT) in the hope that more fans will be able to attend. This certainly did not go down well with everyone as it encroaches on the grass court season and reduces the preparation for Wimbledon to only two weeks’ worth of warm-up tournaments. It was sad news for Federer fans as it means he will have less time to prepare for his long-awaited Wimbledon comeback, likely his last.

“Nadal winning at Roland Garros simply rolls off the tongue”

Roland Garros has been making many progressive strides to appeal to a wider audience. The recent stadium renovations and the newly-installed roof last year on the main court, Philippe Chatrier, have breathed life into the venue. This year will be the first in which the tournament will host daily night sessions. Roland Garros will become an all-day event with some high-profile matches taking place ‘under the lights’.

No Grand slam tournament is free from controversy, and this year’s French Open very much falls in line with the trend. Naomi Osaka, the Japanese world No. 2, announced on her social media on Thursday that she will not be speaking to the press at all for the duration of the tournament. Her reasons for this decision centred around mental health, stating that “people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings very true whenever [she] see[s] a press conference or partakes in one”.

Her actions are unprecedented and have received praise outside of tennis, by celebrities such as Nicki Minaj. It seems that those most affected by her announcement are the Japanese press and broadcasters.

“No Grand slam tournament is free from controversy, and this year’s French Open very much falls in line with the trend”

Tennis as a sport has made huge strides towards helping players cope with such difficulties, and recently we’ve seen many players talk openly in press conferences about the struggles they’ve been facing. Dominic Thiem (No. 4), who has seen a dip in form since winning his first Grand Slam at the US open last year, told reporters that he’s been struggling with motivation and that is affecting his results. He lost in the first round to Pablo Andujar

My predictions for the French Open

Nadal will almost certainly win his 14th Roland Garros title this year. In any other case, with any other name, in any other sport, to speak with such certainty is almost taboo, although Nadal winning at Roland Garros simply rolls off the tongue. This is not a hot take. He has a 100/2 win/loss record at Roland Garros and the last time he lost was in 2015 to Djokovic. Having already won two titles on clay this year, in Barcelona and in Rome, he is also chasing history, to be the first man to reach 21 Grand Slam titles, surpassing Federer’s tally and possibly stating his claim as the greatest male player of all time.

For the first time in tennis history, ‘The Big Three’ of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer all find themselves on the same side of the draw, crushing any dreams of a Novak-Rafa final. Nadal is currently ranked at No.3 in the world behind Djokovic and Medvedev, who bizarrely has never won a match at Roland Garros and seems to quite outwardly and amusingly despise playing on clay. On the other side of the draw, the main contenders to meet him in the final are Zverev and Tsitsipas, both in good form and with one clay title each this year.


Mountain View

Now is the time to unite the men’s and women’s tennis tours

On the women’s side there are two major contenders for the title: Ash Barty, ranked No. 1, and Iga Swiatek. Both can, to a certain degree, be described as defending champions. Barty won in 2019 and did not attend the 2020 tournament. The world No 1 has already won three titles this season out of 4 finals, and Swiatek is in incredible form as she won the Italian Open two weeks ago, the second biggest clay court tournament. Unfortunately, much like on the men’s side, these two favourites have landed on the same side of the draw and it’s very difficult to pick between the two. However, I believe Swiatek will defend her title just from her recent form and confidence. In recent years, the women’s game has been very open, although it seems that we might be witnessing the start of a dynasty on clay some might call Nadal-esque, but it’s too early to predict.