We’re not too far away from the start of the men’s French Open now and this promises to be one of the most intriguing ones we’ve had in a while.
- A reminder that Novak Djokovic is the defending champion after his five-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year’s final
- Another reminder that the four editions before that were all won by Rafael Nadal and that since 2005, only Roger Federer (2009) and Stan Wawrinka (2015) have won the tournament other than Djokovic and Nadal
Let’s go through this edition’s favourites.
No one in men’s singles has won more Grand Slam titles than Nadal: 21 victories, 13 of which were right here in Paris.
Since first winning it in 2005, Rafael Nadal has won it in 13 of the 17 years since that first triumph. He’s been written off many a time after having endless injuries, mostly associated with his knees.
But if Roger Federer is the most talented and graceful men’s player to ever play the game and Novak Djokovic arguably the best all-round player, then Nadal is surely the most resilient, dogged and hardest to break down.
…and never was that more in evidence than when Nadal came from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open earlier this year.
With the Russian closing in on the title, Nadal showed all his experience and determination in fighting back from an almost impossible position to win back a set, then go level and then wrap up the match for a truly remarkable win. Following that, he won the Mexican Open in Acapulco without dropping a set and then made the final at Indian Wells, eventually losing to Taylor Fritz in the final.
It was a loss that came with a further cost as he injured his ribs and was unable to play for almost two months before returning to play at the Madrid Masters, where he was knocked out at the Quarter-Final stage by compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.
We have the unusual situation of Djokovic going into Roland Garros not only without a win to his name this year, but very under-cooked as a result of playing so few tournaments.
Djokovic had a truly remarkable year in 2021, famously winning the first three Grand Slams of the year before making the final of the US Open, where he surprisingly lost in straight sets to Danii Medvedev.
But 2022 has been a very different story. Hot favourite to defend his Aussie Open title, the ‘will he, won’t he?’ saga revolving around his participation in Melbourne overshadowed the build-up to the tournament, before it was finally decided that he wasn’t allowed to take part as a result of his unvaccinated (against Covid) status.
That status meant he wasn’t allowed to play the two Masters tournaments in the US (Indian Wells and Miami) though he did make quarterfinals in Dubai, the final in Belgrade and the semi-finals in Madrid where like Nadal, he ended up losing to Alcaraz.
But proof that not all was well, far from it, was his first-round loss to Alejandro Davidovich-Fakina in Monte Carlo. He admitted himself that he’s far from being at his physical best and given that’s such a big part of his game, that’s a big concern.
Very much the new kid on the block in men’s tennis and as you’d expect from a Spanish player, he’s at his best on clay.
It was just over a year ago that he won his first-ever ATP title (Croatia Open) and has since won four more, including the Masters 1000 in Miami a couple of months ago and then the Madrid Masters, where he beat Nadal, Djokovic, and Alex Zverev in the final…
At 18, he’s the same age as when Nadal won here for the first time, and he has the perfect game for clay with all the shots and an excellent defensive game. Though whether he’s quite prepared to go all the way over five sets on clay in this gruelling tournament is yet to be seen.
Our Favorite for Roland Garros 2022
How many times have we been here before? Nadal available at odds of over 3.0 with the doubters suggesting that he’s either too old or carrying an injury and that this is a bridge too far.
And how many times has he proved the doubters wrong? Well, a fair share of those 13 where he’s gone on to win it. If you’d backed him pre-tournament every year since 2005, you’d have made …a load of money!
Yes, it was a bit of an upset that he lost to Alcaraz a couple of weeks ago, but the Spanish youngster was just on fire that week and would have beaten anyone given the sort of form he was in during that tournament. So Nadal can be excused.
It’s also worth remembering that Nadal was on the comeback trail in that tournament and has now had more time not only to treat that rib injury but also to return to full fitness. He’s the best clay court player in history, he’s the King of Roland Garros and no-one knows their way around those courts like he does.
TIP Realistically, the only thing that can stop him from winning a 14th title here is if he has another issue with his ribs because he should be near 100% in terms of general fitness.
- Alcaraz deserves plenty of respect and will surely go on to win numerous titles here in Paris over the years, but this is all still a bit new to him at Grand Slam level.
- As for Djokovic, it’s not just a slight lack of fitness that’s the problem, it’s also a slight loss of confidence after losing matches he really shouldn’t have…
So, go with the big RG champ, go with Nadal. Back Rafael Nadal at 3.20 to win the French Open!