Carlos Alcaraz (No. 6), the revelation of the season, will face a new kind of stress from Sunday at Roland-Garros, where he will be one of the men to beat. Defending champion Novak Djokovic (No. 1) certainly shares some of that pressure. In the women’s category, Iga Swiatek (No. 1) doesn’t seem to have any competition.
The men’s singles table for this second round of the Grand Slam is open in a way it probably hasn’t been since the advent of the “Big Three”. Ties, Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Parisian 13-title man Rafael Nadal (No. 5) are all in the first half of this table.
Nadal in full doubt
Rafael Nadal, the ‘lifetime’ favorite of the French Open, approaches this tournament full of doubts after suffering left foot injury in Rome. Called up in the quarter against Novak Djokovic, he hasn’t won a single clay title this season, which he nonetheless approached with full confidence after winning three trophies on hard, including his 21st Major in Melbourne.
“I didn’t hurt myself, I’m a player who lives with this injury. There is nothing new. It’s there,” said Rafael Nadal, who suffers from Müller-Weiss syndrome, which in particular leads to necrosis of the scaphoid, after his round of 16 loss to Denis Shapovalov in Rome. Still, the timing of this “relapse” is not ideal.
Alcaraz in full euphoria
That throwback comes as his designated successor Carlos Alcaraz – but whose childhood idol was Roger Federer – crushes everything in his path. It also comes at a time when Novak Djokovic, stripped of the Australian Open after being banned from the country, is finding his best tennis after a difficult start to the year both tenniswise and mentally.
The young Spaniard (19) has already won four titles in 2022, including two Masters 1000 (Miami on hard, Madrid on clay). He wisely skipped the tournament in Rome to recover before tackling the first major meeting of what promises to be a brilliant career. But will he be able to withstand a pressure that continues to mount through the rounds?
Djokovic is ready
Novak Djokovic manages the pressure pretty well. Even if she finally proved too strong at the last US Open, where he failed to win a historic Grand Slam calendar. After a complicated return to the competition marked by defeats in the quarter-finals in Dubai and the round of 16 in Monte-Carlo, the Serb (35 on May 22) has picked up momentum this spring.
Novak Djokovic, finalist in Belgrade, semi-finalist in Madrid where he was stopped by Carlos Alcaraz, claimed his first title of the year in Rome last Sunday. Without losing a single set and beating three top 10 members in his last three games. Morale and tennis regained, he’ll have enough to puff out his chest as he begins defending his Paris title.
Behind that shock trio of Alcaraz/Djokovic/Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas (No. 4) and Alexander Zverev (No. 3) also appear capable of delivering a punch, aiming for a first major trophy. The Greek, who led two sets to zero in the final against Novak Djokovic in Paris last year, triumphed for the second time in Monte Carlo before reaching the final in Rome.
Swiatek for a second coronation
The tension in the women’s singles seems less breathless. On the one hand, this is due to the Australian Ashleigh Barty, who at the end of March, two months after her first victory at the Australian Open, announced her surprising retirement as the world number one. This is mainly due to the mighty Iga Swiatek, who more than impressively secured the successor.
The Pole, who turns 21 on May 31, has been throwing everything in her path for four months. Unbeaten since losing in the second round in Dubai on February 16, she is sleeping on a streak of 28 wins. Already crowned at Roland-Garros in 2020 (in the fall because of the pandemic), she has won five consecutive titles, most recently in Rome last Sunday.
Iga Swiatek also added the path to efficiency. This great admirer of Rafael Nadal has lost just five sets since the start of her winning streak, including just one on clay (in Stuttgart against Liudmila Samsonova). And in Rome she defeated the underdog No. 1 in Paris, the Tunisian Ons Jabeur (No. 6) 6-2 6-2 in the final.
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