Epirus predictions for Roland Garros French Open

Our Roland Garros Picks: Can Rafa make it 10 in Paris?

by Kristin May 17, 2017

With less than 2 weeks to go until Roland Garros gets underway we thought we would give a rundown of our favourites (and dark horses) heading into Paris.

In typical fashion, Rafa has had an incredible run these past few months.  However, although he looks like he has the momentum to win an extraordinary 10th French Open title, there won't be any shortage of drama with an extremely deep field of competitors vying to displace the king of clay. 

Without further ado, here is our list: 

  1. Rafa Nadal (ESP)

Why is he a strong bet?

Rafa has a staggering 72-2 record and 9 wins at Roland Garros. He followed up 10 wins in Monaco with 10 wins in Barcelona and his 5th win in Madrid. The man, quite simply, is still a force of nature on the red stuff. Some matches this clay court season have been predictably lopsided, but others - i.e. vs. Fognini, an opponent that has given Rafa fits in the past - showed his mental game is as good as it has ever been. Even if he doesn’t take home his 8th (!) title in Rome, as long as he doesn’t fall victim to a shocking early round defeat, momentum will be well and truly on his side for his 10th title in Paris.

What could go awry?

There’s a (small) chance Rafa could fall victim to his own success. I know! Hear us out... He will have played so much tennis in 2017 by the time he arrives in Paris that his stamina could be compromised enough to make him vulnerable. Much is made of Federer’s age but Rafa is 30 now, and his ability to recover from his exceptionally physical game style will be diminishing slightly over time. He is, after all, human (sort of!). He also has to deal with the dynamic where his opponents can swing freely and feel that they have absolutely nothing to lose against him on clay. This is no small consideration in tennis and although he deals with this during every single match he plays on clay, the pressure in Paris will be vastly intensified.

  1. Novak Djokovic (SRB)

Why is he a strong bet?

For starters, Novak is the defending French Open Champion! His mixed results to date in 2017 mean that he is still physically fresh and will enter Paris able to play a series of 5 set matches with ease if he needs to. Novak has seemingly started a new chapter as he recently switched up the team that had been with him for the last decade. He also looks like he’s starting to regain the mental fortitude (or ‘mojo’ in his words) he had in the not-so-distant past when he was dominating the tour... 

What could go awry?

Novak lost to Rafa in the semi-finals of Madrid in straight sets, which is a good litmus test of where his game is currently at. He also isn’t playing with the kind of conviction we had gotten used to seeing from him day in and day out when he was at the top of the rankings. Rest assured if there is any player that is able to flick a (mental) switch and regain dominant form, it’s Djokovic. As defending champ he certainly won’t want to go down on the terre battue in Paris without a fight - he has a lot of points to defend.

  1. Andy Murray (GBR)

Why is he a strong bet?

The biggest storyline so far in 2017 has been Roger Federer’s renaissance and Rafa’s rejuvenation. Thus, it’s easy to forget the Scotsman is still number one in the world. Andy has taken some time off due to injury and looked like he was still shaking off the rust in Madrid when he took a bad loss to unheralded Borna Coric. However, his all-court game and stellar fitness always make him a Grand Slam contender - especially when he focuses on playing with offensive intent, thereby forcing the issue.

What could go awry?

Andy’s temperament is infamous and even when he’s playing flawless tennis it adds an element of fragility to his game. Now that he’s healthy, he will be expecting improved results and there will be a certain amount of pressure on him coming into the French. He had a tough draw in Rome against Fognini -  a local favourite and clay virtuoso -  but it was telling that he didn't find a way to win that encounter.  Andy will now head to France feeling ill-prepared and lacking confidence to prevail in tight matches. Momentum carried through from Italy was key for him.

  1. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)

Why is he a strong bet?

You can never count out Stan. He’s been very quiet during the clay court season thus far (Round of 16 defeat to Cuevas in Monaco; he didn’t play in Barcelona; lost in the Round of 32 to Benoit Paire in Madrid) and has a 15-7 record overall in 2017 headed into Rome - pretty average for him. He was complaining about ‘heavy legs’ in Monaco so a silver lining for him is that he will be headed into Paris relatively fresh. Perhaps more than any other player at the top of the game, when he’s on Wawrinka can simply hit opponents off the court - even on clay.

What could go awry?

Stan hasn’t found consistent form yet this year, and if the conditions in Paris are heavy, his lacklustre year could continue. That said, if there is one of the top men that could topple Rafa having found his feet through several rounds of tennis in Paris, I’d certainly put money on the Swiss #1. Particularly if he finds another quirky ensemble that brings him inspiration and luck…!

Dark horses

Dominic Thiem (AUT)

The young Austrian has had an amazing clay court season thus far, making the finals of both Madrid and Barcelona (and losing to you-know-who). He’s currently ranked at a career high of #7 and - lest we forget - he was a semi-finalist at Roland Garros last year. His fluid style is tailor-made for clay and it’s easy to see how it’s his favorite surface. In order to make it to the very final stages of Paris he will need to avoid sudden spates of errors that can creep into this game as was evident in the Barcelona final. That said, he’s clearly getting a handle on them more often than not as he continues to ascend the rankings.

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Spare a thought for Dimitrov who was seeded 10th in Rome and drew an unseeded Del Potro in the Round of 64. In Madrid he lost 7-9 in the third set breaker against the other dark horse who, as detailed above, has had a very strong few months. So, although Grigor won’t be entering Paris with a serious win streak in hand, he’s clearly playing some solid tennis.

Anyone who watched his semi-final in the Australian Open versus Rafa saw an unbelievably high quality match that truly could have gone either way. In that match Grigor showed the type of mental game that will surely win him Slams when combined with an insane amount of raw talent and athleticism. If he comes up against Rafa in Paris, supremely mentally tough though Nadal is, it will be hard to forget just how close their last encounter was Down Under (with Rafa playing some surperb tennis himself). These seeds of doubt and a couple of points here and there are the difference between wins and losses at the top of the tour in this era of immense depth.

Do you agree? Are we way off base? Let us know your thoughts...




Kristin Price
Kristin Price

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