French Open tips: If not Nadal, then who?
The 10-time champion is odds-on favourite to lift the title at Roland-Garros again, but these players are likeliest to stop him.
Alex Zverev –
Zverev’s electric performances on clay this season have seen him overtake Dominic Thiem as Rafael Nadal’s main threat at Roland Garros.
The German has burst into the highest class of the game by reaching the four successive finals in the last six weeks, winning two at the BMW Open and Madrid Open.
Burn-out is a concern, but Zverev fought through the fatigue to push Rafael Nadal close in the final in Rome last week.
He is a good each-way bet.
Dominic Thiem –
Thiem has been considered a rival to Nadal ever since his run to the semi-finals in 2016, but he is still waiting for his breakthrough moment.
The Belgian lost to Zverev in the Madrid final earlier in May, and has uncharacteristically been defeated by Stefanos Tsitsipas and Fabio Fognini on this surface in the last six weeks.
He will still reach the latter stages in what is not a strong men’s field, but could find himself hamstrung by his patchy form and inability to come through big matches.
Novak Djokovic –
Djokovic’s return to form in Rome may have come too late to make a big impact on this event, but it does put him in an appreciably better position than previously.
The 2016 champion had failed to progress beyond the third round of any tournament since the Australian Open until last week’s run to the semi-finals, in which he appeared to find greater rhythm and motivation.
Nevertheless, he was beaten in straight sets by Nadal, and his chances are still significantly smaller than Zverev and Thiem.
Marin Cilic –
Cilic is among the most consistent players on the tour, a trait that could yield success in a relatively unpredictable field.
The world No. 4 has progressed to the last eight in six of his last 11 grand slams, including the final in two of his last three, and has reached a quarter-final and semi-final in his three events on clay so far this year.
That said, bettering all of the above candidates is unlikely, given he is in Nadal's half of the draw.
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