Scouting Report: Nadal, Djokovic, Alcaraz Lead Roland Garros Contenders
The tennis world has descended on Paris for the year's second Grand Slam, with Roland Garros set to begin Sunday. Several tournament favourites share the top half of the draw, with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 13-time champ Rafael Nadal in the first quarter and the fast-rising Carlos Alcaraz in the second along with third seed Alexander Zverev.
ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch this week.
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1) Djokovic Defending Title & More: The Serbian, seeking a third Roland Garros title, is also aiming to defend his position atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. His status as World No. 1 is under threat in Paris from Medvedev and Alexander Zverev as Djokovic defends 2,000 points from his 2021 title run.
The 34-year-old can draw level with Nadal at 21 Grand Slam singles titles with the trophy, and would become the first man in history to win all four Slams three times with another triumph in Paris. After winning his first title of 2022 and securing his 1,000th match win at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Djokovic has found top form after a difficult start to the season.
2) Nadal Out To Reclaim Throne: The Australian Open champion can get halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam by lifting the Roland Garros trophy for a record-extending 14th time, a triumph which would also extend his Grand Slam titles record to 22. The Spaniard fell to Djokovic in the 2021 semi-finals and could now face his rival in this year's quarter-finals.
Nadal opened the 2022 season in blistering form, starting the year at a personal-best 20-0 and winning titles at ATP Tour events in Melbourne and Acapulco in addition to his Australian Open run. He also reached the Indian Wells final before being sidelined with a rib fracture. He has since posted a 3-2 record on the European clay, reaching the Madrid quarter-finals before struggling physically with his chronic foot injury in a Rome defeat to Denis Shapovalov.
The 35-year-old Nadal faces Aussie Jordan Thompson in the opening round and could face Stan Wawrinka in the second round. He enters Roland Garros with a record 105 wins at the event and a record 97.2 per cent match-win rate.
3) Alcaraz In New Territory: The 19-year-old's rapid rise has been the big story on the ATP Tour in recent months, his season-best four titles helping him reach a career-high of No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He has won ATP Masters 1000 titles in Miami and Madrid in addition to claiming ATP 500 crowns in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. Alcaraz takes a 10-match winning streak into Paris after completing a Spanish trophy double.
Competing in his sixth major main draw, and his second Roland Garros, he is seeking to improve upon a quarter-final showing at the 2021 US Open. But Alcaraz is in new territory as a Grand Slam favourite in Paris, where he qualified and reached the third round last year in a successful debut.
The Spaniard, who holds a 28-3 record on the season, could join his countryman Nadal by becoming the second teenager to win a Grand Slam men's singles title in the past 30 years. He faces Juan Ignacio Londero in the first round.
4) Tsitsipas, Zverev Seek Repeat Runs: Tsitsipas won a five-set semi-final against Zverev in 2021, and both men return with ambitions for another deep run in Paris. The Greek enters with a 31-10 record on the season, his 31 victories leading the ATP Tour. The Monte Carlo champion is 15-5 at Roland Garros and lost to Djokovic in five sets in each of the past two years. He faces a tough opening test against #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti.
Zverev has reached finals in Montpellier and Madrid but is still seeking his first title of 2022. The German reached the semi-finals or better at three events on the European clay swing, advancing to the last four in Monte Carlo and Rome in addition to his Madrid run. He faced Tsitsipas in the semi-finals at all three events, scoring a victory in the Spanish capital. Zverev takes on Sebastian Ofner in the opening round.
5) Rublev, Ruud, Sinner Among Contenders: Seventh seed Andrey Rublev is a three-time ATP Tour champion in 2022 and looks to improve uponon his 2020 quarter-final run in Paris. Casper Ruud enters Roland Garros on the heels of his second title of the season in Geneva. Seven of his eight tour-level titles have come on clay, but the eighth seed has never progressed beyond the third round in Paris, the stage of his exit in each of the past three years. Jannik Sinner, seeded 11th, has reached five quarter-finals this season, including at the Australian Open. He also reached the last eight two years ago at Roland Garros.
6) Medvedev Back In The Nick Of Time: The World No. 2 missed a chunk of the clay swing after undergoing a procedure for a hernia, but returned last week in Geneva. Though Medvedev lost to Richard Gasquet in his first match back, the competitive play will serve him well as he seeks to improve upon his quarter-final showing in Paris last year.
7) Two-Time Finalist Thiem Steps Up Injury Return: Dominic Thiem is still seeking his first match win after returning from a right-wrist injury in April. He has played exclusively on clay in his five events in 2022 with the intention of building up his match sharpness for Roland Garros. Though Thiem won his first major at the 2020 US Open, Roland Garros has been his most consistent Slam. Prior to a first-round loss in 2021, he reached two finals, two semis and one quarter-final in the previous five years. His 28 wins in Paris are his most at any Slam.
8) French Farewells: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon, two of 15 Frenchmen in the men's singles draw, are both playing the final Roland Garros of their decorated careers. Tsonga, 37, is playing the final event of an 18-year career that saw him break into the Top 5 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (No. 5 in 2012), reach a Grand Slam final (2008 Australian Open) and win two ATP Masters 1000 titles (2008 Paris, 2014 Toronto). His 121 Grand Slam wins are the most all-time of any Frenchman.
Gilles Simon, also 37, will retire at the end of the 2022 season. Both he and Tsonga debuted at Roland Garros as wild cards in 2005. A 14-time tour-level titlist, Simon reached a high of No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in 2009.
9) Americans Dot The Draw: The 15 Americans in the men's singles draws is the joint-most from any nation, alongside host France. The U.S. contingent features seven seeded players, led by 13th seed Taylor Fritz and also including Reilly Opelka, John Isner, Frances Tiafoe, Sebastian Korda, Tommy Paul and Jenson Brooksby. Isner, the 23rd seed, has reached the fourth round three times in Paris, the best previous result of any American in the draw alongside Korda's run to the last 16 in 2020, when he lost to Nadal.
There are no seeded Frenchmen among their 15 entrants. Argentina and Spain each have 11 men in the singles draw, the only other nations with double-digit participants.
10) Ram/Salisbury, Herbert/Mahut Among Doubles Contenders: While the doubles draws have not yet been set, two-time Roland Garros quarter-finalists Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury have been confirmed as top seeds, with Great Britain's Salisbury sitting atop the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings and Ram the World No 2.
Defending champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut are seeded third as they seek a third title at their home Grand Slam, while Rome champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic will make their team debut in Paris as the second seeds.
Editor's Note: This story was edited on 22 May to correct statistical inaccuracies.