Senthur Shanmugarasa previews this year’s French Open , where a small number of fans are set to be allowed to watch matches live.
Rafael Nadal makes his return to Grand Slam tennis at his favourite Grand Slam, as the French Open kicks off in Paris on Sunday. Skipping the US Open on health grounds, he’s the bookies favourite as he looks to add a 13th French Title, which will tie him on a record 20 Grand Slams alongside Roger Federer.
Nadal’s biggest threat comes from world number 1 Novak Djokovic, who is looking to put his shocking disqualification from Flushing Meadows behind him and add a second Roland Garros title to his collection. He looks in good form, winning the Italian Open last weekend, a tournament where the Spaniard only made the quarter finals.
There is also tough competition from the new generation, who are closing the gap on the traditional frontrunners. Players like newly crowned US Open Champion Dominic Thiem, who has reached the previous 2 French Open finals and Stefano Tsitsipas are looking to knock Nadal of his perch.
From a British perspective, it looks rather bleak. Andy Murray who is making his clay court return to competitive tennis has been handed a difficult first round draw against 2015 champion Stan Warwinka. British number one, Dan Evans, who hasn’t a won a main round match in the French Open has also been given a tough matchup, facing former world number 4 Kei Nishikori. Cameron Norrie is facing Colombian Daniel Galan.
As often is the case in the women’s game in recent times (there were 8 different winners in the last decade), calling a favourite is rather difficult, with any of the seeded players in with a considerable shout of making the final. Reigning champion Ashleigh Barty and current US Open champion Osaka have pulled out, giving 2018 champion Simona Halep, the tournament’s top seed a chance for another Grand Slam. At the age of 39 and having lost her last 4 Grand Slam Finals, Serena Williams is still on the hunt for her record equalling 24th Slam. British hopes in the women’s draw again lay on Johanna Konta, who is looking to find the same form that took her to her maiden French Open semi Final last year. Standing in her way is 16 year old rising star Coco Gauff. Heather Watson is the only other Briton joining Konta the main draw.
The coronavirus pandemic has meant the tournament has moved from its traditional end of spring/start of summer slot to a much more awkward autumn one, just two weeks after the end of US Open in New York. This change in season and conditions may hinder certain clay- court specialists. A cool and wet climate means a slower court, resulting in less bounce and spin. Nadal has already voiced his concerns about the change in conditions on his game claiming the ‘ball is completely different and lot heavier.’ Despite rising cases of Covid-19 in France, up to 1000 spectators will be allowed to view live tennis, despite new French government restrictions. Fans will only be allowed on the main show-court, Phillipe Chatrier, however the return of fans is still a positive step towards a return to normality.