Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2019 Roland-Garros tournament.
Welcome to Paris for the second big prize, Roland-Garros, on the 12-month rainbow ride that is this 2019 tennis season.
By the time you read this, you’ll have seen a few matches under way already—the Roland-Garros schedule says that Angelique Kerber will battle Anastasia Potapova on Court Philippe-Chatrier to kick things off, so good luck to the German as you’ll see from our predictions below.
We’ve learned a thing or two from the previous run through a short and sweet clay court season and now that the draws have been released, we’ll try to put things in perspective.
From what we can tell, both draws are ultimately pretty satisfying. They tend to be when it’s a Grand Slam, sure, but we feel like they’re especially juicy this year. (Then again, maybe we say that every year too. Oh well.) In keeping up with our tradition of previewing the main draws of every event that’s “kind of a big deal” in importance, or even more, let’s see if we can pick the Paris quarterfinalists correctly for both men and women.
The WTA draw is pretty wide-open, with a few of the favourites either injured or not playing all that well and giving way to a number of other players to try their hand at it.
The first section is nominally Naomi Osaka’s to lose but, though she righted the ship a little bit after a rough post-Australian Open stretch, all eyes will be on Serena Williams. We shouldn’t expect much, if anything, from the great champion, so let’s hedge our bets here and say she makes the final eight, but not more than that.
Meanwhile, Simona Halep arrives in Paris in form and as the defending champion. She’s got the best odds to win the French Open Women’s Singles. The pressure is on her, and she hasn’t always responded well in the past when this was the case, but for what it’s worth we believe in her here. We’re eager to see what young American Amanda Anisimova can do: if she’s supposedly the real deal, she’ll manage to grab a handful of wins in Paris in what’s a tricky, but fair, main draw.
Which Sloane Stephens will show up? We’re choosing to believe in the American who made a run to the 2018 Roland-Garros semifinal rather than the one who hadn’t made it past the fourth round before then, but we’re not entirely confident. As for her quarterfinalist opponent, let’s go with another player who’s accustomed us to high highs and low lows in Belinda Bencic.
Has anyone played as well in 2019 as Karolina Pliskova, the French Open second-seed and favourite to emerge from a fairly okay bottom section and with already two titles to her name this season against only seven defeats? Dear reader, the answer is no.
Quarterfinals: Naomi Osaka over Serena Williams; Simona Halep over Anett Kontaveit; Belinda Bencic over Sloane Stephens; Karolina Pliskova over Angelique Kerber
Semifinals: Simona Halep over Naomi Osaka; Karolina Pliskova over Belinda Bencic
Final: Simona Halep over Karolina Pliskova
On the men’s side of things, there’s a large boogeyman overseeing everything but how well he does perform remains to be seen. And in any case, we’re likely to see another case of “same old, same old.”
In the top section, Novak Djokovic was dealt what’s ultimately a fairly easy draw. Sure, there are tricky opponents here and there, notably a likely fourth rounder against mirror image Borna Coric, but the Serb should emerge unscathed here.
The second section of the men’s draw has everyone’s favourite non-Big 3 contender in Dominic Thiem, and we wish nothing but to him as well as to see him battle Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals if their match resembles their epic 2017 US Open battle.
What a crowd, wow!
Merci pour l’ovation ? pic.twitter.com/613ltns7xH
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) May 25, 2019
Moving to the lower half, everyone will understandably be looking at Roger Federer, who will compete in his first French Open since 2015. But we’re seeing tiny Diego Schwartzman shocking the world before the Swiss has a chance to impress. As for the fourth section, there is Rafael Nadal looming, ready to jump on any poor fool standing in his way as his march to another French Open title continues.
Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Fabio Fognini; Dominic Thiem over Juan Martin del Potro; Diego Schwartzman over Stan Wawrinka; Rafael Nadal over Daniil Medvedev
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Dominic Thiem; Rafael Nadal over Diego Schwartzman
Final: Rafael Nadal over Novak Djokovic
Federer by 32d birthday
17 Grand Slam singles titles. 21 Masters 1000 singles titles. 302 weeks No. 1
Nadal by 32d birthday
16 GS singles titles. 32 Masters 1000 titles. 175 weeks No. 1
Djokovic by 32d birthday
15 GS singles titles. 33 Masters 1000 titles. 252 weeks No. 1
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 22, 2019
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG