Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
But a whole new generation of young, exciting players took centre stage. Could there really be a changing of the guard?
Here’s our first week report:
With Roger Federer missing from a grand slam event for the first time this century because of a back problem and two-time French Open winner Maria Sharapova on a provisional doping ban, Nadal’s dramatic departure because of a wrist injury last Friday could not have come at a worse time.
After a tough year full of self-doubt and lacking in form, there was genuine excitement in the air as the Spaniard ripped through his first two rounds with the sort of clay-court tennis that helped him win a men’s record nine French Open titles.
The good news, if you can call it that, is that Nadal’s inflamed wrist tendon doesn’t need surgery and should get better with rest.
Whether we’ve seen the last of the Federer-Nadal era that has pushed tennis to heights not seen since the glory days of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe in the 1970s remains to be seen as both are always stressing they have no plans to retire.
But with Nadal turning 30 this week and Federer celebrating his 35th birthday in August, the real question now is whether their bodies will be able to withstand yet another gruelling season of tennis.
There has been a lot of talk of a new generation taking over men’s tennis for years, but this has yet to happen with players born between 1989 and 1992 such as Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov coming up short when it comes to the biggest prizes in tennis.
With Raonic, Nishikori and Dimitrov out by the second Sunday, Dominic Thiem has emerged as the strongest clay-courter of a group of highly ambitious young men all aged between 19 and 22 including Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, Croatia’s Borna Coric and Germany’s Alexander Zverev.
The 22-year-old Austrian, nicknamed the “Dominator” for his fierce single-handed backhand, has already beaten Federer and Nadal and with the Spaniard now missing from his quarter he’s got a real opportunity to reach his first semi-final.
Big three still going
With no Federer and no Nadal, the Big Five is now a Big Three here but the bad news for the rest is that Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka all look strong. Djokovic, chasing his first French Open win, has been barely tested and while Murray and defending champion Wawrinka had some early scares, they’ve been improving round on round.
Where is the roof?
When the sun is out, Roland Garros is pure joy. But when it rains, it gets tough for everyone on a site that’s the smallest of the four Grand Slam tournaments and in real need of an upgrade.
“Welcome to France,” a clearly frustrated tournament director Guy Forget told reporters while thousands of spectators huddled underneath the main stadium court and competitors tried to relax in an overcrowded players’ lounge during yet another rain delay during the first two days.
The French Tennis Federation has been stuck in a bureaucratic standoff with its Parisian neighbours over the extension of its 88-year-old site into the neighbouring botanical gardens for more than a decade.
A retractable roof now won’t be ready until 2020, Forget said, which leaves the French Open as the only grand slam event without one.
Paris is, however, bidding for the 2024 Olympics and perhaps a winning bid could speed things up.
With three of the biggest stars in tennis absent, there was something reassuring about the way Serena and Venus Williams – who have won a combined 28 grand slam singles titles – moved into the second week of Roland Garros.
Although two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova remains the only player – male or female – born in the 1990s with a grand slam singles title to her name, the competition for defending champion Serena is hotting up.
Elena Svitolina and Yulia Putintseva, both 21, and 23-year-olds Kiki Bertens and Shelby Rogers all downed established names on their way to the second week.
And 2015 Wimbledon finalist Garbiñe Muguruza is looking more dangerous with each round. The good news for Serena is that the 22-year-old Spaniard is on the other side of the draw. The bad news: Muruguza handed Williams her worst grand slam defeat two years ago when she thumped the then defending champion 6-2,6-2 in the second round.
The weather in Paris is cooling down this week with lots more rain forecast, with Monday the first washout since 2000. But the tennis is heating up.