Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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When the French Open kicks off on the clay courts of Roland Garros in Paris on Sunday, all eyes will be on Rafael Nadal.
The 31-year-old is seeking an unprecedented tenth French Open title, but can anyone spoil his party? Here are the top storylines to follow at this year’s French Open.
What a difference a year makes for Nadal. Last May, the Spaniard was struggling with a wrist injury which eventually forced him to withdraw from Roland Garros after two rounds.
But a long rest at the end of last season has done the former No.1 a world of good, and he bounced back in 2017 to reach the Australian Open final, where he lost to his long-time nemesis Roger Federer.
Two more defeats to Federer followed, but with the Swiss skipping Roland Garros to fully prepare for Wimbledon, Nadal is the favorite in Paris after going 17-1 on European clay this season, according to former world No.3 Pam Shriver.
“The way he’s been playing this year, and with his overall level at the French Open and now that Novak Djokovic is such a level below where he was a year ago, I think almost everyone would bet on Nadal,” Shriver, the winner of 20 grand slam doubles championships alongside Wimbledon legend Martina Navratilova, said in an interview.
“There is something so magical about ten titles,” Shriver added. “I say it and I just have to laugh. It’s just so hard to fathom as a tennis player.”
On top of the world a year ago after he finally won his first French Open and fourth straight Grand Slam title, the steamroller that was Novak Djokovic came to a crashing halt.
A lacklustre third round loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon was followed by a heartbreaking, tear-stained first round exit at the Rio Olympics.
Although he reached the US Open final last year, Djokovic was bounced out of January's Australian Open in the second round and more often than not looked like he’d rather be anywhere else but a tennis court.
It was clear something had to be done, and at the start of this month the second-seeded Serb announced he had parted ways with his entire coaching team.
After losing in the final of Rome, he sprung another surprise by telling reporters he would be working with eight-time grand slam winner Andre Agassi during Roland Garros.
“He’s a person who can contribute to my life on and off the court,” Djokovic said in Rome.
On paper, it seems like a match made in heaven: two of the all time great baseliners working together.
But will Agassi be his saviour? We’ll soon find out.
It’s been a topsy-turvy season for the men’s top seed from Britain, who struggled with shingles at the start of 2017 and was hampered by an elbow injury just before the clay-court swing.
Although early losses in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome don’t bode well, Murray seems fully fit and even if he is lacking in confidence, memories of his run to the final last year could kickstart his season. Ivan Lendl, his coach, is back after missing the warm-up events and if he makes it through the first week, he will fancy his chances.
With the entire top five seeded men now 30 years or older, there have been some signs that the younger generation is finally ready to step up.
Alexander Zverev, 20, has broken into the top 10 for the first time in his career after he dominated Djokovic in the final of Rome to become the first player born in the 1990s to claim a Masters 1000 title. The young German reached the third round in his first Roland Garros appearance last year and don’t be surprised to see him in the second week.
As strong as an ox with a blistering one-handed backhand, the 23-year-old Dominic Thiem excels on the clay. A finalist in Barcelona and Madrid, this Chelsea FC fan nicknamed “The Dominator” is the only player to beat Nadal on red clay this year, in Madrid. A semi-finalist in Paris a year ago, where he ran out of steam against Djokovic after endless rain delays hampered his previous rounds, has his time finally come?
Australian Nick Kyrgios, 22, has beaten Djokovic twice this year and many would fancy his chances as he seems to be fully focused. He’s also been playing some smart tennis, using his full arsenal of weapons which include a powerful serve, fierce ground strokes and a deft drop shot. Having never gone beyond the third round in four appearances, he will be eager to show his peers what he’s capable of.