Last year’s champions are headlining play on Monday with Novak Djokovic the second match up on Court Philippe Chatrier. He plays Marcel Granollers to kick off his defence of the title in Paris, with far fewer expectations on him this time round.
Much of that is down to his poor 2017 that has seen him look far from an elite player. The Australian Open loss to Denis Istomin was the worst of the bunch but it is not good for Djokovic that he comes into Paris without a clay title to his name. While he was comprehensively outplayed by Rafael Nadal in Madrid, the other two losses at the clay Masters events are more unforgivable for Djokovic. A three set loss to Goffin in Monte Carlo had set the tone for the rest of the European swing prior to this tournament, ending in a Rome final loss to Alexander Zverev. More shocking was Djokovic’s inability to get even 1 break point in that loss, something that rarely happens for one of the elite returners in the game.
As one of the top two players in the game over the past year, it was a huge shock to see Djokovic flop in the early rounds of both Wimbledon 2016 and this year’s Australian Open. He had been utterly dominant in the early rounds of slams for a long time and didn’t seem vulnerable to a scorching big hitter in the way the other top players had been. Whether Marcel Granollers is good enough to take advantage of Djokovic if he plays badly is obviously doubtful but it’s fair to say that Istomin would have not been near any list in Melbourne either. That said, Granollers has been crushed on each of the 3 occasions he has played Djokovic, winning just 10 games over 8 sets. The Spaniard is also just 1-5 on clay this year with a loss to a player outside the top 900 the worst of the bunch. Djokovic may be vulnerable but there seems little competition early on to put that to the test.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic in three easy sets