Better late than never, the French Open kicks off on Sunday four months later than usual. As with any clay court tournament he takes part in, Rafael Nadal remains the clear favourite for this one but all eyes will be on Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic after wildly differing US Open’s earlier in the month.
Full draw here: French Open 2020 Men’s Draw
Watch the Roland Garros 2020 Live Stream Here.
Djokovic will be eager to bounce back after his shocking exit from the US Open. He joined a short list of players defaulted at grand slams after accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball. The expectation is that he will be the player to advance to the final from the top half, especially without Dominic Thiem in his side of the draw – a relief having lost to the Austrian in both 2017 and 2019 here. He opens against Mikael Ymer while the first potential seed he could play is Hubert Hurkacz. The tall Pole does not have much of a pedigree on clay at ATP level and shouldn’t be too much of an issue to see off. Karen Khachanov and Christian Garin are potential round four opponents for Djokovic, with the former the most likely on paper. Khachanov made the quarter finals last year but hasn’t really kicked on in the past 18 months after a promising introduction to the tour at the top level.
Pablo Carreno Busta, an unlikely semi finalist at the US Open, will look to continue his good run of form in Paris. Despite his clear and obvious preference for clay, the Spaniard has yet to make it as far at this tournament with a sole quarter final in 2017 his best achievement. Repeating that would still be a tough ask with a pair of strong top 16 seeds in his section. He could face compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round while Matteo Berrettini is the highest seed in this section. Bautista Agut remains a solid opponent who generally lives up to his seeding while Berrettini has generally performed well on the surface to date – although his sharp rise up the rankings makes it hard to gain a read on his level. He already has two clay titles, winning in Gstaad and Budapest.
Daniil Medvedev may well be somewhat disappointed with his outing in New York earlier this month, losing at the semi final stage. Having made the final last year and knowing he would have faced a non-Big 4 opponent in the final, he was somewhat disappointing in losing to Dominic Thiem in the semis. He looks to bounce back here although his French Open record to date is rather embarrassing. He has lost all three first round matches, losing to home players on all three occasions. He doesn’t open against a Frenchman on this occasion, facing Marton Fucsovics in round one. Hanging on to his seeding only just, Nikoloz Basilashvili looks a prime target for an early exit. The Georgian is winless since the tour resumed, losing all five of his matches. Andrey Rublev troubled Medvedev for a set before falling in straights at the US Open but there was a lot to be happy with in New York before that loss at the quarter finals stage. He will be confident coming into Paris with at least a Hamburg semi final to his name this week.
Stefanos Tsitsipas was one of the major disappointments in New York, falling at the third round stage. The manner of his defeat to Borna Coric could hurt for a long time, having chucked away six match points with routine errors before losing to the Croatian. His section of the draw should see him easily through the early rounds before a possibly tricky clash with Filip Krajinovic. The Serbian is more than capable and achieved a solid third round here last year, before losing to Tsitsipas in four sets. Rome semi finalist Denis Shapovalov made the top 10 for the first time after his US Open run but he will be full of regret having lost a winnable match against Pablo Carreno Busta. The Canadian should come through an opener with Gilles Simon but will want to avoid being drawn into a lengthy affair that the Frenchman specialises in. Grigor Dimitrov will be looking for revenge should they meet in round three having lost in three sets to Shapovalov just last week in Rome.
Diego Schwartzman should fancy his chances of at least matching his career best of the quarter finals in Paris this fortnight. The Argentinian is a tricky customer on clay and can trouble the best of them, as he proved with his run to the final in Rome. That included a win over Rafael Nadal, with a straight sets win over the Spaniard on clay achieved by very few players. A somewhat kind draw and possibly the weakest of the top 8 seeds in his section should give the Argentinian a lot to be excited about. Gael Monfils has played just two matches since the tour resumed with losses to Dominik Koepfer and Yannick Hanfmann showing there is a lot to work on still.
This quarter of the draw also has two round one matches between grand slam champions although it is fair to say that at least two of the competitors are nowhere near that level anymore. The clash between Stanislas Wawrinka and Andy Murray looks like a blockbuster on paper but it is unlikely they will match their last meeting at this tournament. The No.16 seed won a five set thriller over Murray to return to the French Open final for the second time in three years. The other slam champions clash is between Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic. Thiem will be looking to ensure there is no hangover from his US Open championship run. If Rafael Nadal does lose in this tournament, it still seems likely that Thiem is the best choice to do it. He has beaten the Spaniard several times on clay although he is yet to do so in Paris.
Alexander Zverev will also hope to take his US Open form into this one, having not played since blowing a two set lead in the final against Thiem. He does appear to be over the yips that he suffered at slams with very few disappointing performances outside of Wimbledon in the past few years. The German did have a few slow starts in New York and could be vulnerable here but a route to the last eight that includes Alex de Minaur and David Goffin is not the scariest for a top eight seed. Zverev begins against Dennis Novak while Goffin could be a first round loser against the talented youngster Jannik Sinner.
Rafael Nadal will always be the favourite for the French Open as long as he plays but there is the possibility that conditions will not favour the Spaniard with cooler September weather and the lack of a high bounce on the clay courts in Paris. It still shouldn’t trouble him too much through the early rounds with Daniel Evans the first possible seed he could play. A refreshed Fabio Fognini should give him his first test in round four, assuming the Italian comes through a generous first few rounds. It was shown Nadal was beatable once more after he lost in straight sets to Diego Schwartzman in Rome. With Novak Djokovic then defeating the Argentinian in the final, the Serbian will have some hope of getting one over his biggest rival should they meet in the final.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic def. Rafael Nadal