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French Open 2024: Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek feature among our players to watch at Roland Garros | Tennis News

Written by on May 26, 2024

French Open 2024: Defending champions Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek feature among the players to watch at Roland Garros.

The second Grand Slam of the year is almost here, but who has been impressing on clay?

Often referred to as ‘terre battue’ – literally ‘beaten earth’ – the art of playing on the slippery crushed red brick courts in Paris can be a challenge in a season book-ended by hard courts, until we get the spring and summer.

Andrey Rublev was victorious in Madrid, while Alexander Zverev’s credentials entering Roland Garros are looking pretty good following his second Internazionali d’Italia title.

World No 1 Iga Swiatek made it nine straight wins in singles finals with her third Rome title in four years having already won in Madrid – both wins coming against her closest rival, Aryna Sabalenka.

So who are the contenders for the men’s and women’s singles title at Roland Garros? We take a closer look…

ATP

Novak Djokovic

Serbia's Novak Djokovic points at 23 on his garment as he celebrates winning the men's singles final match of the French Open tennis tournament against Norway's Casper Ruud in three sets, 7-6, (7-1), 6-3, 7-5, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Sunday, June 11, 2023. Djokovic won his record 23rd Grand Slam singles title, breaking a tie with Rafael Nadal for the most by a man. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

This season is most likely the most wide-open it has been. With the sun setting on Rafael Nadal’s career, with a record-extending 15th Roland Garros title potentially out of his grasp, you would think the way would be clear for Novak Djokovic to take sole ownership of the mantle of most Grand Slam titles.

Yet Djokovic has struggled to find his stride this season, as he is yet to claim a title in 2024. After being hit on the head by a spectator’s bottle in Rome, he bowed out meekly in the third round, before another shock defeat in Geneva. He will now head to Paris to prepare for his title defence.

Rafael Nadal

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Belgium's Zizou Bergs at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Thursday, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

The 14-time champion’s participation remains in doubt even though he is, by his own standards at least, injury-free. Nadal has played only four tournaments this year and won only four games in his last match, against Hubert Hurkacz in Rome.

But an unseeded Nadal is a frightening prospect in the early rounds and, if he can upset fourth-ranked Alexander Zverev, the 37-year-old will start believing title number 15 is a possibility.

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Sky Sports Tennis caught up with football icon Luis Figo at the Madrid Open, who hailed Nadal’s career

Casper Ruud

Novak Djokovic and Casper Ruud

Reaching two finals back-to-back and splitting the honours with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ruud looked to be the man in form on the clay, but after backing up the Monte Carlo Masters final with the title in Barcelona, the Norwegian went out in the round of 16 in Madrid, and in his second-round opener in Rome.

Ruud is a two-time Roland Garros finalist but came up against both Nadal and Djokovic at the peak of their powers – but if he can put the disappointment of his performances at the Madrid and Rome double-headers, he could capitalise on a potential changing of the guard.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Italian Open tennis (Associated Press)

Tsitsipas has flirted with Slam glory, having had Djokovic on the ropes in the 2021 Roland Garros final, leading the Serbian by two sets, before Djokovic fought back to deny the Greek his first Slam title.

Like Ruud, a solid early start to the clay court season ended in an opening defeat in Madrid and his Rome campaign ended in the quarter-finals.

Carlos Alcaraz

Organisers of Roland Garros will be breathing a sigh of relief, having seen Alcaraz and reigning Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner both withdraw from Rome. While Sinner might still be doubtful for Paris, Alcaraz could be gearing up to stake his claim on a third Grand Slam title.

The Spaniard will be under-cooked though, having only played one tournament, Madrid, in the lead-up to the French Open.

Jannik Sinner has also struggled with injuries in the build-up, so the men’s draw could be thrown wide open this year.

Jack Draper

Jack Draper beat Vit Kopriva during the first round of the Bavarian international

With Andy Murray winding down and both Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans struggling for form, Draper looks to be the pick of the British men at this year’s tournament.

Now ranked 35 in the world, the 22-year-old left-hander seems to have put his injury-plagued early years behind him and is ready to take the next step from exciting prospect to genuine title contender. Roland Garros would be a good place to start.

WTA

Iga Swiatek

Iga Swiatek is a three-time French Open champion
Image:
Swiatek is a three-time French Open champion

The world No 1 already has three Coupe Suzanne Lenglen trophies to her name and will be looking to do a ‘three-peat’ and on her current form, who is to say she can’t do it?

She has a Stuttgart semi-final and Madrid title already under her belt, and she will go head-to-head with Aryna Sabalenka in Rome, in a repeat of the Madrid final to put the finishing touches to her title defence in Paris.

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Annabel Croft questions if Aryna Sabalenka can do anything to overcome Swiatek

Aryna Sabalenka

Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka celebrates after defeating Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the women's quarterfinal match at the Italian Open tennis tournament at Rome's Foro Italico, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Antonietta Baldassarre)

Much like Swatek, when Sabalenka’s form is on, she is very consistent, and despite a quarter-final exit in Stuttgart, she has made the most of Madrid and Rome’s extended format to now reach two back-to-back WTA 1000 events.

She achieved her best run at Roland Garros last year, reaching the semi-finals.

Coco Gauff

Gauff

It has been a slow build-up on the clay for the reigning US Open champion, but Gauff had her first shot at Slam glory in Paris 2022, losing to Swiatek. She made good on her promise and potential at her home Slam in 2023 and closed out her Paris preparations with the Rome semi-final.

Elena Rybakina

Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina reacts after her victory against Poland's Iga Swiatek at the semi finals of the WTA Tour in Stuttgart, Germany, Saturday April 20, 2024. (Marijan Murat/dpa via AP)

Provided Rybakina can take to the court, her run to the title in Stuttgart and semi-final of Madrid would have put her firmly in as one of the favourites. But she has consistently been troubled with illness and has withdrawn from both Indian Wells and Rome as defending champion.

If she is fit enough to start in Paris, she will look to advance further than her best run to the quarter-finals in 2021.

Danielle Collins

MIAMI GARDENS FL - MARCH 30: Danielle Collins Vs Elena Rybakina during women's finals at The Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on March 30, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Credit: mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX

American Collins is enjoying a remarkable end-of-career renaissance, having declared this season will be her last. The 30-year-old’s run to the semi-finals in Rome – where she lost to Sabalenka – took her to 19 victories from her last 21 matches including tournament wins in Miami and Charleston.

An imminent return to the top 10 – having been ranked 63 in February – makes Collins’ impending retirement all the more difficult to understand.

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Collins hits back at a member in the crowd during the game against Jaqueline Cristian at the Madrid Open

Katie Boulter

Boulter

What a season it has been so far for Boulter, who has climbed into the top 30 on the back of a second WTA Tour title in San Diego in March. She will therefore be seeded at Roland Garros despite this being her first main draw appearance –
an indication both of her rapid rise and her previous aversion to clay.

The 27-year-old is still much more at home on faster surfaces but has shown some encouraging signs on the red stuff.

How to follow the French Open on Sky Sports

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Find out all the ways to watch tennis on Sky Sports, including the US Open, ATP and WTA tours.

You can follow the action at Roland Garros every day by heading to Skysports.com and the Sky Sports app.

As well as coverage from Paris, there will be analysis from our team of experts, draws, schedule and order of play.

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