By Saransh Sharma
The clay-court swing in tennis has been underway for months now, and after a few delays, it comes to a close with the clay-court major Roland Garros. The tournament has been largely dominated by Rafael Nadal and this year features him alongside Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on the same side of his bracket. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem, Matteo Berrettini, and Alexander Zverev see themselves and other rising stars on the opposite side of the bracket. Here is all you need to know for Roland Garros:
Rafael Nadal Goes For More History
Rafael Nadal already made history with his 13th title at Roland Garros, the most ever at a single Grand Slam, but he now goes for his 21st Grand Slam, the record for most Grand Slams won by a single player. Nadal has a peculiar path, as he should go unchallenged until the Quarterfinals, where he could play Diego Schwartzman or Andrey Rublev, and then would face Novak or Roger if he advanced to the semis. The Final would feature him against one of the young stars, being Zverev, Thiem, or Tsitsipas is yet to be seen. Rafa’s 100-2 record in matches at Roland Garros makes him a near-virtual lock to win it all again, the question will be who gives him the biggest challenge.
How Will Roger Federer Perform?
Roger Federer will once again play at Roland Garros, but this year has been unlike any other. Roger has won just 2 matches out of 4 played this year and looks completely out of form since his return from a knee injury. What will be tough to gauge is if Roger is motivated enough to go far in this tournament, because while this is a way for him to get more matches under his belt, he faces tough opponents early, and Roger has said that winning Roland Garros is not a goal of his. He could get ousted as early as Round 3 by rising American Taylor Fritz or even go as deep as the semifinals again to play Rafael Nadal as he did in 2019. Whatever happens, we hope to see Roger play well.
Which Rising Star Will Step Up?
This year has been dominated by Rafael Nadal and the young stars so far, with Daniil Medvedev making it to the Australian Open Final, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev winning Masters 1000 tournament, and players like Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner, and Aslan Karatsev going deep in tournaments and being in the top-10 in wins in 2021. The strongest player this season has been Stefanos Tsitsipas, as his improved clay-court game and draw could see him make a deep run. Daniil Medvedev has looked all out of sorts and has voiced his hatred towards clay many times in 2021, deeming him an early upset candidate. Rublev, Berrettini, and Zverev see themselves with tougher draws, as Rublev and Berretini could face Nadal in the Quarterfinals and Semifinals, respectively, and Zverev could face Roberto Bautista Agut, one of the most dangerous players on tour, in Round 4. If he were to advance, 2-time Roland Garros runner-up, Dominic Thiem, could await him in the Quarterfinals. These guys all have great chances to make a deep run and challenge Nadal. The question is, who is up to the task of dethroning Nadal?