The clay court season is approaching its climax. The French Open will begin in Paris on May 30th. The question about the top favorite is a bit more difficult to answer this year than usual.
Because the 13-time tournament winner Rafael Nadal recently showed unusually fluctuating performances.
The Spaniard won the Masters in Rome and the tournament in Barcelona. The other two Masters tournaments, however, were won by Alexander Zverev (Madrid) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (Monte-Carlo).
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While Tsitsipas got the short straw in an outstanding final in a direct duel with Nadal in Barcelona (4: 6, 7: 6, 5: 7), Zverev was able to beat the Spaniard in Madrid on the way to his fourth Masters success. In the quarter-finals, the young German won 6: 4, 6: 4. At the Italian Open in Rome, Nadal then took revenge (6: 4, 6: 4).
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Eurosport expert Boris Becker sees especially Tsitsipas in Paris as a serious challenger for the defending champion from Mallorca. “Tsitsipas has played a very consistent season, won Monte-Carlo. He is perhaps even better than Zverev and definitely one of the favorites on clay at the French Open,” said the six-time Grand Slam winner.
Especially physically, the young Greek is “incredibly in a good mood,” said Becker. Against Tsitsipas in Barcelona, Nadal had some problems on the backhand side, as he frankly admitted afterwards. Becker is also amazed: “Nadal usually wins three out of four tournaments in the run-up to the French Open. This year he also won the titles in Barcelona and Rome, but you have to be very clear that the others have caught up.”
You could possibly see “the first signs of the times at Rafa”, speculated the 53-year-old: “He may have slowed a half step, gets tired a little earlier. He also struggled with his successes in Barcelona and Rome. He knew that so far not from Nadal. “
Nadal with incredible odds
Now one of the most physically demanding tournaments awaits the Spaniard with the French Open. Despite all these omens, Nadal is still one of the top favorites for the French Open title. The 20-time Grand Slam winner won his 88th ATP title in Rome. On sand alone, Nadal has already had 62 successes. The win rate on his favorite surface is an incredible 91.8 percent.
The final in the Italian capital against Novak Djokovic also proved once again that the big difference between the old stars and the younger generation is often the attitude and the irrepressible will to win.
When the big events approach, especially Nadal and Djokovic are always there.
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Nevertheless, there is great optimism at Zverev. After losing the US Open final against Thiem last year, he became “a better tennis player,” said the young German: “I want it even more now. (…) I sat down and thought I had to improve things, Do things differently. ”
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Also Eurosport expert Becker sees the 24-year-old as having a good chance of “going further than the quarter-finals”. However, Zverev “has to win his matches even if he doesn’t play so well, because that will definitely happen with up to seven games in the course of a Grand Slam tournament”.
For Germans, the serve will be particularly important: If it lets him down, as at the ATP tournament in Munich, Zverev will run into problems. But if he has his process under control, the 24-year-old’s serve is a real weapon. Nadal, Thiem and Matteo Berrettini in the final had to experience this in Madrid.
Will Nadal win his 14th title at the French Open or will the youngsters around Zverev and Tsitsipas get in his way? Not to be forgotten is of course Djokovic, who seems to be back in top form just in time for the Grand Slam tournament.
The fight for the crown in Paris is definitely more open than it has been for a long time.
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