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Roland Garros is less than four weeks away. And I can tell you now, this year’s event promises to be incredibly interesting. The two GOATs of the game, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are set to compete once again. However, there are additional threats in this year’s event that simply didn’t exist previously. There is a feeling that a ‘changing of the guard’ is on the horizon. But of course, the two old guys (if I can call them that) will be desperate to cling to their crown.
Therefore, ahead of Roland Garros 2022, I wanted to run through the five favorites as things currently stand. Of course, there are still a few tournaments between now and Roland Garros. But working with what has already happened during the clay-court swing, here are the favorites:
Five Possible Roland Garros Winners
Just to confirm – the players I am about to list haven’t been plucked at random. I’ve looked at their current form, previous performances at the French, as well as the odds, as determined by bookies across the board. And following this research, here is the list that I have put together:
Despite suffering a fractured rib in Indian Wells earlier this year, Nadal is still the favorite to win the tournament. Then again, how could he not be? His record at the French Open is simply ridiculous. Nadal has won the French Open 13 times and he has managed to win 105 matches there during his career. Could he do it again this year? It’s hard to say otherwise!
Djokovic is the only man besides Rafael Nadal that has won the French Open at least twice since Gustavo Kuerten did so in 2000/2001. Of course, he has been playing during the era of the best clay-court competitor of all time – Rafael Nadal. And as it happens, he is the only man who has beaten Nadal twice at the French Open. Last year, he managed to beat Nadal in one of the highest-quality matches that I’ve ever seen in the semi-finals.
This is the man that everybody is talking about right now. Carlos Alcaraz is undoubtedly the most exciting talent on the men’s tour. His skills and abilities, as well as his successes already have been compared with Rafael Nadal. Alcaraz has enjoyed a fantastic season so far too, managing to win three titles already. With that said, clay doesn’t seem to be his best surface to date, but the French Open could change all of that.
Of course, Stefanos Tsitsipas is another red hot contender for Roland Garros 2022. Tsitsipas came within a set of winning the title last year, blowing a 2-0 set lead against Djokovic in the final. With that said, Tsitsipas has already won a Masters title on clay this year, at Monte Carlo. He is playing great tennis, and he is a threat to anyone in the French Open.
Last but not least, we have Alex Zverev. Zverev is regarded as one of the best clay-court players in the world. However, he hasn’t exactly been playing great in 2022, which is why he is down as the fifth favorite. With that said, of the last four matches he has played against the favorite, Rafael Nadal, Zverev has won three of them.
Requirements to Win the French Open 2022
Now that I’ve discussed the Roland Garros favorites above, let me switch gears somewhat. Of course, to win the 2022 French Open, you need to be playing incredible tennis. But everyone knows this already! So instead of pointing out the obvious, let me jump into some specifics on what a player really needs to take the title in Paris:
Efficient Early Round Victories
When it comes to Grand Slams, being able to progress through the draw efficiently is everything. This is something that has caused problems for guys like Zverev in the past. He often gets involved in early-round battles that then impact his fitness and energy levels deeper into the tournament. So for me, being able to breeze through those early rounds is absolutely critical if a player has a chance to win Roland Garros 2022.
I’ve mentioned the importance of efficient early-round victories above. But deviating slightly away from this, players must also have exceptional fitness to win seven matches in Paris. By nature, the French Open is very physically demanding. The rallies on clay are much longer than they are on other surfaces. And the extra requirements concerning footwork and effort levels to inject pace into the ball are much greater. Therefore, it goes without saying really that the ultimate French Open winner must have almost superhuman fitness levels.
This has played a major factor in the previous successes of guys like Nadal and Djokovic at the French Open.
Solid and Consistent Groundstrokes
Let me now shift the focus onto the actual way in which competitors must play if they are to win Roland Garros. Again, with the French Open being a clay-court event, the playing requirements are somewhat different from hard or grass court events. On the clay, to be successful you need to be able to hit heavy from the back of the court while exploiting angles to move your opponent off the court too. Of course, with the rallies being fairly long, you must be able to do this consistently as well.
However, one of the things that has proved critical for guys like Djokovic is his ability to then flatten out the ball when needed. In fact, players like Tsitsipas and Alcaraz are also very good in this area.
One of the reasons that everyone loves the French Open is because of the court craft that is put on show. By nature, you absolutely have to be able to find all areas of the court on clay if you are to have a chance of winning a tournament like Roland Garros. This was most apparent in the 2021 Roland Garros semi-final between Nadal and Djokovic – some of the best clay-court tennis and craft that I’ve ever seen.
By craft, I specifically mean drop shots, looped shots to the back of the court, angles, and delicate volleys around the net.
Being mentally tough is obviously an important skill to have in tennis. But this skill seems to be all the more important for a tournament like Roland Garros. If you have any doubts about this, let me remind you of Djokovic’s journey to the title in 2021. Not once, but twice, he was facing a two-set deficit that he had to overcome to get the victory. The first time was against Musetti, the talented young Italian. And the second was in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
However, mental toughness doesn’t just relate to being able to fight back from a deficit. It also relates to the belief that you can win a tournament of this magnitude. Obviously, the previous winners like Nadal and Djokovic have this belief, and I firmly believe that Alcaraz believes he can do it too.
As for Zverev and Tsitsipas, sure, I feel they are confident that they can, but I don’t feel they are quite as resilient and ‘superhuman’ as the other guys.
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