French Open experts’ picks: Nadal man to beat, Gauff ready for Slam run


Whereas the French Open returns to its regular Might/June time slot after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed final yr’s version of the Grand Slam occasion to the autumn, there may be nonetheless one fixed: Everybody on the lads’s aspect can be attempting to determine the way to beat the King of Clay.

4-time defending champion Rafael Nadal, who has gained the match a report 13 occasions, is trying so as to add to his dominance at Roland Garros. This time, he positively must undergo both Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, as all of the members of the Massive Three are in the identical half of a Slam essential draw for the primary time since 2005.

Ashleigh Barty, in the meantime, returns to Paris after profitable the ladies’s singles crown in 2019 and skipping the journey in 2020 resulting from COVID-19 journey restrictions and dangers.

Will Nadal and Barty win on clay once more? Which gamers may break by means of? Our tennis gurus make their picks for the 2021 French Open.

Who will win the lads’s singles title?

Jerry Bembry: Nadal. The King of Clay has gained all however three French Open titles since 2005. Simply engrave his title on the trophy.

James Blake: Nadal is the King of Clay for a cause. He has been my decide at Roland Garros for in regards to the previous 10 years and can proceed to be till somebody proves in a position to win three out of 5 towards him there.

Darren Cahill: Nadal. Rome gave him the matches and difficult challenges he was in search of. His sport is in nice order and appears as sturdy as ever bodily. He’s seeded No. 3, however seedings do not matter with regards to Rafa and Roland Garros.

Simon Cambers: Come on! Rafa, Rafa and Rafa once more. If he’s match, Nadal absolutely will win it once more.

Invoice Connelly: Nadal. It’s the solely reply, after all; however with Djokovic in the identical half of the draw, it definitely opens the door for somebody within the backside half. Stefanos Tsitsipas is there and is on a scorching streak in the meanwhile. Simply saying.

Cliff Drysdale: Dominic Thiem. We want a brand new winner in Paris.

Chris Evert: Rafa. He mentioned he has been coaching for this prefer it’s an important match of his profession. He nonetheless has targets and performs with a objective and, set to show 35 through the match, he’s nonetheless the fittest participant in five-set matches.

Mary Joe Fernandez: Sure, Nadal. He has gained two warm-up occasions, and his confidence appears excessive. He’ll at all times be the favourite at Roland Garros.

Brad Gilbert: Vamos Rafa! Let’s examine historical past occur in a few weeks with (blackjack) 21 Slams within the loaded high half of the draw that features Djoker and Federer. The underside half of the lads’s draw will current numerous alternatives for gamers, particularly for Tsitsipas.

Jason Goodall: Rafa. Though he has proven he’s positively wanting his best kind in his lead-up tournaments, he has performed and, crucially, gained sufficient matches to construct up confidence to the purpose that he’ll imagine he can defend his title. It will not be simple given the draw, however that may spur him on to even better heights.

Sam Gore: Rafa nonetheless guidelines. Interval.

Luke Jensen: Nadal. He nonetheless appears to be like just like the beast on the crimson clay. Monte Carlo was a wake-up name after his loss to Andrey Rublev, however it may be powerful to enter the lion’s den and take out such a dominant power on the filth over a two-week match with a best-of-five format.

D’Arcy Maine: Who else can you actually say however Rafael Nadal? He has gained 13 titles at Roland Garros and took dwelling titles in Rome and Barcelona through the 2021 clay swing. He is in the identical half of the draw as Djokovic and Federer, however he stays the participant to beat on this floor.

Pam Shriver: Nadal. Whereas there’s a risk he may lose early on like in 2009, provided that Rafa did not have his A-game or finest forehand throughout a lot of the clay-court lead-up, it is inconceivable to select towards him at Roland Garros with the best-of-five format. It is onerous to fathom one participant is seven match wins from profitable the identical main for the 14th time.

Rennae Stubbs: Can we even have to ask? As I mentioned final yr, till Nadal is not entered into the match, he’s the favourite.

And the ladies’s singles winner?

Bembry: Barty. Seven totally different girls have gained the French Open since 2014. Barty, the 2019 winner, is one of the best wager to be the primary two-time winner in that span if the arm harm that pressured her out of the Italian Open is not too severe.

Blake: Barty was a shock winner a number of years in the past, but it surely would not be a shock this time. She has an all-court sport and strikes comfortably on the clay.

Cahill: Barty. She settled in properly on the clay in Stuttgart and Madrid and performed a ton of matches of late after the lengthy 2020 layoff, so the additional week between Rome and Roland Garros is a blessing to relaxation up the physique.

Cambers: Barty deserves to be favourite, and he or she ought to win. I might fear about Iga Swiatek, however I will go for Barty.

Connelly: Aryna Sabalenka. She’s 11-2 on clay this spring, and the 2 gamers she misplaced to (Barty and Coco Gauff) are caught within the high half of the draw, together with fairly a number of different superior clay-courters. This units up fairly completely for her.

Drysdale: Naomi Osaka. She is one of the best ball striker on tour proper now.

Evert: This can be a more durable one! However Iga Swiatek has performed higher and higher this clay-court season, build up her confidence. She is hungry for extra majors.

Fernandez: Swiatek. She seemed sharp en path to profitable the Rome title and is aware of what it takes to win in Paris.

Gilbert: Truthfully, I’m not certain. There may simply be 10-15 gamers who may win the match. Why not a repeat from Iga (Pop) Swiatek?

Goodall: Barty. Her sport is superbly suited to clay, with an clever use of the forehand when it comes to peak, spins and angles mixed with beautiful variation off the backhand, and her brief slice, which permits her to play rallies on her personal phrases. It is rather more troublesome for opponents to energy by means of her on clay, which all provides as much as one other Barty Celebration.

Gore: Barty. Her sport fits this occasion, and he or she is so mentally powerful. She additionally handles the entire off-court distractions higher than anybody else.

Jensen: Osaka. This four-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t carried out properly on clay to date in her profession, however Osaka has a approach of being within the eye of the storm and appears to play higher when there may be noise surrounding her. She is a superb and considerate champion who thrives when the pressures are at their highest. The sluggish red-clay courts ought to enable her to arrange for every huge shot she needs to ship. To win in Paris, she must play prolonged factors and never search for the fast strike.

Maine: Barty. The world No. 1 has been on an absolute tear this spring with titles in Miami and Stuttgart (singles and doubles) and a ultimate look in Madrid. She needed to retire from her quarterfinal match on the Italian Open resulting from arm ache however says it was only a precaution forward of the foremost. Along with her seemingly now at 100%, that is the Aussie’s match to win.

Shriver: Barty and Swiatek are co-favorites, because it feels as if we have now two defending champs after Barty didn’t play final yr because of the journey restrictions brought on by the pandemic. However since I’ve to make a decide — Barty has been taking part in constant top-shelf tennis and would like to show she is No. 1 on the earth regardless of 11 months of not taking part in. Barty will win — she is one of the best athlete on the tour, and he or she is comfy on the high.

Stubbs: Barty’s play has established her as one of the best all-around participant on the earth, on any floor. As a previous champion right here, she feels comfy in Paris and would be the one to beat. Swiatek can be snapping at her heels, although.

Which males’s participant presently ranked exterior the highest 10 may make a shock run to a title?

Bembry: Casper Ruud. One title and three semifinal appearances in his previous 4 tournaments have the 22-year-old at his highest ATP rating (sixteenth).

Blake: Aslan Karatsev has taken the tennis world by storm this yr, performing so properly in Melbourne that I do not assume the massive stage will get to him. He may seemingly hit by means of any sluggish situations.

Cahill: Jannik Sinner. He broke into the highest 20 and has gained confidence taking part in towards one of the best on the earth. He appears to be like higher each time we see him play, and he is prepared for a deep Slam run. A bonus: His seeding means he’ll keep away from anybody seeded 1-8 in a third-round sport.

Cambers: I might have mentioned Denis Shapovalov however was gutted to see him pull out of the occasion. Ruud has the sport for clay and will go shut.

Connelly: Ruud. He reached 4 clay semis this spring and gained in Geneva. Whereas his draw is not simple — he may probably face Thiem within the quarters and Tsitsipas/Daniil Medvedev within the semis — he’s no less than on the alternative aspect from the Massive Three.

Drysdale: I will go along with Sinner. The draw helps him early on.

Evert: Sinner. He has proven a maturity past his years and may hold with the highest gamers.

Fernandez: Karatsev. He has been spectacular all yr and appears assured heading into the match.

Gilbert: Whereas I would wish to see an American attain the second week with a quarterfinal berth, I’ll take a flier on 18-karat Karatsev to again up his good run on the Australian Open.

Goodall: Sinner is the apparent alternative, but in addition maintain a watch out for Ruud, who has discovered sturdy kind on the European clay. He is maturing properly and beginning to imagine he can run with the massive canine.

Gore: Sinner. A quarterfinalist final yr, he’s due for an enormous outcome at a serious.

Jensen: Sebastian Korda. This dude has profitable huge in his blood! Son of former Grand Slam champion Petr Korda, Seb has all of the mindset and technical instruments to be particular. If he serves properly — and his lengthy arms give him nice leverage on the serve — the younger American may have a pleasant run.

Maine: Sinner. The 19-year-old turned the youngest participant since 2006 to advance to the French Open quarterfinals final yr and has since gained two ATP titles and reached the Miami Open ultimate. If anybody is able to pulling off the sudden in Paris, it’d simply be him.

Shriver: Sinner. As a younger rising star, he’ll achieve the advantage of taking part in twice at Roland Garros in seven months. He performed properly in 2020’s uncommon model of this occasion and is now a extra skilled and improved participant.

Stubbs: Sinner. He has the sport to essentially do some injury at Roland Garros.

Which girls’s participant presently ranked exterior the highest 10 may make a shock run to a title?

Bembry: Coco Gauff. She lately gained her second WTA singles title in Italy and has proven current enchancment on clay.

Blake: Garbine Muguruza. She has the expertise of profitable in Paris earlier than and has proven she will compete towards anybody on the earth. I believe she is in a happier place this yr, and that may produce higher outcomes.

Cahill: Muguruza. If she’s over a few of her nagging harm considerations, she can be a hazard participant sitting exterior the highest 10. From the beginning of the yr, she has been in wonderful kind.

Cambers: Petra Kvitova. If the climate is heat and dry, the courtroom will play quicker, and he or she has the sport for any floor when she’s on.

Connelly: Kiki Bertens. She’s in a race to search out her kind after an Achilles harm, and had gained solely two matches this yr, but when she does discover a rhythm, she is superior on clay. Plus, her draw shouldn’t be horrible.

Drysdale: Muguruza. Her victory right here in 2016 will assist her once more.

Evert: Gauff. One other participant who has improved and grown through the clay-court season. She appears to be like sharp, possesses energy and depth, and has wins over high clay-court gamers.

Fernandez: Muguruza. The previous champ has been taking part in properly and appears decided to make one other nice run.

Gilbert: OMGauff! In virtually each Slam of late, we have now had a few unseeded gamers in quarterfinals, and often one within the semis. With so many American girls within the draw, I see Gauff making a deep run into the second week.

Goodall: Muguruza. She has performed some great tennis to date this season, particularly within the Center East. If she’s absolutely recovered from accidents that hampered her firstly of the clay-court swing, she is going to imagine she will win all of it in Paris.

Gore: Jessica Pegula: Her current outcomes have been excellent, and he or she is a participant nonetheless on the rise. She continues to be looking for a Slam breakthrough, and this may very well be it.

Jensen: Gauff. At simply 17 years previous, she is now ranked No. 25 within the WTA rankings. I like gamers going into majors on a scorching streak, and the Gauff is actual! Clay may find yourself as her favourite floor with the excessive bounce permitting her to arrange the massive forehand. Do not be shocked if the ultra-talented American wins this main.

Maine: Gauff. Sure, I mentioned it. She is coming off of a singles and doubles title in Parma and a semifinal look in Rome. We have all seen how harmful she could be at majors (simply ask Naomi Osaka), and her newfound momentum and confidence may propel her even additional.

Shriver: Gauff. She is prepared for a deep run, assuming her serve and forehand proceed to indicate the enhancements of the previous month. A lot of her clay-court wins appeared routine. She seemed extra affected person, and her pace is second to none. The gang, as at Wimbledon in 2019, can be prepared to lift her up much more.

Stubbs: I’ll tip my hat towards a former Slam champ in Bianca Andreescu. If her physique stands up, she is at all times a tricky out. However exterior the highest 10, Muguruza’s kind, when she has been injury-free, has been spectacular this yr. The Paris followers and clay go well with her. She can be powerful to beat if she reaches the second week.


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