It’s time. The qualifying rounds for the 2018 French Open have officially begun, and fans are gearing up for what will without a doubt be an exciting Grand Slam tournament. With so many promising names in the field, it was difficult to create a top 5 list of ATP and WTA players to watch, but that is exactly what we have done below. We begin at number five:
#5. Kei Nishikori and Serena Williams
Kei Nishikori is a consistent performer who can really turn up the heat in a variety of environments. Although a wrist injury sidelined him at the end of the 2017 season, he has returned to promising form this year. He recently reached the finals of the Monte Carlo Masters, and the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters event.
Many are skeptical that Serena Williams will make a successful run at this year’s French Open, given her unfortunate health complications following the birth of her daughter, and resultant delay in getting back to the court. But there will undoubtedly be millions tuning in to find out. Despite some tough losses earlier this year, and potential seeding difficulties, Serena should have a good opportunity to improve her form at Roland Garros.
At left is Kei Nishikori at the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia (May 17, 2018 – Source: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe). At right is Serena Williams at the 2018 Miami Open (March 20, 2018 – Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America).
#4. Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova
Another player battling to return from injuries is Novak Djokovic. He underwent elbow surgery in January after the Australian Open, and made a relatively quick recovery to compete at Indian Wells. His record since then has been spotty, with several ups and downs, but he enters the French Open on the heels of a strong semifinals appearance in Rome.
Maria Sharapova began the 2018 season respectably, but fell into a slump where she lost four straight matches following the Australian Open. She snapped this losing streak in Madrid, and went on to reach the semifinals in Rome. It will be interesting to see if her form continues to trend upward at Roland Garros.
At left is Novak Djokovic at the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia (May 18, 2018 – Source: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe). At right is Maria Sharapova at the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia (May 18, 2018 – Source: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe).
#3. Dominic Thiem and Petra Kvitová
Dominic Thiem has a couple of unique stats to his name: Not only has he beaten Federer, Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic at least once each, but he is also the last player to defeat Nadal on clay (this occurred at the Madrid Open, and snapped Rafa’s 21-match, 50-set streak). He reached the semis of the French Open last year, and presents a real threat to compete for the title this year.
Petra Kvitová regularly displays flashes of greatness on clay, but can never seem to break through at the French Open. This year, she enters the tournament having won the championships in Prague and Madrid. She decided to give her body a rest by withdrawing from Rome, and hopes to make a splash in Paris.
At left is Dominic Thiem at the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia (May 15, 2018 – Source: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe). At right is Petra Kvitová after winning the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open (May 11, 2018 – Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe).
#2. Alexander Zverev and Elina Svitolina
Alexander Zverev has really made a name for himself these past few years after exploding onto the pro-circuit in 2014. However, many are wondering if he can keep his legs under him this year at the French Open (he won the Italian Open last year, but went on to lose in the first round in Paris). In his past two tournaments, he defeated Thiem in the finals of the Madrid Open, and lost to Nadal in the finals of the Italian Open.
If history is any indication, Elina Svitolina should perform well at Roland Garros this year. Last year, she defeated Simona Halep to capture the crown in Rome, then fell to her in the quarterfinals in Paris. This year, Svitolina once again defeated Halep in Rome, and now heads into the French Open looking to keep up her momentum.
At left is Alexander Zverev after winning the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open (May 12, 2018 – Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe). At right is Elina Svitolina after winning the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia (May 19, 2018 – Source: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe).
#1. Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep
Rafael Nadal is currently listed as a slight favorite to win the 2018 French Open (exorbitant amounts of sarcasm intended). He won the title last year, and now has a total of 10 Roland Garros wins. He enters this year’s tournament having won the Monte Carlo Masters, Barcelona Open, and the Rome Masters. His only loss of the clay season came at the Madrid Open to Dominic Thiem. He is the ATP’s world #1 at the time of this writing.
Simona Halep is looking to make a deep run at this year’s French Open, just as she’s done in the past. She made it to the finals last year, but was defeated by Jeļena Ostapenko. She enters this year’s tournament as the WTA’s world #1, and is hoping to make that final step forward in Paris.
At left is Rafael Nadal after winning the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia (May 19, 2018 – Source: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe). At right is Simona Halep at the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia (May 18, 2018 – Source: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe).
There are obviously a lot of great players that have real arguments to make this list. Our honorable mentions on the men’s side go to David Goffin and Marin Čilić. Both have shown promise on clay, and have the potential to cause problems for others in the tournament. On the women’s side, it would be impossible not to mention Jeļena Ostapenko (last year’s French Open winner). Karolína Plíšková also performed well at Roland Garros last year, falling in the semi-finals to Halep.
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