May 23, 2019
Roland Garros starts on Sunday and already some are calling it a straight fight between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
But is it that simple? Roger Federer will have no pressure on him whatsoever. Could he fly in under the radar?
Then there is Dominic Thiem, capable of beating anyone on his day, especially on clay.
In fact, you would have to say that Thiem has a significantly better chance than Federer, on recent clay-court form.
Don’t forget Stefanos Tsitsipas, the new glamour-boy of tennis, who seems to be improving with every passing month.
Could he take his first Slam and send his reputation stratospheric even before he reaches Wimbledon?
Could those much-loved old warriors, Juan Martin del Potro or Stan Wawrinka go on an unexpected run?
There are so many delicious possibilities. But there is a popular theory that Thiem might hold the key.
And that theory could well be correct. If Thiem is in hot form and reaches the semi-final, he presents a threat to the two favourites – even if he doesn’t go further.
For example, if the draw means that Thiem would face Nadal in the semi, then maybe Novak’s chances improve a little.
Despite that scintillating victory over Djokovic a few days ago, Nadal’s injury-prone body faces a much stiffer challenge over a fortnight of potential five-setters.
Sure, he starts favourite for his twelfth Roland Garros title. He should blast his way through the first week.
But a draining battle against Thiem could take plenty out of Nadal, even if he eventually overcomes the younger man.
But don’t be fooled by Rafa’s 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 demolition of a jaded Djokovic in Rome.
It will be much closer if the same pair reach the showpiece in Paris.
Djokovic had been involved in far longer battles than Nadal in the run-up to their latest clash.
And that brings us back to Thiem, Tsitsipas and Federer.
Even if they don’t win themselves, they could have a decisive say in the destination of the trophy when all is said and done.
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