By Ros Satar

  • Rafael Nadal returns after winning an historic 10th French Open title last year
  • Top Seeds: Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov
  • British Interest: Kyle Edmund [16], Cameron Norrie
PARIS, FRANCE – Rafael Nadal returns as the all-conquering hero, but is there anyone in the draw that could mount a challenge?

 

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[1] Rafael Nadal

10-time champion, and currently very much in command on the clay, having won titles this year in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

 

Nadal’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)

  • R1: Alexander Dolgopolov | Nadal leads H2H 7-2
  • R2: Joao Sousa | Nadal leads H2H 2-0
  • R3: Richard Gasquet [27] | Nadal leads H2H 15-0
  • R4: Jack Sock | Nadal leads H2H 4-0
  • QF: Kevin Anderson [6] | Nadal leads H2H 5-0
  • SF: Marin Cilic [3] | Nadal leads H2H 5-2
  • F: Alexander Zverev [2] | Nadal leads H2H 5-0

It is difficult to see who in the draw could even remotely mount a challenge to Nadal, certainly in the early rounds. His dominant head to heads with every seeded player up to Marin Cilic measn his draw looks like a complete cake walk.

What does stand out is how Alexander Zverev managed to fight back in the Rome final, after being absolutely shattered, and almost had the upper hand over the World No. 1 until the rains fell. If Zverev can get it together on the big stage, or should anyone else emerge from the bottom half (a resurgent Novak Djokovic, for example) then we might see some transition at the top, but it remains highly likely Nadal will make it 11 wins.

 

[2] Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev in the semi-final of the ATP Mutua Madrid Open, 2018

Alexander Zverev in the semi-final of the ATP Mutua Madrid Open, 2018 | JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

Coming in as the second seed, all eyes will be on Zverev to see if he can get past the fourth round of a Slam for the first time, since Wimbledon last year. His best at the French Open is the third round in 2016 and he will be very keen to put a dismal first round exit last year, after he claimed his first Masters 1000 title well and truly behind him.

 

Zverev’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)

  • R1: Ricardas Berankis | First meeting
  • R2: Dusan Lajovic | First meeting
  • R3: Damir Dzumhur [26] | Dzumhur leads H2H 1-0
  • R4: Lucas Pouille [15] | First meeting
  • QF: Dominic Thiem [7] | Thiem leads H2H 4-2
  • SF: Grigor Dimitrov [4] | Zverev leads H2H 1-0
  • F: Rafael Nadal [1] | Nadal leads H2 5-0

It is a strange draw for the German. He potentially has three first meetings and only leads one head to head, but should be a good bet on his form to certainly do better than his first round duck last year.

With the Munich and Madrid titles under his belt, including the Madrid Masters final, he should fancy his chances of his deepest run in a slam to date.

 

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[3] Marin Cilic

Marin Cilic in the Australian Open Final, 2018

Marin Cilic in the Australian Open Final, 2018 | (PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

The metronomically consistent Croatian might have had a slightly curtailed season following his nuptials at the start of the clay court season, and might rue the chances he missed to put paid to an exhausted Zverev in the Rome semi-final.

His best at the French Open was a credible run to the quarter-finals last year, and with a weakened field with so many withdrawals, he could look to go further.

 

Cilic’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)

  • R1: James Duckworth | First meeting
  • R2: Tennys Sandgren | Cilic leads H2H 1-0
  • R3: Adrian Mannarino [25] | H2H tied at 1-1
  • R4: Kyle Edmund [16] | Cilic leads 2-0
  • QF: Juan Martin Del Potro [5] | Del Potro leads H2H 10-2
  • SF: Rafael Nadal [1] | Nadal leads H2H 5-2
  • F: Alexander Zverev [2] | Zverev leads H2H 5-1

There could definitely be a decent run on the cards for Cilic. Maybe there is a danger spot in Kyle Edmund, whose form on the clay has been decent, and he has learned and improved a lot since their semi-final meeting at the Australian Open.

Although he is slated to meet Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarter-final there have been injury concerns, and with John Isner at the other side of that bracket either way we could be in for a battle of the big servers.

 

[4] Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov in the first round of the Australian Open 2018

Grigor Dimitrov in the first round of the Australian Open 2018 (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Despite what looked like a solid start to the clay court season with a run to the Monte Carlo semi-finals for the Bulgarian, he seems to have tailed off a bit. He reached the Barcelona quarter-final, but very much under-performed at the back to back Masters in Madrid and Rome.

Dimitrov has never made it past the third round here both in 2013 and 2017, book-ending three years of miserable first round exits.

 

Dimitrov’s Path to the Final (Ranking/Seeding)

  • R1: Victor Troicki | Dimitrov leads H2H 3-2
  • R2: Jared Donaldson | First meeting
  • R3: Fernando Verdasco [30] | H2H tied at 2-2
  • R4: Roberto Bautista Agut [13] | Dimitrov leads H2H 2-1
  • QF: David Goffin [8] | Dimitrov leads H2H 7-1
  • SF: Marin Cilic [3] | Cilic leads H2H 3-1
  • F: Rafael Nadal [1] | Nadal leads H2H 11-1

On paper Dimitrov has a decent enough draw to better his two previous best performances at the French Open. He only really comes unstuck by the semi-finals, but he needs to find some pep after really falling by the wayside in the two high profile Masters in the lead up to Roland Garros.

The French Open takes place between 27 May to 10 June.

Main Image: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

 

POLL: Who will win the Roland Garros Men’s Singles title?

 

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