By Ros Satar

  • Rafael Nadal returns after winning a record 11th French Open title last year
  • Top Seeds: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem
  • British Interest: Kyle Edmund [28], Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans
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] Novak Djokovic

Best Result: Title (2016)

Djokovic arrives with one clay court title to his name (Madrid), and the final in Rome so hitting the end game in the back to back Masters 1000 is pretty fine preparation.


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

  • R1: Hubert Hurkacz | First meeting
  • R2: Sam Querrey | Djokovic leads H2H 8-2
  • R3: Gilles Simon [26] | Djokovic leads H2H 11-1
  • R4: Borna Coric [13] | Djokovic leads H2H 3-0
  • QF: Alexander Zverev [5] | H2H Tied at 2-2
  • SF: Dominic Thiem [4] | Djokovic leads H2H 6-2
  • F: Rafael Nadal [2] | Djokovic leads H2H 28-26

Although he has a decent record against most of his opponents, his draw does have some tricky aspects to it. If Alexander Zverev was more in form, then the quarter-final could be tricky but the German comes in low on confidence and wins, Dominic Thiem, however is the Prince of Clay in waiting, and you can never discount Rafael Nadal on clay or at Roland Garros. Whether these will stop him from achieving a second ‘Nole-Slam’ remains to be seen.


[2] Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal after winning an 11th Roland Garros title, 2018

Rafael Nadal after winning an 11th Roland Garros title, 2018 | (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Best Results: 11-time champion.

The defending champion usually comes very much into his own when he gets to Roland Garros, but by all accounts the new Philippe Chatrier court is immense, and it might take players a while to get used to it.


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

  • R1: Qualifier
  • R2: Qualifier
  • R3: David Goffin [27] | Nadal leads H2H 3-1
  • R4: Nikoloz Basilashvili [15] | Nadal leads H2H 3-0
  • QF: Kei Nishikori [7] | Nadal leads H2H 10-2
  • SF: Roger Federer [3] | Nadal leads H2H 23-15
  • F: Novak Djokovic [1] | Djokovic leads H2H 28-26

It could not be an easier start for the Spaniard with the first two rounds made up of qualifiers, before he looks to coast past everyone up to Djokovic. There are potentially two mouth-watering line-ups for the fan-massives, as if they need encouraging as Nadal is set for a semi-final showdown with the returning Roger Federer, and of course a World No. 1-2 clash with Djokovic who is hunting to hold all four Slams once more.


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[3] Roger Federer

Roger Federer in the fourth round of the US Open, New York 2018

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 3: Roger Federer of Switzerland during day 8 of the 2018 US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium of USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2018 in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Best Result: Title (2009)

The much-anticipated return for Federer to Roland Garros comes with a truncated lead up. One quarter-final exit, one quarter-final walkover.


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

  • R1: Lorenzo Sonego | First meeting
  • R2: Malek Jaziri | Federer leads H2H: 2-0
  • R3: Matteo Berrettini [29] | First meeting
  • R4: Marco Cecchinato [16] | First meeting
  • QF: Stefanos Tsitsipas [6] | H2H Tied at 1-1
  • SF: Rafael Nadal [2] | Nadal leads H2H 23-15
  • F: Novak Djokovic [1] | Djokovic leads 25-22

We can confidently expect Federer (usually) to stroll through the early stages of a draw into the second week but this draw has a brace of tricky Italians in the very confident and in-form Matteo Berrettini and Marco Cecchinato, who stunned Djokovic last year.

A much-anticipated rematch with Stefanos Tsitsipas will be tricky, and Federer would have to do something quite exceptional to get to Sunday,


[4] Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem in the semi-final of Roland Garros, 2018

Dominic Thiem in the semi-final of Roland Garros, 2018 | (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Best Result: Final (2018)

Once more Thiem is in a good position to make his Slam breakthrough, having started the clay court season very strongly, and perhaps a surprising opening round exit in Rome.


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

  • R1: Tommy Paul | First meeting
  • R2: Alexander Bublik | First meeting
  • R3: Kyle Edmund [28] | Thiem leads H2H 1-0
  • R4: Gael Monfils [14] | Thiem leads H2H 4-0
  • QF: Juan Martin Del Potro [8] | Del Potro leads H2H 4-0
  • SF: Novak Djokovic [1] | Djokovic leads H2H 6-2
  • F: Rafael Nadal [2] | Nadal leads H2H 8-4

With the exception of the prospect of having to get a first win over Juan Martin Del Petro, who actually has beaten Thiem on clay before, it is quite a challenge for Thiem to mirror his efforts to reach the finals last year, but it is worth keeping an eye on his form as the Prince of Clay continues to lurk the clay corridors of power.

Roland Garros takes place between 26 May to 9 June


How to Watch/Follow Roland Garros

TV ITV4 (from May 26)

Eurosport (Subscription Required)

Live Stream Eurosport (Free trial with Amazon Prime)


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