Never before has two Grand Slam tennis events been staged in such close proximity.
Less than 14 days after Dominic Thiem claimed his maiden Slam title in New York, the French Open will start at Roland Garros.
Despite all of the anger which emanated from the United States about the French Tennis Federation’s decision to stage their showpiece event so soon after Flushing Meadows, there has to be some level of sympathy afforded to officials based in Paris.
With the number of available daylight hours fading quickly in northern Europe by late September/early October, the French Tennis Federation probably felt it was now or never – otherwise wait until next May.
And in the absence of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, and the subsequent bizarre disqualification of Novak Djokovic, Thiem became the newest male Grand Slam champion for six years.
His tense five-set victory over Alexander Zverev in the final of the US Open made him the first first-time champion in 23 events.
Thiem celebrated his 27th birthday during the tournament but, put into perspective, Nadal and Federer had each won 12 Slams by this stage.
As for Roland Garros, and despite Thiem’s success in the Big Apple, the Austrian will still be behind Nadal and Djokovic in the betting over the next couple of weeks.
Check out the latest men’s singles betting for the forthcoming French Open
So who makes the short list of expected winners in the French capital?
Rafa Nadal: Remarkably chasing a 13th Slam victory on clay. In his first outing since February, Nadal reached the quarter-finals in Rome last week. In his opening two matches in Italy the Spaniard was at his ruthless best, conceding just seven games over four sets, but then lost to Diego Schwartzman. Providing he is fully fit, Nadal should travel deep into the second week in Paris, by which time he should be up to speed on his favourite surface.
Novak Djokovic: The champion in Rome, the world No 1 will fancy his chances of claiming a second French Open title in early October. No one has won more Slam titles during the past 10 years than the Serb – 16 in all. Despite Nadal’s momentous achievements on clay, and especially in Paris, many will view Djokovic as the favourite for the French Open. Going back to last November, the 33-year-old has won 34 of his last 35 competitive matches – the only black mark being his disqualification against Pablo Carreno Busta at Flushing Meadows.
Dominic Thiem: Tennis finally has a new Slam champion. Despite his hard-earned victory in the States, clay remains Thiem’s best surface. For the past four years he has never failed to reach the semi-finals in Paris, and has lost to the eventual champion each time. In 2018 and 2019 this meant finishing runner-up to Nadal. Neither Djokovic nor Nadal will want Thiem in their half of the draw.
Diego Schwartzman: Shocked Nadal in Rome last Saturday and went on to lose to Djokovic in the final. His best performance in Paris was a quarter-final appearance in 2018 when he was the only player to take a set off eventual champion Nadal. The Argentinian lacks height but has plenty of determination.
Alexander Zverev: Beaten in the New York final and will feel he missed a golden chance to claim what would have been his biggest title to date. He led Thiem by two sets to love, and added an early break of serve in the third, before losing 7-6 (8-6) in the decider. Perhaps, mentally, Roland Garros has come too soon for Zverev following this acute disappointment. The 23-year-old German is a winner of five ATP Tour clay court tournaments, which include a brace of Masters Series events – in Madrid and Rome.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: Disappointing at the US Open, having played well in the Masters Series event the previous week – reaching the semi-finals. The world No 6 from Greece has won one clay court event in his career, and made it to the last 16 in Paris last year when he lost an exciting five-hour, five-setter, to the experienced Stan Wawrinka. The 22-year-old’s best Slam performance to date is a semi-final appearance in Melbourne 20 months ago.
Click here to view 10-year form at US Open
Twitter: Andy [email protected]