With Rafael Nadal out and Iga Swiatek’s dominance under threat, the French Open is hard to predict

(CNN) — When Rafael Nadal announced his absence from Roland Garros earlier this month, it seemed like the beginning of the end of an era.

With a hip injury since the Australian Open, 14-time Roland-Garros champion Nadal misses the second Grand Slam of the year for the first time since his debut in 2005.

He also announced that next year will be his last in professional tennis, which when the time comes will be a watershed moment in the history of the clay-court greats, a competition that Nadal has dominated for so long.

For now, the most important thing is who will win this year’s French Open in Paris, which starts this Sunday and ends on June 11.

how to see it

In the United States, the French Open can be seen on NBC, the Peacock streaming service, the Tennis Channel and Bally Sports. In Europe, except in France, the tournament is broadcast on Eurosport.

The list of international broadcasters and the full draw are available on the Roland-Garros website.

Very open masculine frame

No. 1 seed Carlos Alcaraz is a clay-court specialist and had gone 12 matches unbeaten before suffering a crushing loss to world number 115 Fábián Marozsán at the Italian Open.

Alcaraz celebrates against Jan-Lennard Struff at the Madrid Open. (Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

If he wants to win his second major title, the 20-year-old will have to beat double Roland-Garros champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

A victory in Paris would allow Djokovic to win his 23rd Grand Slam title and move Nadal to the top of the men’s tennis all-time list, cementing himself as the greatest male tennis player in history.

But the Serb, winner of the Australian Open earlier in the year, has struggled this season on clay, failing to reach the quarter-finals at three tournaments and missing another due to a elbow injury.

“A new generation is here,” Djokovic said after his Italian Open quarter-final loss.

“I mean, Alcaraz has been number 1 in the world since [el 22 de mayo]. Obviously, he plays amazing tennis. I think it’s also good for our sport to have new faces, new guys. It’s normal.

“We’ve been saying this for years, that we can wait for it to come, for that moment to come where some kind of generational change happens.”

Djokovic executes a backhand against Holger Rune at the Italian Open. (Credit: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The fact that Djokovic hasn’t won a title since the Australian Open and Alcaraz’s shock defeat in Rome may give hope to some of the other hopefuls in Paris this year.

Daniil Medvedev, champion of the Italian Open last week, is in excellent shape and has the advantage of being poles apart from Alcaraz and Djokovic.

Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, both former French Open finalists, are confident of putting in a fine showing, while sixth-seeded Holger Rune looks like a star for the future after knocking out Djokovic in the Italian Open.

The “big three” emerge

In the women’s draw, two-time French Open champion Iga Swiatek is the favourite, although she hasn’t shown the same dominance on clay as she did last year when she clinched the title as part of a a record streak of 37 consecutive victories. .

Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, second and fourth in the world respectively, have become Swiatek’s fierce rivals at the top of women’s tennis and both beat the Pole last month.

Swiatek in action at the Australian Open in January. (Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

This trio, now called the “Big Three” by some, has triumphed at the last four Grand Slam tournaments: Swiatek at the French Open and in the United States, Rybakina at Wimbledon and Sabalenka in Australia.

“The conditions in Paris should favor Swiatek, she feels comfortable there and she shows that she is definitely playing at a high level of tennis,” said Barbara Schett, Eurosport specialist and former world number 7, before tournament.

“I think it’s good for Iga to have these two players [Sabalenka y Rybakina] who can challenge her and keep her at number 1,” Schett added.

Swiatek, world number 1 for more than a year, could be dethroned by Sabalenka at the top of the rankings after Roland-Garros. He begins his campaign against the Spanish Cristina Bucșa.

The calendar in the spotlight

Women’s tennis has been riddled with controversy in recent weeks, which has once again put the programming of the women’s team at Roland-Garros in the spotlight.

At the Madrid Open, ball boys on the main court were ordered to wear cropped tops and short skirts, and players in the doubles final were not allowed to speak after the match.

Later, the ball boys’ skirts were changed to shorts; although the short tops were retained – and tournament organizer Gerard Tsobanian said it was “unacceptable” not to give finalists the opportunity to speak to fans at the end of their match.

Then, at the Italian Open, the final between Rybakina and Anhelina Kalinina was postponed due to rain and did not start until 11 p.m. local time on Saturday, a situation that former player Rennae Stubbs called it an “abomination”.

Rybakina takes on Markéta Vondroušová at the Italian Open. (Credit: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The WTA, however, said delaying the game was “the right thing to do” in a statement to Reuters.

Questions about scheduling could linger for weeks, given the way night sessions were scrutinized at last year’s French Open.

Only one of the 10 matches scheduled at night in 2022 included a women’s match: the second round between Alizé Cornet and Jelena Ostapenko. Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo explained how men’s tennis was more “attractive” than women’s tennis, to which Swiatek responded by calling Mauresmo’s comments “disappointing”.

At this year’s French Open, there’s no shortage of all-star appeal.

Joining the talented trio of Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina, Jessica Pegula, Caroline Garcia, Coco Gauff and Ons Jabeur, none of whom have won a Grand Slam, will vie for the title at Roland-Garros.

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