Monday, June 17, 2024

Roland Garros | Doubt reigns with Djokovic, Sinner, Alcaraz, Nadal or even Zverev? – Will the favorite please stand up?

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There is no doubt that there are question marks surrounding the condition of more than one world champion. At the same time, it can be assumed that when such a player decides to participate, he is also ready to start.

It is therefore not advisable to focus blindly on the sleeve of Alcaraz for his sore arm, or frantically looking for a grimace on Sinner’s face when his overworked hip is put under pressure, or panicking when Djokovic once lets his opponent’s drop shot slip.

Everyone is involved and will try to make the best of the circumstances, and can be confident that no unwise medical risks will be taken. Moreover, all the greats have regularly won major titles in times of physical distress. That’s part of it.

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Rome | Djokovic crashes hard against Tabilo – “I was completely lost”

What’s going on with Djokovic?

Who knows exactly what is going on with Djokovic? The newly 37-year-old, who was crowned champion for the third time in Paris last year, is not himself. At the Australian Open, the tournament he won ten times, Djokovic suffered a wrist injury and shockingly did not reach the final.

This negative trend continued in the following months until Roland Garros. The 24-time Grand Slam champion has still not reached a single final this season, after five tournaments played. A bizarre reality. A concrete explanation for the reduced physical performance, mental struggles, general imbalance and sporadic tremors of his entire body has not been given, but Djokovic does not deny that something is wrong either.

What does not seem to have changed compared to previous years is his focus on winning Grand Slam tournaments. The rest is and remains secondary. The fact that he has lost to players like Luca Nardi, Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Machac since the Australian Open will not have done him any favors, but Djokovic remains Djokovic.

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Rome | Moutet gets laughs – phone rings during match against Djokovic

Semi-final replay between Nadal and Zverev

For years, the same could be said about Rafael Nadal. Injury is nothing new for the Spaniard. In almost every case, he somehow managed to recover well enough in time to not only compete, but win the title 14 times. His participation through a protected ranking ensured that all eyes during the draw were focused on where the illustrious lefthander would end up in the schedule.

There were 127 options and the winner was Alexander Zverev, number four in the world and newly crowned champion at the Masters 1000 tournament in Rome. It will therefore be a repeat of the memorable semi-final between Nadal and Zverev in 2022, a match in which the German played very well, but ultimately left the court in a wheelchair and did not return to the court that year.

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Roland Garros | Injured Zverev returns to the court to give up and congratulate Nadal

Zverev, Tsitsipas and Rublev divide the spoils

Zverev won one of the three Masters 1000 tournaments on clay in Rome. In Monte Carlo, Tsitsipas triumphed with breathtaking tennis, after which Andrey Rublev struck on the fast clay of Madrid.

Yet this winning trio intuitively fits more into the subcategory of contenders with two-time finalist Casper Ruud and the young Dane Holger Rune, than with proven Grand Slam champions Djokovic, Nadal, Sinner, Alcaraz and even Medvedev.

An additional problem for Zverev is that the hearing in his criminal proceedings will take place on May 31, during Roland Garros. This concerns his appeal against the fine of 450,000 euros imposed on him by the court in Berlin, which found sufficient evidence of abuse committed by him against his former partner and the mother of his child.

Zverev does not initially have to be present at the multi-day procedure in the German capital and could theoretically be on the court during the handling of the sensitive matter.

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Madrid | Rublev wins second Masters title after exciting final against Auger-Aliassime

Three Dutchmen – Greek Spoor, Van de Zandschulp and qualifier De Jong

Three Dutchmen start in the main tournament. Tallon Greekpoor is the 26th seed, Botic van de Zandschulp was just high enough in the rankings for direct access to the main schedule and Jesper de Jong has cleverly secured himself through the qualifications for his first main tournament in Paris, as he did earlier this year for the first passed the preliminary rounds in Melbourne.

Greek Spoor is chasing that one outlier

Greek Spoor had a special clay court season. In Madrid he reached the last 16, his best performance ever at one of the major Masters 1000 tournaments. In Rome, to his great disappointment, he failed in his first match against an Italian qualifier, a rare defeat against a player below him in the world rankings.

However, there was no time to be disappointed for long, as he traveled to Mallorca for a small training camp at the invitation of none other than Nadal. Nadal was soon followed by Djokovic, who appeared on the other side of the net in the quarter-finals of the small clay tournament in Geneva.

The number one in the Netherlands played an excellent first set, in which he forced several set points, but still had to bow to the best player of all time in two sets. The Greek track campaign starts in Paris against Mackenzie McDonald, an American whom he met once before in Paris, in the qualifications of the major indoor tournament in the French capital in the fall. Greek Spoor won in three sets and is favorite against number 74 in the world.

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Geneva | Greek track makes it difficult for Djokovic, but loses in two sets

Van de Zandschulp & De Jong

Van de Zandschulp, who in the past also appeared as a seeded player on the majors, has dropped somewhat in the world rankings this season. However, there has been an upward trend since the start of the clay season. With his old coach Peter Lucassen back at his side, the former number 22 in the world shows his best game at times. An upgrade of his service could be the next step towards a return to the top 50.

Winning from good old Fabio Fognini should be able to compete in the first round in Paris. The Italian, a top 10 player in the past, is now 36 and is winding down his career. Remarkably, the only previous meeting also came at Roland Garros, in the second round in 2022. At that time, Fognini had to abandon the fight due to an injury.

De Jong could face a big name like Alcaraz as a qualifier, after he played in the second round against later champion Sinner at the Australian Open earlier this year. However, it has become the left-handed top talent Jack Draper. The 22-year-old Briton is number 35 in the world, his highest ranking so far.

De Jong has his sights set on a breakthrough into the top 100, but has slipped somewhat with his current position of 177. It is important for the 23-year-old Haarlemmer to also perform between the Grand Slam tournaments and not only his best tennis save for the biggest stages. Draper and De Jong came face to face once before, below ATP level in 2022, with Draper narrowly winning via a tiebreak in the deciding set.

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Roland Garros | Jesper de Jong impressively qualifies for the main tournament in Paris

Wonderful opening games

Although previews like these mainly look at the bigger picture, the prospects of the world top players and Dutch assets, it is at least as fun to take a look at the early rounds and circle here and there around gems in the schedule. What to think of the following posters in the first round:

Gael Monfils vs Thiago Seyboth Wild
Botic van de Zandschulp vs Fabio Fognini
Casper Ruud (7) vs Jakub Mensik
Alexander Zverev (4) vs Rafael Nadal (PR)
Stan Wawrinka vs Andy Murray

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Roland Garros | Tournament point already made in qualifying? Agamenone hits a tweener past Thiem

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