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Roland Garros: Five stories to watch in 2024 including Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Swiatek

Image source, Getty Images

Image description, Rafael Nadal will play at the French Open for the last time

  • Author, Jonathan Jurejko
  • Role, ` sports journalist at Roland Garros
  • 1 hour ago

Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 26 May – 9 June

Coverage: Daily live text and radio commentary on selected matches on the ` Sport website and app and ` Radio 5 Sports Extra

All eyes will be on Rafael Nadal as the French Open’s best champion makes his return – and long-awaited farewell – at this year’s tournament.

It is unlikely that Nadal will win his 15th men’s singles title, setting a new record, even though the draw seems wide open as Novak Djokovic tries to defend his title.

The women’s singles is easier to predict, with three-time champion Iga Swiatek looking to continue her recent dominance.

` Sport picks up five of the key storylines before the big clay court tournament begins on Sunday.

Nadal and Murray say “au revoir”

Although nothing is certain in sport, Nadal’s victory at the Coupe des Mousquetaires was close.

The clay court king dominated in Paris and lost only three of his 115 matches.

The 37-year-old Spaniard missed last year’s tournament through injury but, with his retirement expected at the end of this year, is fit enough to return for what is likely to be the final time.

Nadal received a hero’s welcome this week in front of thousands of fans as he practiced on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The focus of debate has been how Nadal will fare at the start of the tournament, and he faces an incredibly difficult task at first as he takes on title contender Alexander Zverev.

Another popular player who has to say goodbye is Andy Murray.

Like Nadal, the 37-year-old Briton plans to end his career this season and has his sights set on a return to Paris, where he finished runner-up in 2016 before retiring.

Murray’s plans were almost derailed when he tore ankle ligaments in March, but he returned to court last week after opting against surgery.

Will Djokovic get back on his feet after a turbulent season?

Before this year’s Australian Open, it was believed that Djokovic would likely carry his dominant performance from 2023 into the new season.

The 37-year-old Serb reached the semifinals in Melbourne, but was unable to reach his usual high level.

Since his defeat against eventual champion Jannik Sinner, the 24-time Grand Slam champion’s career has been turbulent.

Coach Goran Ivanisevic and fitness coach Marco Panichi, long-time members of Djokovic’s team, left the team after the world number one’s early exit in Indian Wells.

Djokovic began his clay-court tour by reaching the semifinals in Monte Carlo, where he lost to last year’s Roland Garros finalist Casper Ruud. However, the insecurities that surrounded him resurfaced at the Italian Open.

Djokovic was accidentally hit in the head by a metal water bottle after his opening win and was hampered by the after-effects in his surprise loss to Alejandro Tabilo two days later.

Doctors in Serbia later said Djokovic had shown signs of concussion and after his semifinal loss in Geneva on Friday, it will be interesting to see what form the number one seed is in.

“Of course I’m worried. I haven’t played well at all this year,” Djokovic said.

“I don’t consider myself the favorite at Roland Garros.”

Djokovic is not the only top player whose form is in question. Neither Italian Sinner nor Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz have played recently due to injuries.

But German Zverev won the title in Rome, and two-time finalist Ruud is a likely contender.

Can anyone stop Swiatek from scoring her third win in a row?

Swiatek, seeded number one, has said that Nadal is her idol and that the 22-year-old Pole will quickly become as dominant on clay as he was at the beginning of his career.

Swiatek is aiming for her fourth French Open title in five years after winning 28 of her 30 matches there.

Her four titles this season include consecutive triumphs on clay courts in Madrid and Rome. If she continues this winning streak in Paris, she would become the second woman to win all three tournaments after Serena Williams in 2013.

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka reached the semifinals last year, but the Belarusian’s defeats in the finals in Madrid and Rome show that she is not yet able to challenge Swiatek on her preferred surface.

Third-seeded American Coco Gauff will also be trying to break through Swiatek’s game after losing the semifinal in Rome, her tenth defeat in eleven matches.

Danielle Collins, who will soon retire, is showing the best run of her career and will be dangerous, but last year’s runner-up Karolina Muchova is out with a wrist injury.

Image source, Getty Images

Boulter leads the British challenge

Image source, Getty Images

Image description, Katie Boulter is seeded 26th and will face former world number two Paula Badosa in the first round

British successes at the French Open have been rare; since the beginning of the Open Era in 1968, there has only been one singles winner – Sue Barker in 1976.

Katie Boulter is Britain’s highest-ranked player and is ranked 28th in the world. However, she has little experience on clay and is taking part in the French Open for the first time.

Since Emma Raducanu has decided not to qualify, Harriet Dart is the only other British woman in the main field.

In the men’s competition, Murray will be supported by Cameron Norrie, Jack Draper and Dan Evans.

Given the difficult draw, injuries and current form, it would be a remarkable achievement for the six Brits to reach the second week.

Trial against Zverev begins during the tournament

With the men’s singles appearing unpredictable, the time may have come for Zverev to win the Grand Slam title that his talent has long promised him.

However, the 27-year-old German’s performances at Roland Garros will take place parallel to a trial for domestic violence.

In November, Zverev received a penalty order and a fine after being accused of physically abusing his ex-girlfriend.

Zverev denies the allegations and has appealed against the decision, so that he remains innocent and will not be convicted until a final judgment is made.

The hearing, which begins on May 31, is expected to be an eight-day public trial before a single judge. Zverev does not have to appear in person.

When asked whether the case had affected his preparation, Zverev said in his press conference before the tournament: “Not at all. Ultimately, I believe in the German system.”

“That’s why I can play calmly and I think my results show that.”

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