Just a week after the thrilling Rome Masters was concluded, we have arrived at the final leg and the granddaddy of all the clay court tournaments: The French Open. While the rest of the tour is treated with utmost importance by the players, the grand slams are what they get up every morning for. This is where memories are made and legends are birthed.
Thus, the following two weeks will be of all the more important to ATP’s burgeoning next gen, who have now made inroads into most big tournaments so far Here are a few of ATP’s Next-Gen and what we can realistically expect of this over the fortnight.
The French Open draw is a mixed one for the young Croat. He won his first round match against Philipp Kohlschreiber, a perennial overachiever. He will face an unseeded player in the second round. He could face Diego Schwartzman in the 3rd round (who is a tricky opponent), but Schwartzman has been off-colour since winning in Rio, which should boost Coric’s chances. A 4th round vs an in-form Kevin Anderson is a tough one on paper, but long matches on clay aren’t Anderson’s forte, and Coric could exploit. He most likely won’t make it past the quarters though, for he would most likely face Rafael Nadal in the last 8, but some would call that: time to shine!
Since the start of 2018, Kyle Edmund has put together a stunning run of results that has made him the highest ranked UK player. (Although Murray’s injury woes have a huge role to play in that). A first round match vs the talented but inexperienced De Minaur is tricky but one he should get through. He will face an unseeded opponent in the second round. The 3rd round throws up an interesting match between Edmund and the mercurial but spectacular Fognini. The fourth round against Marin Cilic would be the first match he enters as an underdog, although one who could spring an upset. Thus, Kyle Edmund too could be primed for a big run if everything falls into place.
No discussion of the French Open could pass without a mention of Dominic Thiem, the only man to beat Rafa on clay in 2017 and 2018 so far. His 2nd round match vs Stefanos Tsitsipas could be a potential banana skin since Tsitsipas beat him at Barcelona this year. Another big hurdle could be a possible 4th round match against Kei Nishikori, who on this surface at least, seems like a bigger threat than the higher ranked Sam Querrey who would be expected to progress if the seeds holds up. Thiem’s biggest rival, aside from Rafa, is going to be his inability to stay consistent throughout a tournament, which is something that he will have to rectify if he hopes to win majors.
Had Alexander Zverev closed out the Rome Masters final after leading 3-1 in the final set, he would have entered the French Open as the most successful player on clay this season, with one more Masters title (2 to 1) and more point on board. Nevertheless, he has still been extremely impressive and will look to break his grand slam hoodoo at Roland Garros. There aren’t too many threats on his side of the draw until the 4th round, where he faces the talented but inconsistent Frenchman Lucas Pouille. It is his expected quarterfinal match with Dominic Thiem that everyone hopes will materialize, even if both of them may find it to be very harsh. Zverev may very well be the man who dethrones Rafa at RG, even though no one would bet against the clay goat.
He may be only 19, but let his age not fool you. With a lovely serve, booming forehand and tremendous flair, Denis Shapovalov has taken the tennis world by storm. He isn’t just all talk though: With several deep runs in tournaments, most notably the Madrid Masters semifinals, he is showing exactly why he is so revered. Denis actually has a fairly good draw for a non top 20 player. His first and second round opponents are unseeded and neither specialize on clay. The first seeded player he could meet is American Jack Sock, who hasn’t found any rhythm whatsoever since the start of the year. The only problem? An almost certain 4th round clash with Rafa, which at RG is pretty much a death sentence.
The stage is set for the Next Gen
Thus, with a relatively open draw thanks to major absentees and out of form legends, this French Open could see the next gen make new ground. Maybe, just maybe, we may see one of them hoist a grand slam trophy by the end of 2018.
- Ishaan brings THE SLICE from India.