The 2018 French Open gets underway this weekend, the 122nd version of the tournament, and will feature two new innovations. Firstly, a new shot clock will give players a maximum of 25 seconds between serves. And, for the junior tournament, there will be no ‘lets’.
In terms of the men’s tournament, Andy Murray is missing still with injury, and he was joined on the sidelines in the run-up to Roland Garros by Canadian Milos Raonic. Other big names like Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Kei Noshikori, have entered, but they are all working their way back to fitness after long injury lay-offs, and cannot be expected to make much of an impression this time around.
As ever, Rafael Nadal begins the tournament the heaviest of favourites to claim his 17th Grand Slam title on his preferred surface.
The biggest threat to his chance of claiming his 11th French Open would appear to come from German Alexander Zverev, seeded second, and Austrian Dominic Thiem, the eight seed, who earlier this month ended Nadal’s 19-match winning run on clay by beating him on the way to the Madrid Open title.
None of the three have been given difficult first-round matches. Nadal faces Ukrainian Aleksandr Dolgopov, Zeverev Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, whilst Thiem will play a qualifier, and all will be expected to progress easily.
The tie of the round, at least on paper, is the meeting between Grigor Dmitrov, seeded five, and Viktor Troicki, whose world ranking was once as high as 12, whilst the match between 6th seed Juan Martin del Potro against local favourite Nicolas Mahut is sure to appeal to a patriotic French crowd.
If the men’s event looks predictable, the same cannot be said of the women’s, not least because of the presence amongst the unseeded players of three-time French Open winner Serena Williams, who is playing her first Grand Slam since giving birth to a daughter last September.
She will play Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the first round and, if she gets through that, faces a potential second-round match-up with old rival Maria Sharapova, seeded 28.
In terms of the seeded players, World Number One, Simona Halep, and the woman who beat her to the Australian Open crown in Melbourne in January, Caroline Wozniacki, top the rankings, and both can expect to progress deep into the competition.
Third seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 winner, will also be strongly fancied, although she has been given a tough opening match against two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Play gets underway at noon on Sunday, May 27 and continues for two weeks.