WILL EVANS serves up tennis tips as he runs the rule over the men’s section of the 2022 French Open draw – with teenager Carlos Alcaraz storming into equal favouritism to threaten the Djokovic-Nadal Roland Garros duopoly. 

 

THE TOP CONTENDERS

Novak Djokovic

It’s been a rollercoaster year since Djokovic won his second French Open title: Wimbledon glory, Calendar Slam dream dashed at the US Open, deportation controversy that ruled him out of the Australian Open. But the world No.1 has come out the other side and returned to peak form on the clay swing, making the Serbia Open final and Madrid Open semis before winning the Italian Open last week. A brutal draw – with Nadal his likely quarter-final opponent – shapes as the 34-year-old’s biggest obstacle to defending his Roland Garros crown. Nevertheless, he’s the equal tournament favourite.

Odds: $2.88

 

Carlos Alcaraz

Five Grand Slam appearances, a third-round exit in his only previous French Open visit, just 19 years old. It’s not the usual recipe for a breakthrough men’s major success in an era totally dominated by a handful of players – but Carlos Alcaraz is equal-favourite to become just the fifth male winner of the French Open in 18 years. A surprise US Open quarter-finalist last year, Alcaraz has been on an absolute tear since his third-round Australian Open exit. The clay-court specialist has won the Rio Open, Miami Open, Barcelona Open and Madrid Open in the past few months in blistering fashion. In Madrid, he beat Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev back-to-back-to-back. If he gets to a maiden Slam semi, Djokovic or Nadal is his likely opponent. The expectation on the biggest stage of all is the X-factor in the world No.6 wunderkind’s campaign.

Odds: $2.88

 

Rafael Nadal

Early favourite Nadal has dropped back in the pecking order a little with a chronic foot injury holding him back. The evergreen 35-year-old was on fire to begin 2022, winning the Australian Open and Mexico Open, before making the Indian Wells final. His clay swing has been less auspicious than usual, however, going down to Alcaraz in the Madrid quarters, then bowing out in the Round of 16 at the Italian Open to Denis Shapovalov. The ‘King of Clay’, a 13-time winner at Roland Garros, can never be counted out. But he’ll need to be near 100 percent fit by the time he enters a likely quarter-final blockbuster against Djokovic.

Odds: $5.00

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas

One of the strongest French Open performers of recent years, Tsitsipas made the semis in 2020 before losing a five-set final to Djokovic last year. The Greek 23-year-old also made his third Australian Open semi in four years to kick off 2022. Tsitsipas lost to Alcaraz in Miami and Barcelona either side of his Monte-Carlo Masters success, while he made the semis in Madrid and the final in Rome. Arriving in Paris in that sort of form is a huge boost for the fourth seed – particularly when he is on the other half of the draw to Djokovic, Nadal, Alcaraz and Zverev.

Odds: $6.00

 

Alexander Zverev

A French Open semi-finalist last year and a two-time quarter-finalist previously, third seed Zverev is in tremendous touchy but has been dealt a rough draw. He’s in the same quarter as Alcaraz, which leads to a likely Djokovic/Nadal semi-final showdown. The 25-year-old German will draw plenty of confidence from a fruitful clay swing, however. Zverev made the Monte-Carlo semis, the Madrid Open final and the Italian Open semis. The 2020 US Open finalist is a definite chance – but he’ll have to win his maiden Slam the hard way.

Odds: $17.00

 

BEST AUSSIE HOPE

Alex de Minaur

Seeded 19th, de Minaur has been on the fringes of a breakout major run but still has only one Slam quarter-final appearance – at the 2020 US Open – on his CV. Meanwhile, he hasn’t been past the second round of a French Open and hasn’t reached the final of a clay-court ATP tournament. But the 23-year-old is in the Lyon Open semis on Friday night, coming on the back of a Barcelona Open semi-final run (a three-set loss to Alcaraz) and a quarter-final appearance at the Italian Open (a 3-6 6-7 loss to Zverev). Not a realistic chance of lifting the trophy but it would not surprise to see him win through to a Round of 16 date with Tsitsipas.

Odds: $151.00

 

BEST ROUGHIE

Dominic Thiem

A French Open finalist in 2018 and ’19 and one of only five men to share in winning the last 20 Grand Slam titles, Thiem is an elite force at his best. But the 28-year-old, who won the 2020 US Open to end a long ‘Big Three’ Slam stranglehold, is at a low ebb. Making his way back from a wrist injury after missing the last three majors, Thiem has lost all six matches since his return. He went down to Marco Cecchinato in straight sets in Geneva earlier this week. But if it clicks into place for Thiem, who has a palatable draw before a possible fourth-round date with Alcaraz, he’ll be a tough opponent for anyone.

Odds: $51