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The top men's contenders at the French Open

September 25, 2020 22:36 IST
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The French Open starts on Sunday with an ever-shrinking number of spectators allowed at Roland Garros, the players facing tight restrictions and bad weather threatening to wreak havoc during the fortnight.

The claycourt Slam was postponed from its original slot at the end of May and will be staged with only 1,000 fans permitted each day as COVID-19 cases rise across France.

This year marks the first time the main Philippe Chatrier court is equipped with a retractable roof, which will allow organisers to schedule late matches.

A look at the top men's contenders at the 2020 French Open (prefix denotes seeding):

2-Rafael Nadal (Spain)

Rafael Nadal

World ranking: 2

Born: June 3, 1986 (Age 34)

Grand Slam titles: 19 (Australian Open 2009; French Open 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019; Wimbledon 2008, 2010; U.S. Open 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019)

Best Roland Garros performance: Winner (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019)

ATP career titles: 85

Nadal's quest to break Roger Federer's record of 20 Grand Slam titles hit a road bump when the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the season and postponed the French Open, his favourite major, to September.

With novel coronavirus concerns prompting him to skip a trip to New York, all Nadal can hope for is to equal his injured Swiss rival's record at 20-20 in 2020 as he bids for a record-extending 13th title at Roland Garros.

He looked off the pace in Rome in his first tournament back after seven months, losing in the quarter-finals in straight sets to Diego Schwartzman after he was broken five times, but said he knew exactly what he needed to fix before Paris.

1-Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

Novak Djokovic

World ranking: 1

Born: May 22, 1987 (Age 33)

Grand Slam titles: 17 (Australian Open 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020); French Open 2016; Wimbledon 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019; U.S. Open (2011, 2015, 2018)

Best Roland Garros performance: Winner (2016)

ATP career titles: 81

Djokovic is yet to lose a match on court this year but had his perfect record in 2020 blemished by his US Open default earlier this month when he inadvertently hit a line judge with the ball after a point.

The Australian Open champion is hungry to redeem himself and end the year on a high, especially after his Adria Tour tournament amid the COVID-19 pandemic put him in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons as players tested positive.

Despite winning 10 Masters titles on clay, Djokovic has won the Roland Garros crown only once in his career, falling at the final hurdle three times. But his superior fitness and his fifth title in Rome this week makes him a top contender.

3-Dominic Thiem (Austria)

Dominic Thiem

World ranking: 3

Born: September 3, 1993 (Age 27)

Grand Slam titles: 1 (U.S. Open 2020)

Best Roland Garros performance: Runner-up (2018, 2019)

ATP career titles: 17

Thiem was labelled the flag bearer for the next generation but fell short in three finals on the biggest stage until he finally got his break at Flushing Meadows this year, winning his first Grand Slam title days after turning 27.

The Austrian baseliner, known for one of the most powerful single-handed backhands in the game, reached the final at Roland Garros the last two years only to lose against Nadal.

Nevertheless, his groundstrokes and ability to win long rallies make clay the ideal surface for Thiem to win his second major.

6-Alexander Zverev (Germany)

Alexander Zverev

World ranking: 7

Born: April 20, 1997 (Age 23)

Grand Slam titles: 0

Best Roland Garros performance: Quarter-finals (2018, 2019)

ATP career titles: 11

A mainstay in the top five in recent years, Zverev's stock fell until he reached this month's US Open final where he was one set away from his first Grand Slam title before it all fell apart in the final against Thiem.

Zverev relies on a fiery first serve and strong backhand while he also thrives on his powerful groundstrokes but the German lacks that same cutting edge on his second serve to pose a threat on clay.

However, two Masters titles on clay and two quarter-final appearances at Roland Garros in the last two years will fill him with confidence heading into the final Grand Slam of the year.

12-Diego Schwartzman (Argentina)

Diego Schwartzman

World ranking: 13

Born: August 16, 1992 (Age 28)

Grand Slam titles: 0

Best Roland Garros performance: Quarter-finals (2018)

ATP career titles: 3

Schwartzman missed the chance to break into the world's top-10 for the first time in his career when he lost to Djokovic in the final in Rome.

However, the diminutive Argentine will take solace in the fact that he got the better of Nadal in the quarter-final.

A counter-puncher who uses his speed and agility to cover the court well, Schwartzman's game is suited to claycourts where his defensive abilities come to the fore to create numerous attacking opportunities and passing shots.

The French Open starts on Sunday with an ever-shrinking number of spectators allowed at Roland Garros, the players facing tight restrictions and bad weather threatening to wreak havoc during the fortnight.

The claycourt Slam was postponed from its original slot at the end of May and will be staged with only 1,000 fans permitted each day as COVID-19 cases rise across France.

This year marks the first time the main Philippe Chatrier court is equipped with a retractable roof, which will allow organisers to schedule late matches.

Photographs: Getty Images

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