It’s just like old times in Paris, isn’t it? Rafael Nadal is the favorite, Novak Djokovic is trying to catch up to him, Stan Wawrinka is laying in wait, and we’re all wondering why Andy Murray isn’t better on clay. The tide that seemed to have shifted over the last three years during the clay-court season has shifted back. For the moment.
Let’s take a look ahead and see what direction it may be heading over the next two weeks at the French Open. (Click here for the draw.)
Andy Murray is No. 1 in the world and the top seed, but who would dare to pick him to win this tournament? He has been slowed this season by shingles and an elbow injury, and he still seems a little shellshocked after his marathon effort to reach the top at the end of 2016. Now the question is: Can Murray, after hitting a low point with his blowout loss to Fabio Fognini last week in Rome, work his way into the French with no expectations? Or should we just write off his clay season and meet him again in a few weeks at Queen’s Club?
Last year Murray needed 10 sets to win his first two matches, yet he still reached the final. It’s possible his draw will allow him to find a groove this time as well. He starts against something of a Murray-mini-me in Andrey Kuznetsov; the life-size Murray has won both of their previous meetings easily. And while the prospect of facing Juan Martin del Potro in the third round would normally be a daunting one, Delpo is saddled with injuries again. I wouldn’t take Murray to win the tournament, but I wouldn’t count him out just yet, either.
Also in this section: Alexander Zverev, Kei Nishikori, Pablo Cuevas, Sam Querrey, John Isner
First-round matches to watch:
—Zverev vs. Fernando Verdasco. The German beat the Spaniard in straight sets in Madrid earlier this month.
—Nishikori vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis. Once upon a time—2015, to be exact—the Australian made the third round at Roland Garros.
—Querrey vs. Hyeon Chung. If you love meat-and-potatoes power-baseline tennis, tune in to this one.
Sleeper: Nicolas Almagro. The Spaniard could play Murray in the third round; he beat him at Roland Garros in 2008.