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The Look Ahead: 5 French Open dark horses to keep a close eye on
Juan Martin del Potro and more can put pressure on the top seeds.
Published May 20, 2017
Based on the results of the tournaments leading up to the French Open, it appears that the favorites for the singles titles are Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep.
However, nothing in tennis is a given. Here’s a look at five dark horses that could derail any expected coronations.
Juan Martin del Potro
In a perfect world, Del Potro probably would have had a couple of French Open titles under his belt by now. Instead, multiple wrist surgeries have impeded his time on the court. In fact, Del Potro hasn’t played at Roland Garros since 2012.
His clay-court activity has been limited of late, but the 2009 French Open semifinalist remains the player that no top seed wants to see early on. (Remember that he upset Novak Djokovic in the first round at last summer's Olympics.) Del Potro is coming off a solid run in Rome, and provided his health holds up, is capable of shaking up the draw in Paris.
Since the WTA Premier Mandatory event in Indian Wells, Estonia’s Kontaveit has sliced her ranking in half, firmly establishing herself within the Top 60.
Knocking off members of the Top 10 will do that, with her latest big win coming against world No. 1 Angelique Kerber in Rome.
Kontaveit has played a lot of matches on clay so far this year, including qualifiers. That additional court time helps instill confidence, and at this point, she has a lot of match play under her belt. The 21-year-old will enter the French Open as a relatively unknown commodity, but one that the top players should be wary of.
Flavia Pennetta had a fairy-tale ending to her career with her 2015 U.S. Open title. Why can’t her countrywoman pull off the same feat?
Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, is planning to call it a career at the end of the campaign. The 36-year-old from Italy isn’t coasting, though, as evidenced by her title-winning run in Bogota, Colombia, in April.
Schiavone followed that up with a runner-up finish in Rabat, Morocco, to lift her ranking back into the Top 100. She’ll be a dangerous floater in Paris, and one that’s experienced the joys of winning it all.
Perhaps the word that would best describe Cuevas is “solid.” The veteran from Uruguay has reached the quarterfinals or better in three of the Masters 1000 events this year, including his first semifinal in Madrid. There, he beat young star Alexander Zverev (and hit what might be the shot of the year.)
Cuevas’ losses in those three Masters tournaments were close encounters, and if he’d gotten through them, he’d be on the cusp of the Top 10. He’s coming off back-to-back third-round showings in Paris and appears to be ready to push through to the second week.
Cilic has reached the quarterfinals or better at all of the Grand Slams—except for the French Open. The 2014 U.S. Open champion and three-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist is at his best on faster surfaces, with 15 of his 17 career titles coming on hard or grass courts.
The other two tournament triumphs have been on clay, with the most recent one coming in Istanbul this year.
He’ll be entering the French Open with momentum, making a strong run at the Masters 1000 event in Rome. He’s been a surprise at the Grand Slam level before, and is poised to make a ripple in Paris this go-around.