Roger Federer enters the French Open with 20 Grand Slam titles and minimal expectations.

Each day, we'll preview three must-see matches from the French Open.

Roger Federer vs. Denis Istomin

Federer, who has played just nine matches since the start of 2020, would be at least semi-vulnerable against a lot of opponents—even first-round opponents—at Roland Garros. How vulnerable is he against Istomin? On the plus side for the Swiss, he’s 7-0 against the Russian native, who is 34 years old and currently ranked No. 203, and who has spent most of 2021 on the ATP’s Challenger circuit. Also, Federer’s recent loss to Pablo Andujar doesn’t look as bad as it might have two weeks ago, now that the Spaniard has upset Dominic Thiem in Paris.

On the minus side for Federer, Istomin has taken sets from him in two of their last three matches, and he has a habit of saving his best for higher-ranked opponents at the Slams; most famously, he beat Novak Djokovic in the second round at the 2017 Australian Open. This will be Federer’s first appearance in Chatrier since he lost a wind-damaged semifinal to Nadal in 2019. I’m guessing he’s going to want to rise to the occasion for his Paris faithful. Winner: Federer


Serena Williams: championship afterthought in Paris? That could change quickly with a dominant early-round showing.

Serena Williams: championship afterthought in Paris? That could change quickly with a dominant early-round showing.

Serena Williams vs. Irina-Camelia Begu

Serena is a three-time champion at Roland Garros, but she’s not on many people’s short lists of title contenders this year. It’s not hard to see why. She has played only a couple of matches on clay this year, and she hasn’t been past the fourth round at the French since 2016.

But she does have a decent draw. It begins with Begu, a 30-year-old Romanian ranked No. 74, but who has been as high as No. 22. Serena is 1-0 against her, a win that came on clay, in Rome, five years ago. Begu is capable of turning that result around in this night-cap on Chatrier, but only if Serena is significantly off her game. Winner: Williams


WATCH: Top 10 Upsets of 2020: When Musetti topped Wawrinka in Rome.

David Goffin vs. Lorenzo Musetti

This is the last match on Court 14, but it could be one of the highlights of Day 2. It will mark the first meeting between the 30-year-old Belgian, who is ranked No. 13, and the 19-year-old Italian, who is on the rise at No. 76. We’ll see contrasts in the ages and personalities of the players, but the most enjoyable may be in the way they hit their backhands. Goffin has a smooth two-hander, and Musetti has a maximally versatile one-hander. That should make for some fun and varied rallies as the sun sets on the side courts. Winner: Goffin