Catch up on Day 1 at Roland Garros with Tennis Channel's wrap-up show.
As experienced as the Top 5 is on the ATP tour—not one member is under the age of 30—the biggest threats to Rafael Nadal in his quest for a 10th French Open title may reside further down the rankings. Nothing against Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, who all have experienced success against the 14-time Grand Slam champion before. But I think it's going to take something new to derail Rafa's rampage on the terre battue. Nadal's play in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid recalled the days when he had no peer, or even close to one, on clay.
Who can flip the seemingly preordained script? Perhaps one of the two youngest members of the ATP Top 10: 20-year-old Alexander Zverev or 23-year-old Dominic Thiem. Zverev, who won the only clay-court Masters tournament besides Nadal this spring, in Rome, begins his tournament tomorrow against another Spanish lefty, Fernando Verdasco. It could prove to be a useful practice session.
A practice session is exactly what Thiem's first-round match resembled, against the once-threatening Bernard Tomic. The Aussie could only muster just six games against the No. 6 seed, and failed to earn a single one in the second set:
Speaking of Nadal, and the Slams, do you remember Rafa's last victory at a major? You might, because it was an instant classic. In Melbourne, before going on to lose to Roger Federer, Nadal defeated Grigor Dimitrov by a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 score in the semifinals. It signaled that Nadal was back in business after an injury-laden 2016, and that Dimitrov was ready to—finally?—capitalize on his vast potential.
Or was he? Dimitrov has struggled since the Australian Open, having failed to win more than two matches at any 500-level or Masters 1000 tournament—and he played six such events. In addition, the Bulgarian came into his French Open opener against Stephane Robert saddled with a three-year losing streak in Paris.
Dimitrov ended that skid with a convincing, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win over Stephane Robert. Can he win three matches, though? Tommy Robredo is Dimitrov's next hurdle.