4pts Rafael Nadal to win the title at 19/20
0.5pt Christian Garin to win the third quarter on 25/1
With so many architectural changes cooling the historic gardens of Roland Garros, one can apologize for waiting for a new set of faces to take over the battle for the Coupe des Mousquetaires – but that may have to wait another year.
We take a break in time and we see that the first three are again called Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Little has changed. Andy Murray is now on the pasture, but is it really time for someone to break the dominance that this triumvirate had at the event, something that was only achieved once since 2004 by Stan Wawrinka?
In fact, it's actually Nadal against all the others.
There is very little to say beyond the obvious. He is unique at Roland Garros with 11 titles and a record of 86-2. As soon as you begin to think that he is a mere mortal after defeats by Fabio Fognini, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, he has won the world number one in Rome to win his ninth title of the Italian Open . Maybe he's had a 40% less court time advantage in the early rounds, or maybe it was just a case of adjusting his campaign to peak when it matters.
So, is there any fading of Nadal's aura of invincibility in the red earth? It is worth noting that he has not won all preparation events in a single season in this decade, but remains dominant when it is more important, so whatever the small details of the past few weeks, all roads lead to Paris.
Is it worth the risk around twenty? Well, he received an absolute peach draw, with a total of four sets drawn from him on the players' clay throughout the fourth period. With the exception of Tsitsipas, against whom he promptly reversed the result in Rome, all his other dangers (defined as a player he would not start with less than 1/10 against) can only face him in the final. And while I despise picking favorites, based solely on that logic, the 10/11 begins to sound attractive.
Djokovic is on the other side of the draw but has only taken a clay title in the three years since winning here in 2016. He simply does not have that fear factor for the rivals on this surface and is much more vulnerable to a turnaround. While he avoids Nadal until the final, he is of little value considering the fact that he has lost in the quarters in his last two visits. The dangers in his section include Fognini and Alexander Zverev, though the German admitted to being distracted by a long legal battle with his former manager.
Thiem is in the habit of playing many events, but arrives fresh after losing his first game in Rome. His last three years here have picked up two semi-finals and one final, so he has to be the main logical threat, first to Djokovic and then, perhaps to Nadal.
Navigating the second quarter of the draw seems subdued enough, in addition to a likely quarter-final against Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentinean franchise has a record of 4-0 over Thiem, but with a significant warning – those matches were all in hard court or in altitude in Madrid.
The only other player worth looking at in this section is the young Felix Auger-Aliassime. Ranked in 109 in January for the Australian Open, the 18-year-old Canadian rose to the sowing here. This kid is something special and can make life difficult for Del Potro if they meet in the third round.
Blessed with the formidable energy of youth, Tsitsipas has played 43 matches this season, 13 alone in May. During that race he defeated players like Nadal, Zverev, Federer and David Goffin – but can he make up seven of the best five games in a fortnight? He was completely spent in Melbourne when he was defeated by Nadal in the semifinal.
Talent is not a problem, it is the necessary resistance against some of the greatest players of all time who can catch him and if the pair meets again here, it is doubtful that he is equipped to pass the test.
The third quarter is the most open of all and there will be value in looking beyond Tsitsipas and Federer to win this section. Former Wawrinka champion has not been in the best race, but he has a stellar record here; Marin Cilic also has an irregular shape, but has reached the quarter-finals in the last two years; Last year's surprise semi-finalist, Marco Cecchinato, is seeded 16.
Diego Schwartzman also reached the quarters last year and stretched Djokovic in Rome a week ago. Another Italian, Matteo Berrettini, has won nine consecutive victories, recently winning the Budapest title and reaching the final in Munich, then he is also respected, but he is the little-known Chilean, Christian Garin, who could deliver the shock result.
The coin has finally fallen for Garin in recent months. A year ago, he was on the 178th list of the world and fell in the first round of the qualifiers, but he returns improving greatly since then, ready to win some scalp at Roland Garros.
He won the junior title here in 2013, defeating Zverev, but failed to take the graduation to the senior circuit seriously. This season, however, he has reached three ATP finals, winning two and only missed the chance to be seeded here. He had a small issue in Geneva last week with a knee disease, but at the price I'm prepared to take the risk.
Published at 09:30 BST on 05/25/19.