For all his troubles in the second half of 2016, Novak Djokovic will remember 2016 for so many right reasons, chief of which is his French Open success. Djokovic's victory at Roland Garros gave him his career Slam, and also made him the first man since the great Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four majors at he same time. The 2017 French Open is live from Paris from May 28 – June 11, 2017.
Having come so close to surmounting the colossal Nadal in his Roland Garros empire in previous years, Djokovic finally conquered the French Open in 2016, but what followed was a bizarre loss of form which ended with him losing his number one ranking to Andy Murray.
After getting to number one in the world with his fantastic streak, Andy Murray will hope to add the French Open title to his gallery, and there is always Rafael Nadal- the fallen King of Clay desperate to restore order to his house. And how can we forget the 2014 champion, Stan Wawrinka?
All these combine to make the 2017 French Open arguably the most unpredictable in years.
How about the wild world of the women's draw? Ever since Justine Henin's dominant spell of three successive titles between 2005 and 2007, the French Open has thrown up seven different champions in nine years, with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova being the only two-time winners in that time frame.
Sharapova is expected to return from her doping ban just in time for the French Open, but it surely borders on the impossible to expect the 2012 and 2014 champion to immediately get back to her pre-ban best. Williams will continue her quest for tennis immortality at the French Open, while late bloomer, Angelique Kerber will also be eying the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. Garbine Muguruza is unlikely to give up her trophy easily.
The second Grand Slam of the year is one of the most gruelling and demanding of the tennis season – if not the most demanding for the men, who must compete in best-of-five set matches for a fortnight on the most endurance-requiring surface in the game.
The French Open – otherwise known as Roland Garros, named after the Stade Roland Garros, where the tournament has been held since 1928 – has a long and complicated history. This has seen the tournament change locations and identities multiple times since its founding in 1891. Before 1925, the tournament was open to members of French tennis clubs only, and named the Championnat de France. Originating as a men's event alone, a women's tournament was added for the first time in 1897 – with doubles tournaments beginning to be added in 1902.
As the Championnat de France, the event changed both location and surface several times over. Initially, it was contested in Puteaux, and played on sand laid out on rubble. In moving on the the Racing Club of France, Paris, it changed surfaces to clay, and remained as such throughout periods of time spent in Bordeaux and Auteuil (Paris.)
After a couple more venue changes, the tournament finally came to rest at the Roland Garros stadium in 1928 – the year it officially became a Grand Slam tournament.
The tournament's history can be divided up into three stages: Before 1925 (the French club members only event), 1925 – 1967, and the Open Era - which is 1968 and beyond. It was only at the beginning of the Open Era that the tournament dropped its title of the 'French Championships' and adopted the major title of the French Open.
In the 1925-1967 era, France's own Henry Cochet won the most editions of the French Open, achieving four (1926, 1928, 1930, 1932.) Bjorn Borg of the Open Era bested this record with six titles (1974-75, 1978 – 81), a tally which nobody expected would be broken. Nevertheless, Rafael Nadal – still an active player – has gone above and beyond with his current all time record of nine Roland Garros trophies (2005-08, 2010-14.) The Spaniard also holds the record for most consecutive titles won with his five from 2010 to 2014. This also translates into an all-time record, as Frank Parker, Jaroslav Drobny, Tony Trabert and Nicola Pietrangeli of the pre-Open Era only scored two consecutive victories each.
Over with the women, the legendary Suzanne Lenglen won the most titles before the Open Era, triumphing six times (1920-23, 1925-26.) Chris Evert's seven title victories hold the record from 1968 onwards (1974-75, 1979-80, 1983, 1985-86.) Lenglen also holds the pre-Open Era record for most consecutive titles – four – and shares that status with fellow Frenchwoman Jeanne Matthey (1909-12.) In the Open Era, Monica Seles (1990-92) and Justine Henin (2005-07) share the status.
Nobody will want the French Open title in 2017 more than Rafael Nadal. For so long he was untouchable in that place, but now he hasn't made a semi-final in two years. The undisputed King of Clay will be keen to make amends for his unfortunate 2016 exit, when a wrist injury forced him out after just the second round in an unprecedented turn of events.
Will Nadal complete 'La Decima' in 2017? Or will Djokovic cement his place as the new Lord of the house? Can Andy Murray put together seven grueling victories in 14 days on clay? Or can Roger Federer steal an unlikely Slam in Paris? All these questions make up the ingredients for an intriguing fortnight in the French capital.
Over on the women's side, there is always the temptation to g with Serena Williams, but like she found out against Muguruza last year, there are ladies in this draw who can match, and even beat her in the power game on their given day.
256 players will arrive for competition in Paris. Only two can rise victorious. French Open tennis is live from Roland Garros from Sunday May 28- June 11, 2017.
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