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French Open 2018 men's contenders latest form: Top 10 favourites and their form heading into Roland Garros

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 21 May 2018
  • Top 10 favourites for the 2018 French Open title
  • We take a look at the latest form across the leading Roland Garros contenders
Rafael Nadal (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal is once again the overwhelming favourite for the French Open title, but is anyone capable of challenging the Spanish superstar in Paris? Dominic Thiem beat him in Madrid - can the Austrian enforcer repeat the effort on the biggest stage of them all? Read on below as we cast our eye over the top 10 French Open favourites ahead of the second Grand Slam of the year!

1. Rafael Nadal

Best French Open Result - Champion: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017

2017 French Open Result - Champion (beat Wawrinka)

Best 2018 Result so far - Monte-Carlo champion (def. Nishikori), Barcelona champion (def. Tsitsipas), Rome champion (def. Zverev)

Nadal finished 2017 with more injury problems and started 2018 in the same boat as he was forced to retire from the Australian Open with a knee issue, but he returned to the tour just in time for his favourite European clay court season. That two-month injury break might have inadvertently worked in Nadal's favour, as he looked fresh, fit, and hungry on his return to the European clay. The King of Clay won 11th career titles at the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open without dropping a set, and he appeared on his way to replicating that feat in Madrid, advancing into the quarter-finals and breaking the record for the most consecutive sets won on a single surface (50). But Nadal has never completed the Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros sweep, and he won't do it in 2018 after suffering a shock straight sets loss to Dominic Thiem in the last eight. Nadal committed an uncharacteristic 29 unforced errors in a messy performance, and lost the No. 1 ranking to Roger Federer in the process.

Never one to shirk a challenge, Nadal responded magnificently in Rome, initially easing past Damir Dzumhur and Denis Shapovalov, before putting away Fabio Fognini after the Italian had threatened an upset by taking the opening set. Nadal was reacquainted with one-time nemesis, Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals- with the Serbian playing something close to the sort of tennis that had caused Nadal numerous heartache over the years. Djokovic pushed Nadal hard, but the great Spaniard had all the answers, elevating his game to take the opening set tie break before dominating the second set to set up a final with the in-form defending champion, Alexander Zverev.

Nadal looked set for an easy win when he raced through the first set in 33 minutes, but Zverev fought back brilliantly, reducing Nadal to just one game in the second set, before breaking early in the deciding set. With Zverev looking ominously good, the rains came down, forcing the players off the court. Nadal came out with renewed aggression after the break, winning four straight games to complete a brilliant fightback and claim an eighth Rome title. While he was pushed a few times in Rome, the great man remained immovable. They could not do it over the best of three, it will be even tougher (impossible?) to dislodge the Spaniard over the best of five sets at Roland Garros!

2. Dominic Thiem

Best French Open Result - Semi-final: 2017 (lost to Nadal)

2017 French Open Result - Semi-final: 2016 (lost to Djokovic), 2017 (lost to Nadal)

Best 2018 Result so far - Argentina Open champion (beat Bedene), Madrid Open final (lost to Zverev)

Thiem was the clear second-best player on clay last season, finishing runner-up to Nadal in Barcelona and Madrid, along with beating the Spaniard as he made the semi-finals of the Rome Masters. He would go on to beat Djokovic on the way to his second straight French Open semi-final, but Nadal proved far too strong in a one-sided semi-final. The Austrian enforcer picked up an ankle injury in Indian Wells and returned to action in Monte-Carlo, where he managed to beat Novak Djokovic but ended up suffering a crushing 6-0 6-2 loss to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals. Thiem moved onto to Barcelona, but he couldn't repeat his runner-up finish from 2017, losing in the quarter-finals to rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas. 

Not much was really expected of Thiem in Madrid as a result of his lacklustre exits in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, but after battling to tense wins over Federico Delbonis and Borna Coric in three sets, he scored arguably the biggest win of his career to date, conquering Nadal in straight sets in the quarter-finals, ending the King of Clay's 21-match and 50-set winning streak on clay. However, the Austrian does have a history of faltering after a big match, and after beating Kevin Anderson in the Madrid semi-finals, he was outplayed by Alexander Zverev in the championship match, raising further questions about his ability to put together two big wins in a tournament, which you would most likely need to win a Grand Slam. His case wasn't helped by an opening round exit in Rome, where he was beaten by Fabio Fognini! 

Thiem has had the odd good performance in this clay-court season, most notably his win over Nadal in Madrid, but he has generally been below par on the dirt, and with Novak Djokovic returning to form, and Alexander Zverev in the form of his life, Thiem's status as second-best on clay is not as clear-cut as it was just a month ago.

3. Novak Djokovic

Best French Open Result - Champion: 2016

2017 French Open Result - Quarter-final (lost to Thiem)

Best 2018 Result so far - Rome Semi-finals (lost to Nadal), Australian Open R16 (lost to Chung)

Even when he was not winning matches, and suffering opening round exits at Indian Wells, Miami and Barcelona, Djokovic was still pretty high on the list of French Open favourites with the book makers. Now that he has seemingly found some form, his chances have shot up dramatically. The Serbian famously became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles simultaneously when he captured his one and only French Open in 2016, but he hasn’t been to a Grand Slam final since and has recently struggled with an elbow problem.

He made an encouraging start to the clay-court season in Monte-Carlo, claiming two solid wins before falling to Dominic Thiem. However, Djokovic found himself back to square one after losing his opening match in Barcelona to qualifier Martin Klizan. That was followed by another early exit, this time in Madrid, where he was bombed out by Kyle Edmund after a promising win over Kei Nishikori in the opening round. Desperately needing to build some momentum to justify being called a leading contender, Djokovic finally found something tangible in Rome! He took out Alexandr Dolgopolov, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first three rounds, before scoring an epic three-set win over Kei Nishikori in a performance reminiscent of the Serbian at his prime. 

A semi-final against Nadal provided an excellent barometer to ascertain just where Djokovic's game is at the moment, and while he lost the match, the signs were very good indeed. His game was back on track, and so was the attitude- that stubborn refusal to lose that made him unplayable at the top of the sport for so long.  If he can sustain this Roman form at Roland Garros, this man is surely featuring at the business end of the tournament.

4. Alexander Zverev

Best French Open Result - Third round (lost to Thiem)

2017 French Open Result - First round (lost to Verdasco)

Best 2018 Result so far - Madrid Open champion (beat Thiem); Munich champion (def. Kohlschreiber), Miami Masters runner-up (lost to Isner)

After a hugely successful month on European clay, has Alexander Zverev jumped the cue into second favourite behind Rafael Nadal? Has the 21-year-old overtaken Dominic Thiem as the new King of Clay? Ordinarily, his terrific form should put him right up there behind Nadal, but his dodgy Grand Slam record continues to pull him back. Remember, he won Rome last year before falling to Fernando Verdasco in the opening round in Paris. Zverev endured a tough end to 2017 and a disappointing start to 2018, but the young German - who is still just 21 years of age - recaptured some of his best form in reaching his third Masters 1000 final in Miami in March. 

However, unlike his wins in Rome and Montreal, he couldn’t go all the way, falling to John Isner in three sets. Zverev’s results at Grand Slams leave a lot to be desired (he’s yet to beat a top 50 player at any of the four majors), but surely it’s only a matter of time before he goes on a deep run. Could 2018 in Paris be it? 

Zverev launched his clay season by reaching the Monte-Carlo semi-finals, falling in three sets to Kei Nishikori, while he continued his great form in successfully defending his Munich title. He then produced a magnificent week in Madrid, romping to the title without dropping a set. Zverev wasn't done yet! The 21-year-old compiled another sensational week in Rome, beating Matteo Berrettini and Kyle Edmund in straight sets, before taking out David Goffin in three sets in the quarter finals. He also needed three sets in his semi-final victory over Marin Cilic, but the match he will arguably take most from was the final against Nadal. The defeat would have hurt, particularly in the manner which it came, but he will take enormous belief from the way he recovered from an opening set blowout to blow past Nadal in the second set and establish a winning position in the final set before the rain came down. 

On the basis of results on clay this year, the German has been the second best player to Nadal- will he get his Grand Slam breakthrough at Roland Garros?

5. Juan Martin del Potro

Best French Open Result - Semi-final: 2009 (lost to Federer)

2017 French Open Result - Third round (lost to Murray)

Best 2018 Result so far - Indian Wells Champion (beat Federer), Acapulco Champion (beat Anderson)

Del Potro's participation at Roland Garros remains uncertain, following the groin injury that forced his him to retire from his third round meeting with David Goffin in Rome, but if he does make it to Paris, his ability to bludgeon his way through a draw will once again make him dangerous in Paris, particularly with the state of the ATP at the moment. If Del Potro plays, it will be just his second French Open since 2012 after a horror run of wrist injuries. He’s only made it to the second week of the French Open twice before, but he’s still a threat on clay, and has been playing his best tennis in years in 2018 after winning his first Masters title in Indian Wells, snapping Federer’s unbeaten start to the season. 

You can never count del Potro out, but he’s going to need the fortnight of his life in order to prevail. Del Potro didn't play on clay over the first three weeks of the European swing, and his rustiness showed as he won just one match in Madrid before crashing out to qualifier Dusan Lajovic. He suffered as similar fate in Rome, where he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas before retiring against Goffin.

6. Stan Wawrinka

Best French Open Result - Champion: 2015 (beat Djokovic)

2017 French Open Result - Runner-up (lost to Nadal)

Best 2018 Result so far - Sofia Open semi-finals (lost to Basic)

After undergoing knee surgery post Wimbledon last year, Wawrinka has barely played in 2018, taking another two months off after Marseille in February for more rest and recovery. The Swiss made an ill-fated comeback at the Australian Open, losing in the second round to Tennys Sandgren, and desperately needs more matches and wins to be a genuine threat at Roland Garros. We know when Wawrinka is fit and firing, he’s capable of some jaw-dropping Grand Slam-winning tennis, but he’s well off the pace at the moment. Wawrinka eventually returned to the tour in Rome, his first tournament after February's Open 13 in Marseille, but he was beaten by Steve Johnson in his comeback match. There is still some way to go before Stan The Man returns to his best form, but no one will really like to face him at the French Open!

7. Nick Kyrgios

Best French Open Result - 2015 (lost to Murray), 2016 (lost to Gasquet)

2017 French Open Result - Second round (lost to Anderson)

Best 2018 Result so far - Brisbane Champion (beat Harrison)

Such is the current state of men’s tennis that a man who has never been beyond the third round of Roland Garros is considered one of the contenders for the title. Kyrgios will always be dangerous at any tournament he enters, but is he good enough to win seven best-of-five set matches on clay? He didn’t play much on clay last year due to various factors, and has only featured in one clay-court tournament this season- Houston. Still, the Australian does produce some good tennis on this surface. If he’s focused and in the zone, he’s capable of beating anyone, but the Australian recently pulled out of Estoril, Madrid and Rome with an elbow injury and is racing the clock to be fit in time for Paris...

8. Marin Cilic

Best French Open Result - Quarter-final: 2017 (lost to Wawrinka)

2017 French Open Result - Quarter-final: 2017 (lost to Wawrinka)

Best 2018 Result so far - Australian Open runner-up (lost to Federer), Semi-Final (Rome)

Cilic had been stuck in a bit of a form slump since reaching the Australian Open final in January, losing early at both Indian Wells and Miami, along with the ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro. However, he did bounce back strongly for Croatia on clay in the Davis Cup quarter-finals against Kazakhstan, and after making the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the first time last year, the 29-year-old will still be feeling pretty confident of making some sort of impact in Paris. Cilic kicked off his Roland Garros preparations by making the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo, losing to Kei Nishikori, (after which he registered a marquee win off the court by getting married!). Marital bliss didn't immediately transform into on-court success as the Croatian lost to Malek Jaziri in his first match of Istanbul (where he was the defending champion), and then pulled out of Madrid through injury.

However, he finally found some form in Rome, where he advanced into a first Masters 1000 semi-final n clay. Could the former US Open champion be rounding into form nicely ahead of a tilt at Roland Garros? 

9. Kei Nishikori

Best French Open Result - Quarter-final: 2015 (lost to Tsonga), 2017 (lost to Murray)

2017 French Open Result - Quarter-final (lost to Murray)

Best 2018 Result so far - Monte-Carlo Masters runner-up (lost to Nadal)

Nishikori made a slow start to his return from a wrist injury this season, failing to make much of an impact on North American hardcourts, but he's surged into French Open consideration after registering back-to-back top 10 victories for the first time since 2014 when he beat Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev on the way to his fourth Masters 1000 final. Rafael Nadal ultimately proved far too strong in the final, but Nishikori signalled his intent as among the chief contenders behind Nadal for the 2018 French Open. Nishikori didn't last long in Barcelona after making the quick transition from Monte-Carlo, retiring in his opening match. He returned to action in Madrid, but he was dealt a tough first round draw against Novak Djokovic, and ultimately bowed out in straight sets. The Japanese star ran into Djokovic again in the following week in Rome, this time in the quarter finals. He had played some good tennis in beating Feliciano Lopez, Grigor Dimitrov and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the previous rounds, but joined forces with Djokovic in the last eight to produce an absolute masterclass. Nishikori ended on the losing side of a riveting contest, but on the evidence of that performance, the 28-year-old looks set for a big fortnight at Roland Garros.

10. David Goffin

Best French Open Result - Quarter-final: 2016 (lost to Thiem)

2017 French Open Result - Third round (retired vs Zeballos

Best 2018 Result so far - Montpellier semi-finals (lost to Gasquet), Rotterdam semi-finals (lost to Dimitrov), Barcelona semi-finals (lost to Nadal)

A freak eye injury suffered in Rotterdam has derailed Goffin’s season after a second round loss at the Australian Open in 40+ degree heat. Safe to say the Belgian hasn’t seen things go his way so far this season - just as he was unfortunate in rolling his ankle in the third round of the French Open last year against Horacio Zeballos. If Goffin plays well and generates some momentum in the lead-in events on clay, he’s a solid underdog for the title - but he will most likely need someone else to take out Nadal for him. The Belgian got back to winning ways in Monte-Carlo, making the quarter-finals before going down to Grigor Dimitrov. Goffin then came from one set down on three straight occasions to reach the Barcelona semi-finals, but he was demolished by eventual champion Rafael Nadal by a 6-4 6-0 scoreline. The Belgian failed to generate any momentum in Madrid, going down in the R16 to Kyle Edmund. He got back on track somewhat in Rome, reaching the quarter finals before falling to Alexander Zverev.

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French Open 2018 men's contenders latest form: Top 10 favourites and their form heading into Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal is once again the overwhelming favourite for the French Open title, but is anyone capable of challenging the Spanish superstar in Paris? Read on below as we cast our eye over the top 10 French Open favourites ahead of the second Grand Slam of the year!

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