French Open 2016 Preview

Gael Monfils (France)
A comprehensive beginner's guide to the French Open.

In the Men’s Draw:

Will Win: Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic has never won the French Open. Already the holder of 11 majors, he is rapidly approaching Rafael Nadal’s 14 and Roger Federer’s record of 17, forcing his name in the conversation for the greatest player of all time. Djokivic’s stated goal at the outset of 2016 was to win this very tournament, and with losses in each of the past two French Open finals, Djokovic is poised to finally exorcise his demons and win the French Open to complete the Career Slam. He is simply too good to be beaten in a best of 5 match, and is sporting a 37-3 record with five titles in 2016 alone, including the Australian Open.

Djokovic placing 2nd at last year's French Open to Wawrinka
Djokovic (left) placing 2nd at last year’s French Open to Wawrinka.

Could Win: Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori.

Murray is so hot right now. He just captured his first Italian Open Title, defeating Djokovic in the final for only his second win in their previous fourteen meetings. Pressure bursts pipes, and all the pressure is on Djokovic. With a favorable draw and a slip up from Djokovic, Murray could capture the French Open.

The French Open used to be Nadal’s backyard, having captured a record nine French Open Titles. His confidence appears to have returned after winning a tune-up tournament in Monte Carlo. It also helps to have a little extra motivation to quell rumors of PED use.

Should Make Some Noise: Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Dominic Thiem.

The French trio of Monfils, Gasquet, and Tsonga always seems to put on a show for their home crowd. Tune into any Monfils match to watch the most athletic tennis player the world has ever seen 

Dominic who??? Thiem is 32-10 on the year, with wins over Federer, Ferrer, and Wawrinka. He has an arsenal of weapons, and four of his five career titles are on clay. At age 22, he is disciplined and has an incredibly high tennis IQ. Currently ranked 13 in the world, Thiem is poised to make a leap into the top 10 players in the world in 2016, and the French Open is a great place to start.

Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem

Won’t Win: Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, Stanislas Wawrinka.

Federer is not playing this year’s French Open. At 34 years old, fresh off surgery to repair a meniscus tear and nursing a bad back, Federer is finally showing signs of slowing down. He says he’s “not 100%,” and many think he is resting to focus on Wimbledon. Although Federer successfully shortened points to save the wear and tear on his body during last year’s hard court season (see below), Federer will have a difficult time producing the same results on clay, where points last substantially longer, making his decision to withdraw seem smart.

GIF

Berdych just lost 6-0, 6-0, and fired his coach a few days later. It’s safe to say he’s not going anywhere.

The American to Watch: Jack Sock.

Sock, a native of Kansas City and the 25th ranked player in the world, has one of the biggest forehands on tour and could give any of the big names trouble. He also announced his 2016 presidential campaign.

#sockin16
#sockin16.

In the Women’s Draw:

Will Win: Simona Halep

A perennial top 6 player, Halep has yet to win a major. This year’s French Open will be her breakthrough. She recently won the tune-up tournament in Madrid, and performed well in the hard court season after the Australian Open, reaching the quarters in both Indian Wells and Miami. At 5’6″, Halep does not possess the power of either Serena or Azarenka, but she does wear down opponents, and her game is suited to the longer, taxing clay court points.

Simona Halep
Simona Halep

Could Win: Victoria Azarenka,

Azarenka has not started the clay court season out well, losing before the third round in both Madrid and Rome. However, she won both Indian Wells and Miami, signifying that one hot streak over the fortnight could propel her to capture her third major title.

Kerber winning the 2016 Australian Open.

Should Make Some Noise: Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza.

Kerber has already won the Australian Open, besting Serena in three sets. She has the game to win her second major in a row. At 26-8 on the year, she is looking to prove her lone major win was not a fluke.

Muguruza, the Spain native, has the clay court savvy to make a deep run.

Won’t Win: Maria Sharapova, Genie Bouchard, Serena Williams.

For those of you who thought Sharapova was playing, she isn’t.

Bouchard, after reaching at least the semifinals in three majors during the 2014 season, has yet to recapture her form. She showed glimpses during the 2015 U.S. Open, yet slipped in the locker room and suffered a serious concussion. It’s unlikely Bouchard will find her stride at this year’s French Open.

Serena Williams will not win this year either. She currently has won 21 major titles, one short of Steffi Graf’s record 22. Like Djokovic, she enters the tournament as the favorite, with all the pressure on her shoulders. An early round slip up is possible.

Life in the spotlight hasn’t been kind to Bouchard.

The American to Watch: Madison Keys.

Like Thiem on the men’s side, the 21 year-old Keys has a plethora of weapons at her disposal. She recently made it to the final in Rome, losing a tight match to Serena Williams. It looks as if she’s finally learning to translate her hard court game to clay, which could spell danger for the field.

Madison Keys