Ahead of the start of the 2016 French Open, which starts Sunday, Jon Turner picks five players to watch out for at Roland Garros.
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The French Open title is the one glaring absence on an otherwise sparkling CV for the world No 1. It is the title he craves above all others and, having suffered defeat in last year’s final, he will be determined to go one better this time round. Djokovic enters the tournament in good form, but not the invincible force we have become accustomed to. Although if he finds that top gear, he should complete his career Grand Slam.
The tournament’s greatest player enters the 2016 edition perhaps not at his devastating best but in good enough form to suggest a record-extending 10th title could be on the cards. As always, the Spanish world No 5 will generate a huge amount of attention, and there will be many who hope to see Nadal once again reign at a tournament he dominated for close to a decade.
Outside Djokovic, Nadal, and world No 2 Andy Murray, Nishikori enters the French Open as the in-form player on the ATP Tour. The Japanese world No 6 has been superb on the European clay, reaching the Barcelona Open final and successive semi-finals in Madrid and Rome. Nishikori is the most likely player not named Djokovic, Murray or Nadal to win the men’s singles title.
Still far and away the best player, and biggest draw, on the WTA Tour, Williams will begin the defence of her French Open title following a selective start to the 2016 season in which she has played just four tournaments. Whether the lack of on-court time will affect Williams positively or negatively could prove the deciding factor in the women’s tournament. If it is the former, grand slam title No 22 awaits the American.
After an injury-plagued couple of seasons, world No 5 Azarenka is back where she should be – among the elite, and fighting for big titles. Her clay-court season has so far been disappointing but back-to-back Masters titles in Indian Wells and Miami prove her ability on the biggest stages. Azarenka potentially meets Williams in the quarter-finals, and should she come through that, it could be a first major title since the 2013 US Open for the Belarusian.