French Open 2020: Lucky 13 for Rafa at Roland Garros?

Rafa Nadal goes in search of his 13th French Open title in Paris with a new roof and limited crowds at Roland Garros.

Matthew Crist

Four months after it was originally due to start, there will be a very different feel to the 2020 French Open when it gets underway this Sunday in Paris.

Originally it had been hoped that 11,000 fans a day could enter the site, but a rise in COVID cases has prevented that, with 5,000 fans set to be allowed on Court Philippe Chatrier this year.

Another break from tradition sees a new roof on Chatrier which will guarantee that play can take place even during bad weather with night sessions also being introduced this season.

Noticeable absences include 2009 Men’s singles champion Roger Federer and defending Women’s champion Ashleigh Barty, with US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu also missing from the 128-player draws.

All eyes on Rafa

Rafael Nadal

With Roger Federer not featuring this year, the spotlight in 2020 will very much be on Spaniard Rafa Nadal.

His 12 titles in Paris and 93-2 win/loss record is incomparable in the sport and the world number two will be backed by many to win a 13th title this coming fortnight.

Nadal chose to skip the US hard court tournaments meaning his appearance in Rome was his first tournament in over six months though there were some signs that he could be vulnerable this year.

He suffered a shock loss to Diego Schwartzman in the last eight and that defeat could raise a few questions about his form as he goes in search of his 13th French Open title.

Not surprisingly, Novak Djokovic is seeded first after the Serbian won a record 36th Masters 1000 title in Rome on Monday and his shock default at the US Open is the only time he has lost this season.

Dominic Thiem Tennis

A second title at Roland Garros would make the world number one the first man to win all four Grand Slam titles on multiple occasions in the open era.

But both Nadal and Djokovic will be aware of the threat posed by Dominic Theim.

The Austrian recently won the US Open and has reached the final in Paris the past two years and beat Djokovic at this tournament in 2017 and 2019.

The man that Theim beat earlier this month at Flushing Meadows, Alexander Zverev, has twice been runner-up at Roland Garros while Stefanos Tsitsipas will be looking to rebound after a disappointing third-round loss in New York.

Former runner-up Andy Murray is playing his first French Open since 2017 following two hip surgeries with the only realistic French hope being Gael Monfils, who will be seeded eighth at his home Grand Slam tournament.

Halep hoping to add to her haul

2018 French Open champion Simona Halep has reached two further finals in Paris and, not surprisingly, will be the top seed this time around.

The World No. 2 is on a record-equalling 14-match win streak and has won titles on clay in Prague and Rome since the restart.

Her most likely threat will come from two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka and the Belarusian has been in resurgent form this summer as she looks to repeat her run to the semi-finals back in 2013.

Following a disappointing 2019, Garbine Muguruza reached the final of the Australian Open in January and has demonstrated the type of form that has seen her win two Grand Slam titles.

The Spaniard won her first major at Roland Garros in 2016 and could well add a second title this autumn under the guidance of former Wimbledon winner Conchita Martinez.

Serena Williams Tennis

Much of the attention in Paris will surround Serena Williams with the American still searching for a 24th Grand Slam title after her semi-final loss to Azarenka at the US Open.

But Williams sustained an Achilles injury in New York and clay is unlikely to be the surface where she will find the most success in the latter stages of her career.

Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina will be looking for a maiden major title when they take to the court at Roland Garros having both shown decent form of late.

Pliskova was the runner-up in Rome earlier this week and will be looking to go one better than her last-four appearance here three years ago.

Meanwhile, two-time French Open quarter-finalist Svitolina will be looking to better her runs to the Wimbledon and US Open semi-finals last season.

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