French Open 2018: Five Questions We’re Asking

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1. Will Simona Halep Finally Win the Big One?

This is no knock on Halep, actually — she’s come painfully close at Roland Garros twice, and it remains her best chance to win a Slam. This year, with Serena, Vika and Sharapova all at various stages of their respective comebacks, the scene has been set for her to return to the final and possibly win. That said, there are plenty of contenders still lurking in the draw, starting with last year’s champion Jelena Ostapenko, who will surely return to Paris with plenty of confidence, as well as Daria Kasatkina, who made an impressive run in winning Indian Wells this year. Halep has shown she can put herself in a winning position in the final — the question is, does she have the weapons and the mettle to bring it home?

2. Is Novak Djokovic Really, Really Back?

Since he finally won the French Open in 2016, it’s been a strange and not altogether pleasant ride for Djokovic. Injuries, coaching changes and some malaise derailed tennis’ most dominant juggernaut for the better part of two years. But last week’s strong showing against Nadal in Rome showed promise, as did a quarterfinal win over Kei Nishikori. It will take more than one tournament of results to get Djokovic back at the top, but he managed to avoid Nadal’s section of the draw, and has the experience to win it again, if he can get back to his 2016 form.

3. Will Serena, Vika or Maria Be Able to Make a Comeback Run to the Title?

A win at Roland Garros would be significant for any one of them — for Serena, tying her with Margaret Court at 24, and putting her only one away from breaking the record, not to mention proving to herself that she has made it all the way back to the top, after a tough recovery from childbirth complications. For Vika, it would be her first Roland Garros title, and validation after overcoming personal difficulties to return to the tour. And for Sharapova, it would be validation after a scratchy comeback following her suspension for using meldonium, and perhaps a cap to her career. Based on the last results we’ve seen, it’s hard to imagine any of them winning the title now, but with some early round wins, each could easily use experience to put together a winning run.

4. Will a WTA Big Hitter Zone Her Way to a Win?

Petra Kvitova, Garbi Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova have shown that they are players who can take the racquet out of their opponents’ hands and simply hit their way to the title. If any one of these ladies hits a hot streak, there’s not much the field can do to counter the attack. Each of these players is an absolute wonder to see when in full flight — the question is, will any of them find the zone?

5. Can Rafa Make it La Oncima?

With Djokovic still working his way back into form, Murray and Wawrinka injured, Federer skipping clay, and the NextGen not breaking through at the majors, it’s hard to imagine anyone derailing Nadal’s run to his 11th title. It’s telling that the biggest question about Nadal’s French Open chances isn’t whether he’ll win, but, rather, whether the entire clay season should be reworked because he wins everything so easily. (As for that issue — an honest question — is there much a tournament can do to change how clay plays, like they do with grass or even hard courts? Because the other Slams have definitely made choices that affect how courts have played.)

There has to be a moment where someone manages to catch Rafa in Paris, is what I used to think. He can’t play that invincibly forever, right? Someone has to have a good day when he’s less than 100%, right? I mean, the Sergiy Stakhovskys and of the world have to win one sometime according to the law of averages, no? I don’t think anyone is taking the field over Nadal…with good reason.