Before we move to the tennis, let’s spare a moment for the man who loaned the tournament his name. A French aviation pioneer and war hero, Roland Garros impressed his countrymen with his style and resilience — qualities that the players who make it through the next two weeks will need in spades. Here are a few questions that remain before the first ball is struck:
1. Is This Novak’s Year?
In many ways, this feels like a rhetorical question. If it isn’t Novak’s year, it’s hard to imagine whose year it could be. While he has often won ugly (see: Fratangelo, Bjorn), Djokovic has generally won just about every match he’s played. Recent losses to Andy Murray and Jiri Vesely are still outliers until proven otherwise.
2. Is The S-Train Running?
Serena has won two of the last three titles in Roland Garros, and her recent uptick in form makes it more likely that she will finally tie Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles. It would be fitting if she reached the milestone at the same place Steffi did, 17 years ago. As always, it’s her title to lose.
3. Which Stan Will Be Playing This Year?
There seem to be two Stan Wawrinkas — the swashbuckling backhand blaster who cannot be stopped, and that other guy who has lost to Juan Monaco and his bestie Benoit Paire this year. While winning his hometown tournament in Geneva this weekend might be a shot in the arm, playing the week before defending one’s Grand Slam title, especially on clay, may not be the right lead up.
4. There’s Another Grand Slam Bid….
Let’s not forget Angie Kerber — though her Grand Slam chances seem less likely, given the up and down results she’s had since winning in Australia. While she did win a Porsche in Stuttgart, she has lost to two potential contenders — Eugenie Bouchard and Victoria Akarenka — and will have more attention than ever on her in Paris.
5. The Elephants Not In The Room
While the tennis will take over our thoughts once the first ball is struck, the lead up to this year’s tournament (especially in the local media) has had a bit of a woe is me element — with Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Gael Monfils, arguably the three biggest crowd draws here in Paris, out before the tournament has begun. While Federer and Monfils are likely to surface again once the tour moves to grass courts, Sharapova’s future hangs in the balance — a scary thought for a woman who has won two of the last four titles.