Defogging the Future

By Archit Suresh

With Roland-Garros fast approaching, I decided to open up my third eye and take a look through the old crystal ball as we try and discover who’ll come out on top at the end of this year’s least controversial major!

(Please, tennis gods, give us a break from the first and third majors this year and prove me wrong in New York.)

Now be warned, everything you’re about to read from this point is guaranteed to come true so there is absolutely no sense in attacking the mentions of @Popcorn_Tennis1 on Twitter. That said, I’m sure we wouldn’t mind the free foot traffic, so you may choose to do whatever you’d like with this information. Again, that’s @Popcorn_Tennis1 on Twitter. I don’t run the account, so let us have it.

Let’s start by breaking down each quarter of the draw.

The Quarter of Death

Quarter-final Prediction: (1) Djokovic v. (5) Nadal

Other Contenders: (9) Auger-Aliassime, (15) Schwartzman

Potential Darkhorses: (19) Dimitrov, Fognini, Wawrinka, (17) Opelka, 

Round 1 Popcorn Match: Wawrinka v. Moutet

I’m sure when the draw broke, every single tennis fan’s eyes widened as they saw that the stage was set for a Djokovic vs. Nadal quarterfinal. Funnily enough, every single former French Open champion comes from this section of the draw with Wawrinka joining Djokovic and Nadal. It seems so much of this quarter, and tournament, all depend on the health of Nadal’s foot. The Spaniard claims to feel quite confident about his chances at lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy for a 14th time. Who are we to doubt him? After all, the guy’s won it 13 times. If there’s one thing anyone has learned from the past 20 years, it’s to never doubt Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

If there’s one man who’ll like his chances against the King of Clay, it’s his great rival Novak Djokovic. The Serb enters the tournament as the odds-on favorite for the title, but he’ll have to put in the hard yards to get there. He’d potentially have to beat Nadal in Paris for the second year in a row, a feat never accomplished by anyone before. After that it could be Carlos Alcaraz waiting for him. Even if he gets through both esteemed Spaniards, it won’t be enough to win the title. Don’t forget about Diego Schwartzman, the veteran Argentine, who never fails to bring his best tennis on the Parisian clay and who could run into Djokovic in the fourth round. Last year, Djokovic had to play at almost peak level to take down a hampered Nadal, and I just don’t feel like he’ll be able to replicate that effort two years in a row. If anyone can prove me wrong, though, it’s Novak Djokovic. If Djokovic or Nadal have to come through this quarter by beating the other, it might take a monumental effort that could be hard to recover from…

The “Why is Alcaraz in this half too?” Quarter

Quarterfinal Prediction: (3) Zverev v. (6) Alcaraz

Other Contenders: (10) Norrie, (13) Fritz

Potential Darkhorses: Baez, (27) Korda, (25) Davidovich Fokina, Thiem,

Round 1 Popcorn Match: (27) Korda v. Millman

Alcaraz is entering Roland Garros with form, confidence, and rest. Three keys to winning a title. So far, the Golden Boy has answered every possible question we’ve asked of him. There’s only one thing left for him to prove, and that’s winning a slam. People will question whether Alcaraz is both physically and mentally ready to win seven best of five set matches over the course of two weeks. I’m not worried about Alcaraz if he comes up against the best players in the world. As long as he survives the draw until those matchups, he’ll be ready to bring his best. The question is whether his best is enough to beat Djokovic or Nadal, when they’re willing to go to the darkest places to win at all costs. Over the years, the Big Three have found ways to make best of five tennis look like a different sport. Alexander Zverev has done the same, in a very different, less pleasing-to-the-eye fashion. I’m predicting his struggles will continue. He’ll get to the quarters, but the level of tennis he produces against the best players on the biggest stages just has not been enough, and it won’t be enough against Alcaraz. 

The “Stefanos Tsitsipas Loves Paris” Quarter

Quarterfinal Prediction: (4) Tsitsipas v. (8) Ruud

Other Contenders: (14) Shapovalov, (12) Hurkacz, 

Potential Darkhorses: Goffin, (19) De Minaur, Cerundolo, Rune, Musetti

Round 1 Popcorn Match: (14) Shapovalov v. Rune

Honorable Mention: (4) Tsitsipas v. Musetti

If there was anyone who could be more ecstatic than Stefanos Tsitsipas after the draw came out, good luck finding them. Tsitsipas somehow landed safely on the opposite half of Nadal, Djokovic, and Alcaraz. Still, it is not cakewalk to the final. Tsitsipas still must go through a tough first round opponent in Musetti and navigate his way past other tricky players to get there. For Ruud, this clay season has not been ideal, but he seems to be finding his form on the dirt at just the right time. Holding seed and finding his way to the quarters here could be a big step in the right direction for the Norwegian.

The Clayvedev and Friends Quarter

Quarterfinal Prediction: (11) Sinner v. (28) Kecmanović

Other Contenders: (2) Medvedev, (7) Rublev,  

Potential Darkhorses: (16) Carreño Busta, (30) Paul, (20) Čilić, (28) Kecmanović

Round 1 Popcorn Match: Garin v. (30) Paul

Maybe this quarter is what Medvedev needs to find his form at just the right time, despite his disdain for clay. Those underrating his abilities should be wary of how good major champions really are, even on their worst surface. That being said, I don’t think Medvedev is there just yet, and Miomir Kecmanović could be the benefactor of it. Kecmanović easily would be the most improved ATP player of the year if it weren’t for the rise of Carlos Alcaraz, but he might be the surprise of the tournament by making a run to the second week. Jannik Sinner has flown under the radar all season, while simultaneously producing quality results and battling a slew of injuries. This might be his time to shine. I have him getting a statement top 10 win against Rublev, while also reaching the semis here at Roland-Garros, where the only player he has lost to has been Rafa Nadal (!).

Here We Go!

(6) Alcaraz def. (5) Nadal

(4) Tsitsipas def. (11) Sinner

Final

(6) Alcaraz def. (4) Tsitsipas 

(Yes, I went there.)

Carlos Alcaraz will be your French Open champion! After scraping through against Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal will be just diminished enough for Carlos Alcaraz to take care of him in the semis in a tight battle, after which I think he’ll be ready to take on Tsitsipas in a highly entertaining five-set thriller!

I know this is very much going to ruffle some feathers, but I’m sticking with my predictions. You all better hope I’m wrong, because you’ll never hear the end of it from me if I’m right.

Full predictions.
Part 2.

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