It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of the clay-court season. There is still the small matter of Roland-Garros left still to contest, though, as the world’s top players compete to be crowned the king and queen of clay.
In preparation for the season’s second Grand Slam, we asked our experts to predict who they think will make a splash at the French Open and here, we take a deep dive into Arash Madani’s thoughts ahead of the tournament.
Despite all our other experts picking one of our trailblazing teenagers Bianca Andreescu, Denis Shapovalov or Félix Auger-Aliassime, Arash went with the more experienced Milos Raonic as his prediction for the best-performing Canadian, commenting:
“He’s had the most slam experience, he’s the highest-ranked player. Even though the clay is ‘slower’, his serve still flies off of it, and the way the ball kicks up, it’ll allow him to run around his backhand and let the forehand do its work.”
However, Arash did pick Andreescu, winner of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, as his most-surprising Next Gen player on the women’s side and expressed his shock at Stefanos Tsitsipas’ recent rise to prominence on the men’s. He added:
“I didn’t see Tsitsipas becoming Top 10 so quickly; who ever could have imagined Andreescu soaring up the rankings as quickly as she has?”
In the men’s draw at Roland-Garros, Arash has picked 2018 finalist Dominic Thiem to go all the way. Losing to 11-time champion Rafael Nadal last year, the Austrian has since claimed the 2019 BNP Paribas Open title, upsetting 20-time Grand Slam-winner Roger Federer in the final at Indian Wells, and reached the semi-final of the Madrid Open.
The 25-year-old has been a consistent performer in Paris, reaching at least the semi-finals in each of the last three years. His 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Nadal in last year’s final brought an end to an impressive run which featured victories over Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. Arash is backing Thiem to go one better this year, though.
Unsurprisingly, three of our experts picked Nadal to win in Roland-Garros once again, while Tom Tebbutt and Aleksandra Wozniak have backed Novak Djokovic to take home his second Grand Slam trophy of the year.
In the women’s draw, four of our six experts have backed Petra Kvitova to claim the Roland-Garros title, including Arash. The two-time Wimbledon champion was a semi-finalist in 2012 and is currently ranked No. 6 in the world.
The Czech has already suffered heartbreak in a Grand Slam final this season, losing 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-4 to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open. Meanwhile, our other experts Sharon Fichman and Tom Tebbutt are backing Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina respectively.
In terms of dark horses, Arash’s picks have a Swiss flavour. While Stan Wawrinka is a past-winner of the Roland-Garros title, 2015 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank champion Belinda Bencic, ranked No. 15, has never advanced past the second round. Despite that, Caroline Cameron also picked the 22-year-old as one that could sneak under the radar.
Wawrinka reached the final of the tournament in 2017 but then suffered the first in a long list of injuries which have seen him miss a large chunk of tennis in the last two years. Bencic, meanwhile, will enter the tournament with confidence having won the Dubai Tennis Championships in February.
Otherwise, Sharon is backing Thiem and Miami Open champion Ash Barty to make deep runs, Tom has Karen Khachanov and Kiki Bertens as his dark horses, Frédéric Niemeyer sees a potentially successful tournament for Thiem and Victoria Azarenka, and Aleksandra has a good feeling about Tsitsipas and Anastasija Sevastova.
(Feature photo: Roland-Garros)