French Open Men’s Singles Roundtable Predictions: Champion, Dark Horse and Early Exit

Rafael Nadal in action at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2012

Ahead of the second Grand Slam of the year at Roland Garros, five Last Word On Tennis writers–Vithun Illankovan, Yesh Ginsburg, Ryan Schick, Damian Kust, and Nurein Ahmed–made their French Open Men’s Singles predictions. We also have a separate roundtable for the women’s singles.

French Open Men’s Singles Roundtable Predictions

ChampionWho will win the 2021 French Open? 

Vithun: [3] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Had it not been for the magnificent statue the tournament unveiled of the 13-time French Open champion this year, I would have had no hesitation in picking Nadal. However, commemorating a player to that magnitude before they have retired can be a bad omen for their career. After Andy Murray received a knighthood, he has not reached another Grand Slam final since, despite reaching at least one in six of the seven seasons prior. As a result, I could see this statue becoming a symbol of the start of the decline of the greatest clay-court player ever. However, given that he has already won titles in Barcelona and Rome in 2021 and has an incredible 100-2 record at the tournament, I have decided to give the Spaniard the benefit of doubt in winning his 14th French Open.

Yesh: [3] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Is there any other option? Nadal has earned the right to be the expected champion, and no one has taken that from him yet.

Ryan: [3] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Rafael Nadal has lost twice in his career at the French Open, and one of those two losses was to Djokovic when the Spaniard was far from 100%. Until Nadal shows any vulnerability at Roland Garros he is the favorite to win, and while not great his form has been good enough where he can win here yet again.

Damian: [3] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

It’s always tempting to pick someone else at Roland Garros, but I think I’ve seen this movie before. It’s been years since Novak Djokovic defeated him on clay and if Nadal is to lose in Paris this year, it would require at least one or two players to tire him out first, then someone like Stefanos Tsitsipas could take over in the finals. Still, it’s unlikely.

Nurein: [3] Rafael Nadal (ESP)

At Roland Garros, Nadal is the closest thing to automatic if ever there was one. There was a cloud of uncertainty regarding his form at the start of the clay swing, but he has found his feet and silenced his detractors in style, by winning Barcelona and the Italian Open. Nadal’s single biggest threat will be Novak Djokovic, and he will likely play him in the semifinals. Aside from that, he should have very few obstacles towards a record-extending 14th title.

Dark Horse – Who will go furthest in the draw, relative to their seeding (or ranking)?

Vithun: Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)

The 19-year old Italian has a lot of potential and the French Open could be where he showcases it on an international stage. In the Live ATP Race to Turin (ranking points gained solely in 2021), he is currently No.29. His opening round opponent is the No.13 seed David Goffin. The Belgian is not someone who can hit his opponents off the court ,and I suspect the opposite may happen if Musetti is in good form. The same goes for his potential third round opponent, Australia’s Alex de Minaur (seeded No.21). Therefore, in what will be Musetti’s first ever appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam, I predict him to reach the 4th round.

Yesh: [32] Reilly Opelka (USA)

Opelka has a real chance to get to the quarterfinals. His height is a positive on the high-bouncing surface, his serve will keep him in any match, and the draw has real possibilities.

Ryan: [15] Casper Ruud (NOR)

Ruud has had an excellent run of form on clay, capturing the title in Geneva and making the semifinal in Monte Carlo. His draw is pretty favorable with essentially a first-roumd bye against Benoit Paire and a third round potential matchup with Hubert Hurkacz who hasn’t quite taken to the clay yet. He should make the 4th round easily, where he’d likely await Dominic Thiem whose form has recently been inexplicably poor. With Thiem vulnerable and Ruud playing great tennis, there is a real chance of the Norwegian making his first major quarterfinal.

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Damian: [15] Casper Ruud (NOR)

The last two editions saw Casper Ruud lose in the third round to Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem, respectively. While he’s due to face the Austrian quite early again, I believe on current form he’s going to make it close at the very least. His huge topspin forehand is a weapon that reaches its maximum effectiveness on the clay and if he brings the form he had in Geneva to Paris, it could be the first of many good Roland Garros runs for the Norwegian. A semifinal berth wouldn’t be a huge surprise.

Nurein: [32] Reilly Opelka (USA)

I predict Opelka to reach the quarterfinals. This might come a bit as surprise to many, but Opelka’s game has evolved into something more refined of late. His serve will remain his biggest weapon though. He was broken twice during the week (only by Nadal) in that sensational run to the semifinals of the Rome Masters. I honestly think he might have it in him to make a considerably deeper run here.

Early Exit – Who will suffer the earliest exit, relative to their seeding (or ranking)?

Vithun: [2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS)

Daniil Medvedev has never won a match at Roland Garros, with a 0-4 record. He also doesn’t seem that determined to improve his clay-court game with him, publicly declaring that he hates playing on clay during a match in Madrid earlier this month. His opening round opponent is the tricky Alexander Bublik from Kazakhstan, who actually reached the quarterfinals in that same event in Madrid. Therefore, I expect Medvedev’s French Open losing streak to continue with a fifth consecutive opening round defeat.

Yesh: [2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS)

He is the #2 seed, but he doesn’t like the clay. His opening match against Alexander Bublik will be very difficult. Even if he gets through it, Reilly Opelka should have advantages against the Russian in the third round.

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Ryan: [13] David Goffin (BEL)

Goffin sadly seems to be nearing the end of a great career. After a good run in Monte Carlo, Goffin had to retire from his match on Barcelona and has lost his last two on clay. He has a brutal draw against talented young Italian Lorenzo Musetti. Musetti has the game and endurance to bring the fight to Goffin and if he limits his errors can send Goffin packing in round one.

Damian: [2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS)

It’s a tie between him and Roger Federer but I think the Swiss might have a round or two more in him. Daniil Medvedev is probably a bit underrated on clay now, partially because of his own statements about hating playing on it. Sure, it doesn’t suit him too well, but in 2019 he reached the Monte Carlo semifinals, taking out Djokovic, and finished runner-up in Barcelona. His mindset is going to be very important here and if he’s not willing to get his socks dirty and grind it out, Alexander Bublik then Tommy Paul is a nightmare of a draw.

Harsh: [2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS)

Daniil Medvdev has not won match in four previous attempts at the French Open. His preparation for this second Grand Slam of the year has been a shambles. He pulled out of Monte Carlo after testing positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the tournament. He returned at the Madrid Masters, where he picked up his only win on the surface in the second round, and made public of his loathing of the surface. Medvedev has an awkward first-round match against the flamboyant Alexander Bublik. He could quite feasibly fall to the Kazakh and so predict Medvedev to bow out in the first round.

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