2022 French Open Men’s Singles Roundtable Predictions: Champion, Dark Horse, and Early Exit

Carlos Alcaraz French Open Training

Ahead of the second Grand Slam of 2022, five Last Word on Tennis writers–Vithun Illankovan (@VitIllankovan), Jakob Bobro (@bobrojakub), Damian Kust (@damiankust), Jack Edward and Gavin Lang – made their French Open predictions for the Men’s Singles tournament. We also have a separate roundtable for the Women’s singles.

French Open Men’s Singles Roundtable Predictions

Champion – Who will win the French Open?

Vithun: (4) Stefanos Tsitsipas [GRE]

There were only four players who I think most of us would have considered ‘title contenders’. My eventual prediction of Tsitsipas is more of a result of why I doubt the chances of the other three contenders as opposed to my confidence in last year’s finalist, due to them all being in the same half of the draw and other factors which I shall explain below.

It seems strange to for so many of us not to consider a 13-time champion the favourite to win again but there are significant injury concerns surrounding Rafael Nadal at present. I also doubt his ability to achieve the Australian Open-French Open double within the same calendar year (which I personally believe is the harder that the typically hyped French Open-Wimbledon double), largely due to it being unlikely he doesn’t have an injury for that period of time.

I always advise against entering a big tournament on a long winning streak as you don’t need the additional pressure of maintaining it whilst playing on the biggest stages – examples like Djokovic at the 2020 US Open or Tokyo Olympics spring to mind. However, Carlos Alcaraz has done just that entering the French Open on a 10-match winning streak with titles in Barcelona and Madrid. This combined with his inexperience at Grand Slam level (this is only his 6th Grand Slam main draw) makes me doubt his winning potential.

I can see more reason for picking defending champion Novak Djokovic to win again in Paris but I am put off by the statistic that no man has won three of each Grand Slam in the Open Era. He is also the player I trust least to bring their A-game in this year’s final because of his undeserved treatment at the Australian Open this year. I think playing at Grand Slam level will already be such an emotional experience for him and given Tennis is such a draw-dependent sport and he is in the tougher half (in a draw that includes a potential quarter-final with Nadal that I predicted), I can see the World No.1 being mentally drained if he reaches the final and putting in a flat performance.

Therefore by process of elimination, I am predicting Tsitispas to win his first Grand Slam title at this year’s French Open.

Jakub: (6) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]

Picking a first-time champion when both Djokovic and Nadal are in the draw would usually be considered daring but Alcaraz comes into Roland Garros as a betting favorite with good reason. Nadal has been struggling with a foot injury while Djokovic lost to the 19-year-old in Madrid. This will be the first slam where Alcaraz comes in with proper expectations but with just how good the Spaniard has been this year, he has to be the favorite for me. Potentially facing Sebastian Korda in the third round could be tricky as he is the only one who beat Alcaraz on clay this season but the fourth round draw is quite good with Norrie the likely opponent.

Damian: (6) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]

Before the draw, I thought there were three main contenders for the 2022 Roland Garros title. I would have been surprised if anyone other than Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, or Rafael Nadal won the title. Having them all (plus Alexander Zverev) in the top half massively boosts up the chances of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Whoever comes out of the Djokovic/Nadal/Alcaraz mess might be worn out for the final. I still think the edge between them and Tsitsipas (and anyone else for that matter) is too big though. Nadal I’m not going to for mostly on the basis of his foot injury, which might make a seemingly straightforward matchup a nightmare at any point in time. Provided he gets to the quarterfinals though, I like Alcaraz’s chances slightly more than Djokovic, because he might have an easier time in the previous round.

If you’re saying “but Alcaraz hasn’t played that much in best-of-five and has little experience in general”, I’m saying “when has that ever mattered with the guy?”.

Jack: (1) Novak Djokovic [SRB]

If Rafael Nadal didn’t have so many question marks surrounding his foot injury, he would undoubtedly be my pick. With those questions lingering, I’m backing Novak Djokovic.

The Serb may have one of his toughest draws at a Grand Slam for a while but he’s made a career of making the early stages of Slams look a breeze. In the sort of form he showed at the Rome Masters, his forehand in particular firing as well as ever on clay, it’s difficult to see anyone causing the upset before the quarterfinals.

If we assume Rafa isn’t at his best and the final is Djokovic’s to win, it comes down to a match between him and Carlos Alcaraz. The youngster was phenomenal in Madrid but his usual weaponry won’t work quite as well at the French Open, his kick-serve trampolining in the altitude of the Spanish capital and his linear strikes effective on a faster surface.

For me, the edge goes to the defending champ.

Gavin: (1) Novak Djokovic [SRB]

Despite an incredibly difficult draw, it is impossible to see Djokovic not being the favourite for the title. Djokovic looked back to his best in Rome, and has improved exponentially as he has been able to play regularly again. However, in order for him to win the title, the Serb must get through the first week without dropping multiple sets. This is what Djokovic did so well last year in Paris. The Serb was able to comfortably get through Tennys Sandgren, Pablo Cuevas and Richardas Berankis. This gave him the energy and confidence to dig deep into his energy reserves in the second week. With there being question marks over Nadal’s injury, Carlos Alcaraz not being experienced in the best-of-five set format, and Stefanos Tsitsipas not playing at his peak level, I think Djokovic will win the title.

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

Vithun: (11) Jannik Sinner [ITA]

I had an inkling that Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev would land in the same quarter of the draw to enable a “surprise” semi-finalist and that is what has happened. I personally don’t expect either of these Top 8 seeds to make the quarter-finals.

Medvedev has only played one match on clay this year (which he lost) as he had been recovering from a hernia procedure. In addition, Medvedev has never reached three consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals so he is due a pre-QF exit. Meanwhile, Rublev is only a factor in tour events which are essentially competitive exhibitions. He may think highly of himself, but his performances on the big stages of late suggest he is overranked and has been keeping his ranking high by capitalising on events when not everyone is 100% committed.

As the next highest seed in this quarter, I expect Sinner to reach the semi-finals. Seeded 11th this year, he would be projected to reach the 4th Round so I am predicting him to do two rounds better. He is not the only player who I am expecting to do two rounds better than their projection, but he is the only one whose ‘+2 rounds’ takes him to the semi-finals and so therefore Sinner is my Dark Horse pick.

Jakub: (28) Miomir Kecmanovic [SRB]

In my draw prediction, my dark horse ended up being 28th seed Miomir Kecmanovic as I have him reaching the quarterfinals. The Serb has a dangerous first round against one of the best Challenger clay courters, Tomas Martin Etcheverry, but has the fortune of finding himself in Daniil Medvedev’s section. The Russian has been struggling with injury and lost his first match back. If Kecmanovic does make it out, the fourth round should also be winnable with Pablo Carreno Busta, Marin Cilic and Marton Fucsovics the likely opponents. This result would propel the young Serb to the Top 25, a new career high ranking.

Damian: (28) Miomir Kecmanovic [SRB]

Kecmanovic’s 20th spot in the ATP Race is actually not far off his ranking and seeding, which seems dead wrong. It’s the case because the Serbian has been a consistent quarterfinalist (one-time semifinalist) this year, rather than a title contender. His game lacks a bit of punch to make him able to stop redlining opponents, and take the racket out of their opponent’s hands. But he’s been excellent at beating the lower-ranked opposition this year and finds himself in a section with Daniil Medvedev, who’s coming back after hernia surgery and doesn’t perform well on clay. It’s a chance for Kecmanovic to go deep and with the bottom half being quite weak, it could even be as far as quarterfinals/semifinals.

Jack: (2) Daniil Medvedev [RUS]

Choosing the world #2 as a dark horse may sound uninspired but you know as well as I do Daniil Medvedev is not at all a fan of clay. Only last week he assisted Richard Gasquet in notching a win over every player ranked 1-100 and hasn’t played the rest of the clay season.

Don’t sleep on Medvedev though. The Russian was good enough to get through his first four rounds last year and has beaten Djokovic, Nishikori and Tsitsipas on the surface in the past.

I still wouldn’t have picked him ordinarily but his draw looks pretty favourable. Facundo Bagnis should get him well warmed up; Laslo Djere will be tough but shouldn’t have the return capabilities required to win on a decent day from Medvedev; Miomir Kecmanovic is difficult but isn’t tailor-made for excelling on clay; Marin Cilic or Pablo Carreno Busta are both vulnerable at Roland Garros; and, if he gets as far as the quarterfinals and his form matches his run, Andrey Rublev or Jannik Sinner could be a coin toss .

You heard it here first – Daniil Medvedev could make a decent run at the French Open!

Gavin: (11) Jannik Sinner [ITA]

The Italian has managed to avoid Rafa and Novak in his half of the draw. Sinner has been a consistent performer this clay court season, reaching the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo and Rome, where he was defeated by Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Italian has a good draw and definitely has the potential to have a deep run in Paris. Sinner has improved the accuracy of his serve, and over best of five sets, he will definitely be a handful for any opponent.

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

Vithun: (2) Daniil Medvedev [RUS]

For reasons I explained in my ‘Dark Horse’ answer, I believe Medvedev will be out before the quarter-finals. The player who I believe will beat him is Miomir Kecmanovic, who is having a career-best season. If this match-up happens, it would take place in the 3rd Round. As the 2nd seed, Medvedev is projected to make the final so a 3rd Round exit means I am predicting him to do four rounds worse. Therefore, Medevedev is my Early Exit pick.

Jakub: (2) Daniil Medvedev [RUS]

Medvedev’s fitness has question marks surrounding him as he missed six weeks with a hernia and looked less than convincing in his loss to Richard Gasquet in Geneva. The Russian will open against Facundo Bagnis here, who is not the toughest opponent but will test Medvedev’s fitness with some long rallies. None of the individual match-ups aren’t particularly difficult for Medvedev but it feels unlikely that he will win multiple best-of-five matches in a row with how he looked last week.

Damian: (14) Denis Shapovalov [CAN]

Most high seeds actually got a pretty good draw (at least in the early stages). I could follow up my dark horse pick and say Miomir Kecmanovic upsets Daniil Medvedev, but a very wise man once said “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Why Denis Shapovalov? First of all, he’s playing Holger Rune, whom I’d probably consider the favorite of this clash if it was held in the best-of-three format. The Dane’s constant cramping issues might make it impossible to win if Shapovalov extends it to over three hours though. The Canadian’s rally tolerance on clay is usually a mess though and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go out to Martinez in round two or de Minaur in round three either.

Jack: (3) Alexander Zverev [GER]

Alexander Zverev has been solid this clay season only losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas (twice) and Carlos Alcaraz.

I’d have expected his winning trend to continue against lower-ranked players were it not for the fact his draw looks dire. Sebastian Ofner should give him a good opening round test however his second-round against Sebastian Baez, should he beat Lajovic, would be no given. If Zverev’s confidence is low, this has five-set struggle written all over it. In the third, he’d potentially have to play Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the Monte Carlo finalist. If his legs weren’t burning before, they’d be on fire by now. If he survives both of those matches, Taylor Fritz is no longer a write off on clay given the improvements he’s made to his movement.

All of that before playing Carlos Alcaraz.

If Alexander Zverev comes through his first four rounds against those opponents, I’d be very impressed.

Gavin: (14) Denis Shapovalov [CAN]

Denis Shapovalov faces a tough test in the opening round of Roland Garros, as the Canadian plays in form Holger Rune. Despite defeating Rafael Nadal in Rome, Shapovalov went on to lose in the quarterfinals to Casper Ruud. Shapovalov then lost his opening round match in Geneva to Ilya Ivashka. The Canadian needs to improve his consistency and tactical awareness on court, although he does have the weaponary to beat any player when he is at his best. However, Holger Rune has been in great form, winning his first ATP Title in Munich, and this week he reached the semifinals in Lyon. Despite losing thsat match, the Dane pushed top seed Cameron Norrie to three tough sets. Given Shapovalov’s inconsistency, and Rune’s confidence and good form, I am predicting Rune to record the first round upset.

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