Five Players to Watch in Roland Garros Men’s Qualifying

Aslan Karatsev ahead of ATP Madrid

The men’s qualifying competition for the 2023 French Open begins on Monday. Who are some of the most exciting names in the field? These five players would all possess the ability to do damage in the main event given the right draw and their qualifying sections are rather comfortable.

Five Players to Watch in French Open Men’s Qualifying

Aslan Karatsev

  • R1 – Pierre-Hugues Herbert
  • R2 – Nick Hardt/Gabriel Debru
  • R3 – Yu-Hsiou Hsu/Nicolas Moreno de Alboran/Raphael Collignon/Aleksandar Vukic

Will the recent Madrid Open semifinalist continue that great patch of form or was it just a flash in the pan? As usual with Aslan Karatsev, you don’t really know and that’s part of the magic of the Russian. His first two rounds are almost as much of a cakewalk as you could hope for here though. Pierre-Hugues Herbert is still not back to his best after an injury hiatus (never liked clay either), and last year’s juniors champion Gabriel Debru is struggling with his transition to the pros.

When Karatsev most recently played in the French Open qualifying draw, he lost to Sebastian Korda in the final round here (he also went out at that stage in 2016, never making it to the main draw this way). If he is to go down, it’s probably going to be at the last hurdle again. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran, Raphael Collignon, and Aleksandar Vukic all feel like they present a similar level of threat. They can’t touch Karatsev on clay if he’s playing well though.

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Yannick Hanfmann

  • R1 – Mattia Bellucci
  • R2 – Terence Atmane/Zdenek Kolar
  • R3 – Marc Polmans/Harold Mayot/Elias Ymer/Francesco Passaro

Yannick Hanfmann has already attempted to qualify for ten Tour-level events this year, making it through on six occasions. This has been a big part of how good his season already is as all of his best runs have come after entering the draw in this fashion. He went deep in Santiago, Houston, and Madrid, before going on a tear that included two top-10 wins (Taylor Fritz and Andrey Rublev) in Rome. What really puts Hanfmann’s 2023 efforts into perspective is where he’s sitting in the Live ATP Race – No. 34.

As for the draw, just like with Karatsev, the first two rounds just couldn’t really look much better for him. Zdenek Kolar played the match of his life against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the French Open last year, but he’s generally quite limited. Mattia Bellucci has been in terrible form since the Australian Open. The third round is potentially tricky, but nothing that Hanfmann can’t handle right now, and it feels like all the possible opponents would have to peak to have a shot against him.

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Fabian Marozsan

  • R1 – Li Tu
  • R2 – Juncheng Shang/Pablo Cuevas
  • R3 – Emilio Gomez/Evan Furness/Joris de Loore/Andrea Collarini

Speaking of favorable draws, Fabian Marozsan has one as well. The first two rounds look pretty clean for him with Li Tu’s one-handed backhand not holding against top-quality opposition on clay. Juncheng Shang took the Hungarian out of the Australian Open, but he’s been mostly injured since and should have a harder time against him in these conditions anyway. Pablo Cuevas is just coming back after almost a year of inactivity.

It wouldn’t be wise to expect Fabian Marozsan to perform like he did in Madrid, especially in the upset over Carlos Alcaraz, on a weekly basis. After all, his playstyle is extremely risky and features some of the most precise timing on tour at the moment. There’s no denying that the Hungarian can be a force though and provided he doesn’t shoot himself in the foot, he should be one of the most dangerous qualifiers coming through.

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Thiago Seyboth Wild

  • R1 – Antoine Bellier
  • R2 – Ricardas Berankis/Raul Brancaccio
  • R3 – Zsombor Piros/Dominik Koepfer/Federico Delbonis/Nicolas Mejia

Thiago Seyboth Wild’s first two rounds look like a cakewalk too with Antoine Bellier and Ricardas Berankis having very un-clay-like playstyles, while Raul Brancaccio has simply lost his form completely. However, the Brazilian might have a very tough battle on his hands in the final round. Both Zsombor Piros and Dominik Koepfer have already won two clay Challengers this year, the German even as recently as last week. His advantage over them is clear though – he’ll only need to play one of them to qualify.

After a couple of weaker campaigns, we’re finally witnessing how good Seyboth Wild can be again. The huge forehand that won him an ATP 250 event in Santiago three years ago and got him to World No. 1 in the juniors is back. He’s playing with a lot more composure and motivation, making deep runs in South American Challengers on a regular basis. Are these results going to be translated to Europe? Some early signs show us they most probably will.

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Sebastian Ofner

  • R1 – Rio Noguchi
  • R2 – Jan Choinski/Nicolas Kicker
  • R3 – Alex Bolt/Oleksii Krutykh/Franco Agamenone/Facundo Diaz Acosta

Sebastian Ofner is in the middle of the greatest campaign of his life at 27 years of age, although there’s definitely one regret. The Austrian has already reached four Challenger finals this year and couldn’t convert any of them into a title. Had he done that at just two or three of them, it’s very possible he would be already in the top 100 by now. Playing like this, the opportunities are bound to keep coming and after all, Ofner managed to make it through the qualifying at the French last year, so who’s to say he can’t do it again?

A player who might be of that opinion is Facundo Diaz Acosta, currently on a ten-match win streak with two Challenger titles. He had a two-week break between them, but fatigue could still be an issue for the Argentinian if he faces Ofner in round three here. It just seems like a matchup that would come down to the details. For what it’s worth, Diaz Acosta is also the one who can run into more trouble in the first two rounds (especially against Oleksii Krutykh), while Ofner’s draw is a tad lighter.

Main Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports