Ahead of the second Grand Slam of 2023, five Last Word on Tennis writers–-Vithun Illankovan (@VitIllankovan), Andreas Pelekis (@atp3417), Jack Edward, Damian Kust (@damiankust), and Glenys Furness–make their Roland Garros predictions for the Men’s Singles tournament. We also have a separate roundtable for the Women’s singles.
The player we think will win the Men’s Singles tournament
Vithun: (1) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]
The French Open feels very wide open and I have question marks about all of the favourites for the title. However, I am ironically going to play it safe and pick the No.1 seed to win Roland Garros this year. My concern over Alcaraz is that he has not played a Grand Slam since winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open last year, so he may not be in the right headspace yet to win another Grand Slam. However, the maturity that he has demonstrated on court to date and an impressive 20-2 record on clay this season (including titles in Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid) are enough for me to believe that another Spainaird will be lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires in a couple of weeks.
Andreas: (1) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]
After missing the Australian Open due to injury, Carlos Alcaraz is coming to Paris looking for revenge. His form was flawless in Barcelona as he didn’t drop a set, and demonstrated mental toughness defending his title in Madrid. Alcaraz’s only spring clay loss is out of the picture this year; Fabian Marozsan lost in the second round of qualifying. For the Spaniard, a blockbuster semifinal against Novak Djokovic looms, but it’s hard not to choose the 20-year-old as the favorite given his form. His draw before Djokovic seems straightforward as well, Alcaraz is 4-0 against Tsitsipas and 4-2 against Norrie, two of the seeded players in his way.
Jack: (3) Novak Djokovic [SRB]
It’ll be a three or four-horse race for most predictors. Despite the fact Novak Djokovic is in the same half as Carlos Alcaraz, he gets my pick due to the abundance of experience he has over his peers. Alcaraz also comes across as a bit of an unfinished product on slower clay and Djokovic is the favourite against anybody in the final, having won five of his last six finals (losing the pressure-filled US Open one in 2021). The veteran takes it.
Damian: (1) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]
Getting Novak Djokovic in the same half? Not ideal, but it still doesn’t change his favorite status. If they were to meet tomorrow, I’d be very confidently backing Carlos Alcaraz. After a few rounds, we’ll see if anything changes. Alcaraz and Djokovic being on one side of the draw would be a good opportunity to pick someone like Holger Rune or Daniil Medvedev here, but I do think they are too distinctly in the second tier of contenders and the winner of the amazing semi would still very likely take the whole thing.
Glenys: (1) Carlos Alcaraz [ESP]
The top seed, at a Grand Slam for the first time. Many will write the Spaniard off, especially with Djokovic in the same half. However, Alcaraz is young and has been impressive. He’s also Spanish, and it’s clay. Need we say more?
Embed from Getty Images
Men’s Dark Horse
Which (other) player outside the Top 8 seeds will go furthest in the Men’s Singles?
Vithun: (-) Stan Wawrinka [SUI]
The two highest seeds in Wawrinka’s eighth of the draw are the Russians (7) Andrey Rublev and (11) Karen Khacanov. As both have reached the quarter-finals or better at the last two Grand Slams, I believe they are due a pre-quarterfinal exit leaving an opportunity for someone else to capitalise. I believe this opportunity will be taken by the 2015 Roland Garros champion. Whilst Wawrinka comes into this year’s tournament with a modest 5-5 record on clay, that is enough match practice for someone with his experience to use for a deep run at a Grand Slam.
Andreas: (21) Jan-Lennard Struff [GER]
Jan-Lennard Struff has been long overdue for a slam breakthrough, but look for this tournament to be the one. After dropping out of the top 150 due to unfortunate injuries, Struff’s run to the Madrid final startled the tennis world. He finds himself in the third quarter of the draw, with a potential round-of-16 looming against defending finalist Casper Ruud. His first-round match is against the tough youngster Jiri Lehecka, yet the Czech was forced to retire from his last match. Struff’s big serve and offensive game could take him into the quarterfinals, and who knows if the German could go even further this tournament.
Jack: (21) Jan-Lennard Struff [GER]
Jan-Lennard Struff’s run to the Madrid final was no fluke. Okay, he can be a little on and off but when he’s on, his game is so difficult to counter. If he gets through his first round against Jiri Lehecka, it’s worth remembering he’s done well at the French Open before and he’s beaten Casper Ruud (the highest seed in his sixteenth). Struff will be fearless and has a chance of shaking things up.
Damian: (Q) Aslan Karatsev [RUS]
I’m not really a big fan of picking Aslan Karatsev to go deep, because he’s wildly inconsistent and might easily go out in the opening round. However, I have to say his draw looks really good. After making the Madrid semifinals, he went through the qualifying not dropping a set. Maybe he wasn’t perfect, but he solved every issue he got himself into admirably. If he’s playing well, the section he found himself in with Alexander Zverev, Jannik Sinner, and Frances Tiafoe might actually turn out to be quite soft.
Glenys: (14) Cameron Norrie [GBR]
You knew a Brit would feature right? Although Clay isn’t usually a surface Brits do well on, Norrie is no stranger to Grand Slams. Norrie hasn’t got further than the third round here before, however, I see no reason why he cannot do that this year. He has certainly improved his clay game. Just unfortunately in the warm-up events, he’s come across better clay court players.
Embed from Getty Images
Men’s Early Exit
Which Top 8 seed will be eliminated earliest in the Men’s Singles?
Vithun: (7) Andrey Rublev [RUS]
When it comes to Grand Slams it seems that Rublev’s performance is capped at the quarter-finals. He has a 0-7 record in them as he doesn’t have what it takes to beat a top player playing their best tennis. In addition, given that he reached the quarter-finals of the last two Grand Slams, he is due an earlier exit at Roland Garros. As I have more confidence in the other seven Top 8 seeds reaching the quarter-finals (and beyond), Rublev is unfortunately my early exit pick.
Andreas: (8) Jannik Sinner [ITA]
While in solid form, Jannik Sinner never plays his best tennis on clay court and could be a victim to an early upset here. He opens against the Frenchman Alexandre Muller; starting off against a Frenchman is never easy solely because of the home crowd. Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev are also in this quarter, and both players seem to be regaining form this week in Geneva. Alongside his vulnerability to injury on the dirt, it could be a rough grand slam for the Italian.
Jack: (4) Casper Ruud [NOR]
All eight seeds have been in great form recently—except Casper Ruud whose form has been average. I don’t think he’ll get knocked out at the first hurdle but Struff or Van De Zandschulp could be enough for him to see the doors. Ruud takes my early exit pick by virtue of being the worst pick of a decent bunch.
Damian: (8) Jannik Sinner [ITA]
This isn’t an easy selection, because the top eight seeds actually look super solid. Jannik Sinner’s draw isn’t even that difficult, it’s just that his clay season fell apart a little bit after Monte Carlo and he could be vulnerable. Against whom? Maybe Grigor Dimitrov or maybe in the fourth round against Alexander Zverev, Frances Tiafoe, or even Aslan Karatsev. Slim pickings, I know, but the seeds look really strong in this draw. Daniil Medvedev has a nightmare opener against the resurgent Thiago Seyboth Wild, but I do think he’ll make it through.
Glenys: (8) Jannik Sinner [ITA]
Sorry Italians. Although Sinner made the quarterfinal in 2020, I don’t see him replicating this. In fact, of the top 8, he just doesn’t seem as good and ready as the rest. I would love to be proved wrong, but I feel that the Italian will be the first out.
Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports