French Open 2021 – Men’s Singles Predictions and Preview

AP/Jean-Francois Badias, file

French Open 2021 – Men’s Singles Predictions and Preview

Seems like only yesterday Rafa Nadal was lifting his 13th French Open trophy in Paris. On that day he obliterated Novak Djokovic in the final by the score of 6-0, 6-2, 7-5. Rafa tore through the draw without losing a set. He went unchallenged all the way to the title. Not much has changed since that fall Parisian day in October.

A mere seven months have passed, and the pecking order on clay remains the same. Rafa is the man to beat, and there are a few players that keep knocking on the door, only to have it slam shut time and time again. Rafa will be my overwhelming favorite to capture his 14th French Open title. However, what if Rafa has an off day or an unlucky day. Let’s look at the group of players that could potentially capitalize if Rafa is not his best at the 2021 French Open.

Andrey Rublev (#7)

Rublev has been playing some exceptional tennis in the last 12 months, capturing Rotterdam, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and the German Open to name a few. Once he got on the clay though, his streak lost a bit of steam. He started his clay-court swing in style, beating Nadal on his way to the Monte Carlo Masters Final where he lost to Tsitsipas. Since then, he’s been lukewarm. Losing in the round of 16 or quarters in most of the clay-court tune-ups. His win against Nadal holds weight though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts together another solid showing at the French Open against the King of Clay.

Alexander Zverev (#6)

Zverev had a decent clay-court swing, picking up the Madrid Masters where he beat Rafa Nadal in the quarterfinals. Although Nadal doesn’t play as well in the Madrid altitude and generally dislikes the fast courts there, his loss against Zverev turned some heads. Unfortunately for Zverev, Nadal quickly turned around and got his revenge in Italy a couple of weeks later. On a slower court like Paris, expect the same outcome in a Nadal vs. Zverev rematch.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (#5)

Tsitsipas is the player Nadal needs to be the most careful with. He’s the hottest player on clay after Nadal. He posted wins at Monte Carlo and Lyon and reached the Barcelona final where he held match point against Nadal. He’ll be looking for revenge against the King of Clay in Paris. If there is any man out there that can beat Nadal, even on a good day, it is Tsitsipas. Along with Nadal, Tsitsipas is my French Open favorite.

Dominic Thiem (#4)

Thiem used to be the heir apparent to Nadal at the French Open, reaching two finals in 2018 and 2019. As of late, he seems to have run out of gas though, posting early exits in two of the three clay-court tournaments he entered this season. He did have a positive result though, reaching the semis in Madrid, and losing to Zverev in two sets. However, this is hardly the Thiem we have become accustomed to in the last few years. We are used to seeing Thiem going deep in the biggest tournaments the ATP tour has to offer. A French Open title may not be in the cards for Thiem this year, but I’m sure no top player would like to see his name on their side of the draw. He has the potential to turn it on if he gains a bit of confidence.

Novak Djokovic (#1)

Djokovic has had his chances on the clay against Nadal time and time again. Unfortunately for Djokovic, he has not been able to capitalize. Nadal has his number on clay, and it hasn’t been very close. Their last encounter was in the Italian Open final where Nadal posted a three-set victory. Their previous meeting on clay was at the 2020 French Open final where Djokovic was routed in three straight sets. Don’t count Djokovic out on clay through. Let’s not forget he ended Nadal’s dominance at the French Open in 2015, defeating the King of Clay in the quarterfinals on his way to the final where he would lose to Stan Wawrinka.

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