With Rafael Nadal absent and Iga Swiatek’s dominance threatened, Roland Garros is hard to predict

(CNN) — When Rafael Nadal announced his absence from the French Open earlier this month, it felt like the beginning of the end of an era.

After suffering a hip injury since the Australian Open, 14-time Roland-Garros champion Nadal is missing the second Grand Slam of the year for the first time since his debut in 2005.

He also announced that next year will be his last in professional tennis, which, when it comes, will be a defining moment in the history of big clay courts, a competition that Nadal has dominated for so long.

For now, the most important thing is who wins this year’s French Open in Paris, which starts this Sunday and ends June 11.

how to see it

In the US, the French Open can be seen on NBC, the Peacock streaming service, the Tennis Channel, and Bally Sports. In Europe, with the exception of France, the tournament is broadcast on Eurosport.

The list of international broadcasters and the full draw can be found on the French Open website.

Very open masculine frame

Carlos Alcaraz, the top seed, is a clay specialist and was unbeaten in 12 matches before suffering a sensational loss to world No. 115 Fábián Marozsán at the Italian Open.

Alcaraz celebrates against Jan-Lennard Struff at the Madrid Open. (Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

If he is to win his second major title, the 20-year-old will have to beat two-time Roland Garros champion Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.

A victory in Paris would allow Djokovic to win his 23rd Grand Slam title and propel Nadal to the top of the all-time men’s tennis list, further establishing himself as the greatest male tennis player in history.

But the Serbian, winner of the Australian Open earlier in the year, has struggled this season on clay, failing to reach the quarter-finals in three tournaments and missing out on another with an elbow injury.

“A new generation is here,” Djokovic said following his defeat in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.

“I mean, Alcaraz has been number 1 in the world ever since [el 22 de mayo]. Obviously, she’s playing incredible tennis. I think it’s also good for our sport that there are new faces, new guys. It’s normal.

“We have been saying it for years that we can wait for it to arrive, for that moment to arrive in which a sort of generational change takes place”.

Djokovic hits a backhand against Holger Rune at the Italian Open. (Credit: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

That Djokovic hasn’t won a title since the Australian Open and shocking defeat to Alcaraz in Rome may give hope to some of the other hopefuls in Paris this year.

Daniil Medvedev, champion of the Italian Open last week, is in excellent form and has the advantage of being on the opposite side of the draw from Alcaraz and Djokovic.

Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, both former French Open finalists, are confident of putting in a strong performance, while sixth seed Holger Rune looks to be a star for the future after knocking out Djokovic at the Italian Open.

The “big three” emerge.

In the women’s draw, two-time French Open champion Iga Swiatek is the favorite, though she hasn’t shown the same dominance on clay as she did last year, when she captured the title on a record 37 match win streak. .

Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, second and fourth respectively in the world, have emerged as Swiatek’s fierce rivals at the top of women’s tennis and both have defeated the Pole in the last month.

Swiatek in action during the Australian Open in January. (Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

That trio, now called the “Big Three” by some, has triumphed at the last four Grand Slams: Swiatek at Roland Garros and the US Open, Rybakina at Wimbledon and Sabalenka in Australia.

“Conditions in Paris should favor Swiatek, he feels comfortable there and is demonstrating that he definitely plays a high level of tennis,” Eurosport pundit and former world No. 7 Barbara Schett said ahead of the tournament.

“I think it’s good for Iga to have these two players [Sabalenka y Rybakina] who can challenge it and keep it at No. 1,” added Schett.

Swiatek, number 1 in the world for more than a year, could be dethroned by Sabalenka at the top of the rankings after the French Open. He starts his campaign against the Spanish Cristina Bucșa.

The calendar in the spotlight

Women’s tennis has been peppered with controversy in recent weeks, which has once again put the programming of the Roland-Garros women’s team in the spotlight.

At the Madrid Open, ball boys on the main court were ordered to wear crop tops and short skirts, and players in the doubles final were not allowed to speak after the match.

Later the ball boys’ skirts were changed to shorts; although the crop tops were retained and tournament organizer Gerard Tsobanian said it was “unacceptable” not to give the finalists the opportunity to speak to the fans after the match.

Then, at the Italian Open, the final between Rybakina and Anhelina Kalinina was postponed due to rain and didn’t start until 11pm local time on Saturday, a situation former player Rennae Stubbs described as a ” abomination”.

Rybakina faces Markéta Vondroušová at the Italian Open. (Credit: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The WTA, however, said delaying the match was “the right thing to do” in a statement to Reuters.

Questions about scheduling could linger for weeks to come given how night sessions were panned at last year’s French Open.

Only one of the 10 matches scheduled at night in 2022 featured a women’s match: the second round between Alizé Cornet and Jelena Ostapenko. Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo explained how men’s tennis has more “appeal” than women’s, to which Swiatek responded by calling Mauresmo’s comments “disappointing”.

At this year’s French Open, there was no shortage of all-star glamor.

Joining the talented trio of Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina, the likes of Jessica Pegula, Caroline Garcia, Coco Gauff and Ons Jabeur, none of whom have won a Grand Slam, will compete for the title at Roland-Garros.