The second Grand Slam of the year, the French Open at Roland Garros, gets underway on Sunday with the world’s best seeking to displace Rafael Nadal as the champion.

That won’t be an easy task, though, with Nadal having won the tournament a ridiculous 13 times.

Here is our preview of the event – will there be more Spanish dominance or can someone upset the applecart?

King of clay aiming to retain his crown 

When discussing the French Open there is only one place to start – Rafael Nadal. Since his first appearance in 2005, the Spaniard has played 102 matches at Roland Garros and unbelievably he has won 100 of them. His only two defeats came to Robin Soderling in 2009 and to Marcel Granollers in 2016, where was forced to withdraw. In short, when Nadal takes to the clay courts of Paris, he wins. As such, it’s pretty unsurprising that he’s just 5/6 to win the French Open for a 14th time – a result that would land Nadal a record 21st Grand Slam male singles title.

Having lost in the quarter-finals of this year’s Australian Open to Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nadal has since enjoyed a solid clay court season, if perhaps not quite as dominant as we’re used to seeing from him.  He won both the tournaments in Barcelona and Rome, but lost to Andrey Rublev in Monte Carlo and then to Alexander Zverev in Madrid, so it hasn’t all been plane sailing.

Nadal didn’t have it all his own way in his most recent win in Rome either, losing the second set to Novak Djokovic 6-1 and although he’s by far the most likely winner at Roland Garros, there are plenty of candidates who are capable of causing him problems…

Zverev an interesting contender

Of those candidates, ALEXANDER ZVEREV could be the one to challenge Nadal the most at 12/1.

The German has won 15 singles career titles and interestingly six of them have come on clay. Three of those victories have come in Masters 1000 events, including twice in Madrid in 2018 and most recently this year. Zverev dropped just one set on his way to victory and along the way he beat none other than Nadal – a victory which will have showed him that he has the skillset to unsettle the great Spaniard.

Granted, Zverev doesn’t have a particularly strong French Open record, with his best finish being a loss in the last eight in both 2018 and 2019, but he seems to be improving his results in Grand Slams as shown by his runners-up finish in last year’s US Open.

Djokovic (4/1) is a rightful second favourite and is almost certain to be in the shake-up come the second week, having won the tournament back in 2016. Elsewhere, Dominic Thiem (8/1) has plenty of good form on clay and has the Grand Slam monkey off his back, having won the aforementioned 2020 US Open – but Zverev might just offer a little more value.

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