French Open: No Roger Federer and injury clouds over Rafael Nadal and co
The 2018 French Open is just over two months away, but organisers must be slightly anxious over the quality of the entry list.
It was not totally unexpected, but Roger Federer has announced he will again skip the clay-court season, which means he won’t feature at Roland Garros this year.
It is the second season in a row that the 2009 champion has opted to sit out the Paris major in order to focus on the grass-court season and, although organisers will be disappointed, it won’t have come as a surprise.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray is still recovering from hip surgery and is expected to make his comeback in June, but his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule and there have been whispers that he could make an early return.
However, the French Open is a long shot for the three-time Grand Slam champion.
That leaves defending champion Rafael Nadal, 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka and 2016 champion Novak Djokovic as the other three members of the Big Five who are set to compete.
However, the trio have injury clouds hanging over them.
Ten-time champion Nadal pulled out of the Sunshine Double after he aggravated a hip injury in the build-up to the Mexican Open.
The King of Clay is expected to make his return to action at the Monte Carlo Masters on April 16. He will also have the usual Barcelona Open, Madrid Masters and Italian Open to find match fitness ahead of the defence of his title.
While one shouldn’t expect too much from him too soon, Nadal should be up and running by the time the French Open starts.
Wawrinka is in a similar position as he also sat out the two March ATP Masters events in the United States and will only return for the clay-court season.
Djokovic, meanwhile, has nursed his way back during the Sunshine Double, but has found life at the top a little tough after losing early in both Indian Wells and Miami.
When asked if he felt ready to head into the Monte Carlo Masters at the end of April, the Serb said: “That was the plan. But let’s see what happens.”
Outside of the Big Five you have Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Alexander Zverev and perhaps this is just the shot in the arm they need to break the dominance of those players.
Then of course there is Juan Martin del Potro and we could well see him add a second Grand Slam title. His best display at Roland Garros came back in 2009 when he reached the semi-final.
That year he also made it to the quarter-finals in Indian Wells, semi-finals in Miami, semi-finals in Madrid and quarter-final in Rome and his form certainly suggests that he is good for a long run at one of the Grand Slams.
But then again everyone thought Dimitrov or Zverev would challenge Federer at the Australian Open, but that never materialised so for now it all still points to an 11th title for Nadal.
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