French Open: 5 things to watch on Day 1 – including Carlos Alcaraz and Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka backhand
Naomi Osaka is in action on Day 1 of the French Open.

Anticipation is building with the French Open now less than a day away.

The men’s draw is wide open, it’s Iga Swiatek versus the field in the women’s draw, and there will likely be some huge talking points – good and bad – over the coming fortnight.

There is no easing yourself into the event, with a huge order of play for Day 1 on Sunday.

Here are five big things to watch as action starts at Roland Garros.

Alcaraz’s arm

Carlos Alcaraz’s injury struggles across the clay court season has been one of the biggest talking points of recent weeks.

The world No 3 has played just one tournament this European swing – on home turf in Madrid – and suffered a disappointing loss there, while he withdrew from Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome.

That means that all eyes will be on him when he steps onto Court Philippe Chatrier tomorrow, in his first match since tasting defeat to Andrey Rublev in the Spanish capital.

The 2023 Roland Garros semi-finalist has been handed a kind draw against lucky loser JJ Wolf – a player not known for his clay prowess.

But Alcaraz’s fitness adds a layer of intrigue, and it will be interesting to see how he fares.

Read More: French Open – 5 key talking points from the men’s draw, ft. Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic

Osaka’s return

Three years ago, Osaka exited the French Open under a cloud, withdrawing from her second-round match after controversy surrounding her decision not to attend press.

Now, after losing in round one in 2022 and missing 2023 due to pregnancy, the former world No 1 is finally back in Paris, and signs are positive for a strong tournament.

The Japanese has struggled on clay in the past, but a run to the fourth round in Rome was hugely encouraging, and the world No 134 is closing in on a return to the top 100.

She has a winnable opener against Lucia Bronzetti, and it will be interesting to see what level she brings onto Chatrier for the court’s opening match – particularly as Iga Swiatek could await in round two.

Murray and Wawrinka’s last dance

There is certainly a bittersweet irony to Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka drawing each other in the opening round.

Both are three-time Grand Slam champions and have their fair share of history at this tournament, meeting at Roland Garros in 2016, 2017, and 2020.

But while those first two meetings came at the semi-final stage, their 2020 meeting – much like this encounter – came in round one.

Murray and Wawrinka are not the players they once were, and this French Open is likely to be a ‘last dance’ on the Paris clay for both.

2015 champion Wawrinka has won all but one of their previous clay matches and probably enters as a slight favourite.

Ostapenko – title threat?

Jelena Ostapenko’s 4-0 head-to-head record over Iga Swiatek is one of tennis’ greatest anomalies, and the Latvian has been drawn on the same side of the draw as the Pole at Roland Garros.

But, the big question is this: will the ninth seed sink or swim at the event?

Ostapenko famously stunned the tennis world with her 2017 triumph but, outside of that, her tournament record is ragged; she has only reached the third round on one other occasion.

And early 2024 momentum which took her to the Adelaide and Linz titles seems to have stalled, though it is impossible to discount someone of such fierce ballstriking ability.

Facing Jaqueline Cristian on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Ostapenko’s opener may provide an insight into how much of a threat she is.

Read More: French Open – 5 key talking points from the women’s draw

French No 1’s under pressure

Perhaps more than any other Slam, home players find themselves under incredible pressure at Roland Garros.

And current national No 1’s Caroline Garcia and Ugo Humbert have been chucked into the deep end at the French Open this year, scheduled to play on the opening day.

The 21st seed in the women’s draw, Garcia’s form has been patchy in 2024 but she has a decent draw against qualifier Eva Lys – though Chatrier scheduling will likely ramp up the pressure.

While Humbert is first on Lenglen and has a tough task against Lorenzo Sonego.

How they both fare could set the tone for French performances over the coming fortnight.

Read More: The battle for No 1 – How Jannik Sinner can usurp Novak Djokovic at French Open