Ranking the top 10 men’s and women’s French Open contenders

Tennis

Despite the dominance established by the Big Three of the ATP, the 2019 French Open promises to be the most competitive one in years. That’s not just because Rafael Nadal looks more vulnerable than usual, it’s also because Roger Federer is back, and a slew of younger players continues to improve and threaten the status quo.

The WTA palette has even more colors, with at least a dozen serious contenders in a season during which the first 17 tournaments went past without a repeat winner. Now there are three repeat winners: Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens.

The French Open organizers seed based directly on the rankings of the players. But that doesn’t tell you the real pecking order at Roland Garros. So in our rating of the top 10 men’s and women’s contenders, we’re ignoring the world rankings and seedings and listing them in descending order, adding a few thoughts on their respective draws as well as a stat of note for each courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information research.

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Women’s top 10


Men’s top 10

1. Rafael Nadal

French Open seed: No. 2

Outlook: Nadal is striving for his 12th French Open title, but he isn’t embarking on the quest with as commanding a presence as in past years. He couldn’t ask for a better start: facing qualifiers in his first two rounds.

Money stat: Nadal has 11 French Open titles, tied with Margaret Court (11, Australian Open) for most by a men’s or women’s player at one Grand Slam.


2. Novak Djokovic

French Open seed: No. 1

Outlook: If the top seed is going to complete a second “Djoker Slam” (a win in Paris means he will hold all four major titles at the same time) he will have to be sharp right out of the gate. Hubert Hurkacz is a tough first-rounder, and Djokovic could play hard-serving Sam Querrey next.

Money stat: Djokovic is 14-3 on clay in the past year, the second-best win percentage, behind Nadal.


3. Dominic Thiem

French Open seed: No. 4

Outlook: Thiem will be the dark-horse pick of many pundits, and the 25-year-old Austrian has looked sharp this clay-court season. American wild card Tommy Paul, who won the junior title in Paris in 2015, will be hoping for a sensational first-round upset.

Money stat: Thiem was the French Open runner-up in 2018 and has reached at least the semis in each of the past three years.


4. Stefanos Tsitsipas

French Open seed: No. 6

Outlook: The “Greek Freak” has rocketed up in the rankings, with recent clay-court victories over Nadal and Alexander Zverev. Seeded No. 6, he should be able to fight through to meet former French Open champ Stan Wawrinka in the third round.

Money stat: Tsitsipas is 23-12 (.657) in his ATP Tour career on clay, his best winning percentage on any surface.


5. Roger Federer

French Open seed: No. 3

Outlook: Fans are salivating over the prospect of yet another showdown with Nadal in the semifinals, but it’s a big ask of the Swiss star. He is seeded No. 3 but is also 37 years old and playing in his first French Open since losing in the quarterfinals in 2015. Lorenzo Sonego, Federer’s first-round foe, is playing well, with recent victories over fellow Italian Andreas Seppi and No. 10 seed Karen Khachanov.

Money stat: Federer is 4-1 on clay this season after not playing any matches on the surface in 2017 and 2018.


6. Juan Martin del Potro

French Open seed: No. 8

Outlook: Del Potro, a former semifinalist at Roland Garros, has been on the brink of a big win for a long time. Chile’s Nicolas Jarry is a tough first-round opponent, though. Del Potro’s quarter of the draw is loaded with big servers — including Ivo Karlovic, No. 22 seed Lucas Pouille, No. 10 Khachanov and Canadian sensation and No. 25 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime — but he can handle their power.

Money stat: Del Potro has played only seven singles matches so far in 2019 and has not advanced past the quarterfinals at any of the three tournaments he has played.


7. Alexander Zverev

French Open seed: No. 5

Outlook: Although the lanky, 22-year-old German has struggled of late, he’s a cool customer and has already won three Masters 1000 titles, including two on clay. He has had trouble meeting his seeding at Slams, however.

Money stat: Zverev reached the quarterfinals at the French Open in 2018, the furthest he has advanced at a Grand Slam in his career.


8. Gael Monfils

French Open seed: No. 14

Outlook: Could this exciting shotmaker, who is healthy again, give the French their first male winner in this tournament since Yannick Noah in 1983? While seeded only No. 14, Monfils is always inspired at Roland Garros, where he made the semis in 2008 and the quarters on three other occasions. He should get by Japan’s Taro Daniel in his first match, and would face a qualifier or fellow Frenchman Adrian Mannarino next.

Money stat: Monfils has won 35.9 percent of his first-serve return points on clay over the past year, the fifth-best rate on tour.


9. Daniil Medvedev

French Open seed: No. 12

Outlook: The 23-year-old Russian has made a habit of playing consistent tennis, and his ground game is rock solid. The home crowd will be behind his first-round opponent, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, with Benoit Paire, another Frenchman, a second-round possibility.

Money stat: Medvedev beat Djokovic on clay at Monte Carlo earlier this year but is only 10-15 (.400) in his ATP career on clay — the only surface on which he has lost more matches than he has won (0-2 at French Open).


10. Fabio Fognini

French Open seed: No. 9

Outlook: Few would pick him to win the tournament, but the No. 9 seed had a breakthrough when he recently won the Monte Carlo Masters. Fognini is a disruptive genius who could pose a threat to Djokovic in the quarterfinals. He has a tough first match against compatriot Andreas Seppi.

Money stat: Fognini has his best winning percentage on clay (.592) and has won 32.5 percent of his return games on clay over the past year, sixth-best on tour.


Women’s top 10

1. Simona Halep

French Open seed: No. 3

Outlook: The defending champion has played fairly well this spring, but she took a tough loss to No. 4 Kiki Bertens in Madrid and suffered a first-round exit in Rome. Halep will feel a lot of pressure as defending champ, but if she survives first-round jitters against Ajla Tomljanovic, she could have clear sailing until the quarterfinals.

Money stat: Halep is the defending French Open champion and a three-time finalist but has not won a tournament in 2019 (0-2 in finals).


2. Karolina Pliskova

French Open seed: No. 2

Outlook: The pressure will be on the second seed, but she was impressive in winning the Italian Open and should have enough confidence to get through a first-rounder with Madison Brengle. She could meet former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is on the comeback trail at 33 years old, in the second round.

Money stat: Pliskova won the most recent tournament she played (Rome), and her 252 aces in 2019 are the most on tour.


3. Kiki Bertens

French Open seed: No. 4

Outlook: She has come on like gangbusters this year, building on her breakthrough to the top 10 last year and proving she’s no fluke. The 6-foot, 27-year-old Bertens has been to the semis (2016) at Roland Garros. Pauline Parmentier should pose no problem in the first round, although she will have the home crowd behind her.

Money stat: Bertens has 12 wins on clay this season, tied for most on tour, and has won two titles this year.


4. Petra Kvitova

French Open seed: No. 6

Outlook: She’s stronger than her seeding suggests, even though she has been as far as the fourth round at the French just once since she made the semis in 2012. She’s a streaky player subject to hitting bad patches, but she should get past Sorana Cirstea in the first round.

Money stat: Kvitova is No. 4 on the WTA’s clay-court Power Rankings.


5. Naomi Osaka

French Open seed: No. 1

Outlook: The top seed gained some very valuable — and much-needed — clay-court experience this spring. Her opener against No. 92 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova will test her nerves, but she has the firepower to overcome those standing in the way of a potential fourth-round clash with No. 14 seed Madison Keys.

Money stat: Osaka is trying to join Serena Williams as the only women to win three consecutive Grand Slams in the past 20 years, but she has never advanced past the round of 32 in three French Open appearances.


6. Sloane Stephens

French Open seed: No. 7

Outlook: Last year’s French Open runner-up, Grand Slam champion, former No. 1 … sure, Stephens has had disappointing results of late, but her silky game is excellent on clay. If she gets through her first match with Misaki Doi, she could be looking at a fourth-round meeting with former champion — and No. 19 seed — Garbine Muguruza.

Money stat: Stephens has won 20 career matches at the French Open, more than at any other Grand Slam.


7. Madison Keys

French Open seed: No. 14

Outlook: Keys has lost a couple of tough three-setters in Europe, but she won on clay (albeit the faster Har-Tru clay popular in the U.S.) at Charleston in April. She was a semifinalist at Roland Garros last year, and her first-round opponent, Evgeniya Rodina, hasn’t been playing well.

Money stat: Keys had 20 aces on clay in a match in Rome, tied for the most by any player in a WTA match this season.


8. Belinda Bencic

French Open seed: No. 15

Outlook: The resurgent Swiss player has a super record against top-10 opponents this year (7-4). She has never gone beyond the second round at Roland Garros, but her fitness and confidence have improved. Getting French wild card Jessika Ponchet as a first opponent is a gift, and Stephens, Muguruza and No. 9 Elina Svitolina (all in her quarter) haven’t exactly been lighting up draws.

Money stat: Bencic has five wins (5-1) vs. top-five opponents in 2019, the most such victories of anyone on tour.


9. Ashleigh Barty

French Open seed: No. 8

Outlook: Although the diminutive Aussie hasn’t punched through to a final since winning in Miami and might not feel totally comfortable on clay, she has tremendous variety and can run all day. Her first match will be against American Jessica Pegula in a quarter of the draw that has a dearth of proven clay experts.

Money stat: Barty is 24-5 this year, the fifth-most wins on tour in 2019.


10. Serena Williams

French Open seed: No. 10

Outlook: We all know what Williams is capable of doing, but the bottom line is that she has had to withdraw with injury or illness from her past three tournaments — as well as last year’s French Open. Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia is a beatable first-round opponent, but we have no idea about Williams’ physical state.

Money stat: Williams is 108-30 (.782) all-time on clay, second in WTA history.

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