Without King of Clay Rafael Nadal playing, can Novak Djokovic win — and set the men’s record for most Grand Slams? Or will the victor be heir apparent Carlos Alcaraz?
Iga Swiatek has won two out of the past three French Open titles, but will Aryna Sabalenka or Elena Rybakina get the better of the world No. 1? And can Coco Gauff back up her magical run to the final from last year, or take the doubles title with Jessica Pegula?
Our experts attempt to answer these questions and make their predictions as the French Open starts on Sunday.
Who will win the women’s singles title and why?
Chris Evert: I pick Swiatek to win because she’s still the more experienced and consistent player on the women’s side on clay. I think she has paced herself well and will be fresh and ready to go. She moves better than most of her opponents and is hungry. She wants more majors on her résumé and this surface is maybe her best chance with the growing power in the game.
Cliff Drysdale: Swiatek to win. But she needs for Sabalenka to not be at her best. Sabalenka has overwhelming power, but she is not as mentally strong and could struggle to make the final stages. Swiatek has all-time groundstrokes but not a blockbuster serve, so a power player always has a shot.
Simon Cambers: Swiatek. I know she’s got a problem with Rybakina, and she has panicked a couple of times against the bigger hitters when things don’t go her way lately, but she’s a class act and the best player in the world, even more so on clay. You don’t win the title in Paris twice (in the past three years) without being able to cope with all kinds of challenges, and I expect her to make it three.
Bill Connelly: Swiatek is the favorite for all the obvious reasons — she’s won 18 of her past 19 matches at Roland Garros (dropping only three sets in the process) and 40 of her past 44 on clay. But Sabalenka and Rybakina have played at elite levels of late, too, and former contender Barbora Krejcikova (the 2021 champ) has had some awfully strong moments of late. Swiatek’s the top name, but if you ask me to take Swiatek or the field, I’m taking the field.
Tom Hamilton: I’m going for Rybakina. The reigning Wimbledon champion is becoming a superb all-court force, and after winning Indian Wells back in March, she has since backed it up on clay with a triumph at the Italian Open — though this was in part helped by three walkovers en route to the title. There’ll be others like Swiatek and Sabalenka who will push her close, but Rybakina can secure her second Slam in Paris.
D’Arcy Maine: Rybakina. While Swiatek has been the most dominant on the surface over the past few seasons, she hasn’t had her best stretch on clay this season and had to retire during her quarterfinal match against Rybakina in Rome with a thigh injury. Rybakina — who went on to win the title at the Italian Open — has been playing with something to prove this year. She would likely face Swiatek in the semis, and then potentially Sabalenka in the final (in what would be a rematch of the Australian Open final), but major title No. 2 seems well within reach.
Alyssa Roenigk: Swiatek. She won’t have an easy path through Sabalenka, though. She lost to the Belarusian in Madrid in May, and if Swiatek bows out before the semis, Sabalenka overtakes her as the world No. 1.
Who will win the men’s singles title and why?
Evert: My men’s choice is more difficult. Alcaraz or Djokovic … I am picking Alcaraz because of his sterling record this year. Djokovic has had injuries and is not in peak form coming into the French. Alcaraz, at times, has looked spectacular and unbeatable. He has no weakness, a beautiful drop shot, power, and he can sprint around the court like nobody’s business!
Drysdale: Alcaraz, of course. The only question is how many of the three majors left will he win! He has no weakness, and boasts an array of offensive weapons.
Cambers: Everyone says it’s more open than ever before, and that’s probably true. But that doesn’t mean a big name won’t win. Alcaraz is the one, for me. The Spaniard has not peaked in the clay-court season but still won two titles. Losing early in Rome will have given him time to rest and prepare well, and he’s got everything needed to win. Of course Djokovic is the biggest threat, and the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune will go well, but if Alcaraz is in top form, he’s the man.
Connelly: “I always like my chances in Grand Slams against anybody on any surface, best-of-five. Let’s see how it goes.” That’s what Djokovic said in a recent news conference. For as shaky as he has looked of late — he comes to Paris having won just five of his past nine matches — best-of-five really is a different animal, and he has won 45 of his past 47 best-of-five matches. Alcaraz is the betting favorite, and I know why, but it’s so hard to bet against Djokovic in these tournaments.
Hamilton: It feels like this will be one of the most open men’s singles draws in recent memory due to the absence of Nadal, but there’s a clear favorite: Alcaraz. Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev will push him close, but Alcaraz can win his second Slam with a triumph at Paris. The US Open champion is in wonderful form on clay — recent shock defeat to Fabian Marozsan notwithstanding — having taken the Barcelona Open and then the Madrid Open. He is in formidable form and is perfectly poised to continue the Spanish domination started by Nadal.
Maine: Alcaraz and Djokovic are the favorites for a reason, and their potential semifinal clash could be epic, but I’m picking Rune to win his first major. On the other side of the draw from those two, and playing some exceptional tennis on clay right now with a title in Munich and final appearances in Monte Carlo and Rome, the 20-year-old is absolutely brimming with confidence and momentum. Seemingly never scared of the stage nor opponent — he has beaten Djokovic twice since November — Rune could easily take the next step in his rapidly ascending career in Paris.
Roenigk: Alcaraz has fast become the favorite on any surface, and certainly on clay. The world No. 1 has won four of seven tournaments this season, including two Masters 1000s on clay. Yeah, yeah, there’s that shock loss to Marozsan, but that could have as much to do with why Alcaraz will win his second Slam as his relentless counterattack and masterful drop shots. The guy has a short-term memory for bad play and will be keen to put that loss in the rearview.
Which women’s player could surprise here?
Evert: A long shot outside the top 10 would be Jelena Ostapenko. She’s starting to play well again and has that added confidence of winning this title before.
Drysdale: Pegula is clearly, at No. 3 ranking, not an outside pick, but she has struggled at the majors so is not in the discussion seriously. She is my pick to surprise.
Cambers: I would not be surprised to see Ostapenko have another good French Open. It’s six years since the Latvian stunned everyone by winning the title — remember those 50 winners in the final alone? — but she’s back on form. She can blow hot and cold, but when she’s hot, very few players can stop her.
Connelly: I’m not sure if picking the No. 13 player (and 2021 French Open champion) is enough of a surprise, but I can’t help but think Krejcikova is in a good position to make a run. In the past eight months she has gone 5-4 against top-five opponents (and 2-0 against Swiatek). She’s vulnerable to upsets, but if she can clear some early hurdles, she could make a big run.
Hamilton: If fit, Anhelina Kalinina could have a great run in Paris. She reached the final of the Italian Open only to have to retire with a thigh injury. She reached only the second round previously but has the ability to go far further. She defeated Veronika Kudermetova in the semifinals in Rome, and she too has the potential to do well in Roland Garros.
Maine: There are several women in the draw more than capable of a surprise deep run but perhaps none more so than Ostapenko. She hasn’t advanced past the third round in Paris since her breakthrough victory in 2017 but is coming off a semifinal run at the Italian Open, with impressive wins over Krejcikova, Daria Kasatkina and Paula Badosa, and reached her first Australian Open quarterfinals earlier this season. And if her results don’t surprise, rest assured that something she does on court certainly will.
Roenigk: It feels odd to type “surprise” and “Coco Gauff” and “French Open” in the same sentence as an answer to this question. But there. I just did. Last year’s runner-up has had to refind her footing after making her first Grand Slam final here last year, and she’s playing without a coach right now. On the doubles court, she has been a force on clay, making back-to-back finals with teammate Pegula in Madrid and Rome. In Roland Garros, she finds her singles game, too.
Which men’s player could surprise?
Evert: Alexander Zverev, who has a chance if his serve, forehand and fitness are working well … but I think the winner will come out of the top 10.
Drysdale: Jannik Sinner is my pick to surprise. His speed is the one and only element where Alcaraz can claim an advantage. He is also on the friendly side of the draw.
Cambers: Looking at the draw, Sinner must have a big chance to go deep. The Italian is in the bottom half of the draw, which means he avoids Alcaraz, Djokovic, Tsitsipas and Rublev, and he is perfectly at home on clay. Providing he is fully fit again after a few health issues early in the clay-court season, he has the game to do it.
Connelly: Cameron Norrie doesn’t quite have the upside of other stars, but slowly has put together an interesting résumé. He won Indian Wells in 2021 and reached the Monte Carlo final last year, and he’s gone 14-5 on clay this year. If the draw does open up more than normal this year, a sure-and-steady guy like Norrie might benefit significantly.
If you’re the sentimental type, maybe you look for a surprise from Dominic Thiem? The two-time finalist has been slowly working his way back into form. Maybe Roland Garros speeds that rebound up?
Hamilton: For a huge outsider, have a look at Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena to get through to the second week. He’s got an 8-3 win-loss record on clay this season and took a 250-level event earlier in the clay-court season when he triumphed at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech. But for a shout of someone who could upset the applecart and reach the latter stages, have a look at Jan-Lennard Struff. He reached the final in Madrid only to lose to Alcaraz but could make a run in Paris.
Maine: Zhizhen Zhang. He has never won a match at a major, but he had never recorded a victory at a Masters 1000-level event either until just a few weeks ago. He then went on to reach the quarterfinals in Madrid behind hard-fought, three-set victories over Denis Shapovalov, Norrie and Taylor Fritz. Clearly able to pull off an upset, the 26-year-old could achieve more career milestones in Paris. Interestingly, he’ll first have to get through Dusan Lajovic, who was the surprise champion at the Srpska Open in April, and whoever wins that opening-round match could do some damage.
Roenigk: I’m going with an American player while conceding that clay isn’t exactly our strong suit. Fritz, the current standout in a talented group of young U.S. players, has a chance to surprise in Paris. He’s playing incredibly well this season, has held his top-10 ranking since October and recently made the semifinals in Monte Carlo and Munich on clay. His best showing at Roland Garros? The third round in 2020. He betters that this year.