Rafael Nadal targets one last dance at the French Open

Tennis Thursday May 23, 2024 By: Harry Howes

Grand Slam fever is in full swing, with the French Open getting underway this week before being swiftly followed by Wimbledon. Novak Djokovic will be hoping one of those iconic tournaments will finally secure him the all-time Grand Slam record, but there will be plenty of competition standing in his way.

Carlos Alcaraz is the new kid on the block and he’ll be looking to continue his dramatic rise. Meanwhile, Roland Garros legend Rafael Nadal will be desperate to wave goodbye to the famous clay in style.

Whatever happens, this year’s French Open promises to be another spectacular event and you can watch every ball in style with Engage’s exclusive hospitality packages. Enquire today to enjoy the greatest players on the planet from the best seats in the house.

Nadal seeks romantic farewell

As Nadal prepares to say adios to the sport this year, he faces a battle to be fit for one last dance with an old flame. The Spaniard has dominated the French Open throughout his career en route to being crowned the ‘King of Clay’.

Nadal has won a record 14 titles at Roland Garros, eight more than Björn Borg, his next men’s challenger in the open era. And with this set to be his final appearance at his spiritual home, it would be fitting that he bowed out with a 15th win in Paris and his 23rd Grand Slam title.

But even before you consider the likes of Djokovic and Alcaraz, the main hurdle standing in Nadal’s way is his own fitness. He’s missed much of the last two years with persistent hip problems and he was forced to miss the Australian Open earlier this year.

The 37-year-old is one of the best to ever do it and it’s scary to imagine how much greater his legacy could have been had he not been blighted by injuries. Now in the twilight of his career, he’s ranked 276th in the world.

He reached the round of 16 at the recent Madrid Open, where he was beaten in straight sets by Jiri Lehecka before suffering a similar fate in just the second round at the Italian Open. But while he may have been holding back in those games, there’s no doubt he’ll leave everything on the court in Paris.

The form book will be ripped up if he wins his race to play and despite his recent form, injuries and lowly rank, you can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of Alcaraz and Djokovic are secretly hoping somebody else will deal with Nadal before they have to face him on the courts where he made his name.

Djokovic chases elusive record Grand Slam

Since winning the US Open back in September, Djokovic has had his eye on a record-breaking Grand Slam win that would make him the undisputed greatest player of all time.

The Serbian has won 24 major titles and is currently level at the top of the standings with women’s great Margaret Court. He could have edged ahead of the Australian legend by claiming the first slam of the year in Melbourne but he lost out to eventual winner Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals.

Djokovic will fancy his chances at finally clinching his long-awaited record in the coming weeks but he’ll have to do it at his least fruitful event. The 37-year-old has won just three of his 24 major titles in Paris, although two of them have come at the last three French Opens, including in 2023 where he beat Casper Ruud in straight sets.

Standing in his way will no doubt be Sinner, who looks set to help Alcaraz dominate tennis when Djokovic and Nadal hang up their rackets. The Italian’s win in Melbourne was his first Grand Slam and he’ll be confident of adding to it, although he has struggled in Paris, with a quarter-final defeat in 2020 his best ever finish.

Alcaraz remains the favourite to win the title, with the Spaniard hoping to follow in compatriot Nadal’s footsteps. The rising star stunned Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final to claim his second Grand Slam and with another year of experience under his belt, he’ll take some beating at Roland Garros.

Can Świątek be stopped?

World number one Iga Świątek is the clear favourite to win the women’s title and for good reason. The Polish star has won the competition three times since 2020, including last year when she saw off Karolína Muchová in the final.

Aged just 22, Świątek has already won four Grand Slam titles and she doesn’t look like slowing down. Since a disappointing third round defeat at the Australian Open in January, she’s gone on to win the Qatar Open, the Indian Wells Masters, the Madrid Open and the Italian Open.

The most recent of those wins came in Rome last week and she swept all before her, beating Coco Gauff in the semis before defeating Aryna Sabalenka in the final. Those two are expected to be her nearest challengers but they’ll struggle to lay a glove on her on recent form.

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