The Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy is the only title missing from Novak Djokovic’s impressive looking trophy cabinet, most of which were collected last year during an unbelievable season that rivaled the best on record.
Djokovic ended 2011 with a win-loss record of 70-6 and ten titles, including three of the four majors. The only major to elude him was the French Open.
Come this Sunday, Djokovic will be aiming to emulate a feat only two other men in the history of tennis have achieved. Holding all four Grand Slam titles at once. Don Budge was the first, way back in 1938 ,and our very own Rod Laver was the most recent (twice, 1962 & 1969).
However, he won’t have it all his own way, with a host of challengers aiming to spoil Djokovic’s party.
The six-time French Open champion is fresh coming off back-to-back wins against the world number one. Nadal defeated Djokovic in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters in April and followed that up with another straight sets victory on the weekend at the Rome Masters.
Nadal boasts the best record in 2012 with a 33/4 win loss record and crucially that win at Rome has seen him rise back to number two in the world meaning the only time he can meet Djokovic in Paris is in the final.
The king of clay is the defending champ and will be looking to etch his name onto the La Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy for a record seventh time.
The world number three has been in vintage form in 2012 with four titles already to his name, including a record equaling 20th Masters win in Madrid.
Although clay being his weakest surface, it hasn’t stopped Federer reaching five of the last six finals in Paris, including his only triumph in 2009. He will surely be in the mix again.
It was great to have the big serving Argentinian back on tour last year after a horror 2010, which saw him play only six matches for the entire year, after succumbing to a wrist injury resulting in his ranking plummeting to 485.
2011 was the comeback year for the 198cm giant and whilst climbing back to world number 11 and winning two finals along the way.
However, Del Potro failed to make an impact in the Grand Slams. Could this be the year we see ‘Delpo’ explode and claim his second Grand Slam title?
Many of you might say David who? But, this man has become a permanent fixture in the top ten. He is in the best form of his life with a current ranking of six and already three titles to his name so far in 2012.
Although, never better than a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, 2012 might be the breakout year for the Spaniard and he could be a real threat for the big three come the business end of the tournament.
The French are blessed with stars to cheer on at their home tournament, with four of them being ranked inside the worlds top 20 (Tsonga (five), Simon (12), Monfils (13) & Gasquet (20)).
But it’s Monfils who may be the Frenchman that has the best chance of doing some damage in this tournament. He is a proven performer at his home event, reaching a quarter-final in two of the last three years, as well as a semi-final in 2008.
On his day he can beat anyone in the world, unfortunately we don’t see this consistently enough, but he is one to watch come the second week of the tournament.
Of the Aussie brigade no doubt, Bernard Tomic is the one to watch. Tomic now ranked 28 will be seeded for the first time in a Grand Slam event, meaning an easier passage to the third round. However, with the luck of the draw he still may have to face some clay court experts in the early rounds.
Other Australians in the draw include Matt Ebden (world number 76) and former world number one Lleyton Hewitt who received a wild card into the event. James Duckworth, Greg Jones and Marinko Matosevic may all still compete but they have to make it via the qualifying rounds.
World number ten and number one ranked American, Mardy Fish, has withdrawn from the French Open citing fatigue. Two-time finalist and former world number four Robin Soderling is also out of the tournament still suffering from mononucleosis, which has plagued the Swede for the last 18 months.
Although on the surface the men’s game looks to have a lot of depth, the reality is the top three are a class above. Andy Murray may struggle to have much of an impact, despite his performances at recent Grand Slams, the red clay of Paris is a different prospect.
Roland Garros is a grueling two weeks, physically and mentally for all competitors, and that’s why the two classiest players on the surface should face-off in the final, those two men being Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Let’s hope that the final is every bit as entertaining and dramatic as the Australian Open final earlier in the year, however, roles may be reversed this time around on the clay courts.
My prediction is Rafa to win in five-sets over Djokovic.