French Open 2018: A look at top male contenders who could challenge Rafael Nadal for Roland Garros title

Ahead of the 2018 French Open, take a look at the top male contenders challenging defending champion Rafael Nadal for the title at Roland Garros.

Reuters May 27, 2018 18:19:17 IST
French Open 2018: A look at top male contenders who could challenge Rafael Nadal for Roland Garros title

Penpix of the top men's contenders at the 2018 French Open:

Rafael Nadal

French Open 2018 A look at top male contenders who could challenge Rafael Nadal for Roland Garros title

Rafael Nadal is the favourite to retain his French Open title. AP

World ranking: 1

Grand Slam titles: 16 (Australian Open 2009; French Open 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017; Wimbledon 2008, 2010; U.S. Open 2010, 2013, 2017)

Best Roland Garros performance: Winner (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017)

2018 ATP match record: 23-2

2018 ATP titles: 3

Biggest weapon: Nadal's trademark whipped topspin forehand can bully the best opponent. Its fizzing bounce means he can control the court like no other player on clay. His left-handed serve is also potent and his backhand is better than ever. Add in amazing movement and fight and he is the complete package.

Biggest weakness: Tough to find a weakness in a man who has lost two matches out of 81 at Roland Garros. His body occasionally betrays the years of battles though.

Alexander Zverev

French Open 2018 A look at top male contenders who could challenge Rafael Nadal for Roland Garros title

Alexander Zverev will pose the biggest challenge to Nadal's supremacy at Roland Garros. AP

World ranking: 3

Grand Slam titles: 0

Best Roland Garros performance: Third round (2016)

2018 ATP match record: 30-8

2018 ATP titles: 2

Biggest weapon: One of the cleanest strikers of the ball among the younger generation with his double-handed backhand being one of the best shots in tennis. Zverev has oodles of talent and is being touted as a future World No 1.

Biggest weakness: Lack of experience on the biggest stage and a curiously disappointing record at the slams where the weight of expectation has occasionally proved too much.

Dominic Thiem

French Open 2018 A look at top male contenders who could challenge Rafael Nadal for Roland Garros title

Dominic Thiem has been in good form in the clay season beating Nadal at the Madrid Masters. AP

World ranking: 8

Grand Slam titles: 0

Best Roland Garros performance: Semi-finals (2016, 2017)

2018 ATP match record: 25-8 (not including Lyon Open)

2018 ATP titles: 1

Biggest weapon: Thiem's single-handed backhand is his most destructive shot but he is equally comfortable on both wings. His all-round game makes him a threat on clay and Roland Garros represents his best chance of winning a Grand Slam title.

Biggest weakness: His decision making has been suspect on occasion and he has been known to crack under pressure.

Novak Djokovic

French Open 2018 A look at top male contenders who could challenge Rafael Nadal for Roland Garros title

While Novak Djokovic has been struggling to get back to top form following injuries, one can't discount the 12-time Grand Slam winner's chances in Paris. AP

World ranking: 22

Grand Slam titles: 12 (Australian Open 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016; French Open 2016; Wimbledon 2011, 2014, 2015, US Open 2011, 2015)

Best Roland Garros performance: Winner (2016)

2018 ATP match record: 10-7

2018 ATP titles: 0

Biggest weapon: The Serb's surgical accuracy from the baseline has been his trademark, as has his almost superhuman ability to reach balls that would evade any other player.

Biggest weakness: Djokovic's serve has come under the microscope on occasion and it will be interesting to see how it holds up after elbow surgery.

Marin Cilic

French Open 2018 A look at top male contenders who could challenge Rafael Nadal for Roland Garros title

Veteran Marin Cilic can be expected to make a deep run in Paris and will prove to be a tricky customer for the younger challengers. AP

World ranking: 4

Grand Slam titles: 1 (U.S. Open 2014)

Best Roland Garros performance: Quarter-finals (2017)

2018 ATP match record: 18-8

2018 ATP titles: 0

Biggest weapon: Experience. The Croat rarely gets ruffled and packs a mean punch from the baseline. He also boasts a booming serve that can act as a get out of jail free card.

Biggest weakness: Court coverage. While good for a big man, Cilic is not the most graceful mover which is why clay causes him more problems than other surfaces.

Grigor Dimitrov

French Open 2018 A look at top male contenders who could challenge Rafael Nadal for Roland Garros title

Grigor Dimitrov hasn't made his mark at the Grand Slam level despite showing promise. With Roger Federer, Andy Murray absent, Dimitrov has a chance to challenge for the title. AP

World ranking: 5

Grand Slam titles: 0

Best Roland Garros performance: Third round (2013, 2017)

2018 ATP match record: 16-10

2018 ATP titles: 0

Biggest weapon: His ability to switch gears rapidly during points to turn defence into attack. Has all the shots in the book and his backhand slice is much improved.

Biggest weakness: No technical weaknesses but lacks focus at times and his game plan can sometimes be found wanting.

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