The French Open is nearly upon us and promises to be one of the most unpredictable tournaments in years.
Sit back and get set for a guide on how things are shaping up for the second Grand Slam of 2017.
When does 2017 French Open start?
Action on the clay courts of Roland Garros gets underway on Sunday 28th May.
The finals will be held across 10/11th June climaxing with the Men Singles’ final from 2pm on Sunday 11th June.
In recent years, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams have been the two main favourites. This time around, anything goes as tennis approaches the dawn of a new era.
In the men’s draw, you would be mad not to have a bet on either Rafael Nadal or Dominic Thiem as the champion.
Nadal is going for his tenth French Open title and has won all but one of his clay matches throughout 2017. Thiem however at only 23 years old, has been a force of reckoning for the Spaniard in recent weeks and will fancy tasting glory here for the first time.
Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka this year could probably be classed as dark horses given their inconsistent start to 2017.
Djokovic has recently found some form in Madrid then Rome. The downside is that he is without a coaching set up, which could well prove costly as seen in past Grand Slams when players had no coaching teams with them.
Out of the next generation, Alexander Zverev and Chung Hyeon have led the way. I expect to see them reaching at least the third round and stirring up trouble, if they progress any deeper.
Zverev saw off Djokovic to gain his first Masters title in Rome. Just how much of a boost will the young German get from this as we head to Paris?
Over in the women’s draw, frontrunner Garbine Muguruza has struggled for momentum this year.
In the past week in Rome, she has however rediscovered the quality that earned her the title here 12 months ago with a strong run ended, only by a neck issue.
Serena Williams will play no part here or the remainder of this season as she prepares to enter motherhood.
World no.1, Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta are amongst the dark horses in the Women Singles draw.
Those three names have all made huge strides forward in the past year but suffered early exits here in 2016. Could lightning strike twice and halt their rising progress through the rankings?
Simona Halep has stuttered lately after storming up the rankings a few seasons ago. She has started to rediscover the clay quality that she got within her with strong runs in the past month.
Can Halep manage to build on her potential and finally deliver her first Grand Slam?
As for the next female generation, Anett Kontaveit, Jelena Ostapenko and Elina Svitolina are the ones to watch out for, given their form of late.
Estonian, Kontaveit managed to bagel Kerber en route to the last eight in Rome. As a result, she will be one of the dangerous players that top seeds will want to avoid in the early rounds.
Svitolina will be hoping to maintain her recent run of form, which has earned her the Rome Masters title.
Surprises in wait?
Recent years have seen some surprise journeymen and ladies go deeper than expected.
Last year’s highlights include; Kiki Bertens, Shelby Rogers and Tsvetana Pironkova all reach the at least the quarter finals of the women’s singles.
The male sides saw just Albert Ramos-Vinolas produce a shock in reaching the last eight, having beaten Milos Raonic en route.
Previous surprise highlights from both single draws include: Ernest Gulbis (2014 – semis), Alison Van Uytvanck (2015 – quarter final) and Andreea Mitu (2015 – 4th round).
In the Men Singles, you can’t look past Nadal or Thiem for the title, given their superior form compared to the likes of Murray and Serbia’s Djokovic.
Should they end up in the same half as the Serbian, expect the other half of the draw to be blown wide open given the amount of inconsistency amongst other players likely to be with Murray.
I really feel that there may be some shocks brewing right from the off, depending on how the draw turns out.
As for the ladies, it could be anyone’s. Muguruza and Halep will be favourite but nobody else has shown any consistency on clay this year, out of the females.
Other than those two, three other possible winners (Kerber, Konta and Pliskova) all have a woeful record between them at Roland Garros. As a result, the Women Singles look like it could well be the most open draw in any sports tournament throughout 2017.
In terms of champions, I would love to see Thiem kick start the changing of the guard as we enter what could be an entertaining summer of tennis.
As for the victor from the women’s draw, I am going for Muguruza based on her peaking at the right time heading into the tournament.
Prediction: Dominic Thiem and Garbine Muguruza