In Paris, the years may go by but Rafa is still there. Whether he’s number 1, number 2 or number 3 in the world, Rafael Nadal, reinforced by his victories in Monte Carlo and Rome, remains the favourite to retain his...

In Paris, the years may go by but Rafa is still there. Whether he’s number 1, number 2 or number 3 in the world, Rafael Nadal, reinforced by his victories in Monte Carlo and Rome, remains the favourite to retain his crown on the Parisian clay. Behind him, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic merely look like underdogs…

The favourite: Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is eternal and so is his love for clay courts. Every year, when it’s time to get his socks dirty, the Spaniard dons his superhero costume and dispatches all comers. Whether under the beating sun of Monte Carlo or pouring rain at the Foro Italico in Rome, Rafa has his way of always putting the record straight when it comes to his favourite Grand Slam. This year, having beaten Novak Djokovic twice in finals, the Bull of Manacor also seems to have overcome a sort of inferiority complex he had developed, particularly at Wimbledon, at the U.S. Open and more recently at the Australian Open. Dominating everywhere except on Madrid’s blue clay (that he hates like many others) the one who just got back his place as world number two logically aims for a seventh title at Roland Garros. A very achievable goal if his knees can go the distance.  

The King Without A Crown: Novak Djokovic

Three in Australia, one in London, one in Flushing Meadows and a bunch of Masters 1000 (six total since 2011). Wherever he goes the hurricane that is Novak Djokovic strikes down his opponents. Everywhere, but in Paris. The Serb, who was outclassing everybody on clay last season, was defeated by Roger Federer in the semi-finals, missing out on a long-awaited final against Rafael Nadal. This year, it’s a different story. Not as powerful from the baseline as he used to be, Djoko had to give in more often to the hammer blows of the Spanish world number 2. Far from a trivial detail, the return of the Spaniard to the number two ranking could upset the program of the early summer. Indeed, like last year at Roland, Nolé can only cross the path of the hot favourite in the final. He, therefore, will likely have to deal with the great Roger Federer before he can get a chance to dethrone the King of Clay. So it will be essential for him not to exert himself too much in the early rounds...  

The Boss With No Pressure: Roger Federer

With more supporters than any French players, Roger Federer is the latest big crush of Roland Garros since Gustavo Kuerten. It must be said that the Swiss has quite some sex appeal. Always very classy, on and off the court, he speaks perfect French and had the romanticism of the gallant loser, which persisted up to 2009. Free from all pressure in Paris since his victory against Robin Soderling, the Swiss craftsman remains a player capable of beating anyone on the circuit. At thirty, his legs are not as strong as they were two or three seasons ago, but his fantastic sight and wrists are still there. Winner in Madrid and semi-finalist in Rome, RF could well make his typical progress at the French: opponents seen off in straight sets up to the semis, followed by an incredible match to reach the final - an outcome that would definitely please the fans on the Philippe Chatrier court.    By Swann Borsellino