Rafael Nadal has dominated the French Open like no other player has dominated a major. Nadal has won a record 13 French Open titles, cementing himself as the greatest clay court player in the history of tennis. He has won this event for each of the last four years, making himself the favorite coming into the 2021 French Open. Although he will be 35 years old on June 3, Nadal’s prowess on clay court overcomes some of the deficiencies in his game.

The 2021 French Open will run from May 30, 2021 to June 13, 2021. It will take place at historic Roland Garros in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

THE FAVORITE

Rafael Nadal

Nadal ran roughshod over Novak Djokovic in last year’s French Open Final. He beat Djokovic in straight sets 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to win a record 20th Grand Slam. It was his 100th victory at Roland Garros, and he has only lost two matches since his first French Open in 2005.

His loss to Robin Soderling in 2009 was absolutely stunning as Soderling was a relative unknown, and his only other defeat at Roland Garros came against Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the 2015 French Open. Nadal was unable to win the Madrid Open a few weeks ago though, losing to Alexander Zverev in straight sets.

THE CONTENDERS

Novak Djokovic

It’s wild to think that Novak Djokovic might catch both Nadal and Roger Federer in terms of career grand slam titles considering how dominant Nadal and Federer were in the 2000s. Djokovic has 18 career grand slam wins, just two behind Nadal and Federer. His only win at Roland Garros came in 2016, yet the No. 1 player in the world must be feared as the winner of the Australian Open back in February.

While Nadal is the King of Clay, Djokovic isn’t that far behind the Spanish sensation. He has won 15 titles on clay, and he is one of the few tennis players that has a somewhat respectable record against Nadal on this surface.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Will this be Tsitsipas’ breakthrough tournament? He is one of the young guns out to unseat the three giants of the sport, but he has yet to make the finals of any grand slam. Tsitsipas made it to the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021 and the semifinals of last year’s French Open, yet he was unable to make it further. He did push Djokovic to five sets in last year’s semifinals at Roland Garros, so the 22-year-old could have a bigger edge with his fresh legs.

Dominic Thiem

We saw Thiem finally win a grand slam last year at Flushing Meadows. He overcame a two-set deficit to beat Alexander Zverev at the 2020 US Open. Thiem lost to Nadal in the finals of the 2018 and 2019 French Open, but this could be the year he finally claims some hardware at Roland Garros.

DON’T THINK ABOUT IT 

Roger Federer

Federer is considered the greatest player in the history of tennis by many experts. He claimed his 20th grand slam when he won the 2018 Australian Open, but he is a shadow of his former greatness. It’s been incredible to watch him play at a high level into his late 30s, but he will turn 40 in August and no longer has the stamina or speed needed to survive two weeks on clay court.