Five players to watch ahead of the 2021 French Open
Despite the sheer dominance of Rafael Nadal at the French Open, several young players have made their name at Roland Garros with Jannik Sinner and Hugo Gaston starring last year.
In case you don’t already know, Rafael Nadal has won 13 titles at Roland Garros and is aiming to extend his winning streak to five consecutive Grand Slams on Parisian soil.
However, it is still interesting to look at the next generation of tennis stars, with Italian teenager Jannik Sinner reaching the quarter-final of last year’s edition and Hugo Gaston making his name in a five-set thriller against Dominic Thiem.
Tennishead looks at five players to watch at the 2021 French Open.
1) Jannik Sinner – World No 17, Best Roland Garros run: Quarter-final (2020)
In 2020, the Italian star had a breakthrough year, earning his first ever top 10 win against David Goffin before performing well at the pre-cursors to Roland Garros upon the resumption of the calendar.
It was therefore no surprise that Sinner displayed his class on debut at the biggest stage of all in Paris. The Italian became the youngest quarter-finalist at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic in 2006, and the first to make the quarter-finals on debut since Rafael Nadal in 2005.
The Italian has grown ever since, carrying a ten match win streak into the Australian Open before losing to Denis Shapovalov in five sets. Since then, Sinner reached his first ever Masters 1000 final in Miami, where he lost to Hubert Hurkacz in the final.
Unlike last year, Sinner will now carry the weight of expectation at this year’s event, though has the forehand and all-round game to upset any of the Top 10 players in Paris.
2) Casper Ruud – World No 21, Best Roland Garros run: Third round (2019, 2020)
Norwegian star Casper Ruud has enjoyed his most fruitful year on the ATP circuit, reaching a career high ranking of 16 in May.
At the 2021 Australian Open, Ruud progressed to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time before retiring against Andrey Rublev.
Since then, the 22-year-old has continued to impress on his favoured clay surface.
After reaching the semi-finals at the 2020 Italian Open where he eventually fell to Novak Djokovic, the Norwegian reached a second consecutive Masters 1000 final with a stunning run in Monte Carlo.
Ruud then recorded his first Top 5 win in Madrid after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets, before beating Alexander Bublik to reach a third straight ATP Masters 1000 semi-final on clay.
With a strong game on the clay surface and a proven ability to perform in Masters 1000 events, Ruud may just achieve his best ever result at the French Open this year.
3) Cristian Garin – World No 23, Best Roland Garros run: Third round (2020)
If there is any player outside of the Top 10 that comes alive during the clay season, its Chilean Cristian Garin.
The 24-year-old has won five titles in his career so far, and it is no surprise that these have all been on the clay surface.
Garin won his first and only title of the year to date on home soil in Santiago before reaching his second ever Masters 1000 quarter-final with a three-sets victory over Daniil Medvedev.
It would be far from shocking if the Chilean was to make the second week in Paris – after all he’s had a taste of success in the French capital.
At the 2013 French Open, Garin dropped only one set on his way to the singles final, meeting no less than Alexander Zverev, who he defeated in straight sets to win his first Junior Grand Slam title.
The South American is certainly one to watch.
4) Lorenzo Sonego – World No 28, Best Roland Garros run: Fourth round (2020)
Like compatriot Jannik Sinner, Sonego came to life in 2020 at the age of 25 – perhaps later than most ATP players.
The 26-year-old made a career-best fourth round appearance at last year’s French Open, defeating Emilio Gomez, Alexander Bublik and American star Taylor Fritz, before losing to clay specialist Diego Schwartzman in the round of 16.
Following his exploits in the French capital the Italian continued to impress, thrashing World No 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets 6-2 6-1 at the 2020 Vienna Open to earn the biggest win of his life.
Sonego continued his form into 2021, winning the Sardegna Open in April and achieving a career high ranking of World No 28.
Just a month later, Sonego reached his first Masters 1000 semi-final in front of his home crowd, defeating Top 10 stars Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev before losing to Djokovic in three sets.
After reaching the fourth round last year, Sonego can certainly go one better this time around.
5) Lorenzo Musetti – World No 88, Best Roland Garros run: Not yet featured
If someone was to ask a tennis fan who the hottest prospect is, Lorenzo Musetti would be on many tongues.
The Italian began to emerge in 2020 at the age of 18, beating three time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in straight sets at the Rome Masters to become the first player born in 2002 to win an ATP level match.
In October last year, Musetti continued his clay form to reach his first ever ATP semi-final in Sardinia, where he retired against Laslo Djere trailing 4-1 in the final set.
Since then, Musetti really started to make his name in Acapulco. After going through qualifying, the Italian beat World No 9 Diego Schwartzman, Frances Tiafoe and fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov to reach his second ATP semi final and his first at the ATP 500 level.
The Italian broke into the Top 100 following the event, becoming the youngest player ever to do so.
Appearing in his first ever Roland Garros, Musetti could certainly ruffle a few feathers.
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