Dark horses out to upset the order

The familiar favourites dominate the discussion in Paris, but who could spring a surprise?

Cristian Garin©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Roland-Garros 2019 is finally upon us. How will the defending champions fair? Will a Next Gen prodigy swat away the elite?

Here are a group of players who could disrupt the order and soar into title contention from outside the realm of favourites.

Cristian Garin

This is becoming pretty common knowledge, but the Chilean is incredibly difficult to put away.

In the nine matches Garin has duelled in three sets on Tour this season, he’s triumphed in eight of them. Significantly, the 22-year-old has also saved match point en route to winning seven times in 2019.

His resistance and ease of power have helped accumulate an astonishing 18-5 clay record this season. He reached the Brasil Open final as a building block to two clay-court titles.

Garin, who faces Reilly Opelka in the Roland-Garros 2019 first round, lifted the trophy in Houston, before consolidating his burgeoning reputation by outlasting Diego Schwartzman and Alexander Zverev to scribe his name onto the Munich Roll of Honour.

Petra Martic

Two years ago the Croatian’s career was ravaged by a multitude of injuries, languishing at world No.662 in the rankings.

"From Charleston on, things really started changing," said the Roland-Garros 31st seed. “I’m living the best days of my career now." 

A semi-final showing in Charleston stood out with victory over in-form Belinda Bencic, which catapulted the 28-year-old towards a memorable week in Turkey.

Martic illustrated her abundance of fighting qualities to prevail past Kristina Mladenovic 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(2) in a staggering three hours and 17 minutes on the way to clinching her maiden WTA title at the Istanbul Cup.

She comes to Paris with the second-highest winning percentage on clay (84.6%) this season (among all players with three or more clay matches contested), having amassed an 11-2 win-loss record on the surface in 2019.

The world No.31, a first round opponent for Ons Jabeur, has also booked a second week ticket twice in Paris. A 2012 fourth round was replicated when she pushed Elina Svitolina to the limit in three sets at the same stage back in 2017.

Matteo Berrettini

The Rome native demonstrated his impressive progress on home courts earlier this month.

The passion, adaptability and execution from the 23-year-old chalked up a first top-five win over Alexander Zverev in front of a cacophonous Roman crowd.

Berrettini clearly relishes vocal and spirited crowd involvement and will hope to harness that boost in Paris.

Last year the world No.32 stretched eventual finalist Dominic Thiem to four sets in the third round, but this time he has the Budapest title and Munich final in back-to-back weeks on the scoreboard on the road to Roland-Garros.

Roger Federer is a possible third round duel and the 2009 champion would have to be on his guard.

Marketa Vondrousova

The Czech teenage sensation continues to send out signals of intent.

The left-hander is far from intimidated facing the ‘big names’ of the sport, which was shown with a quarter-final brace in the ‘Sunshine Swing’.

The 19-year-old stunned Simona Halep at Indian Wells and replicated that standout victory with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 triumph over the reigning Roland-Garros champion in Rome.

An Istanbul Cup final, and a 9-2 win-loss on clay this season, also proves that Vondrousova is waiting in the wings for a long stay in Paris.

Felix Auger-Aliassime

The Next Gen stars are building their case to take over the helm of men’s tennis and this calm, assured Canadian is well within the mix.

Trips into the Rio final and Miami semi-finals have launched the 18-year-old from outside the top 100 up to world No.28 in a matter of three months.

Whilst the key contenders fine-tune their game at Roland-Garros, Auger-Aliassime has been rattling through matches in Lyon and has booked another final appearance against Benoit Paire on Saturday.

The standout wins keep on coming, his composure remains. The Roland-Garros 2016 boys' finalist will be feared amongst the field.

Johanna Konta

“I've really committed to the work that I'm doing with my team right now. I really believe in it. So every day I show up to work, I show up,” a rejuvenated Konta said in Rome. “I feel like every day I'm able to just keep adding and keep building."

Two clay-court finals in three weeks in Rabat and Rome have sparked Great Britain’s leading charge back into form in perfect time.

Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Kiki Bertens all succumbed to Konta’s resurgence in Rome and the former world No.4 is oozing positivity.

The world No.26 is without a main draw victory in four previous attempts at the French Open, but there is a strong chance that streak is about to be broken.