What's at stake at Roland-Garros 2021?

 - Reem Abulleil

History is on the line in Paris in the coming fortnight as players chase new records and milestones on the terre battue

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2020 final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Another Grand Slam is upon us and the stakes keep lifting for the stars of the ATP and WTA tours.

Here are some records and milestones that could be reached in these next two weeks in the French capital.

Men’s all-time slam record on the line

The Big Three are back together at a major for the first time since the 2020 Australian Open, which means the battle for Grand Slam supremacy will heat up in Paris.

Last autumn in the French capital, Rafael Nadal equalled Roger Federer’s men’s all-time record of 20 majors won before Novak Djokovic narrowed the deficit and claimed an 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open three months ago.

Nadal could inch ahead and take sole possession of the record should he capture an unprecedented 14th Roland-Garros trophy in a couple of weeks’ time.

Federer, who has only contested three matches in the past 16 months, has downplayed his chances on the terre battue, while Djokovic has a chance to close the gap on his rivals should he scoop a 19th major.

Iga seeks a rare repeat

Since 2008, 11 different women have hoisted the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris.

This upcoming fortnight, Iga Swiatek will be looking to become the first woman to defend her Roland-Garros singles crown since Justine Henin captured a third consecutive – and fourth overall – title in the French capital in 2007.

Defending a major title has not been a common feat on the women’s tour of late, with the most recent occurrence coming in 2016 when Serena Williams retained her Wimbledon trophy.  

Djokovic, Federer look to double up

Djokovic is not one to shy from chasing records and has openly declared his desire to usurp Federer and Nadal on the Grand Slam leaderboard.

Earlier this year, the world No.1 surpassed Federer’s mark of most weeks spent at the top of the men’s rankings – one of a string of longtime goals he has managed to achieve.

He now has an opportunity to accomplish a feat no other man has managed in the Open Era. If Djokovic adds a second Roland-Garros title to his resume, he will become the first man in modern times to win each of the four Grand Slams at least twice.

Federer too can pull off this double career Grand Slam, should he grab a second Roland-Garros crown.

Novak Djokovic, Monte Carlo 2021 second round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The elusive No.24

Once again, Serena Williams finds herself on the cusp of history as she targets an all-time record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles trophy.

Williams is one title short of Margaret Court’s mark and matching the Australian has proven to be a real challenge.

Since returning from maternity leave in 2018, the 39-year-old has reached four major finals and two more semi-finals. Can she overcome that last hurdle to tie Court’s record?

WTA top spot up for grabs

Ashleigh Barty, the 2019 Roland-Garros champion, will begin her 78th week as the world No.1 on Monday but the Australian will have to fend off Naomi Osaka if she plans on keeping her top ranking after Paris.

Osaka, who previously enjoyed a couple of stints amounting to 25 weeks at the summit, will need to at least reach the final in Paris in order to dethrone Barty, who could lock down the top spot if she advances to the last-four stage.

Milestones on the horizon

Three-time Roland-Garros champion Serena Williams has not made it past the fourth round in Paris since 2016 but should she advance to the quarter-finals at the event this year, the American legend will have recorded her 70th career match-win on Parisian clay.

Djokovic, the 2016 winner, has a chance to make it 80 match victories at Roland-Garros if he reaches the final this upcoming fortnight.

Dominic Thiem is two match wins away from hitting the 30-victory mark in Paris while Venus Williams could get to a half-century if she makes it to the third round.

Dominic Thiem Madrid 2021© Antoine Couvercelle / FFT