Day 1: Three things to look out for

 - Alex Sharp

A fascinating mix of youth, key contenders and major champions open proceedings on Sunday

Aryna Sabalenka, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

The wait is almost over and you can soon sit back and take in all the action from around the grounds at Roland-Garros 2021.

The main draw starts on Sunday with a fascinating mix of youth, key contenders and major champions on display.

As it’s such a star-studded opening day, here is a reminder of a few matches you won’t want to miss.

Blockbusters for Belarusian duo

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka is seeking her first deep venture into the draw at Roland-Garros.

Her third-round appearance last autumn is the Belarusian’s best showing in Paris so far, but Sabalenka arrives to the French capital following a cracking clay campaign.


The world No.4 was runner-up to Ashleigh Barty in Stuttgart, before turning the tables to lift the trophy in Madrid.

Her opponent in the opening round is Croatian qualifier and former top-20 Ana Konjuh, whose return from four elbow surgeries sees her feature in a Grand Slam main draw for the first time since 2018.

Clay might not be the world No.144’s favoured surface, however, a run to the Belgrade final earlier this month proves there’s plenty of talent on the terre battue.

Also flying the flag for Belarus is former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka. The two-time Australian Open champion is pitched in a mega first round encounter with 2009 Roland-Garros champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The 15th-seeded Azarenka leads their head-to-head 6-4, winning their past five clashes, but Kuznetsova, also a finalist here in 2006, claimed their only Roland-Garros match back in 2008.

Expect oodles of quality and commitment from this battle of two-time Grand Slam winners.

Victoria Azarenka, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Seeded contenders get the ball rolling

There was understandable excitement coursing through social media when the ‘Big Three’ were drawn in the same top half of the men’s draw.

Only one can make the final, meaning the likes of Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev on the other side of the draw could launch into the silverware showdown.

Reigning US Open champion Thiem has been there twice before in 2018 and 2019.

The fourth seed arrives a little undercooked following early exits in Rome and Lyon that came after his run to the semi-finals in Madrid earlier this month.

The 27-year-old might have won all three previous meetings with veteran Pablo Andujar, but the Spaniard spoiled Roger Federer’s comeback in Geneva a fortnight ago, and enters Roland-Garros high on confidence.

Last year's semi-finalist Tsitsipas has never faced French stalwart Jeremy Chardy on clay (the Greek leads their head-to-head record 2-1).

The fifth seed will be content with his busy preparation, which included the Monte-Carlo Masters crown, a modern classic loss to Rafael Nadal in the Barcelona final and the Lyon title last Sunday.

Zverev is seeded No.6 and is in fine fettle having collected his second Madrid Masters off the back of defeating Nadal, Thiem and Matteo Berrettini.

The towering 24-year-old will have to clear qualifier and fellow German Oscar Otte in their first meeting on Sunday.

Young guns with major pedigree

Clara Tauson and Leylah Fernandez are a duo to keep tabs on.

Tauson qualified for the main draw last October, before taking out a 21st-seeded Jennifer Brady in the first round. The Dane, opening her account against qualifier Ekaterine Gorgodze, has since rocketed up the rankings, just like world No.69 Fernandez.

The Canadian 2019 junior champion, only stopped by Petra Kvitova in the Roland-Garros third round last year, faces a tough task in her opener against Anastasia Potapova.

A trio of home prodigies light up the French hopes. 2020 girls’ champion Elsa Jacquemot will have to be at her very best to outmanoeuvre Kazakh No.21 seed Elena Rybakina.

Former junior world No.1’s Diane Parry and Clara Burel are also in action on Sunday against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Danka Kovinic, respectively.

Elsa Jacquemot, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Andre Ferreira/FFT