The Big Questions: Part 2

The writers pick their ones to watch, draw winners and losers, and champions-elect...

Roland-Garros 2018,  Gael Monfils, entraînement, practice©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
Which player do you most love to watch on Parisian clay?

Sarah Edworthy: Rafael Nadal, for obvious reasons, but also Simona Halep. The clay rewards consistency and it’s fun to see the chess-like setting up of shots with both. And Gael Monfils, buoyed by the home crowd.

Kate Battersby: La Monf! Every court feels like Chatrier when Gael Monfils is about to play. Any match, no matter how early in the draw or – we hope – how deep, is overwhelmingly likely to feature some Monf-esque moment of strange tactical invention. Never less than a thrill to watch.

Alex Sharp: Denis Shapovalov - that glorious single-handed backhand will look even more impressive in the picturesque surroundings of Roland Garros. I think he's due a deep run here too. Reigning champ Jelena Ostapenko struck 299 winners en route to lifting the trophy last June. Which tennis fan wouldn't love to see that relentless attacking return?

Ian Chadband: You can’t help but savour seeing the old Lioness prowling around la terre battue. Francesca Schiavone is back for one last hunt (or one-but-last, because you just know she’ll be back…). For the men, it has to be Rafa. It can feel processional at times but the knowledge that you're watching the best there has ever been on clay makes witnessing his masterclasses feel like a rare privilege.

Dan Imhoff: Stan Wawrinka. Every time. If he brings his A-Game, there is no one better to watch. In the women’s draw, a confident, free-swinging Ostapenko.

Which top-eight seed has the most forgiving draw, and who has the toughest? 

KB: Elina Svitolina’s section looks fairly sunlit. The toughest… step forward Dominic Thiem – if, that is, he can move so much as one foot without immediately stumbling over the hurdles in his path.

AS: Third seed Marin Cilic should feel confident in the opening three rounds, giving him enough time to click into gear, while Simona Halep would take on her first true test in the fourth round against Elise Mertens. In contrast, Dominic Thiem has tricky Tsitsipas and Monte Carlo finalist Kei Nishikori awaiting before the quarters, and Garbine Muguruza has a first-round epic with former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

DI: Nadal’s only real threats are all in the bottom half of the draw, where Dominic Thiem has the toughest. In the women’s, there is no real standout soft draw but No.3 seed Garbine Muguruza has potentially the trickiest.

SE: Rafa has the most forgiving and Grigor Dimitrov, the No.4 seed, the toughest with Djokovic, Goffin, Monfils and clay court specialists in the form of Ferrer, Verdasco, Bautista Agut and Carreno Busta all potential winners on the approach to the quarter finals. Halep has a nice draw, while Karolina Pliskova has the toughest with Ashleigh Barty, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Julia Goerges and the winner of Kuznetsova/Muguruza potential hazards on the path to the semi-finals.

And finally: who will take home the titles?

IC: I know I’m going out on a limb here but there’s this Spanish señor… and for the women, Simona Halep. It’s time for the world number one to demonstrate exactly why.

DI: It’s possible this could be the easiest of what would be 11 Roland-Garros titles for Nadal, given his current form and lack of any real present threat over best-of-five on clay. In keeping with recent years, the women’s is wide open but fourth seed Elina Svitolina looks ready to pip Halep to the post as a first-time major champion.

SE: Fully agree. Rafael Nadal and Elina Svitolina.

KB: Petra Kvitova. A year ago she made her hugely emotional return here following the knife attack in her Czech apartment five months previously; now she arrives here as Prague and Madrid champion. The women’s draw is wide open – what a story this would be. As for the men… Really? You need to ask?

AS: Alexander Zverev and Simona Halep. Sascha’s road to Roland Garros was sublime and he took Rafa to three sets in the Madrid final. It's time for the NextGen leader to covert his Masters success into Grand Slam glory. As for Halep, after a few heartbreaks, the Romanian must feel it is her time to rule and clinch a maiden Major.