WTA / ATP: Road to Roland-Garros 2024

The clay season is up and running with two trips to Paris on the cards.

Terre Battue / Roland-Garros 2023©Amélie Laurin / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The hard court action has been paused for now. From Melbourne to the 'Sunshine Swing' in America, this season has made a sizzling start. It's time to hit the terre battue as the world's finest players gear up for Roland-Garros and the Olympics on the world's finest clay courts. Both are on the same grounds, meaning after Roland-Garros 2024 (May 20 – June 9) and then Wimbledon, gold medal chasing stars will return to Roland-Garros stadium and the supreme surroundings such as Court Philippe-Chatrier, targeting glory in national colours during Paris 2024 (July 27 – August 4).

Top spot under threat?

Rewind to last summer and world No.1 Iga Swiatek ruled Roland-Garros for a third time to capture her fourth Grand Slam title.

The Pole is nearly 3000 points clear of world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in the rankings, so it's unlikely Swiatek will be budged off the summit.

However, Swiatek and Sabalenka split final duels in Stuttgart and Madrid prior to heading to Paris in 2023. Who could gain the edge this time?

Iga Swiatek, finale, trophée, Roland-Garros 2023 ©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

As for the men's side, reigning Roland-Garros champion Novak Djokovic (now without long-standing coaching Goran Ivanisevic by his side) has 2,315 points to defend this clay campaign. Hot on his heels are world No.2 Jannik Sinner and world No.3 Carlos Alcaraz.

Significantly, recent Miami Open winner Sinner only has 585 points to defend on clay and will be confident of a deep run at Roland-Garros due to his sensational 2024 form. Watch this space.

Point to prove

Just below the marquee names glistening in the spotlight, there is a plethora of players who will be eager to impress in the numerous clay tournaments en route to Paris.

Take Holger Rune. The dynamic Dane has struggled for consistency since a quarter-final quest at Roland-Garros last June. His annual practice with Djokovic at Monte Carlo will have helped the 20-year-old feel reinvigorated.

Roland-Garros 2021 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas must want to demonstrate his major credentials once again, which is a similar tale for 2022-23 runner-up Casper Ruud.

Over to the WTA ranks and Ons Jabeur is a glorious talent who is seeking a spark. 2024 has been disjointed by injury and undulating form to post a 2-6 match record thus far.

We would all welcome the 'Minister of Happiness' smiling on court again, but the Roland-Garros 2023 quarter-finalist (with semi-final points in Stuttgart to defend too) must click into gear soon and build up match form in order to take down the likes of tour-leading quartet Swiatek, Sabalenka, Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina on the red dirt.

Add into the equation teenage kicks such as Mirra Andreeva, Linda Noskova and Diana Shnaider and there are risks for established names throughout the draw.

Nadal's return?

There is so much uncertainty surrounding the fitness of 14-time Roland-Garros champion Rafael Nadal.

Unfortunately for all of the tennis community, the all-time great keeps on having to delay his return due to a multitude of injuries and physical concerns.

On Thursday, in what seems likely his final season on Tour, Nadal posted on social media, "These are very difficult moments for me, sporting wise. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that I am not going to be playing in Monte Carlo. My body simply won’t allow me," said the 37-year-old, who last competed in January in Brisbane.

"And even if I am working hard and making the maximum effort every day with all the will to play and compete again at tournaments that have been very important for me, the truth is that I can’t play today. You have no idea how hard this is for me to not be able to play these events.

"The only thing I can do is to accept the situation and try to look at the immediate future keeping the excitement and will to play in order to give me a chance for things to get better."

Everyone involved in tennis wants to see Nadal wield his racket once again on his cherished clay courts, especially at Roland-Garros.

Elsewhere, Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini are desperate for a break from the sidelines and to recapture their elite form. Can 'Stan the Man' Wawrinka conjure up some more magic in his twilight seasons?

Young guns including Ben Shelton, Lorenzo Musetti, Jiri Lehecka and France's very own Arthur Fils promise to bring some youthful X-Factor to proceedings on the Road to Roland-Garros too.

Dates for the diary

In terms of calendar, the women's clay campaign has already burst into life Stateside in Charleston. WTA 500 silverware is on offer In Stuttgart (from April 15), before switching to Spain for a WTA 1000 triumph up for grabs in Madrid (from April 23).

Rome represents another shot at WTA 1000 glory (from May 7) with a packed schedule leading all the way to Paris.

On the men's roster, Houston, Marrakech and Estoril are already hosting prestigious clay tournaments this week.

The Monte Carlos Masters (from April 7) signifies the arrival of the table toppers, with locations such as Barcelona (from April 15), then Madrid, then Rome offering up chances for plenty of precious points and fine-tuning ahead of another thrilling Roland-Garros.