Here we are in Paris. The players have arrived to a hint of “nouveau” in the air for the 2019 edition. Gone is the house that Nadal built — it is not the same structure as the one in which Rafa won his 11 championships. That green-seated stadium has been replaced by an incomplete and modernized beige theater. With eco-friendly greenhouses and the still-lingering construction of a retractable roof, Roland Garros is finally turning an eye to the future.
It makes sense the tournament would be so stubborn after leading tennis into the Open Era as the first Grand Slam tournament in the spring of 1968. Tennis, after all, is slowly removing any and all quirks that affect TV metrics. The show must go on. Starting in 2020, all four majors will have at least one show-court roof. So let’s all enjoy the antiquities of Gael Monfils playing a thriller into the encroaching darkness, and replays of classics for one last dreary rain delay with a few statistics in mind.
— Nadal is bidding to become the first player in history to win 12 singles titles at any Grand Slam event.
Somehow Rafael Nadal is continuing to set new goals for himself at Roland Garros. The defending champion tied Margaret Court for the all-time record with 11 titles last year. Twelve titles in Paris would also give Nadal 18 titles and once again inch him closer to Roger Federer’s men’s Slam record. Will Nadal or Novak Djokovic catch Federer before they all retire? That question remains a captivating study. If you remember commentary from 10 years ago, you would think it’s absurd that the Big 3 are still running this race as compellingly today. Yet, they are.
— Novak Djokovic aims to accomplish his second non-calendar slam.
The hype for Novak Djokovic’s second non-calendar sweep of all four majors has been subtle. It is almost like the world number one is trying to keep expectations low. During his previous triumph, Djokovic emitted immense emotions over finally winning in Paris after a career spent in search of that one elusive title, but it’s possible that the finality of that pursuit overshadowed his larger historical achievement. With this non-calendar sweep, Djokovic could be the first man to win two non-calendar slams and the third man to win all majors twice, a statistic Nadal has flirted with but ultimately has left him snake-bitten in Australia. If Djokovic does achieve his second Nole Slam, it would be nice to see this milestone celebrated by the International Tennis Federation.
— The women’s Roland Garros title has been won by a top-10 player every time except for three times in history.
The status of the WTA suggests that any champion is possible. Almost six months into the WTA season, Petra Kvitová is the only repeat titlist so far. History at Roland Garros, however, shows us another probability. A chosen one of out of Osaka, Pliskova, Kerber, Halep, Barty, Stephens, Serena, Svitolina, Bertens or Kvitová is likely to win.
First-time major winners would be Bertens, Pliskova, Barty, and Svitolina. A Serena win would give her an Open Era record increase to 24 majors and tie the all-time women’s record. Angelique Kerber would stunningly amass a late-career Slam with a title in Paris. Stephens and Halep would love another trophy to join their maiden majors. Kvitová and Osaka would have triplets in majors and their first majors off their best surfaces. Osaka is gunning for a third straight major. What a great set of theoretical options for the final on Saturday, June 8.