AP NEWS
Click to copy
Click to copy

FRENCH OPEN ’19: A look at younger, less-famous challengers

May 25, 2019
1 of 4
FILE - In this March 17, 2019, file photo, Bianca Andreescu, of Canada, kisses her trophy after defeating Angelique Kerber, of Germany, in the women's final at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. Andreescu, 18, is seeded at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at the 2019 French Open, where play begins Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
1 of 4
FILE - In this March 17, 2019, file photo, Bianca Andreescu, of Canada, kisses her trophy after defeating Angelique Kerber, of Germany, in the women's final at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. Andreescu, 18, is seeded at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at the 2019 French Open, where play begins Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

PARIS (AP) — There’s been unprecedented tennis parity so far in 2019, including the clay-court circuit leading to the French Open: A total of 23 players split the 25 WTA and ATP titles on the slow, red surface.

That means there are plenty of people who can succeed over the next two weeks at Roland Garros, where play begins Sunday.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that all have a shot at a title, even if defending champion Simona Halep figures about 10 women do.

No one truly believes that many men are viable contenders to end up with the trophy. The list pretty much begins and ends with 11-time champ Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who has won the past three majors.

As 14th-seeded Gael Monfils put it: “If I were to ask you who the favorites are for Roland Garros, you would give me two names and it’s always the same. No one is going to give me another name. ... Who are the two main favorites? They are Rafa and Novak. And that is not going to change right away.”

There are 128 entrants in each draw, and while 127 will lose, there are men and women who have yet to win a Grand Slam title — maybe not even come that close yet — who might make some noise at the 2019 French Open.

Even setting aside those without a major championship but other strong bona fides, along the lines of Dominic Thiem, Kiki Bertens or Karolina Pliskova, the brackets contain some younger competitors without previous success at Roland Garros who could draw attention.

Here’s a look:

___

WHO: Bianca Andreescu, 18, Canada

BEST MAJOR: Second round, 2019 Australian Open

FRENCH OPEN RECORD: Debut

WHY SHE MATTERS: A fresh face on the scene. Big strokes and fearless attitude carried her to a hard-court title at Indian Wells as a wild-card entrant and a 31-4 record this season.

WHAT COULD HOLD HER BACK: Has been dealing with an injured right shoulder that sidelined her since March.

POSSIBLE OPPONENT: 23-time major champion Serena Williams in the third round.

WORDS: “I have watched all these players play on TV so many times, so it’s surreal to be able to play against them.” — Andreescu.

___

WHO: Amanda Anisimova, 17, United States.

BEST MAJOR: Fourth round, 2019 Australian Open

FRENCH OPEN RECORD: 0-1

WHY SHE MATTERS: Showed with a second-week run in Australia in January and a clay-court title in Colombia in April that she can handle the setting and the surface. She’s the youngest American woman to win a title since Serena Williams was 17 at Indian Wells in 1999.

WHAT COULD HOLD HER BACK: In a word: inexperience. Has played only six Grand Slam matches in what shapes up as a promising career.

POSSIBLE OPPONENT: No. 11 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the second round.

IN HER WORDS: “It’s been a really great year for me. Obviously I’m motivated to do even more.” — Anisimova.

___

WHO: Cristian Garin, 22, Chile

BEST MAJOR: 0-3 in Grand Slam matches

FRENCH OPEN RECORD: Debut

WHY HE MATTERS: One of only two men (Benoit Paire is the other) to have won more than one clay-court title this season.

WHAT COULD HOLD HIM BACK: New to this stage. Never won a match at a major; never appeared in the main draw at Roland Garros.

POSSIBLE OPPONENT: 3-time major champ Stan Wawrinka in the second round.

WORDS: “I am playing my best tennis right now.” — Garin.

___

WHO: Stefanos Tsitsipas, 20, Greece

BEST MAJOR: Semifinals, 2019 Australian Open

FRENCH OPEN RECORD: 1-2

WHY HE MATTERS: Announced his presence by upsetting 20-time major champ Roger Federer in the fourth round in Australia; tied for the tour lead with two titles in 2019. Has a rare combination of strength at the baseline and touch at the net.

WHAT COULD HOLD HIM BACK: No real reason he shouldn’t be a factor deep into the tournament.

POSSIBLE OPPONENT: Federer in the quarterfinals.

WORDS: “It’s good to come into a Grand Slam knowing what you’ve done well, what you’ve done wrong, trying to concentrate on those things in order to avoid the same mistakes in the big events.” — Tsitsipas.

___

WHO: Marketa Vondrousova, 19, Czech Republic

BEST MAJOR: Fourth round, 2018 U.S. Open

FRENCH OPEN RECORD: 1-2

WHY SHE MATTERS: Lefty with mature game full of variety is 21-5 since the Australian Open, including two victories over 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep.

WHAT COULD HOLD HER BACK: Like some others on this list, unaccustomed to the rarefied air of the latter rounds at a Grand Slam tournament.

POSSIBLE OPPONENT: 3-time major champion Angelique Kerber in the second round.

WORDS: “If not this year, keep an eye on her. She is going to be good, for sure.” — 18-time major champion Chris Evert.

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

___

More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.