The French Open, the second Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year, begins on Sunday in Paris. Roger Federer decided to skip it to rest for Wimbledon. A pregnant Serena Williams will also be absent. Maria Sharapova was not invited. Who will seize the opportunity? Here are a few suggestions.
The indefatigable Thiem, of Austria, heads to Paris with confidence after a fantastic clay-court season. The 23-year-old reached the finals of Barcelona and Madrid, where he fell to Rafael Nadal, the king of clay. After losing a lopsided final in Barcelona, Thiem had two set points in the first-set tiebreaker against Nadal in Madrid. Thiem finally defeated Nadal in the Rome quarterfinals by controlling court position and playing more aggressively, giving Nadal his only loss on clay this spring. Thiem’s favorite surface is clay, where he rips heavy topspin groundstrokes. Like Stan Wawrinka, Thiem laces his one-handed backhand fearlessly, but prefers his forehand. Thiem’s kick serve to the ad court is perhaps the best in the men’s game, and was a key to his victory over Nadal.
Zverev enters the Open fresh off a surprising performance in Rome, where he toppled Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the Italian Open final. The 20-year-old German, who is 6 feet 6 inches tall (2 meters) and nicknamed Sascha, has long been hailed as a future Grand Slam winner. He has a complete game with flawless technique, no discernible weaknesses and an unflappable match temperament that belies his age. Zverev held serve with relative ease against Djokovic, then constantly pressured him with his improved return of serve. Zverev hit 16 winners while committing only 14 unforced errors. With…