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French Open: Ten players to watch at Roland Garros

French Open: Ten players to watch at Roland Garros
© Reuters
Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are the defending men's and women's champions at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep will defend their French Open titles at Roland Garros, where play gets under way on Sunday.

World number one duo Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka will both bid to extend their winning runs at grand slams while Roger Federer returns to the Paris clay for the first time in four years.

Here, Press Association Sport picks out 10 other players who could make headlines.

Kiki Bertens

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The 27-year-old Dutchwoman was having such a tough time at the end of the 2017 season that she considered retirement. Eighteen months later, Bertens is ranked fourth in the world. Beating Halep to win the biggest title of her career in Madrid earlier this month was a major statement, and she already has experience of success at Roland Garros having reached the last four in 2016.

Petra Kvitova

Kvitova has been the most prolific title winner on the WTA Tour over the past two seasons and reached her first grand slam final for five years at the Australian Open. A tough loss saw Osaka hit top spot in the rankings instead but Kvitova is now among the favourites on every surface.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams played her only match on clay so far this season in Rome before withdrawing through injury
Serena Williams played her only match on clay so far this season in Rome before withdrawing through injury (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Williams’ build-up would suggest she is unlikely to last long in the city she considers her second home but she has proved many times she can turn it on at the grand slams. A knee problem that has curtailed her reduced schedule even further is a concern. The 37-year-old won the last of her three French Open titles in 2015.

Marketa Vondrousova

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The Czech teenager burst onto the scene in 2017, stalled in 2018 but is now making big strides once more. Vondrousova has reached two WTA Tour finals this season as well as the quarter-finals of the big tour events in Indian Wells and Miami. Her scalps include two wins over Halep, most recently on clay in Rome last week.

Kristina Mladenovic

Eyebrows were raised when leading coach Sascha Bajin chose to work with Mladenovic after his surprise split from Osaka following the Australian Open. The confident Frenchwoman suffered an astonishing slump after reaching the quarter-finals in Paris in 2017 but she has achieved some notable recent results and may offer the best chance for home success.

Dominic Thiem

Austrian Thiem is seen as the heir to Nadal’s throne as the king of clay and reached his first slam final in Paris last summer. He was well beaten by the Spaniard on that day but defeated him on clay for the fourth successive season in Barcelona last month and went on to win the title.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

The young Greek’s run to the Australian Open semi-finals, beating Federer, cemented his status as a superstar in the making. The 20-year-old was shattered by the manner of his defeat by Nadal in the last four but turned the tables superbly when they met on clay in Madrid earlier this month. Fully believes he is ready to win a slam.

Fabio Fognini

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If rankings were determined on talent alone, Fognini would be a top-10 stalwart. Consistent application has never been the Italian’s strong point but he showed what he is capable of by beating Nadal to win his first Masters title in Monte-Carlo in April. At 31, he may at last be ready to deliver.

Felix Auger-Aliassime

Not an easy name to remember, but definitely not one to forget. The breakthrough star of 2019 on the men’s side has undoubtedly been the 18-year-old Canadian, who will be seeded at Roland Garros. This year is probably too soon for him to make a big impact at the slams but he has already reached a clay-court final in Rio as well as the semi-finals in Miami.

Cristian Garin

A new name on the ATP Tour, Garin will be one to avoid in the draw given his form on clay this season. The 22-year-old is the only player outside the top 10 to have won two titles in 2019. He will be making his main draw debut at Roland Garros but won the junior title in 2013, beating Borna Coric and Alexander Zverev.

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