Welcome to the most spectacular tennis tournament of the year!

Bienvenue in Paris!

Yes, it's true: The traditional Wimbledon lawn tournament is not the sporting measure of all things tennis this year, nor are the other two Grand Slam tournaments in Melbourne and New York.

Only in Roland Garros will everything that has status and reputation and the very best prospects be offered from this Sunday.

Thomas Klemm

sports editor.

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In the men's race, there was a general assembly of favorites that had not been seen for a long time.

These include: record champion Rafael Nadal, who is aiming for his 14th triumph in Paris;

the resurgent defending champion Novak Djokovic, who could catch up with the Spaniard with his 21st Grand Slam title;

the feared teenager Carlos Alcaraz, who has overtaken all the greats on his way to four tournament wins this season;

a challenger who is experienced on clay like Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was in the Paris final in 2021 and has won more matches on the ATP tour this year than almost any other player;

and two pursuers like Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev who could oust Djokovic from the top of the world.

And for the women, an outstanding Iga Swiatek is playing to set a two-decade-old record from Venus Williams after 28 match wins and five WTA titles in a row and to win her second French Open title after 2020.

You can't get much more tennis spectacle in one place.

"Every Grand Slam is a marathon"

The fact that the fifteen days of Paris are of particular importance this time is also due to the fact that the other three Grand Slam tournaments this year will not have any sporting attractions.

In January, Australia had denied the vaccine refuser Djokovic entry and thus a start in Melbourne for security reasons, so that Herrenfeld had to do without the industry leader.

Bowing to political pressure, Wimbledon will not allow players from the country of the attacker and his friends due to Russia's war against Ukraine - which will exclude Russia's Medvedev (world number two) and Andrei Rublev (seventh) in June, as well as Belarus Aryna Sabalenka (Seventh) and Viktoria Azarenka (Fifteenth).

And because stricter corona rules apply in the United States than in France, for example, the US Open will probably take place again without Djokovic in late summer.

So all eyes on Paris!

"Every Grand Slam is a marathon, but especially Roland Garros," says the Greek Tsitsipas, who led 2-0 sets against Djokovic in last year's final and still lost: "He drains mentally and mentally the most." Every two days over three Playing winning sets, at best seven times to win the “Coupe des Mousquetaires”, and doing it all on clay, where rallies take longer, requires more energy than most tennis pros can muster.

Tsitsipas' upcoming marathon initially appears to be free of the most serious obstacles.

The fourth in the world rankings is the lone favorite in the lower half of the men's tableau, mainly because the nominally higher-ranked Medvedev can hardly play to his strengths on the slow underground and recently had to pause for weeks.

“Top half pretty packed”

On the other hand, the upper half of the tableau already created a "wow effect" during the draw on Thursday evening.

The ATP ranking had largely specified the seeding list.

But since the names of the biggest favorites can be read in black and white in a confined space, there has been a lot of whispering in Roland Garros.

If the stars don't stumble in between, Djokovic and Nadal as well as Zverev and Alcaraz will meet in the quarterfinals;

the respective winners then fight for entry into the final.

A constellation that Zverev also finds breathtaking.

"The upper half is pretty packed," said the Olympic champion to journalists on Friday: "I think that's where the Roland Garros champion comes from."

Two others are favorites for the third in the world rankings: Djokovic, who has overcome his mysterious spring fatigue, won the Masters tournament in Rome last Sunday and says he was “positively surprised by myself”.

And Nadal, about whom Zverev was amazed again in the past training days in Paris: "The place here gives him something that makes him 30 percent better." There was no sign of the Spaniard's chronic foot problems.

And Zverev?

He has not yet won a tournament this year.

Two weeks ago he was outclassed by youngster Alcaraz in the Madrid final, after which he lost to Tsitsipas in the semifinals in Rome.

But his form has improved from tournament to tournament, the 25-year-old claims: "If I win here, I'll be more than happy about my clay court season." A surprise German victory would crown the Parisian spectacle.