French Open talking points: Bleak for Brits and unstoppable Swiatek?

The second grand slam of the year begins on Sunday with Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek looking to retain their French Open titles at Roland Garros.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the major talking points ahead of this year’s tournament.

Rafa would love 15

Rafael Nadal is still battling to be fit for one final tilt at the title which has defined his stellar career. The 37-year-old Spaniard’s farewell tour has not gone to plan so far, with a thigh injury sustained in January restricting him to just four tournaments. If Nadal does not feel he can win Roland Garros title number 15, he is unlikely to play. However, he said: “Physically I have some issues, but probably not yet enough to say I’m not playing in the most important event of my tennis career.”

Bleak for Brits

Andy Murray is presumably not expecting a deep run at his least favourite grand slam, given he has entered a grass court event in Surbiton that coincides with the second week. Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie are also short on form, so Jack Draper might be Britain’s main hope on the men’s side. Emma Raducanu’s surprise withdrawal from qualifying leaves Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart leading the British women’s challenge.

Can anybody stop Swiatek?

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Iga Swiatek is the world’s leading female player (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

The short answer is probably not. The world number one from Poland has looked unstoppable in recent weeks. Second seed Aryna Sabalenka has tried and failed in the last two finals, in Madrid and Rome. Former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina’s cause was not helped after she withdrew from Rome through illness, Coco Gauff’s form has dropped off a cliff and last year’s beaten finalist Karolina Muchova is out with a wrist injury. Swiatek looks primed to land a fourth title in five years.

Men’s title up for grabs

Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz
Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz has been struggling with injuries (Adam Davy/PA)

While Nadal is way below the peak of his powers, top-ranked Djokovic is also looking out of sorts – he suffered a shock early exit in Rome after being accidentally hit on the head by a spectator’s water bottle and has not won a tournament all year. Carlos Alcaraz, the Wimbledon champion, and Australian Open winner Jannik Sinner have also struggled with injuries in the build-up, so the men’s draw could be thrown wide open this year.

Zverev date

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Alexander Zverev won the Italian Open earlier this month (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

World number four Alexander Zverev should be among the favourites to win a first grand slam title. But his run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open was overshadowed when a court date was set for a trial over domestic abuse allegations, which he denies. The trial is scheduled to begin on May 31, right in the middle of Roland Garros.