TENNIS

Iga Swiatek is the woman to beat as Novak Djokovic chases history at Roland Garros

The second grand slam of the year moves to Paris, with all eyes on the Polish World No. 1 in the Women's section and the Serbian in the men's section.

Iga Swiatek and Novak Djokovic are the players to beat as the French Open kicks off on Sunday

On Sunday, the focus of the tennis world will be on Paris as the French Open takes centre stage. The second grand slam of the year will feature the top tennis players battling each other over the next two weeks.

The draw for the event took place on Thursday and set up some exciting matchups in both the men's and women's sections. On the women's side, the most notable clash in the first round is the clash between Naomi Osaka and Amanda Anisimova. The two players clashed in the third round of this year's Australian Open, with Anisimova progressing in three sets.

Another match to look forward to is the battle between Garbine Muguruza and Kaia Kanepi. Muguruza is a former champion at Roland Garros, but she faces a difficult opening round in Kanepi, who is known for upsetting the odds.

In the men's section, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev are all in the same half. Djokovic will face Yoshihito Nishioka, but he could face Nadal in the quarter-final.

Alcaraz comes into the tournament as the in-form player, but he could meet Zverev in the quarter-final. In the bottom half, World No.2, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas could meet in the semi-final.

With the draws concluded, Pulse Sports Nigeria takes a look at the favourites for the title.

In the women's section, only one name stands out, Swiatek. For a long time, WTA players have received criticism for their lack of consistency at a high level.

However, since February, Swiatek has quelled that notion, separating herself from the rest. Although arguments could be made that she has benefitted from Ashleigh Barty's retirement, it is still remarkable that she has not lost since February.

The 20-year-old is on a 28-match winning streak and has won four premier events- Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami, and Rome this year. In addition, she also won the Stuttgart Open.

Swiatek heads into the French Open as the clear favourite, and considering she is also a former champion at the event, it would be difficult to stop her.

Swiatek looks unbeatable currently as she is currently on a higher level compared to her colleagues. However, some players could cause her trouble, with two of them being Ons Jabeur and Simona Halep.

Like Swiatek, Jabeur is also another player in form and will be seeking her first grand slam title. She lost to Swiatek in the final of the Rome Masters, but before then, she was on an 11-match winning streak, which included wins in the Madrid Masters.

Halep is another player that could be a dark horse for the title. She has not been in the best form in the last 12 months due to injury, but she seems to be getting back to her previous level.

Before Swiatek, Halep was the queen of consistency in the WTA. Although she might not have gone on a winning streak like Swiatek, Halep constantly reached the latter stages of tournaments and was in the top ten for many years.

Another advantage for Halep is that she is a former champion at Roland Garros and has finished as a runner-up two times.

The Romanian's title credentials will be tested if she reaches the fourth, where she would likely face Swiatek.

Other players like Paula Badosa, defending champion Barbora Krejcikova and the hard-hitting Aryna Sabalenka could also derail Swiatek's bid for a second grand slam title.

For the first time in a while, Rafael Nadal will not head into the French Open as the favourite. When the season started, Nadal looked locked in for a 14th-Roland Garros title after winning the Australian Open.

However, the Spaniard has struggled so far in the build-up events, losing to Alcaraz in Madrid and Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

The 35-year-old also appears to be heading into the tournament with a lingering foot injury and has not been given a favourable draw.

Nadal may have to beat Djokovic, Alcaraz and Tsitsipas to win his 14th French Open. As for his opponents, World No 1 and defending champion Djokovic is the favourite.

Having missed the Australian Open due to his refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccine, Djokovic will be aiming for his third French Open title.

If he wins, he will become the first player to win all four grand slams at least three times and match Nadal's 21 grand slam titles.

But if there is anyone that can stop Djokovic, it is tennis' new star Alcaraz. Like Swiatek in the women's section, Alcaraz has also been unstoppable this year.

The 19-year-old arrives at the competition as the in-form player. His development and progress have been amazing to witness. Alcaraz has already beaten both Nadal and Djokovic this year, although it was in a best of three matches. Still, Alcaraz will be a threat for the two guys in the tournament.

In the other half, there is no clear favourite, but Tsitsipas is the player to beat. The Greek star reached the final last year and heads into this year's competition in a fantastic form.

Tsitsipas won the Monte Carlo Masters and reached the final in Rome. If he maintains his level, he should have no problem navigating his way through a section that has Medvedev and Rublev.

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