French Open 2019 | Favourites to win the men's title at Roland Garros

Hannah Wilks in French Open 8 Apr 2019
  • Get the latest on the form of the favourites for the French Open men's title
  • Can 11-time champion Rafa Nadal hold off Novak Djokovic?
  • What impact will Roger Federer have on the clay in 2019?
Who will claim the men's singles title at the 2019 French Open?

Get the latest on the favourites for the French Open men's title in 2019: How are Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and the rest looking as the European clay-court season develops?

The 2019 French Open begins on Sunday 26 May at the historic Roland Garros complex and already the speculation over who is going to lift the men's singles trophy is getting heated.

Eleven-time champion and 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal is obviously the man to beat, but with his body proving increasingly unreliable, will it let him down just when he needs to be at his best to hold off Novak Djokovic, who is looking to complete his second career Grand Slam? What kind of impact will Roger Federer have as he returns to clay-court tennis for the first time in three years? And what of the sport's younger generation, led by Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev - will one of them finally break into the ranks of major champions?

We're taking a look at the top 10 favourites with the bookmakers to win the French Open 2019, and analysing their form and results through the European clay-court season.

Key battlegrounds in the run-up to Roland Garros

Here are the dates for the biggest tournaments of the European clay-court season and some quick information about each one.

Key ATP clay-court tournaments in 2019

DatesEventLevel2018 champion2019 champion
14-21 AprilMonte-Carlo Rolex MastersMasters 1000Rafael Nadal
22-28 AprilBarcelona Open500Rafael Nadal
5-12 MayMadrid MastersMasters 1000Alexander Zverev
13-19 MayRome MastersMasters 1000Rafael Nadal

French Open: Player performance

Here are how the best players have fared at the French Open over the years.

Roland Garros player performance: Top men

PlayerTitlesFinalsMain-draw appearancesWin-loss record2018 result
Rafael Nadal11 (2005-8, 2010-14, 2017-18)01486-2Champion (d. Dominic Thiem)
Novak Djokovic1 (2016)3 (2012, 2014-15)1463-13QF (lost to Marco Cecchinato)
Stan Wawrinka1 (2015)1 (2017)1438-13R1 (lost to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez)
Roger Federer1 (2009)4 (2006-8, 2011)1765-16Did not play
Dominic Thiem01 (2018)518-5Runner-up (lost to Rafael Nadal)

Rafael Nadal

Defending champion, 11-time winner, King of Clay - we could go on and on listing Nadal's accomplishments at the French Open, the tournament for which he is once again favourite coming into the 2019 edition. 

Nadal holds the ATP Tour record for most titles won at a single tournament not once but three times over, as he is the proud holder of an unbelievable 11 titles at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the Barcelona Open and Roland Garros. 

Nadal's dominance has been briefly dented at the French Open - in 2009, when he suffered a shock defeat to Robin Soderling, and in 2015-16, losing to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals at the former and forced to withdraw from the tournament in the third round in the latter case - but both brief interruptions in his reign have seen him return to supremacy again. Most recently, he is on a 14-match winning streak at the French Open having captured the titles in 2017 (d. Stan Wawrinka) and 2018 (d. Dominic Thiem). In those 14 matches, Nadal has lost just one set. 

The two big questions which hang over Nadal coming into this year's European clay-court season are: Can his body hold up to see him dominate on clay for one more year? And can he hold off the challenge of Djokovic? Nadal played 27 matches on clay in 2018, winning 26 of them, but he had sat out the entirety of February and March, whereas this year he's played Acapulco and Indian Wells (which ended in him giving a semifinal walkover). If he's fit, he leads the head-to-head with Djokovic on clay 17-6 - but lost their last match at the French Open in straight sets.

Best odds to win outright: 11/10 @ Unibet

Clay-court schedule: Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic

Surely the biggest single factor that makes this French Open particularly enticing on the men's side is the return to form of Novak Djokovic. 

Djokovic's two years of struggling with injury and for motivation began when he completed the career Grand Slam (and the arguably much more impressive feat of holding all four Grand Slams at the same time) at the French Open in 2016, and ended when he lost to Marco Cecchinato in the quarterfinals in 2018, the last poor defeat he would suffer before a spectacular return to form which sees him come into the clay-court season holding three major titles after winning Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and the Australian Open in 2019.

Djokovic did not play as well as we would expect in Indian Wells and Miami, losing to inspired performances by Philipp Kohlschreiber and Roberto Bautista Agut, and afterwards said he might not play Monte Carlo - but his name is there on the entry list, and he's been pretty clear that his target in 2019 is the French Open. One of just two men to have beaten Nadal at Roland Garros, which he did in straight sets in the quarterfinals in 2015, can a back-to-form Djokovic complete a second 'Novak Slam'?

Best odds to win outright: 9/4 @ Unibet

Clay-court schedule: Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros

Dominic Thiem

Last year's French Open finalist Dominic Thiem (currently) occupies the status of third favourite behind Nadal and Djokovic, but despite his run to the title match in 2018, Thiem still has a way to go to prove he's anywhere close to those two.

Thiem, 25 years old, has emerged over the past few seasons as the likeliest candidate to dominate on clay once the 30-plus generation of Nadal, Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer retire. He's made clay-court finals in Munich, Nice, Barcelona, Lyon and Madrid (twice) over the past three years and was a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2016 and 2017 as well as a finalist in 2018.

Thiem also boosted his big-title credentials when he won the Indian Wells Masters a few weeks ago, buoyed by the addition of Nicolas Massu to his team, beating Roger Federer in the final. He's also beaten all of the best on clay at least once: Wawrinka, Federer, Djokovic (at the French Open itself) and Nadal, multiple times although never in a best-of-five sets match. Moreover, unlike 2018 he isn't scheduled to play a tournament the week before Roland Garros (an unusually sensible move). Is this Thiem's moment to take a big step up?

Best odds to win outright: 12/1 @ William Hill

Clay-court schedule: Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros

Alexander Zverev

Bold of the bookies to make a man who has only ever made one Grand Slam quarterfinal fourth favourite to win the French Open, but that's where Alexander Zverev sits.

The gulf between Zverev's results in best-of-three set tournaments - he is a Nitto ATP Finals champion, has won three Masters 1000 Series titles and reached two Masters finals besides - and at Grand Slams, where he has only made the fourth round three times and gone on to the quarterfinals once, has to close eventually. Arguably the French Open is his best chance, given that the solitary quarterfinal he did make came at Roland Garros in 2018, but the world no. 3 hasn't had a great start to 2019: He lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open to Milos Raonic in one-sided fashion, although that was later attributed to an ankle injury, and after finishing runner-up to Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco lost early in Indian Wells and Miami, although he had been sick quite badly before Indian Wells.

Is Zverev struggling for form or has he just genuinely been unlucky with injury and illness so far in 2019? This is a case where the way Zverev performs in the clay-court tournaments in the run-up to the French Open might tell us a lot about his chances.

Best odds to win outright: 20/1 @ Unibet

Clay-court schedule: Monte Carlo, Munich, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros

Roger Federer

One of only four active players to have won the French Open title, Roger Federer is a wildcard, metaphorically if not literally, heading into Roland Garros 2019.

After having played virtually no clay-court tennis for the past three years - just Monte Carlo and Rome in 2016, and no clay events at all in 2017 and 2018, choosing to prioritize Wimbledon and the grass-court season instead - Federer will be playing the French Open for the first time in four years, something he confirmed immediately after losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the round of 16 at the Australian Open.

Federer bounced back from that Tsitsipas defeat by winning his next nine matches, claiming the 100th title of his career in Dubai and then making the finals of Indian Wells and Miami, losing the former to Dominic Thiem but triumphing over John Isner in the latter, and is now 18-2 in 2019. If he wasn't always playing good tennis at those events, he found a way to win regardless and looked in fine form by the end of Miami.

The question is whether Federer can transfer that form to clay after so long not playing on it. Federer himself joked about 'baby steps' and having forgotten how to slide, but the fact is that he's only playing the Madrid Masters before Roland Garros, and an early defeat in Madrid might mean that he comes into the French Open virtually cold. It's very difficult to know what to expect from Federer until we have seen how he plays in Madrid.

Best odds to win outright: 33/1 @ William Hill

Clay-court schedule: Madrid, Roland Garros

Stan Wawrinka

The fourth active player to have won the French Open title is currently sixth favourite with the bookmakers to win the title in 2019, and even that feels a little optimistic.

Wawrinka's three runs to Grand Slam titles - the 2014 Australian Open, the 2015 French Open and the 2016 US Open - proved beyond doubt that when fit, he is a perpetual threat to beat even the best in the game. But we haven't seen Wawrinka's top form since 2017, when he followed a runner-up finish at the French Open with a six-month absence from competition to have multiple knee surgeries.

Wawrinka's comeback has been a stuttering affair and it still doesn't feel like he is truly 'back', although he has had some decent results in 2019. Currently ranked world no. 36, Wawrinka had an excellent run to the Rotterdam final but otherwise has struggled, running into top opposition early in tournaments. He will always be a dangerous floater, but unless Wawrinka turns in an absolutely brilliant European clay-court season, he doesn't look like a credible threat to the French Open final - he simply isn't coming up against (let alone beating) top-level opposition often enough to build up the required match fitness.

Best odds to win outright: 33/1 @ bet365

Clay-court schedule: Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Now we're getting into the really unlikely favourites.

Stefanos Tsitsipas first broke through with a run to the Barcelona Open final in 2018, finishing runner-up to Rafael Nadal, and went on to make the final of the Canada Masters and win his first title. The 2019 season started with a bang for the Greek, who beat Roger Federer on his way to the semifinals of the Australian Open and went on to win his second career title in Marseille, followed by a runner-up finish to Federer in Dubai.

It's not really form that's the problem for Tsitsipas so much as the fact that he remains pretty untried, on the one hand, and has never beaten (or ever really come close to beating) Rafael Nadal on clay or any other surface. He was also handled pretty easily by Dominic Thiem in four sets at the French Open last year. If he can get a win over Nadal or Djokovic or even Thiem on clay in the next few weeks, this proposition might start to look a little more realistic but as it is, it's quite difficult to envision Tsitsipas winning his maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open this year. He's also heavily scheduled on clay in the run-up to Roland Garros, which could further hurt his chances.

Best odds to win outright: 66/1 @ Unibet

Clay-court schedule: Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Estoril, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros

Marin Cilic

One of the few active Grand Slam champions around who are not part of the Big Four, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic has gone on to make finals at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, pushing Roger Federer to five sets at the latter. 

But the French Open might be the least likely Grand Slam for Cilic to win. He's never been past the quarterfinals, and only reached that stage in the past two years, with his powerful, big-serving game a much more natural fit for faster surfaces.

Moreover, Cilic has been really struggling with injury so far in 2019. He struggled to the round of 16 at the Australian Open before losing to Roberto Bautista Agut, but has only won one of four matches since, with his knee causing him some serious problems. We'd need to see some really consistent and strong results from him through the clay-court season for the Croatian to look anything like a real contender for the French Open title. He's also never beaten Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in a completed match at a Grand Slam.

Best odds to win outright: 75/1 @ Unibet

Clay-court schedule: Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros

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French Open 2019 | Favourites to win the men's title at Roland Garros

Get the latest form and analysis on the top men's favourites to win the French Open title: How are Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and the rest of the top men looking as the European clay-court season develops?

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