Who will it be? The once and future king (Rafael Nadal) or the kid bro all grown up and in the driver’s seat (Novak Djokovic)? The maestro (Roger Federer) or the Murrah (Andy Murray)?
One of the new guys perhaps – the teen dream (Borna Coric) or the princes in waiting (Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov)? Or will one of the vets (Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic, David Ferrer) flash the old brilliance?
This year the French Open, which starts Sunday, May 24 and ends Sunday, June 7, is both Novak Djokovic’s to lose and anybody’s guess. There are several factors at play here.
Nine-time winner Rafa is seeded only sixth, thanks to a dismal season. (He would’ve been seeded seventh but an injured Milos Raonic dropped out.)
Wimbledon seeds according to the player’s performance on the surface (grass), not based on his ranking. So last year Nole was No. 1 even though at the time he was ranked No. 2.
But Wimby is Wimby. The French Open seeds according to the rankings and, even before the draw came out, you just knew that Rafanole – as their rivalry is known – would be renewed. Sure enough, they are set up to meet potentially for the 44th time in the quarterfinals, with one of them set potentially to meet Andy in the semis.
Meanwhile, Feddy would appear to have the easier path to the final but not so fast. There are people on his side of the draw like Berdych, Gael Monfils and even countryman Stan Wawrinka who could prove nettlesome.
So there are lots of questions:
Can Andy continue his sparkling play on clay?
Can Fed continue to dazzle at age 33?
Can Rafa recapture the magic in Roland-Garros, site of nine of his 14 Slam titles?
And the really big question: Can Nole at long last put aside the doubts of the past and cement his legend?
Only three men have won all four Slams in the Open Era (1968), when professional players were first admitted to competition – Andre Agassi, Fed and Rafa.
Only two men have won all four Slams in a calendar year – Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1962 and ’69.
Only one man this year can dream of walking in Budge’s and Laver’s footsteps.
The door is open.
The ultimate question is, Will he walk through it?