The French Open begins this weekend, and there is an awful lot to watch out for in the men’s singles, including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer all bidding for history.
So, let’s take a look through some of the notable numbers ahead of this year’s tournament.
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first. Both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are bidding for a record 21st major title.
There is plenty of incentive for Novak Djokovic too, of course, who could take a major step in the Grand Slam race if he wins it by closing to within just one of his rivals.
While we are on the subject of Djokovic too, there is also…
Nadal and Federer are not the only men bidding for history in Paris next month. Djokovic has the opportunity to do something that no man has ever been able to achieve too.
The Serbian can become the first man in the Open Era to win every major multiple times. Roy Emerson did it before the Open Era, and Rod Laver did it too but only partially in the Open Era.
Because the big three have generally dominated different tournaments, they have been able to keep each other from achieving it so far. Nadal has restricted Djokovic and Federer to just one French Open title each, while Nadal has only been able to win the Australian Open once – largely due to Djokovic’s Melbourne magic.
Rafael Nadal will be bidding for his 14th Roland Garros title in 2021, which is testament to both his brilliance, but also perhaps his reliance, on the tournament.
To date, 65% of Nadal’s majors have come at his most dominant event compared to 50% for Djokovic (Australian Open) and 40% for Federer (Wimbledon).
When it comes to Nadal and Roland Garros, the word ‘dominant’ is probably insufficient.
He has won 13 of the 16 tournaments at Roland Garros he has entered, meaning he has an 81% success rate there.
For context, for all Djokovic’s undoubted domination of the Australian Open, he has won it 47% of the times he has competed there. Federer, meanwhile, has won 38% of the Wimbledon’s he has contested.
Nadal is also aiming to win a fifth successive title at the same major for the second time. His first winning streak at Roland Garros came between 2010 and 2014.
Incidentally, Roger Federer is currently the only man in history to have two five-match winning streaks at the same Grand Slam. He won five times in a row at Wimbledon (2003-2007) and also at the US Open (2004-08).
Rafael Nadal can also win what would be a 63rd title on clay, which is already an unprecedented number.
Guillermo Vilas (49), Thomas Muster (40), Bjorn Borg, and Manuel Orantes (both 30) are the closest to Nadal in terms of clay titles.
Of the players currently active, Novak Djokovic is the nearest with 15*, Federer has 11, and Thiem has 10.
*written before the Belgrade 2 final
Three is an important number for Daniil Medvedev at the French Open.
He has the opportunity to reach a third Grand Slam final and become the third Russian man, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin, to win a major.
Of course, if he is going to achieve that he will need to perform one of the greatest turnarounds in tennis history considering he has never won a single match at Roland Garros yet in four attempts.
At the time of writing, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic have never played in the same half of a Grand Slam draw.
That remarkable streak comes to an end in Paris though, with all three of them in an absolutely stacked top half of the draw.
Djokovic and Federer could meet in the quarterfinals, with Nadal a potential semi-final opponent for one of them.
The French Open has, strangely, not been a happy hunting ground for French men. Since 1946, only Yannick Noah has delivered a home win in the men’s singles at Roland Garros.
That was 38 years ago, with only Henri Leconte (1988) reaching a final. Gail Monfils is the highest seeded Frenchman in this years tournament at 14th seed.
The French Open has been the joint most successfully defended title in men’s Grand Slam history.
On no fewer than 19 occasions has the defending champion walked away with his trophy, although for context 10 of those defences belong to Nadal which does skewer the numbers somewhat.
Wimbledon has also been successfully defended 19 times.
Roger Federer already leads the list for most Grand Slam appearances, and he will up that number to 80 in Paris this year.
Felicano Lopez is his closest rival with 77, although the Spaniard is the sole owner of an even more impressive record.
Of those 77 Grand Slam appearances, 76 have come consecutively. Only Andreas Seppi among active players can even get close to that, with the Italian making his 63rd successive Grand Slam appearance.
Roland Garros has seen more first-time Grand Slam winners than any other tournament, which is perhaps testament to the specialist nature of clay-court tennis.
If it happens again this year, it will be the 22nd time a player has won a maiden major on the red dirt of Paris.
Notable examples include Nadal (2005), Gaston Gaudio (2004), Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003), Carlos Moya (1998), Jim Courier (1991), Ivan Lend (1984), and Mats Wilander (1982).
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