After declaring Novak Djokovic the favourite, defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka goes into Roland Garros as something of an underdog.
With all eyes on the Serbian and the revival of nine-time champion Rafael Nadal, we assess whether Wawrinka can retain his title…
— Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka) May 22, 2016
Despite just being crowned Geneva Open champion, the Swiss has had a fairly underwhelming 2016. Excluding Geneva, he’s failed to make it past the quarter-finals in his last five tournament appearances and crashed out of the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Winning at home on Saturday hasn’t given him as much respite as the other top-10 players, and he’ll go into his first round match against Lukáš Rosol with little rest.
Rosol is a notorious giant killer. Having famously beaten Nadal at Wimbledon 2012 and Jürgen Melzer the previous year at Roland Garros, Wawrinka would’ve hoped for a less fiery opponent this early in the competition. However, having beaten Rosol last week, he’ll be backing himself to do it again.
Should he advance to the semis, he will likely face Andy Murray or a hotly-tipped Kei Nishikori setting up a final with, you guessed it, Djokovic or Nadal.
The Big Four
Wawrinka’s odds are slashed further when taking into account the current run of the favourites. Djokovic has been formidable, sweeping five of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments and five tournament wins in 2016. Roland Garros, however, has eluded him.
The same can’t be said of the “King of Clay”. While he did not make it past the first round at the Australian Open, Nadal has shown impressive form at times. At the Barcelona Open, he equalled the record of most clay court titles winning his 49th.
With Roger Federer now out of the equation through injury, the focus is beginning to move to the quiet charge of Murray. The Italian Open champion has won more matches than both Djokovic and Nadal in the past three clay Masters tournaments. Back surgery in 2013 has also helped the Scot adapt his style to the surface making him a genuine contender in Paris.
One would think that garnering all the headlines after his 2015 victory, Wawrinka would be bursting with confidence. Cutting a subdued figure in front of reporters on Sunday, the Swiss appeared deflated. Talking about the major contenders, Wawrinka simply said, “I’m just after them.”
As Wawrinka takes to the Philippe-Chatrier Court later on Tuesday, it will become clearer if he will defend his title.