French Open 2019: NINE players to keep an eye on at Roland Garros

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Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep will defend their French Open titles at Roland Garros when play begins on Sunday. World No 1 duo Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka will both bid to extend their winning runs at Grand Slams. Roger Federer returns to the Paris clay for the first time in four years, while Serena Williams will be looking for her first French Open title since 2015.

French Open 2019: Nine stars to watch

1. Dominic Thiem

The Austrian is seen as the successor to Nadal as the king of clay and reached his first Grand Slam final in Paris last summer. Thiem was well beaten by the Spaniard on that day but defeated him on clay for the fourth successive season in Barcelona last month and went on to win the title.

2. Stefanos Tsitsipas

The young Greek’s run to the Australian Open semi-finals, beating Federer, cemented his status as a superstar in the making. The 20-year-old was shattered by the manner of his defeat by Nadal in the last four but turned the tables superbly when they met on clay in Madrid earlier this month.

3. Fabio Fognini

Fognini undoubtedly has bags of talent but has struggled with consistency. However, he showed what he is capable of by beating Nadal to win his first Masters title in Monte-Carlo in April. At 31, he may now be ready to deliver the goods.

4. Felix Auger-Aliassime

The Canadian has been one of the breakthrough stars of 2019 and will be seeded at Roland Garros. This year is probably too soon for the 18-year-old to make a big impact at the Grand Slams but he has already reached a clay-court final in Rio as well as the semi-finals in Miami.

5. Cristian Garin

Garin is a new name on the ATP tour and will be one to avoid in the draw given his form on clay this season. The 22-year-old is the only player outside the top 10 to have won two titles in 2019. He will be making his main draw debut at the French Open but won the junior title in 2013, beating Borna Coric and Alexander Zverev.

6. Kiki Bertens

The 27-year-old Dutchwoman went through a difficult period at the end of the 2017 season and even considered retirement. However, eighteen months later, Bertens is ranked fourth in the world and her win over Halep in Madrid earlier this month was a major statement. She already has experience of success at Roland Garros having reached the last four in 2016.

7. Petra Kvitova

Kvitova has been the most prolific title winner on the WTA Tour over the past two seasons and reached her first Grand slam final for five years at the Australian Open. A tough loss saw Osaka claim top spot in the rankings instead but Kvitova is now among the favourites across every surface.

8. Marketa Vondrousova

Vondrousova went quiet last year after bursting onto the scene in 2017 but is now making big strides once more. The Czech teenager has reached two WTA Tour finals this season, plus the quarter-finals of big tour events in Indian Wells and Miami. Her scalps include two wins over Halep, most recently on clay in Rome last week.

9. Kristina Mladenovic

After his surprise split from Osaka following the Australian Open, eyebrows were raised when top coach Sascha Bajin chose to work with Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman is a confident player and has achieved some notable recent results as she bids for home success.

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