Johannesburg – South Africa’s highest ranked tennis player, Kevin Anderson, may be the man to stop clay king Rafael Nadal from claiming his 11th French Open title.
While many tennis connoisseurs around the globe take it as a foregone conclusion that the Spaniard will reign supreme, many South Africans will be wondering if their compatriot can pull off a shocker when the pair meet in the quarter-finals. If Anderson makes it that far, that is.
The South African’s first hurdle is Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi, who he meets in the first round. Lorenzi (36) is currently ranked 74th in the Association Tennis Professional (ATP) world rankings. Anderson won their last clash in the 2017 US Open.
Other stars who could face Anderson are Argentina’s 11th seed Diego Schwartzman,22nd seed German Philipp Kohlschreiber and seed number 28, Feliciano López of Spain.
Anderson, seeded sixth, faces Lorenzi at 11:00 today.
Nadal will start his 11th French Open title chase against Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov today, also at 11:00.
The sport has proved to be full of surprises. No one expected Garbiñe Muguruza to defeat then world number one and defending champion Serena Williams at the 2016 French Open.
In 2013, unseeded Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky ousted Swiss ace Roger Federer in the second round at Wimbledon when he was the defending champion.
Anderson managed to reach this competition’s quarter-finals in 2013, 2014 and last year.
Nadal and Anderson played at the finals of the US Open last year, where the Spaniard had the upper hand.
Nadal boasts an astonishing record of 79 wins, with only two losses at the French Open, where the best-of-five set format makes the 31-year-old even harder to beat.
On the women’s side, it will be interesting to see if top seed Simona Halep will finally snatch this year’s edition.
She surprisingly lost at the Roland Garros final last year to unseeded Jelena Ostapenko in what should have been her first Grand Slam title.
Ostapenko became the first Latvian to win a Grand Slam singles tournament and the first unseeded woman to win the French Open since 1933.
Last week, Halep lost to world number four Elina Svitolina in the Italian Open final, just as she did last year.
Number one Halep has lost three times in Grand Slam finals: the French Open in 2014 and last year, and the Australian Open in January. Unseeded 23-time major winner Williams faces Karolína Plíšková of the Czech Republic at 11:00.