Welcome to Roland Garros, (Paris, France) the final Grand Slam of the COVID-19 hit season. The French Open event which was originally scheduled for May 2020, had to be moved due to the coronavirus pandemic that has taken the world by storm with millions of lives lost. What was usually the second slam of the year, no thanks to COVID-19, we were to have the French Open Tennis kick-off in September. This notwithstanding, the event this year promises to be full of fantastic matches with lots of underdogs looking to step-up and cause upsets and deliver eye-catching tennis to virtually empty arenas due to COVID-19 guidelines, but entertaining millions around the world stuck at home with limited sporting events to keep them glued to their television screens.
On the men’s side, top seed and world number one, Novak Djokovic who is looking to put the events of New York behind him, is looking to continue his fantastic start of the season having not lost a match outside of his disqualification for hitting a lines judge during his quarter-final match against Pablo Carreno Busta at Flushing Meadows. Twelve-time champion, Rafael Nadal, looking for a record equaling 20th slam, and his 13th on the Paris dirt, is making his return to Grand Slam tennis after sitting out the US Open due to the coronavirus concerns, would be looking to hit the ground running here in Paris.
There are some notable absentees, including Roger Federer, who is out for the rest of the year due to injury. Nick Kyrgios is also absent for fear of contracting the coronavirus infection. Kyrgios had been of the opinion that it is still very unsafe to play right now amidst the pandemic and has made that clear these past months. Kyle Edmond, Lucas Pouille, Juan Martin Del Potro and Milos Raonic are also ruled out due to injuries.
On the women’s tour, US Open champion, Naomi Osaka is the biggest absentee due to injury sustained on her run to another US Open title and the French open comes too soon for her to heal from her injuries. Also, world number one, Ashleigh Barty, is missing in action due to the COVID-19 pandemic as she still isn’t ready to travel across Europe in these uncertain times. Canadian star, Bianca Andrescu, Swiss’ Belinda Bencic, and Chinese star, Qiang Wang are also absent due to injury. Australian Sam Stosur just gave birth and has decided to skip the rest of the 2020 season; but it is expected she would be back competing next season.
But 23-time grand slam champion, Serena Williams will be hoping to get her hands on the elusive record-breaking 24th slam, Will that happen here in Paris? I guess we would have to wait and see. Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, US Open finalist, Victoria Azarenka, Karolina Pliskova, Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin, and a host of other stars will be battling to get their hands on the coveted trophy. It promises to be a fantastic two weeks of pulsating tennis. And like all other lovers of the game, I definitely can’t wait for it to reach the climax.
Osayande Ero, sociologist, music artiste, and sports enthusiast, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.