Clay courts can be unpredictable. From 1995 to 2004, before Rafael Nadal claimed Roland Garros as his own personal domain, the French Open gave five men — Thomas Muster, Carlos Moya, Albert Costa, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Gaston Gaudio — their first and only Slam titles. It also gave Gustavo Kuerten all three of his.
On the women’s side, it’s given first-and-only titles to Ana Ivanovic (2008), Francesca Schiavone (2010), Jelena Ostapenko (2017) and Barbora Krejcikova (2021), plus two of Iga Swiatek‘s three, four of Justine Henin‘s seven and one of two for Svetlana Kuznetsova, Li Na, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.
With Nadal out and Novak Djokovic battling iffy form, we might be more vulnerable to a French Open surprise on the men’s side than we have been in quite a while. And while Swiatek looks about as good as ever on clay, the women’s draw is never too far from chaos.
Even with the rarity of grass-court play on the ATP and WTA tours, you could say that the French Open produces the most unique results of any Slam, at least when Nadal isn’t involved. So if we’re giving you the names of players you need to track as the 2023 French Open prepares to get underway, we have to make that list pretty long, just to be safe.
Here are 50 men and women capable of a French Open run over the next fortnight. We’ll separate them into tiers, from the top-level contenders through the intriguing longshots.
Tier 1: Absolute favorites
Iga Swiatek: She’s won 18 of her past 19 matches at Roland Garros and 40 of her last 44 on clay. Of her eight losses in the past nine months, six have come against either Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina or the clean-hitting Barbora Krejcikova. She’s the best player in the world, she knows clay and Caesars is giving her Nadal-esque title odds of -125 at the moment (equivalent to a 56% chance). She’s the favorite’s favorite in the women’s draw.
Carlos Alcaraz: With Djokovic’s recent wobbles, Alcaraz is the betting favorite on the men’s side, with +120 odds at Caesars (equivalent to a 45% chance). It’s his first Slam since he won the US Open back in September, and he has gone 20-2 on clay in 2023. If he’s healthy, it makes sense that he’s the favorite.
Novak Djokovic: It feels like he’s lulling us to sleep, doesn’t it? The 22-time Slam champ has battled some niggling injuries here and there, and he hasn’t won any of the four tournaments he has been able to enter since winning the Australian Open. He clearly isn’t in top form. But …
… are you going to bet on him to lose a best-of-five match? He’s 45-2 in Slams since the start of 2021! He remains the final boss.
Aryna Sabalenka: She lost to Swiatek in the Stuttgart final, then beat her in the Madrid final. The Australian Open champ is the vice favorite, but she’s earned Tier 1 status with an outstanding 2023 campaign. If her serve doesn’t abandon her — which is still not a given but more likely than it was a year ago — she’s a favorite, on any surface, against all but one player in the world.
Tier 2: Primary hopefuls
Holger Rune: The 20-year-old first made waves a year ago, when he took down Stefanos Tsitsipas on the way to the French Open quarterfinals. He has beaten Djokovic, Casper Ruud, Jannik Sinner, Daniil Medvedev and former French Open champ Dominic Thiem in this spring’s clay season. The spicy Danish player is rising up the ranks, and he knows how to win on clay.
Elena Rybakina: The demure Rybakina won Wimbledon and reached the final of the Australian Open, and since falling to Sabalenka in three sets in Melbourne, she has reached three more finals, winning two. If you’re going to beat her, it’s best to do it early: She’s 9-4 in semifinals and finals over the past year.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: He was one set away from the 2021 French Open title but couldn’t close out Novak Djokovic. (Who can?) His return hasn’t really come around over the past couple of years, and he has only won one tournament in the past 13 months, but Tsitsipas remains one of the world’s best on clay.
Daniil Medvedev: After years of battling two opponents in clay-court matches — the opponent and the surface itself — Medvedev has enjoyed a clay renaissance this spring, going 10-2 and beating Tsitsipas and Rune on the way to the Rome title, his first on the surface. The four-time Slam finalist is just 7-6 all-time at Roland Garros, but he might be poised for a breakthrough.
Jannik Sinner: The 21-year-old has enjoyed a lovely 2023. He has won 23 of his past 28 matches and reached three finals, and he has beaten both Alcaraz and Tsitsipas. His clay season was a mixed bag, however: He reached only one semifinal in three tournaments and went just 7-3 overall. Can the four-time Slam quarterfinalist become a first-time semifinalist on clay?
Tier 3: Only need a break or two
Barbora Krejcikova: One of the best pure ball-strikers on the women’s tour, Krejcikova battled a wrist injury in the fall and has been inconsistent since. But when she’s on her game, she’s got a top-five ceiling, and of her six losses in the past three months, three were against Sabalenka. She beat a series of big names on the way to the Dubai title, and she won the French Open two years ago. She’s absolutely a contender.
Casper Ruud: He’s still holding onto a top-five ranking thanks to two Slam finals appearances in 2022 (French Open, US Open), but he fell into a massive fall funk, losing 12 of 21 matches at one point. Back on clay, however, he has slowly found his form. He won in Estoril and fell to Rune in the Rome semis. He’s finding his footing at the right time.
Ons Jabeur: Like Ruud, the Wimbledon and US Open finalist misplaced her form and found it on clay. She lost seven of 12 matches from October to March but won in Charleston in April and reached the semis in Stuttgart before a calf injury set her back. If she’s 100 percent, she’s dangerous.
Veronika Kudermetova: A French Open quarterfinalist in 2022, Kudermetova comes back to Paris in excellent form. After four straight losses in March and early-April, she made semifinal runs in both Madrid (where she lost to Swiatek) and Rome (where she lost to Anhelina Kalinina).
Andrey Rublev: After topping Rune to win in Monte Carlo, Rublev suffered upset losses in his next three tournaments. The 25-year-old is still looking for his first Slam semifinal — he’s up to seven quarterfinals — and he’s good on clay, but did he peak a little bit too early this spring?
Jessica Pegula: She has reached the quarterfinals of four of her last five Slams (including last year’s French Open), and she did beat Badosa in Charleston, early in the clay run. But she comes to Paris having lost her past two matches — to Kudermetova in the Madrid quarterfinals and to Taylor Townsend in the first round in Rome.
Lorenzo Musetti: It has been a slow but steady rise for the 21-year-old from Tuscany. He finished 2020 ranked 128th, 2021 at 59th and 2022 at 23rd. Now he’s 18th, having beaten Djokovic in Monte Carlo and suffered a pair of super-tight losses to Tsitsipas. Breakthrough on the way?
Caroline Garcia: The big-hitting 29-year-old solidified a top-five ranking by winning 17 of her first 23 matches in 2023, but the clay hasn’t been kind — she went just 3-3 in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome, and she’s just 9-5 in her past five trips to Roland Garros. She might need more than a break or two.
Tier 4: Paris has been kind to them
Jelena Ostapenko: The 2017 French Open champ remains one of the biggest hitters (and don’t-give-a-damn personalities) on the women’s tour, and she beat Krejcikova, Kasatkina and Badosa on the way to the semis in Rome. She probably can’t win seven matches in a row in Paris, but she can beat anyone in a single match.
Alexander Zverev: The 26-year-old was giving Rafael Nadal absolute hell in the French Open semis last year when he suffered torn ankle ligaments and missed seven months of action. He’s back in decent form, but he has also gone 0-6 against top-20 players since his return.
Coco Gauff: It’s been a tricky year for the 18-year-old, who remains sixth in the WTA rankings but has lost four of six matches against top-20 foes in 2023 and failed to reach the quarterfinals in any of her three clay tournaments. But she reached the final here last year; we know she’s capable.
Maria Sakkari: She reached a pair of Slam semis (including the French) in 2021 but has gone just 6-4 in Slams over the last year. Can a run to the Madrid semis prompt a Sakkari revival of sorts?
Daria Kasatkina: After reaching the French Open semis last year, Kasatkina proceeded to bow out in the first round of her next two Slams. Clay might be her best surface, but she went 1-3 against top-30 opponents on the dirt this spring.
Dominic Thiem: Injury and burnout dropped the 2020 US Open champ (and two-time French finalist) out of the ATP top 100, and it took a couple of quarterfinal runs (in Estoril and Munich) to get him back into the 90s. He’s a long shot … but he’s 28-9 all-time at Roland Garros.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: She missed a lot of 2022 to injury, and she hasn’t taken a set from a top-20 opponent since this past May, but the 31-year old enjoyed her greatest professional breakthrough by reaching the 2021 French Open final. Any magic left?
Stan Wawrinka: The 38-year old is reaching the end of his storied, three-Slam-title career. He has lost in the first round of his past four Slams. But his win over Rune in Indian Wells was a reminder that the cannon attached to his right shoulder can still occasionally do massive damage.
Martina Trevisan: After years ranked in the triple digits, the 29-year-old changed her career trajectory with a sudden 10-match winning streak and French Open semifinal appearance last spring. She’s just 4-3 on clay this year, however.
Sloane Stephens: Even when success evades her elsewhere, Stephens often proves capable of a Roland Garros run. In the five years since her 2018 French Open final appearance, she has reached only two Slam quarterfinals — both in Paris.
Tier 5: Longshots? Yes. Good on clay? Also yes.
Qinwen Zheng: At age 19, she won at least one match in all four Slams last year, and she is now on the brink of the WTA top 20 after a quarterfinal run in Rome. The future star might be a current star very soon.
Beatriz Haddad Maia: The 26-year-old from Brazil hit a career-high 12th in the WTA rankings in February and has won 18 of her past 24 matches on clay. Over the past year, she has beaten Swiatek and Rybakina on a hard court, Rybakina on clay and Sakkari on grass. She has yet to make it past a Slam second round, but it’s only a matter of time.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina: The 23-year-old from Spain has enjoyed two career breakthroughs thus far, reaching the French Open quarters in 2021 and the Monte Carlo final in 2022. He also beat Rune in Madrid this year. He’s a pain in the butt on clay.
Francisco Cerundolo: Clay prowess hasn’t yet translated in Paris, where the 24-year-old is 2-3 all-time. But he has reached the finals of two ATP tournaments and six Challenger Tour tourneys, and seven of those eight total finals were on the dirt. A win over Sinner in Rome and a straight-set destruction of Cameron Norrie last week was a reminder of what he’s capable of.
Cameron Norrie: The 27-year-old’s big breakthroughs have come on grass (2022 Wimbledon semis) and hard courts (2021 Indian Wells title), but his best overall win percentage has come on clay. He has won 16 of 22 matches on the surface in 2023.
Jan-Lennard Struff: It’s been a late-career renaissance for the 33-year old from Germany, reaching the Madrid final as a lucky loser and leaping from 100th in the ATP rankings in April to the top 30 today.
Irina-Camelia Begu: Another surging veteran. The 32-year-old scuffled for years after finishing 2016 in the top 30, but she’s back there after solid winter results and a quarterfinal appearance in Madrid.
Bernabe Zapata Miralles: He has beaten four top-30 opponents on clay since the start of the year, and he reached the fourth round at Roland Garros last year. He has some points to defend, but he’s capable of doing so.
Tomas Martin Etcheverry: The 23-year-old might not be ready for huge success yet — he’s 4-9 all-time in Slams and Masters 1000 events — but he has won 18 clay matches this year (including Challengers) and reached the final in Houston.
Tier 6: Hey, crazy things happen, right?
Felix Auger-Aliassime: The 21-year-old from Canada began the year sixth in the ATP rankings, but he’s on the verge of falling out of the top 10 after going just 12-9 so far in 2023. Worse yet, he’s 1-2 on clay. Confidence is low right now.
Karolina Muchova: After falling out of the top 100 because of injury, the 2021 Australian Open semifinalist has rallied back near the top 50 following quarterfinal appearances in Dubai and Indian Wells. She reached the round of 16 in Rome, too.
Anastasia Potapova: The 22-year-old has shown plenty of potential through the years and has now cracked the WTA top 30 after recent wins over Gauff (Miami and Stuttgart) and Garcia (Stuttgart). She has gone the distance a couple of times with Pegula, too.
Karen Khachanov: Khachanov has become one of the men’s tour’s steadiest players, winning 15 matches at his past four Slams and reaching the semis at both the US and Australian Opens. Clay hasn’t been his best surface overall, but he loves Roland Garros — he has reached at least the fourth round there five times.
Marketa Vondrousova: She set the bar high by reaching the French Open final at age 19 in 2019, but she hasn’t made it past the fourth round in a Slam since. After missing much of 2022 with injury, however, she has been awfully good of late, going 21-8 in 2023 with six top-20 wins.
Anhelina Kalinina: Another slow-but-steady riser, Kalinina reached her first 1000-level final this month against Rybakina in Rome but had to retire in the second set with a leg injury. Confidence levels are high if she’s able to make a go of it in Paris.
Borna Coric: The former junior No. 1 has hit his head on a ceiling of sorts at the senior level (injuries haven’t helped), but he charged back into the top 20 with a semifinal run in Madrid and a quarterfinal run in Rome.
Belinda Bencic: We’ve been waiting for another Slam run from the 26-year-old for a while now — she has won just seven matches in her past five Slams and has never made it past the third round in Paris. But her versatile skill set will always make her a tantalizing longshot.
Taylor Fritz: Clay is not his surface — he’s 5-6 all-time at Roland Garros — but he did beat Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo, and he made the semis in Munich. He’s capable of making the second week in Paris, at least.
Petra Kvitova: I stubbornly continue to believe that the 33-year-old two-time Wimbledon champ has one more great Slam run in her, and her Miami title in March certainly hasn’t dissuaded me. She came out of nowhere to make the French Open semis in 2020, too. So we’ll ignore that whole “she’s played one match on clay in 2023, and she’s trying to fight off a foot injury” thing for now.
Tier 7: Four Raducanus
Mirra Andreeva: After reaching four Challenger-level finals in nine months, the 16-year-old showed up in Madrid and proceeded to sweep two top-20 opponents before falling to Sabalenka in the round of 16. She’s still inconsistent — she’s 16! — but her upside is immense. If there’s an out-of-nowhere, Emma Raducanu-style run from a teenager in this tournament, she’s a serious candidate.
Jiri Lehecka: The 21-year-old has beaten four top-15 opponents in 2023; his potential is obvious, but he’ll enter Paris on a four-match losing streak, and with a lingering leg issue to boot. But … potential!
Marta Kostyuk: Two years ago, Kostyuk reached the fourth round at Roland Garros at age 18. She’s had to learn how to grind on tour (and hasn’t done much on clay since), but she has moved into the WTA top 40, thanks in part to a run to the Austin final in February.
Jack Draper: The 6-foot-4 British player has made noise on hard courts over the past year, reaching the Canadian Open quarterfinals, beating Auger-Aliassime at the US Open and reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open. He has looked solid in a small clay sample this spring, too.