Now underway, the French Open is confirmed to miss three big names this 2017. For personal reasons, Roger Federer and Serena Williams have opted but promised a return to Rolland Garros next year. And hot on a comeback trail, two-time champion Maria Sharapova would love to play on clay but was denied an easy ticket.
All three are former world number one players and their absence will certainly diminish the tourney's already low-level excitement. Sharapova, for one, would have attracted much-needed attention, coming from a doping ban that sidelined her for the most part of 2016. Roland Garros would have been Sharapova's first Grand Slam stint since testing positive for meldonium, a drug that was only recently classified as illegal, but tennis officials are not about to go easy on her.
ESPN reported French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli disapproved a French Open wild card entry for Sharapova purportedly "to protect the sport." And it appears that the proposal to prevent Sharapova from getting easy access to Wimbledon and U.S. Open is fast gaining traction. In fact, Eugenie Bouchard is convinced that the former French Open titlist is a cheat and should be banned for good, the report added.
Another top lady slugger and certified crowd-drawer to skip the competition is Serena Williams. The American has announced she's pregnant and will give birth later in the year. When Williams confirmed that French Open is out of the question for her this 2017, she made a vow to play next year and be her dominant self again.
When Williams returns and provided she would be in top form, the three-time champion is seen to get an easy crack for a fourth title.
In the men's competition, Roger Federer will not see action in the second Grand Slam event of the year. Fresh from winning the Australian Open 2017, Federer is reportedly looking to All England already when he decided to pass up on the chance to play in Paris again. The Swiss also opted out last year.
According to Zee News, it was a career decision for Federer. "The 35-year-old assured that he is trying to prolong his career by consciously avoiding the taxing clay court season," the report said. For now, the Swiss is eyeing Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and if his physical condition will permit he will set out for Paris next year and gun for the title.
To date, Federer has 18 Grand Slam wins and his plan seems to indicate of breaching number 20 with Rolland Garros also on the horizon.
So with Federer out of the way or three superstars not gracing the French Open 2017, the pressure is on for the remaining big names to step up and three readily come to mind - Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Zee News said Murray appears in the middle of performance slump while Djokovic seems far from 100 percent, reeling from hi recent trouncing in Italy, courtesy of rising German player Alexander Zverev. That leaves Nadal as the top contender as the same report took note: "Roger Federer's absence will definitely make things easier for nine-time champion Rafael Nadal."
Since returning this season, Nadal is yet to drop a match on clay and that alone should be solid indicator of a relatively easy mission to make it 10 this year and win the French Open 2017.