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A French Open without Rafael Nadal still has plenty of drama

A French Open without Rafael Nadal still has plenty of drama

The 2023 French Open is upon us and — spoiler alert — the event is going to have a markedly different vibe this year. Some familiar faces will be missing with the gigantic absence of Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, as well as former champions Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza, along with the recent retirements of Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Notable names like Naomi Osaka, Andy Murray, Venus Williams, Nick Kyrgios, Emma Raducanu and Matteo Berrettini are also missing from the slate, so Roland Garros will be lacking some of its traditional star power.

But it won’t be lacking in talent, intense competition or compelling storylines.

The year’s second major is full of rising superstars like Iga Swiatek and Carlos Alcaraz, burgeoning new rivalries, young hopefuls seeking their first Grand Slam titles, and, not to mention, Novak Djokovic, who will be looking to make history in Paris.

Which players do you need to keep an eye on? What’s at stake for some of the game’s biggest names? Can anyone replace Nadal in the hearts and minds of fans at his favorite tournament? We try to answer all that and more ahead of Sunday’s opening-round matches.

C’est la vie

After competing in every tournament since 2005 and winning a cool 14 titles along the way, Nadal has rightfully been dubbed the “King of Clay,” complete with his own statue on the grounds at Roland Garros. But all good things must come to an end. Nadal was forced to withdraw from his favorite event last week because of a hip injury sustained at the Australian Open in January. But Nadal, who also revealed the 2024 season would likely be his last on tour, did his best to keep things in perspective.

“Tournaments stay forever; players play and leave,” Nadal told reporters. “So Roland Garros will always be Roland Garros, with or without me, without a doubt. The tournament is going to keep being the best event in the world of clay, and there will be a new Roland Garros champion — and it is not going to be me. And that is life.”

Since winning the title in Paris during his debut at the event, Nadal has consistently been the favorite to hoist the trophy at the end of the fortnight, and it almost feels unnatural to be speaking of anyone else in this position. But for those curious, according to Caesars Sportsbook, the top five in order to win the men’s…

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