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Pete’s Power Rankings: Can anyone challenge Nadal at the French Open?

June 8, 2021
Rafael Nadal raises his arms in celebration

Photo : @rolandgarros

Welcome to Pete’s Power Rankings, where we paint a picture of the ATP Tour by looking at recent results and ranking players based on their current form, rather than the ATP’s point system.

The power rankings will be updated weekly all the way up to the National Bank Open.

We are halfway through the second major of the season and so far, Roland Garros has gone more-or-less according to plan.

The usual suspects are proving successful, with seven of the eight quarter-final spots going to players inside the Top 10 of the ATP rankings. In fact, if there are any surprises, it is that highly-ranked players expecting disappointment did better than anticipated

And of course, one question hangs above all others: is there anyone who can stop Rafael Nadal from hoisting a 14th Coupe des Mousquetaires on Sunday?

If the results of week one are any indication, there are a few men who are in good position to try, although the champ does not look like he is interested in being challenged.

Here are our mid-French Open ATP Tour power rankings:

(* Asterisk denotes player is still active in the tournament)

PETE’S ATP TOUR POWER RANKINGS – Week of June 7, 2021

1.Rafael NadalChange: –
2021 Record: 22-3 (2 Titles)Actual Rank: 3Last Week Result: Roland Garros – QF*

On June 9, 2019, Nadal lost the second set of the French Open final to Dominic Thiem. He has not lost a set at the tournament since, a run that will reach two calendar years on Wednesday. The King of Clay looks to be in the zone right now and Nadal in the zone at Roland Garros beat everyone. Period.

2. Novak DjokovicChange: –
2021 Record: 20-3 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 1Last Week Result: Roland Garros – QF*

The world number one had a major scare on Monday, needing to come back from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Musetti, but if you ignore the first two sets, both of which were lost in tiebreaks, he won the last three 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 when Musetti retired.

Like Nadal, Djokovic has looked rock solid this week and Monday’s match was the first and only suggestion so far that he is not second favourite behind the Spaniard.

Of course, the pressure may now be even higher for him to beat Nadal given his number one ranking in on the line. More on that later.

3.Stefanos TsitsipasChange: –
2021 Record: 37-8 (2 Titles)Actual Rank: 5Last Week Result: Roland Garros – QF*

Dropping only one set so far at Roland Garros, Tsitsipas has clearly carried his good form from the clay court season into Paris and there is little to suggest that he is not going to be the man to come out of the bottom half of the draw.

Although new clay court fan Daniil Medvedev might have something to say about it in the next round.

4. Alexander ZverevChange: –
2021 Record: 22-8 (2 Titles)Actual Rank: 6Last Week Result: Roland Garros – QF*

Zverev was nearly bounced in the opening round by countryman Oscar Otte, but he rallied from two sets down and has looked solid since, not dropping another set on his way to the quarter-final. He has a great chance to reach a second career major final if he keeps this level up.

5. Matteo BerrettiniChange: –
2021 Record: 21-5 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 9Last Week Result: Roland Garros – QF*

Berrettini has looked great so far in Paris, only dropping one set on his way to the quarter-final. Of course, it helps that he got a walkover in the fourth round, but still the Italian has kept his good clay court form going and could pose a serious threat to Djokovic in the last eight.

6.Daniil MedvedevChange: +8
2021 Record: 22-5 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 2Last Week Result: Roland Garros – QF*

From reliable joke to potential world number one, it has been a wild week for the second seed. Medvedev has defied expectations this week in Paris, not only winning a match at Roland Garros for the first time in his career, but going all the way to the quarter-final.

People were so confident that Medvedev would lose early that his Wikipedia page was updated to say he had lost in the first round before the tournament even began and the fact that he could be the world number one by this time next week got absolutely no attention until recent days.

At minimum, Medvedev has silenced his doubters, which included himself, and the chance of him being number one next Monday are suddenly very real.

Oh, by the way, he becomes number one if he reaches the final and Djokovic does not. And given Djokovic will probably have to go through Nadal to do it, it is more possible that you might think.

7.Diego SchwartzmanChange: +8
2021 Record: 16-10 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 10Last Week Result: Roland Garros – QF*

Talk about a turn around. After a horrendous clay swing, the Argentine has flipped the script in Paris. In fact, Schwartzman has yet to drop a set at this year’s French Open, the only person other than Nadal to do so, on his way to the quarter-final and is looking much more like the player who reached the Rome final last year.

8.Jannik SinnerChange: –
2021 Record: 24-11 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 19Last Week Result: Roland Garros – R4

While he may not have dominated the field the way he did last year, the 19-year-old has shown the ability to overcome adversity and battle for victories, something he did on his way to the fourth round.

While he was knocked out by Nadal in straight sets for the second year in a row, he did serve for the opening set and at multiple point in the match showed the ability to not just hang with, but actually bully the King of Clay. That is a scary prospect.

9.Roger FedererChange: New to List
2021 Record: 4-2Actual Rank: 8Last Week Result: Roland Garros – R4

Even though his tournament ended with a withdrawal after three rounds, the mere fact that Federer showed up and won three matches on clay, best of five, and looked pretty good doing it, show that the Swiss is getting back to a good level.

Roger Federer raises his arms and waves at the crowd
Photo: @rolandgarros

And with the grass court swing coming up, Federer’s performance this week gives every reason to believe that he will be a contender over the coming weeks.

10.Pablo Carreno BustaChange: +2
2021 Record: 17-7 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 12Last Week Result: Roland Garros – R4

While his tournament did end in a straight-sets beating at the hands of Tsitsipas, Carreno Busta looked great in his first three matches, winning all of them in straight sets, and remains one of the more reliable players on the tour, even if he is still a level below the top guys.

11.Casper RuudChange: -4
2021 Record: 22-7 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 16Last Week Result: Roland Garros – R3

Ruud may have been one of the biggest disappointments in Paris given his strong clay court swing. Of course, he still reached the third round and lost an epic to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the young Norwegian.

12.Reilly OpelkaChange: New to List
2021 Record: 8-10Actual Rank: 35Last Week Result: Roland Garros – R3

The 6’11” American showed that his semi-final run in Rome was no fluke by reaching the third round in Paris, eventually losing to the resurgent Medvedev.

Clay is not supposed to be a good surface for big servers like Opelka. If he can play this well on clay, imagine what he could do over the next month on grass, a surface that rewards big servers.

13. Andrey RublevChange: -7
2021 Record: 29-9 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 7Last Week Result: Roland Garros – R1

Another huge disappointment, Rublev has been so consistent for the last 18 months so his first-round loss to Jan-Lennard Struff definitely ranks among the biggest upsets of the tournament so far.

However, he is slightly redeemed by the fact that Struff went on to reach the fourth round. And Rublev has been so consistent that he will almost certainly bounce back quickly.

14.John IsnerChange: New to List
2021 Record: 9-5Actual Rank: 34Last Week Result: Roland Garros – R3

See the blurb about Opelka. The veteran American gave Tsitsipas, one of the world’s best clay court players, all he could handle in a tough third-round battle on what should be his worst surface.

If he is playing well on clay, the former Wimbledon semi-finalist should be a real threat everywhere on the grass.

15.Aslan KaratsevChange: -6
2021 Record: 22-9 (1 Title)Actual Rank: 26Last Week Result: Roland Garros – R2

Another disappointment given how well his 2021 had been going, Karatsev’s second round loss was a pretty big upset, which just feels so weird to say given that at last year’s French Open, which remember was in October, no one knew who he was. Still, he’s among the hottest players in the world in 2021. It will be interesting to see how he does on the grass.

Off the List:

  • Dominic Thiem (Lost in Roland Garros R1 to Andujar from two sets up)
  • David Goffin (Lost in Roland Garros R1 to Lorenzo Musetti in straight sets)
  • Roberto Bautista Agut (Lost in Roland Garros R2 to Henri Laaksonen in four sets)

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