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Tennis’ busy European season is in full swing with the French Open looming and grass not far away.
The world’s best players are travelling to Roland Garros ahead of the year’s second grand slam beginning on Sunday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the current tennis picture.
How is 2023 shaping up for British players?
More downs than ups so far. Cameron Norrie had an impressive start to the season, including winning his second biggest title in Rio, but has not been at his best on the European clay so far. Emma Raducanu had some moments of encouragement but is now out long term after three surgeries, while Andy Murray produced heroics at the Australian Open but remains inconsistent and is skipping the French Open. Dan Evans has been up and down but continues to maintain his place in the top 25.
How will the time out affect Raducanu?
It is hard to say but many observers believe it could be beneficial in the long run for the 20-year-old to have time away from the court. It has been a difficult 18 months since Raducanu’s US Open victory, with the spotlight unrelenting and her body uncooperative. Not only will this period give her the opportunity to address the latter, she will also have time for some much needed normality. Raducanu still has time on her side and does not need to rush back. If she is happy and healthy, she is more than good enough to climb the rankings again.
What about Jack Draper?
Britain’s other rising young star has also struggled with ongoing niggles, the latest of which was an abdominal injury that limited him to only one tournament in the last two months. Happily, he is back in time to make his French Open debut – a reminder of how quickly he rose up the ranks last season. There is no doubt about Draper’s potential but his physical frailty is frustrating. Draw and fitness permitting, the powerful 21-year-old could do serious damage at Wimbledon.
And the rest?
Little to get excited about. There are no British women in the French Open main draw or the top 100 – a damning statistic given the resources available. That could soon change with Jodie Burrage, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart not too far away but the latter’s fall down the rankings this season has been disappointing. At junior level there are some encouraging signs after a barren spell but strength in depth remains the biggest challenge.
How is Murray looking for Wimbledon?
His main motivation for missing the French Open again is to give himself the best chance at Wimbledon. Last year Murray’s hips finally felt good only for him to suffer an abdominal injury and miss the Wimbledon build-up. He has played some good tennis this season but, despite winning a first title since 2019, struggled on clay. Murray still believes he can challenge for the trophy at SW19 given his experience on grass, and his chances would be improved if he could sneak into the top 32 and obtain a seeding.
How does the overall tennis picture look?
The men’s game has a very different look to 12 months ago, when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were still dominant. Nadal’s announcement that retirement is looming is another reminder that this remarkable era is drawing to a close while Djokovic, although still the man to beat at both the French Open and Wimbledon, has struggled on clay and is battling an elbow issue. Carlos Alcaraz is back at world number one and will be eyeing a second slam title in Paris but there could well be some surprise results. On the women’s side, Iga Swiatek will bid for a third title in Paris but is not as dominant as she was 12 months ago, with Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina the players of the season so far.
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