The 2016 French Open, the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, starts Sunday at Roland Garros in Paris. Here are four stories to watch:
NADAL SEEKS TO REESTABLISH DOMINANCE
Through the years, Rafael Nadal grew accustomed to a given at the French Open: He would arrive as the defending champion.
The Spaniard won the title at Roland Garros every year from 2005 through 2008 and 2010 through 2014 – a record nine in all – but returns to town trying to earn back the trophy after relinquishing it in 2015. He is seeded fourth.
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“It’s a tournament that I know I can play well,” said Nadal, who lost in the quarterfinals to Novak Djokovic last year. “If I am playing well, I know I can do good things.”
Nadal, whose 30th birthday falls on the day of a possible semifinal against Novak Djokovic, owns 14 major championships, tied for second place all time with Pete Sampras of the United States. A title at the stadium where he is 70-2 – which could come against defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka – would put Nadal two behind Roger Federer for the most in men’s singles history.
SERENA WILLIAMS CAN TIE GRAF’S OPEN MARK
Serena Williams is the French Open defending champion, but it wasn’t an easy run to the title last year.
The American battled the flu during her semifinal win over Timea Bacsinszky, then skipped practice to sleep before her three-set victory over Lucie Safarova in the final.
Should Williams win her fourth title at Roland Garros – where she also won in 2002 and 2013 – she would tie Steffi Graf’s Open Era mark of 22 Grand Slam singles championships and trail Margaret Smith Court by two for most women’s singles majors all time.
Williams, 34, has played played in four tournaments this year – including a loss in the Australian Open title match – but reached the final in three of those events and won last week’s Italian Open in Rome.
DJOKOVIC SEEKS GRAND SLAM IN MULTIPLE WAYS
Novak Djokovic attempts to hoist the Musketeers’ Trophy for the first time in his quest to complete a Grand Slam – consecutively and for his career.
Djokovic, who has won the last three majors (Wimbledon and U.S. Open last year, Australian Open in January) has lost in the final on Roland Garros’ red clay in three of the last four years. But winning the French Open would give him four consecutive major championships, something no man has achieved since Rod Laver won a true Grand Slam in 1969. Djokovic, 28, has won his last 21 Grand Slam matches.
He arrives in the French capital with a 37-3 record.
FEDERER WON’T ADD TO MEN’S SINGLES SLAM MARK
Roger Federer holds the record for men’s singles major titles with 17. That number will not increase in Paris.
He withdrew Thursday, ending his record run of 65 consecutive major appearances. The last major the Swiss native missed was the 1999 U.S. Open.
Federer, who had a knee operation this year but returned to play at the Monte Carlo Masters in early April, has been dealing with a back problem that has limited his schedule in recent weeks.
“I regret to announce that I have made the decision not to play in this year’s French Open,” Federer, 34, said on his website. “I have been making steady progress with my overall fitness, but I am still not 100 percent and feel I might be taking an unnecessary risk by playing in this event before I am really ready.”
Information from The Associated Press and the Bee Sports staff. Compiled by Noel Harris.