The French Open is set to begin on Sunday evening, and six Aussie men will be competing this year. Australia’s last male champion was Rod Laver in 1969 so it’s been a long time between winners.
The second Grand Slam of the year kickstarts a huge ten weeks on the tennis calendar, with Wimbledon and the Olympics following in quick succession.
These are the six Aussie men flying the flag in the 2021 French Open.
French Open Aussie Men: Alex de Minaur
With the withdrawal of Nick Kyrgios, it will be 22-year-old Alex de Minaur leading the charge for the Aussie men at the French Open this season. The workhorse youngster has struggled on the clay court, coming into the second Grand Slam with a 3-4 record on the surface in 2021. It has been the worst surface in his career so far, crashing out in the first round last year.
The 21st seed will need to be at his best to account for Italian Stefano Travaglia, who made it to the third round in 2020. De Minaur won their only previous encounter, at the Paris Masters. If the Aussie can navigate his way past Travaglia, the draw opens up for him. Setting up a fourth round contest with Novak Djokovic would be a huge achievement on clay for the burgeoning Aussie.
French Open Aussie Men: John Millman
Ever the battler, Millman enters his fourth French Open in 2021. The Australian has never made it past the first round in Paris, but he enters with a winning record on clay for the first time since 2018.
Ranked 43rd in the world, Millman comes up against Gianluca Mager in the first round. The Italian is a clay court specialist, and won the Marbella Challenger in April. Millman will enter the contest as a slight underdog, but is well and truly capable of grinding out a hard fought win to kickstart his French Open campaign.
French Open Aussie Men: Alexei Popyrin
Popyrin has been one of the tennis stories of the year for Australia. Building on his promise, the 21-year-old won ATP Singapore and defeated Novak Djokovic earlier this year. He has, as a result, rocketed to 62nd in the world.
Unfortunately for Popyrin, in the first round he has run into the road block that is a 14-time French Open champion. The Australian only recently came up against Nadal – in the 2021 Madrid Masters. The third seed walked away from that contest in straight sets. It would be one of the greatest upsets in the rich history of Roland Garros if Popyrin could defeat the legendary Spaniard.
French Open Aussie Men: James Duckworth
James Duckworth is the 99th-ranked player in the world coming into Roland Garros. The Australian has had an un-inspiring start to 2021, and has only played the one match on clay so far. He has never made it past the first round of the French Open, but has received a fortunate match-up.
Duckworth also comes up against an Italian in the form of Salvatore Caruso. The aggressive base-liner has a 3-7 record on the dirt in 2021, and crashed out in the first round of the French Open last season. There is potential for an upset for the 29-year-old Australian if he can find the form of 2013 that saw him go 16-4 on clay. Caruso got the better of Duckworth in their only head-to-head, which was last year’s US Open.
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French Open Aussie Men: Jordan Thompson
Thompson has struggled to start 2021, and that form carried into his clay court season as he holds a 2-5 record on the dirt. He is still capable at the French Open, having made the third round in 2019.
The Australian is ranked 64th in the world, but hasn’t been aided in the draw. Jaume Munar awaits in the first round; the Spaniard has been on a tear in 2021 with 28-11 record on clay. It would be an ultra-impressive win for Thompson if he made it through the first round.
French Open Aussie Men: Chris O’Connell
O’Connell enters the French Open as a wildcard. The Australian has only played the three matches on clay this season (2-1), but enjoys the surface. In 2019 he held a remarkable 60-16 record on the dirt at Futures and Challenger level, showcasing his potential on the surface.
Tommy Paul awaits in the first round. He’s not in great form and O’Connell holds a 1-0 head-to-head record, which was on a hard court. If he can upset the American, then Daniil Medvedev could await in the second round – his form at the French Open for a second seed has been woeful in recent years so O’Connell could set up an epic upset.
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