Roger Federer, the holder of a men’s record 16 major singles titles, says he’s not even second favorite to win the French Open.
Federer’s victory in 2009 is the last man other than defending champion Rafael Nadal to win at Roland Garros. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is trying to become the first man since Rod Laver of Australia in 1969 to hold all four tennis majors at the same time. The Serb is the reigning Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open champion, yet he hasn’t made the finals in Paris. Second-ranked Nadal is vying for a record seventh French Open men’s title. The Spaniard is tied with Sweden Bjorn Borg.
“It would be Rafa, Novak, and me in third position,” Federer said at pre-tournament press conference in Paris. The Swiss plays Germany’s Tobias Kamke in his opening round.
The season’s second Grand Slam tennis tournament starts today, with sixth-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia the highest ranked player in action. The U.S. Open champion and 2010 French Open finalist plays Britain’s Elena Baltacha. Venus Williams of the U.S. faces Argentina’s Paula Ormaechea. Williams, ranked 52nd, is playing her first Grand Slam since she pulled out of the U.S. Open last year, announcing she has Sjogren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease. Andy Roddick, the last American man to have won a major title at the 2003 U.S. Open, plays France’s Nicolas Mahut, while 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina meets Spain’s Albert Montanes.
“Rafael playing for his seventh title is the favorite,” said Federer, who beat Djokovic in last year’s semifinals to end the Serb’s 43-match win streak. “I think he lost only two sets between Rome, Monte Carlo, and Barcelona, so that’s a pretty good start.”
Bookmakers agree with Federer, who could play Djokovic once again in the semifinals.
Nadal is the 8-11 favorite at U.K. bookmaker William Hill. That means a successful $11 bet brings in $8 plus the original wager. Djokovic is 9-4 and third-ranked Federer is 8-1.
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams is the 5-2 favorite to win her second French Open. Australian Open winner and women’s top seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus follows Williams at 7-2. Second-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova is at 7-1 to win her first Roland Garros title. Defending women’s champion Li Na of China, the first Asian to have won a Grand Slam singles title, is at 10-1 to win her second major.
“It would be really intense and really crazy, but I’m just ready to get out there and start playing,” Williams, who is 17- 0 on clay this season, said in a news conference. “Obviously there are several people here that want to win. I think I’m one of those people. I’m just going to focus on doing my best.”
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