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Will Roland Garros crown a New Champion?

As the main draw of the 2023 Roland Garros got underway on Sunday, several men's seeds are hopeful of becoming French Open champion for the first time.

The 127th edition of the tournament will serve as a unique event in recent years, with a main talking point being the absence of the most successful player in Roland Garros history.

For the first time in 19 years, Rafael Nadal is not involved in the clay-major. A 14-time winner in western Paris, the Spaniard is out of contention this year as he continues recovery from a hip injury sustained earlier this year.

Since 2005, only three men not named Rafa Nadal have been crowned single's champion at Roland Garros although there is a considerable chance that tally will rise to four in a fortnight.

Earlier this month Nadal, 38, shared a short message in which he hinted that 2024 could signify the end of his playing career. This is the first time since 1998 that the French major will be without both Nadal and Roger Federer.

Andy Murray also withdrew from the tournament to turn his attention to the grass-court season with Wimbledon in near sight.

Most of his counterparts would agree that Nadal's absence signifies a more level playing field and potentially a meaningful opportunity for a newcomer to attain the Roland Garros crown.

With no Nadal in the mix, Novak Djokovic would obviously fancy his chances at hoisting the Coupe des Mousquetaires aloft for a third time come June 11.

Seeded third in Paris this year, the 36-year-old could face some mighty competition compared to if he were seeded 1st, which many a time has been the case for the Serbian.

Clay surface isn't particularly a strong suit of the perpetual icon and he may find his more youthful counterparts to be capable of greater athleticism and agility on the 'hallowed red dirt'.

12 times has Djokovic reached the finals of the Rome Masters – one of the most prestigious clay-court events – but only six times did he take first prize in the Italian capital.

Most recently French Open champion in 2021, Djokovic (3.25) is vying for a record 23rd Grand Slam championship which would eclipse Nadal's tally of 22.

Djokovic earned a straight sets win over Aleksandar Kovacevic in the first round.

Djokovic as French Open winner in 2021. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

As the generation of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray fade into the their post-playing careers, there is the increasing likelihood that a new Roland Garros champion may be crowned in 2023.

Already a Grand Slam winner, Carlos Alcaraz has been tipped as the heir to his countryman, the 'King of Clay', and what better way to solidify those claims than by capturing glory at Roland Garros?

Alcaraz has already won three titles on clay this year, including the Madrid Masters and Barcelona Open in recent weeks. The current world number cruised past Flavio Cobolli in the opening round, a straight sets victory.

Alcaraz, 20, won the US Open last year and as the top seed he is the bookies' favourite (2.50) to take victory on clay for the first time.

Alcaraz is the reigning US Open champion. (Photo: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Ranked 2nd in the world, Daniil Medvedev is another strong contender to win the second Slam of the year. He won the Rome Masters in the build-up to Roland Garros – his 22nd success on the ATP Tour but, remarkably, it was just his first title on clay.

Medvedev (8.50) has never advanced past the quarter-finals at the French Open and redressing that record will be no easy feat.

Casper Ruud will be looking to go one step further than at this tournament in 2022, when the Norwegian came runner-up to none other than Nadal himself. He also lost the US Open final to Alcaraz last year.

Seeded 4th at the tournament, Ruud is more accustomed to the surface than most of his peers, with nine of his ten ATP titles having come on clay.

Ruud will, obviously, need to give it his all in the quest for a maiden Grand Slam and he may meet Holger Rune in the quarter-finals. The pair of Scandinavians met at the same stage last year, and more recently they contested a semi-final at the Rome Masters.

Both competitors are vying for a first taste of major silverware, though the last man to win his first Slam in the French capital was Gaston Gaudio in 2004.

Rune is 8.50 to win the Championship, while Ruud has an outsider's chance of 17.00.

At 15.00 is Stefanos Tsitsipas, finalist at Roland Garros in 2021 albeit a losing effort to Djokovic. He also came runner-up at the Australian Open this year, again losing out to the Serbian.

21-year-old Jannik Sinner (12.00) has shown he can go toe to toe with the very best and, should he progress to the latter stages, he is likely to come up against Medvedev in the quarter-finals. Sinner has failed to beat Medvedev in all of their six encounters to date, however the two have never met on clay.

Alexander Zverev reached the semi-finals in each of the last two events at Roland Garros and he is 26.00 to beat off the competition and emerge victorious this year.

(Cover Image: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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