Roland Garros 2019: Is Stan Wawrinka the dark horse in the tournament?
Virtually every tournament has a favorite, and over the past year and a half, the usual suspects have remained - Djokovic, Nadal or Federer. Barring some upsets here and there, these three players remain in strong contention towards the business ends of tournaments, which is evident in the fact that no one outside of them has won a Grand Slam since the 2016 US Open.
Even in this year's Roland Garros, people have already started anticipating a Nadal-Djokovic final, with Nadal predicted to defeat Federer, and Djokovic to beat Thiem in the other semi-finals.
Some members of the NextGen like Thiem, Tsitsipas or Zverev could reach the finals, having previously recorded victories over the top three. Yet, their chances of winning the tournament are marginal when when compared with Nadal or Djokovic.
Aside from these players, who could make a silent impact in the tournament?
Players like Nishikori and Fognini have been performing consistently this year; however, it is very unlikely for them to make deep runs into their respective sides of the draw and upset the top contenders.
In my opinion, Stan Wawrinka has a better chance to make an impact on Roland Garros as the clay courts are suited to his style of play. He seems to have regained some of his momentum, having registered one of his most dominant wins in his second-round match against Cristian Garin. Currently, he holds a two sets to love lead over Grigor Dimitrov after winning two tense tie-breaks. The odds are in his favor of making it to the fourth round, where he could clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas, which has all the makings of a very even match-up. Considering the form that Tsitsipas is in, he would enter as the favorite; but this will be their first meeting ever, and anything can happen.
If Wawrinka finds a way to beat Tsitsipas, he will face his long-time rival Roger Federer in the quarter-finals. The last time they played on a clay court was at the 2015 French Open and Stan Wawrinka came on top of his compatriot, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(4).
Wawrinka was the French Open champion in 2015, and went to the finals in 2017, losing to Rafael Nadal. If he can knock off Federer, he will book another meeting against Nadal, where his chances will almost entirely depend on the latter's form coming into the semi-finals.
If Stan maintains his current level of play, he could be a true dark horse to reach the final four this year, which would also announce his return to his former self, after having been riddled with injury the last two years.