Fitness, form and French Open – issues facing tennis stars ahead of busy summer

Fitness, form and French Open – issues facing tennis stars ahead of busy summer

The tennis season is ramping up ahead of its busy summer schedule.

The world’s best players have hit the European clay building up to the French Open at the end of May, with Wimbledon beginning on July 3.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the current tennis picture.

How is 2023 shaping up for British players?

A mixed picture so far. Cameron Norrie takes top marks after an impressive start to the season, including winning his second biggest title in Rio, but needs to get over a current dip. Emma Raducanu showed her best form since winning the US Open in 2021 by reaching round four in Indian Wells, while Andy Murray produced heroics at the Australian Open but remains inconsistent.

How’s Raducanu’s fitness?

Emma Raducanu at the Miami Open
Emma Raducanu has shown some encouraging signs (Jim Rassol/AP)

After a stop-start beginning to the season with an ankle injury and more concerns over the wrist issue that ended her 2022 campaign prematurely, the last month or so has been more encouraging. Raducanu beat two highly-ranked players in Indian Wells and will begin her clay-court season in Stuttgart this week. Her schedule remains fairly light but the 20-year-old looks noticeably stronger and the priority above anything else must be to stay on court.

What about Jack Draper?

Britain’s other rising young star has also struggled with ongoing niggles, the latest of which is an abdominal injury that ended his Indian Wells campaign after victories over compatriots Murray and Dan Evans. There is no doubt about Draper’s potential but his physical frailty is frustrating. Draw and fitness permitting, the powerful 21-year-old could do serious damage at Wimbledon.

And the rest?

Great Britain's Harriet Dart during the Billie Jean King Cup defeat by France
Great Britain’s Harriet Dart during the Billie Jean King Cup defeat by France (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Little to get excited about. Raducanu is the only British woman in the top 100, with Harriet Dart so far unable to build on her progress in 2022. Dart and Katie Boulter performed admirably in the weekend’s Billie Jean King Cup defeat by France but must find the same level on a week-to-week basis. Jodie Burrage is close to breaking into the top 100 for the first time, while Liam Broady is again on an upward trend in the men’s game. At a junior level there are some encouraging signs after a barren spell but strength in depth remains the biggest challenge.

Will Andy Murray play at the French Open?

Andy Murray at the Miami Open
Andy Murray is considering his calendar (Jim Rassol/AP)

Probably. Murray has largely skipped clay since his hip problems began in 2017 but had planned a full schedule this spring. A heavy loss to Alex De Minaur in Monte Carlo last week left the soon-to-be 36-year-old questioning the wisdom of that but he would otherwise have to sit out competition until June and would miss the chance to improve his ranking and potentially gain a seeding for Wimbledon. Peaking for SW19 is Murray’s main goal.

How does the overall tennis picture look?

Novak Djokovic is back on top of the rankings and remains very much the man to beat despite a disrupted schedule and a possible elbow problem, while Rafael Nadal is battling just to be fit for a tilt at a 15th French Open singles title because of the hip injury he suffered at the Australian Open. Young pretender Carlos Alcaraz has also had fitness issues this season, and both Roland Garros and Wimbledon could present big opportunities for what is a young top 10. Iga Swiatek remains on top of the women’s game but has a huge amount of points to defend on clay, and Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina have set the standard so far this season.