When the courts at the Stade Roland Garros were prepared last year, it was already known that once again, David wouldn't be among those, playing on them. Missing out on the clay-court Slam for a third consecutive time. And back then, a year ago, it began to look like playing best-of-five matches on clay was a risk David might only be willing to take for the sake of Davis Cup. This year, however, having already contested a total of eighteen matches on clay (including three five-setters in Davis Cup) without any real injury troubles, David will finally return to the Stade Roland Garros in Paris.
- Thirteen years after making his very first appearance at what's also known as the French Open. Back in 1999, David played his only junior edition of the clay-court Slam and made it to the final, which he lost against his doubles partner Guillermo "El Mago" Coria. After turning pro, David played Roland Garros from 2002 through to 2008, making this year's his altogether eighth appearance.
One of David's claims to fame is that he's among the few players to have reached the semifinal at all four Slams (and he's the only active player apart from the Top4, I think). But out of the four, Roland Garros is the only Slam where he managed to do it twice. In 2004, he lost to Gaston Gaudio, the eventual surprise champion, whereas in 2006, after a great start against Roger Federer, an abdominal strain forced David to retire.
In the past, David had some great and very dramatic matches at Roland Garros. And his last one so far was rather dramatic as well - but not in any positive sense. Back in 2008, in his second-round match against Jeremy Chardy, David led by two sets to love when his hip injury flared up again. But instead of retiring, he finished the match and lost in five sets. During the last couple of years, it seemed increasingly likely that this match might go down as David's last at Roland Garros. Now we know that fortunately, this won't be the case.
The expectations have to be different at this point, compared to the past. And as David won't be seeded, an awful lot will depend on the draw and on hopefully having a bit of luck with it. But still, this is it, the big stage and the kind of tournament that David loves to play. And now he's finally healthy enough again to even give Roland Garros, the toughest of them all, a try.
The draw for Roland Garros will be made next Friday, at 11.30am local time.