Saturday, May 21, 2011

French Open Men's Topless Preview

Feliciano Lopez
Since the French Open starts tomorrow, just a quick and dirty preview.

Rafael Nadal
1. Rafael Nadal – For the first time since 2005, Rafael Nadal doesn't come into Roland Garros as the clear-cut favorite. It's not just that Djokovic hasn't lost a match all year either. Nadal has looked really ordinary and almost nervous when he's had to play the Djoker. He's been able to improve his game every time there's been a new challenge for the last five years. If he's going to find a way this time around, he's going to have to do it without any help from the draw. He's got a first round match with John Isner, then Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco and Robin Soderling are all floating around him before he even gets to Andy Murray in the semi. It would be foolish to think he won't get to the final, but what will he have left when he gets there?

Novak Djokovic
2. Novak Djokovic – There's not much to say about Nole (except that he has more nicknames than most) that can't be said with just this: 37-0 with four wins over Nadal this year (two on clay). He will potentially have one tricky match against Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round, but if he gets past that the only person that can really stop him is Djokovic himself.

Roger Federer
3. Roger Federer – He's gotten to exactly one final since the Australian Open. Expect that sentence to still be true two weeks from now. The real question is, “Will he get past Feliciano Lopez in the first round?” Probably, but he's far from a lock to live up to his seeding here.

4. Andy Murray – After losing four matches in a row on hard courts (starting with drubbing he took in the Australian Open final), Murray has, surprisingly, found his game on the red clay. It's not nearly enough game to beat Nadal in his backyard, but he has a good shot at getting to that match up.
Andy Murray

5. Robin Soderling – I've never liked this guy and I can't even tell you why. I just don't like him. Be that as it may, he'll probably live up to his seeding. But he hasn't beaten anyone ranked higher than him all year AND he lost both his matches to Juan Martin Del Potro (who will probably have Soderling's number five ranking by the time the US Open rolls around). No one even mentions him as a serious threat to win a major anymore.

Tomas Berdych
6. Tomas Berdych – Berdych has managed to remain ranked number six while only getting past the quarterfinals of two tournaments this year. If you can't get to the quarters in Marseille, you're probably not going to do a lot better in Paris. Even if he does, Djokovic will be there waiting.

David Ferrer
7. David Ferrer – Ferrer is 10-3 on the clay this year, with all the losses coming to Nadal (2) and Djokovic (1). He's got a great shot to reach his first French Open semifinal.

8. Jurgen Melzer – How you can be ranked eighth in the world with a record of 12-10 is beyond me. He comes dragging into Paris with a three-match losing streak. His only hope is his very soft draw. Even with that, he'll probably bow out to Nicolas Almagro in the fourth round.

There are very few contenders and even fewer interesting players in the draw after the top eight. Here are a few to keep an eye on.

Gael Monfils
Gael Monfils (9) – If anyone has the chance to finally break the French curse at their own major, this is probably the guy. He won't, but he'll almost certainly be the headline story for some ridiculous antic at some point during the tournament.

Richard Gasquet
Richard Gasquet (13) – The second of the three seeded French men. No one snatches defeat from the jaws of victory better than this guy. If you turn on your TV and he's up two sets to none, grab a bowl of popcorn. Things are just getting started. If I knew what the word mercurial meant, I have a feeling it would apply to him.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (17) – This is the Frenchman everyone figured would have a major by now. With his record on clay this year a lackluster 4-4, he almost certainly won't be winning this one either.

Alexandr Dolgopolov
Alexandr Dolgopolov (21) – This kid took the Australian Open by storm, beating Tsonga and Soderling in five sets to get to the quarterfinals. He's also jumped from 48 to 23 in the rankings since December. And in four matches on red clay this year, he hasn't won a set. He could almost be American.

Sam Querrey (24) – Speaking of Americans, Querrey and Mardy Fish (who's more a grass court player) are our best hopes to even get to the second week here (men and women). Xenophobes from the US might want to stick to watching baseball until July.

Juan Martin Del Potro
Juan Martin Del Potro (25) – It's difficult to say who got the worse draw, DelPo or Djokovic. What we get is probably a five-set classic and the only (remote) chance to see Djokovic lose before the final.

Milos Raonic (26) – I suppose considering how Americans condescend to Canadians, it will be the final straw of humiliation when Canada has the highest ranked men's tennis player in North America. And it's coming soon. This guy has rocketed from a ranking of 158 in December to 28 now. He hasn't played great during the clay season, but since this is his first French Open (and only his third major overall) if he plays up to his seed it will be a good tournament for him.


Nadal d. Murray
Djokovic d. Ferrer


Djokovic d. Nadal (Five sets)

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