French Open Preview

rolandNadal’s Quarter

Winner: Rafael Nadal – as if anyone else has a chance. Nadal is completely dominant on clay, and now he has something to motivate him even more – a loss to Roger Federer on his beloved dirt just last week.

Contenders: Fernando Verdasco – Can he repeat his performance at the first grand slam of the year, and push Nadal to another level again? It’ll be a lot harder on clay. Verdasco is 0-9 against Nadal, you’d have to think his luck is going to change eventually… or maybe not…

Sleeper:
Stanislas Wawrinka – Okay, he’s not much of a sleeper considering he’s the 17 seed, but he’s the type of guy who can beat everyone in the rankings below him, but no one ahead of him. He made the semis of Monte Carlo, where he lost to Novak Djokovic. He should be able to pull off the upset of Nikolay Davydenko, but does he have what it takes to beat Verdasco?

Sam Querrey – An American and the word: sleeper don’t go together on dirt, right? This time around, I’m arguing they do. Querrey can beat Ernests Gulbis in the first round, and then has to beat Nicolas Almagro, a clay specialist. Almagro’s had a very poor year, however, and Querrey actually owns a victory against him this year.

Early Exit: Ivo Karlovic – Of course the dirt is his worst surface, and Lleyton Hewitt may be just the man to defeat him in the opening round.
Nikolay Davydenko – Who knows what’s going on when it comes to Davydenko? He may not be healthy, he may not be in the right frame of mind, he also may just not come prepared.

Best potential match:
Nadal vs. Verdasco – rematch of the epic five-setter at the Australian Open.
Davydenko vs. Wawrinka – two men who can pretty much beat everyone in the rankings below them, but no one ahead of them. This match should be a marathon if Davydenko is healthy.

Andy Murray’s Quarter

Winner: Andy Murray – this is my least confident semifinal pick. If Fernando Gonzalez is playing well, he could easily take Murray down. Murray typically doesn’t do well on the dirt, but when it comes down to it, he has a very manageable draw.

Contenders: Fernando Gonzalez – When Gonzalez is hot, almost nobody can beat him. When Gonzalez is not, almost anybody can beat him. He’s also getting up there in age, and may not necessarily want it as much as a young gun like Murray.

Sleeper: Albert Montanes is a clay court specialist who may be able to pull the upset of the tournament against Andy Murray in the third round. If the French Open did seeding like Wimbledon, Montanes would go from unseeded, to the 22 seed, so clearly he’s capable on clay.

Mikhail Youzhny – There was a time when he used to be a staple in the top 20. He’s gotten his ranking back up to 46, and just made the final of Munich.

Wayne Odesnik – Yet another American sleeper? You can not be serious! Odesnik made the third round of the French Open last year, and made the final of the U.S. Clay Court Championships this season.

Early Exit:
Gilles Simon – Simon is just 4-4 on the dirt this season. Although he’ll be in his home country, his style of play – pushing the ball side to side until his opponent wears out – just doesn’t work on the clay because his balls sit up and become easy targets for his opponents to crush.

Best potential match: Murray vs. Gonzalez – Does Murray have what it takes to go deep in the French? This match will give us the answer.

Gonzalez vs. Safin – This could be the last time we see Safin at Roland Garros. Who knows what the fiery Russian will have in store?

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter

Winner: Novak Djokovic – He pushed Nadal to three match points, and has great confidence in his clay court abilities. Unfortunately for the Djoker, he’s received the toughest draw of the top four – drawing Del Potro, Federer and Nadal. If he wins the French, he will clearly have to earn it.

Contenders: Juan Martin Del Potro has beaten Rafael Nadal (hard court) and Andy Murray (clay). Now he just needs to find a way to beat Djokovic to break through to his first semifinal in a major.

Sleeper:
Juan Monaco is 12-5 on the clay this season and loves being home on the dirt.
Ivan Ljubicic and Christophe Rochus should be able to take down weak seeds and make the third round. They both have gone on hot streaks as of late.

Early Exit:
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is not good on the clay at all. He only entered two tournaments this season, going 1-2.

Best potential match: Novak Djokovic vs. Juan Martin Del Potro – does #5 have what it takes to move into the conversation of the Big Four?

Roger Federer’s Quarter
stade roland garros
Winner: Roger Federer has regained his confidence after finally beating Rafa Nadal, and has something to prove to the entire world.

Contenders: Gael Monfils – will he be healthy? That’s the big question. Federer really has a great draw until the semis where he would have to play Djokovic. Andy Roddick version 2.0 may actually have what it takes to make the quarters, but I can’t possibly say he’s a contender when he’s on clay and in Roger Federer’s quarter.

Sleeper:
Jeremy Chardy – He will obviously have the crowd behind him, and he really has a good draw. Tomas Berdych is consistently inconsistent, while James Blake is one of the worst clay court players in the top 50.

Early Exit: James Blake is the easy answer here even with his hot clay streak (winning 6 of his last 8).

Best potential match:
Andy Roddick vs. Gael Monfils – Is Roddick ready to make the quarters of the French Open? Can he beat the fan favorite? This is a very intriguing match of top 15 players.

FINAL FOUR
Federer finds a way to beat Djokovic in a long, hard fought match
Nadal wipes the court of Murray.

Nadal takes his fifth straight Roland Garros crown in straight sets.

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