As the French Open gets underway, let’s take a quick look at the way the draw has shaken out.
Unlike in Australia this year, one men’s side isn’t preposterously stacked. Expect a little but more parity as a result of this. There are some intriguing matchups before the fourth round and quarterfinals, but nothing that grabs you and says, “this match is a highlight reel waiting to happen,” or “upset special!” There’s a decent chance that American John Isner will meet his French nemesis Nicolas Mahut in the second round, in a rematch of the longest match in history. Don’t expect too many fireworks, though, as that match happened on grass, and the clay has always favored the Frenchman.
Roger Federer, having already cruises through his first match, looks to not really be challenged until the later stages. He’s the higher seed in his quarter, and would face Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. Before that, only Julian Benneteau might give him trouble. Other than that, expect him in the quarters.
Rafael Nadal, the top overall seed and four-time defending champ, looks to have a fairly easy path to the quarterfinals. He could get American Jack Sock in the fourth round but is more likely to get the ageless wonder Tommy Haas (against whom he is 5-0), before either Bulgarian upstart Grigor Dimitrov or the man he beat in last year’s final, compatriot David Ferrer. He’d see Federer in the semis, and there’s no reason to think his streak of dominance on clay over his original rival will end. People have doubted Rafa this season on clay, called him vulnerable, and indeed he has been more up and down than in previous years. but he digs deep when he needs to, especially in Paris. I can’t see him losing earlier than the final.
Stanislas Wawrinka probably has the easiest road the quarterfinals, if not the semis. He’s in the same quarter as Andy Murray, who has struggled mightily since coming back from surgery and losing his coach (rumor has it he flew away like a bat to join the forces of evil for their next assault on the earth). Expect Gaël Monfils, the effervescent, athletic Frenchman to have a good tournament. He could see Wawrinka in the fourth round, after rolling over American Donald Young. Monfils’ ultra-athletic style is a joy to watch, and it will be interesting to see if he can get Wawrinka moving. If he lets the Swiss tee off on his forehand, he’s finished. But break that consistency, make him hit shots on the run (especially picking on that one-handed backhand), track balls down, and Monfils could find himself the victor. Upset special here for sure, especially as Wawrinka has never fared particularly well in Paris, topping out at the quarterfinals last year.
Novak Djoković should blaze through his quarter. If anyone got a break, it was him. If anyone needed one, it wasn’t him. Expect nothing from a potential fourth-round matchup with Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has been so inconsistent since the injury a few years ago. He just struggles to find the same pace and control that made him a Slam finalist in Australia back in 2008. Though Djoković will have to go through two big (and I mean BIG) hitters in Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic, clay has never favored the big-man game, as it slows things down and puts more emphasis on technique and subtlety rather than brute force. I’d pick Djoković against those two on any surface, but on clay, it’s a no-brainer. If Kei Nishikori finds his stroke and stays healthy, he might give the Djoker some trouble in a potential fourth-round matchup. He did so well to break the top-10, it’s a shame he’s struggled with injury since then.
Keep it right here for updates every other day of the tournament, and enjoy the action!