The men’s draw at the French Open is fairly simple to analyze considering the dominance of the top three players and will make for some classic matches from the semi finals onwards. Each of them has a unique opportunity to make history. The world number one, Novak Djokovic, could become the first men’s player since Rod Laver, to hold all four majors at the same time. Rafael Nadal – by winning – could better Bjorn Borg’s record for the most titles at the French Open, while a more unlikely win by Roger Federer, could result in him adding to his record number of grand slam titles to 17.
Andy Murray has not quite been in the league of the top players of late and as such cannot seriously be considered a title contender. His section of the draw is however the most interesting as it also contains David Ferrer who has been incredibly consistent of late, particularly on clay.
The main consideration when viewing the quarters containing the top three players, is which players have any chance at all to prevent them from reaching the semi’s and determining the most interesting matches that might occur in each section.
Djokovic is seeded to meet the top ranked Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter finals. Both players will however have to face tough opponents in both the third and fourth round. Djokovic seems set to meet Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round. While Verdasco is sure to be confident following his win over Nadal on the blue clay in Madrid, he will probably be unable to pull off an upset as Djokovic has been incredible in grand slam play of late, while Verdasco has been fairly inconsistent.
Tsonga could participate in one of the matches of the tournament against the winner of the third round match between Stanislas Wawrinka versus Gilles Simon. These three players are arguably the players in this quarter most able to provide Djokovic with a stern challenge. Unfortunately only one will have the opportunity to face Djokovic.
Player most likely to upset Djokovic: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Best potential match in this section: Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Gilles Simon
Djokovic’s most likely quarter final opponent: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
If this encounter is realized, I fully expect Djokovic to progress over the Frenchman with some comfort. He has truly been a great number one player and although his form is not what it was a year ago, is still quite incredible. He is unlikely to lose to a player better suited to grass or hard courts like Tsonga.
Federer’s quarter contains grand slam winner, Juan Martin del Potro and finalist Tomas Berdych. While both these players have gained wins over Federer in the past, they are hardly at their best currently, with Del Potro dealing with injuries yet again while Berdych would be lucky to come through his third round match against the top ranked South African, Kevin Anderson. Either way, I don’t foresee either of them beating Federer as he has consistently been the second best player on clay in the world for the past several years when considering performances at Roland Garros and clay court title wins. I fully expect to see Federer gain straightforward wins in his third round match against Nicolas Mahut and likely fourth round opponent Lukas Kubot.
Player most likely to upset Federer: Thomas Berdych
Best potential match in this section: Thomas Berdych vs. Kevin Anderson
Federer’s most likely quarter final opponent: Juan Martin del Potro
If Del Potro were in perfect health I would expect him to give Federer a considerable challenge. He is however battling injury and moves somewhat haphazardly on the dirt. Combine this with Federer’s great play lately – he has a better win-loss record since the US Open last year than any other player – and Federer should be heavily favoured to win this match without too much drama.
Murray is the player seeded to reach the semi finals that is most likely to be upset before reaching that stage of the tournament. In order to reach the semi finals he would likely have to overcome the Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the fourth round followed by David Ferrer in the quarter finals. Considering Murray’s back problems which many thought would lead to him retiring in his second round match and the tough matches he has against Gasquet in the past, he could very well lose this match. Alternately Ferrer who has been in magnificent form throughout the clay court season – only losing to Nadal – would have a very good opportunity to reach the semi finals over Murray at the French Open.
Player most likely to upset Murray: David Ferrer
Best potential match in this section: Richard Gasquet vs. Andy Murray
Murray’s most likely quarter final opponent: David Ferrer
Murray has been injury-stricken of later and struggling to play at his best. In comparison David Ferrer has been consistently striking the ball incredibly well, he also naturally moves very well on the clay courts at Roland Garros. As such, I anticipate Ferrer stealing a rare upset of one of the top four seeds here at the French Open.
The player seeded to meet Nadal in the quarter final is the Serbian number two, Janko Tipsarevic. This seems likely to be realized as Nadal is virtually unbeatable at Roland Garros. Tipsarevic should be able to overcome his likely fourth round opponent, Nicholas Almagro, although I do expect that matchup to have the potential to be a closely contested matter.
Other significant players in this section are Milos Raonic and the clay court expert, Juan Monaco. These two players meet in the third round with the winner set to meet Nadal in the fourth round. Raonic is one of the best up-and-coming players on the tour with a throwback big-serve-and-volleying-ability style of play. Yet Monaco has superior abilities on clay. Their match is sure to be one of the best third round encounters at the French Open. The match winner could also go on to provide at least somewhat of a challenge to Nadal.
Player most likely to upset Nadal: Milos Raonic
Best potential match in this section: Milos Raonic vs. Juan Monaco
Nadal’s most likely quarter final opponent: Janko Tipsarevic
Nadal is by far the best player around on clay. I cannot imagine him losing to any player in his section of the draw and actually expect him to win in routine manner against whomever he plays in the quarter finals.
Semi final 1: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer
Semi final 2: David Ferrer vs. Rafael Nadal
Nadal as mentioned will be virtually unbeatable in this tournament. He has beaten Ferrer with some ease several times in the recent past and I expect this match to reflect a similar score line should it come to be. The anticipated Djokovic versus Federer match could be quite an amazing match. They have played several times at the majors over the past year with each player having opportunities to win. This match ought to be the same. The result will be determined by the composure of the players on the big points. Should Djokovic win I expect him to go on to complete the Novak Slam, while a win for Federer, would probably result in Nadal winning in the final and bettering Borg’s record of six French Open titles.
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