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A review of the men’s draw at the 2012 French Open

1 Jun

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’s quarter

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

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’s quarter

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.

 

Nadal’s quarter

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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Analysis Of Women’s Draw At Roland Garros 2.0

27 May

This seems to be the grand slam of upsets, particularly on the women’s side the so-called title contenders been losing early at an alarming rate. As most tennis fans will know, today took this trend to new heights; top seed, Caroline Wozniacki and defending finalist, Sam Stosur are out of the Paris tournament after losing to non top 10 players, Daniela Hantuchova and Gisela Dulko respectively. These losses and the several other seeds that have already lost has led to this genuinely being the most open grand slam I have ever followed. Since the draw has opened up in a manner which I (and most others I’m sure) failed to predict, I figured a re-analysis of the women’s draw is in order.

Quarter Final 1: Sam Stosur vs Caro Wozniacki

This quarter will go according to the seedings. While Svetlana Kuznetsova is the most likely player to prevent this quarter final from happening, I reckon the odds are in favour of Wozniacki reaching the semi’s by virtue of beating Stosur in the quarter’s.

Clearly my earlier prediction for the first quarter will not be realized. Switching on the TV to find Caroline Wozniacki a set down initially surprised me quite a bit; once I thought about it for 30 seconds I realized that the signs that Wozniacki was cracking under the extreme pressure she is under had already begun to show the previous round, by her resorting to minor gamesmanship to throw her opponent off. In addition Daniela Hantuchova is consistently a tough competitor and has plenty of experience whereas Wozniacki is trying to prove to everyone that she is capable of a grand slam win. As soon as the match started she was behind score wise; she came across as unsure, and utterly incapable of turning the match around. Knowing that she would have to face a barrage of question about the validity of her number 1 ranking the minute she came off court, couldn’t have helped either.

Stosur lost today due to a slightly lacklustre performance, contrasted by an exceptionally high energy display by her opponent, Gisela Dulko. Dulko held up a banner after the match dedicating her win to her twin nephews/nieces; (genders?) clearly she was out here to win today. Stosur just wasn’t. While I didn’t make mention of her in my previous article, I expected Julia Georges to do better than she has, particularly considering her form in the clay swing in the lead up to the French. Svetlana Kuznetsova is now a good bet to reach the semi-final, she ought to beat both Daniela Hantuchova and Marion Bartoli, who I think will progress over Gisela Dulko in the fourth round.

Quarter Final 1: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Marion Bartoli

Quarter Final 2: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic

In this quarter, an interesting 3rd round encounter between Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova looms. A few years ago, Petrova was my favourite to win the French Open. While she doesn’t have the form or consistency, her clay court pedigree is still notable. I don’t think either of them will make the quarter final though. Pavlyuchenkova is capable of beating both, and overdue on a good run at a major. I don’t think anyone in Jankovic’s 1/8 will bother her too much.

In this bracket of the draw my quarter final prediction still has a hope of surviving. Both Pavlyuchenkova and Jankovic have made quiet but convincing progress through the draw, in order to make it to the quarters they will have to go through a very capable clay court players in Francesca Schiavone and Vera Zvonareva. I stick with my assessment that Pavlyuchenkova (copy-and-paste) is overdue on a good run at a major, and expect her to overcome number three seed  Zvonareva. Schiavone versus Jankovic is bound to be a slugfest of note between two players brilliantly suited to clay. Do note that I was completely off about Petrova putting in a successful run – she bowed out in the first round to Anastasia Rodionova.

Quarter Final 2: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic

Quarter Final 3: Petra Kwitova vs Ana Ivanovic

Kwitova has quite a difficult section of the draw to get through. The little Chinese Zheng Jie in the 2nd, Dominika Cibulkova in the 3rd and either Na Li or Sorana Cirstea in the 4th, it won’t be easy. I think she has the self belief to do it however. In the other section, the smart money would be on Victoria Azarenka getting through. Maybe I am just too much of an Ana Ivanovic fan, or maybe I’m right when I say Ivanovic will beat Azarenka, via her superior experience and Azarenka’s inconsistency, but my money is on Ivanovic making it through this part of the draw.

This 3rd round matches on this side of the draw (Quarter Final 3 and 4) have not yet been played, and considering the upsets of today’s 3rd round matches I think I am taking quite a risk by attempting to predict how it will play out but nevertheless… A major error in judgement was made by me, assuming that Ivanovic would come even close to reliving her French Open glory of the past. I still think Kwitova will make it through to the quarters, but I think Azarenka, who has been in spectacular form will progress to the semis from this part of the bracket. I am particularly curious about this section of the draw, I think it might just contain the eventual winner.

Quarter Final 3: Petra Kwitova vs Victoria Azarenka

Quarter Final 4: Maria Sharapova vs Kim Clijsters

Simply no one in this quarter can challenge these two veterans for skill or experience.

So apparently they can be challenged, Sharapova despite her upset scare in the previous round ought to progress to the quarter finals. With Clijsters out Sharapova’s opponent is likely to be the creator of the Petkorazzi dance, Andrea Petkovic. Before the quarter final I look forward to the likely clash between Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova in the 4th round. In the same round it seems likely that Petkovic will come up against the well liked Maria Kirilenko. Both these matches ought to be won by the players I indicated, but not before their lower ranked opponents provide them with a substantial and likely good to watch challenge.

Quarter Final 4: Maria Sharapova vs Andrea Petkovic

So to recap my new-and-improved quarter final predictions are – Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Marion Bartoli, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kwitova vs Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova vs Andrea Petkovic.

Semi Final 1: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Jelena Jankovic

Predicting this half has been incredibly difficult. I think the players are on a very even keel, and although this makes it difficult to predict, it does mean that the matches will be tightly competed which is likely to lead to a few excellent matches. As already mentioned I think Kuznetsova should proceed to the semi over the less experienced Bartoli. She has won her matches in the tournament thus far quite convincingly, in she were to continue in that vein, she has the opportunity to progress easily through the much weakened draw. Jankovic too has been in good form and can capitalise on being in an easy section. On their form during the clay court season, I would have to pick Jankovic as the finalist from this half of the draw.

Semi Final 2: Victoria Azarenka vs Maria Sharapova

Azarenka has been the only top ranked player to be in even semi decent form thus far at Roland Garros. In the previous round, she annihilated her French opponent, Pauline Parmentier. As such, she ought to come through an encounter with yet another young gun, Petra Kwitova. In the semi final she she should come up against by now tour veteran, Sharapova. With her experience and absolute steely mentality she should make the semi finals. It would take one heck of a performance by Azarenka to beat Sharapova in the semi final,  this has all the potential to be the best match of the women’s draw in 2011. Women’s tennis desperately needs Azarenka to win the tournament, to prevent the WTA rankings from losing the last bit of credibility which remains after Wozniacki’s loss today. However the experience and motivation of Sharapova will in all likelihood be the winner.

Final: Jelena Jankovic vs Maria Sharapova

Sharapova’s superior shot making ability and yet again her experience and self belief ought to give her the edge over Jankovic. Watch for the “cow on ice” to complete her career grand slam at the end of the fortnight.

Again, please comment with your own picks, and share on twitter, facebook or stumbleupon if you like the blog entry. Vote for your winner in the poll below. Note that I’ve only included the top 5 ranked players remaining in the draw.

The French Open Draw: Men

20 May

The French Open men’s draw is somewhat easier to analyze than the women’s. For starters – not everyone can win. It’ll almost certainly be one of the top 4, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray. They’re almost like the English Premier League Big 4 at the moment. Nadal and Djokovic consistently on top form, not unlike Chelsea and Man U, Federer would be Liverpool, older, wiser, solid, but lacking in spark and motivation. Murray is Arsenal. Highly inconsistent, can beat any one on a good day, and fun to watch. Enough of my abstract analogy – the point is, one of the four will win. All there really is to consider, is who in each quarter of the draw might prevent each of them from reaching the semi’s and how will the semi’s and final pan out…

Nadal’s Quarter:

Nadal has quite an interesting section of the draw. In the 3rd he could face Nikolay Davydenko, which on paper should be a good match up, but when you consider the Russian’s recent form, it’s unlikely that he will truly bother Nadal. In the 4th he could face fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. Their friendship is likely to be mentioned as a factor making it an interesting match up, most likely this will not affect the outcome, Nadal has never really struggled with closing out matches, as other players might against a friend. On the other hand, (quite literally) the fact that Verdasco is a lefty might make the match interesting, probably not in terms of who wins, but at least will serve as an indicator of the kind of form Nadal is in. If his form isn’t at a desirable level it will often show in that he struggles a little bit in matches against left-handed, lower quality players. In the quarter’s, he could come up against the man who halted him two years ago, Robin Soderling. While this is likely to be a good match, I think the odds are highly in favour of Nadal winning. He is the superior clay courter, the French is his home court to a large extent. This match is more likely to resemble last year’s rout in the final, than the surprise Soderling win of 2009.

Murray’s Quarter:

Murray is not a brilliant clay court player. Despite this, the fact that he has a fairly easy part of the draw means that he is likely to still reach the semi finals relatively unscathed. A match against young up-and-comer Milos Raonic in the 3rd round ought to be interesting. It is unlikely that the young Canadian will have much effect on the clay with his hard-hitting game though. Murray will progress to face 8th seed, Jurgen Melzer, in the quarter finals. While Murray is the inferior clay court player, he should be able to take advantage of the Austrian player’s inconsistent game, and reach the semi finals.

Federer’s Quarter:

His first round match will be a telling encounter against another Spanish lefty. While it should serve as in interesting measure of Federer’s form, it is unlikely that Feliciano Lopez will challenge him for a win. While many will feel that the likely 3rd round encounter between Federer and Janko Tipsarevic will be a test for Federer, I think that Federer will continue on to the 4th round with relative ease. A fourth round match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Stanislas Wawrinka will make for good viewing, but is still a match Federer should by all accounts win. As is the quarter final, which according to seedings, should be against David Ferrer.

Djokovic’s Quarter:

With the unbeaten run Djokovic is on, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to mount a challenge of note against him at least until the semi’s. Matchups he is likely to face include the always dangerous Juan Martin Del Potro, hometown favourite, Richard Gasquet and Tomas Berdych, who is capable of beating anyone on a good day. Of these, only Del Potro ought to be able to get more than a set off him, and will be an intriguing encounter that I for one won’t miss.

Semi Final 1: Nadal vs Murray

Despite Nadal having a few tough matches, he ought to get through, as should Murray, largely by virtue of his significantly easy draw.

Semi Final 2: Federer vs Djokovic

Federer is still the 3rd ranked player in the world, and hellishly dangerous. As such, he ought to  make it thru his quarter home safe. While Djokovic is likely to have a particularly tough match in the 3rd round against Del Potro, he is currently the best player in the world, and other than that match should make the semi’s relatively unhindered.

Final: Nadal vs Djokovic

Don’t bet against Nadal on clay. Murray is not as capable on clay as he would like. So I have to pick Nadal for that half of the draw. On the other side, I would love to see yet another, maybe final Federer vs Nadal classic, but I honestly don’t think the king has what it takes at the moment to challenge Djokovic on current form. It’s my opinion that Djokovic will struggle more against Del Potro in the 3rd, than against Federer in the semi’s.

Winner: Nadal

Don’t bet against Nadal on clay.

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