Few believed in Stan Wawrinka, myself included, at the start of the second week of Roland Garros 2015, but he dazzled all comers with his array of powerful, spinning forehands and backhands, and captured his second career Grand Slam title over the world #1 Novak Djokovic, who was gunning for a career grand slam, and his second slam of 2015.
Wawrinka came out rather cagey against Djokovic, who took the first set with superior execution, it was a close 6-4 with Wawrinka earning just one break point chance, and after the first set it was clear this match had all the makings of a classic just like their other five setters at the US Open and at the Australian Open. Wawrinka would fire back to win the next three sets, his backhand damaged Djokovic, making him stretch out and throwing off of his rhythm, as Novak was hitting shots that sat up into the hot zone for Wawrinka.
The Djokovic serve slipped up as he started to surrender break point opportunities (14 over the last three sets), while he broke just one other time in the match, a break Wawrinka clawed back in the 4th set. The match seemed destined for a fifth, even after Stan won the second and third sets, but Djokovic collapsed under pressure, and Wawrinka rose to the occasion, playing his peak game of power hitting baseline to baseline. It worked on the Roland Garros clay, and after coming in as a huge underdog, Wawrinka leaves Paris as a well deserved champion, having turned around his 2015 season and made it into something memorable.The final scoreline was 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4, as Wawrinka mostly dominated the last three frames in a surprise.
Prior to that, Wawrinka routined Gilles Simon on home soil in straight sets, and then he shocked his countryman Roger Federer, who came out cold, and never got hot in their quarterfinal. Wawrinka’s power flummoxed Federer and he never seemed comfortable against his good friend, Fed certainly tried, but he was lacking passion and spirit in his game, unlike in the previous round where he beat his rival Gael Monfils in 4 sets. In the semis Wawrinka surrendered a multitude of break point chances to surprise semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was gunning for his second career grand slam final, but Tsonga failed to convert them as he won just won set off the Swiss and lost in four sets.
Prior to that, Jo had upset both Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori, ending their hopes in four and five sets respectively. Against Nishikori, Tsonga came out hot and won the first two sets, only to face a delay after a portion of the scoreboard in the stadium fell in the stands, he then lost the next two sets but rebounded to take the fifth.
The path for Djokovic went through Richard Gasquet as he beat the Frenchman with ease, and then he went through Rafael Nadal like a hot knife through butter, coming out hot, and playing unrelenting tennis against the king of clay. Rafa never really had a chance after losing the first set, and a disappointing 2015 clay court season ended with a whimper for him in the quarterfinal, as he lost for just the second time at Roland Garros.
In the semis Djokovic beat Andy Murray, who was in his third career RG semi, and playing his best ever tennis on clay. Djokovic was up two sets to love rather routinely, like most of their h2h meetings before Murray came alive, he started to win the long baseline rallies, and he took the third set. They went into the fourth neck and neck before the match was called due to impending thunderstorms. Saturday morning it resumed, and Murray promptly took the fourth set, but Djokovic redlined his game and slammed the door in the 5th, winning it 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1, as it was a tale of two days of tennis. Murray previously beat Jeremy Chardy and David Ferrer to reach the semis, both in four sets.
Djokovic has to be questioning himself right now, after an incredibly strong 2015 where hardly anyone could beat him, he collapsed under pressure and fell to the blitzing power of Wawrinka, even after getting past Nadal, and Murray on clay. When it mattered, gunning for a title he had never won before, he couldn’t get the job done, and one has to wonder if his results could suffer the rest of the season out of mental anguish. He still is the world #1, and the probable favorite for Wimbledon, and the US Open, not to mention the remaining masters, but Wawrinka, Murray, and even Federer and Nishikori are still going to give him all he can handle and try to push him.
Wawrinka cemented that he’s been a totally different player since 2013, and with his second slam, he’s moved himself into the pinnacle of great players, rather than just a one-hit wonder. He always had the ability, and he remains a streaky player, but he showed once again he has the tenacity and the fire in the belly to win a two week tournament, that is best of five sets, not to mention he has won slams on two surfaces now.
Given Federer’s legendary status, he will never outgrow his shadow, but he deserves respect of his own, not as an also-ran anymore, but as a true star on the ATP tour, his backhand is a remarkable weapon, and the effortless power he hits with is envious. He’s far from a spring chicken at 30 years old, but he should have at least two, possibly 3-4 good years left on tour where his ranking should stay in the top 10.
Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, a successful veteran pairing upset the Bryan brothers for the doubles title. In mixed doubles American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who won the women’s doubles title as well, won the title with her partner Mike Bryan over Lucie Hradecka/Marcin Matkowski.
Serena Williams fought off a Lucie Safarova comeback to claim her 20th grand slam title at Roland Garros.
Williams needed three sets to defeat her Czech opponent, something that had become a familiar theme with the world number one during this tournament. Serena had been suffering from illness throughout the fortnight, and needed three sets to defeat Anna-Lena Friedsam, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and Timea Bacsinszky en route to the final.
Safarova, on the other hand was in the form of her life heading into her first grand slam final, having not dropped a set in her first six matches. The 13th seed had knocked off defending champion Maria Sharapova, and former champion Ana Ivanovic on her way to the final.
Facing her biggest challenge yet, Safarova looked un-nerved during the opening exchanges. Serena the other hand was on fire, serving aces, blasting winners and looking unstoppable.
Having done nothing wrong, Safarova found herself a set and a double break down 6-3, 4-1. Williams had 40-15 to take it to 5-1 and one step closer to the seemingly inevitable straight sets victory. From there the match turned.
Double faults hindered the American as the double break lead soon went away, and after winning five of the next seven games Safarova soon found herself in a second set tiebreak with Williams.
Safarova had been the tiebreak queen at Roland Garros having won all five she faced during the tournament. With the crowd and momentum behind her, Safarova mustered the strength and courage to dominate the tiebreak and level the score at one set a piece.
The potential of an upset and incredible comeback were looking more promising when the 13th seed broke early in the second set. But like so many times before, the champion’s spirit of Serena shone through.
Williams won the next six games from 2-0 down to go all the way and claim her third Roland Garros title, and 20th grand slam overall.
An elated Serena addressed the crowd with her ever improving French.
“It got really complicated today,” Williams said. “I was getting a little bit nervous, and Lucie was just playing great. She was a magnificent opponent. She was playing very aggressive and she had no fear.
“To win my 20th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros is very special for me because I haven’t always had the most success here. I want to thank all of the fans – it’s just a dream that I’ve won this title.”
Serena is only the third player overall, and second in the open era to reach the 20 grand slam milestone, with Margaret Court (24), and Steffi Graf (22) being the other two. Serena will now turn her attention to possibly winning the calendar year grand slam and catching the two great champions ahead of her.
For Lucie Safarova, it has been an amazing two weeks. The Czech has not only reached her first grand slam final, she has also broken the top 10 and will be number eight in the live rankings next week. Her talent was never in question, but the new Lucie has shown the mental strength and determination that she had lacked in previous years.
It’s been a fascinating tournament thus far, and now the women’s draw moves to the quarter finals where eight players will battle to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Trophy.
There were plenty of upsets and controversy to talk about during the first four rounds, with the likes of Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki taking early exits. Victoria Azarenka may also feel her chance of a deep run at Roland Garros was cheated by a controversial call from the umpire following an over rule of a line call. The ball was called out, and corrected by the umpire but the debate was whether the call put Serena off her shot. The American had set point, and if the call did not distract her then it would have gone back to deuce. However, a decision was made to replay the point and consequently Williams went on to win the set. It sparked a debate on whether a review system should be brought in place for these decisions as well as hawkeye.
So let’s take a look back at what has happened so far at the French Open.
World number one Serena Williams went through the first week with her fair share of troubles. In the second round it looked like we may see a repeat of the Muguruza upset from last year only this time Ana Lena Friedsam was the one dominating play. The German’s big ground strokes were causing Serena all sorts of problems, but the world number one was determined to not allow herself to be upset at this stage again. Despite being a set and a break down, The American pulled through in three sets to set up an eagerly anticipated third round clash against Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian had proven in Madrid she is capable of toppling Serena despite eventually losing the match. It looked like this time Azarenka may do it when she raced into a set and a break lead, but like the previous round Williams came back to win in three sets. The top seed also needed three sets to overcome Sloane Stephens. Williams seemed hampered by an illness as she lost the first set 6-1, but she turned it around to win in three sets.
Caroline Wozniacki’s form on the dirt had her fans hoping for a decent run at Roland Garros. After dispatching an in form Karin Knapp in straight sets it seemed like Woz was on the way to the quarter finals. But what people did not expect was the sudden emergence of form from Julia Goerges. The big hitting German played some great tennis to eliminate the fifth seed in the second round, and make the round of sixteen. Her opponent at this stage would be experienced clay court specialist Sara Errani. The Italian is a former finalist here, so to see her make the last sixteen was not a surprise. Errani beat Riske, Witthoeft and Petkovic before meeting and beating Goerges 6-2, 6-2 in a routine match for the Italian.
Many people had Petra Kvitova down as one of the tournament’s favourites after her Madrid triumph, and keen to prove that right, Kvitova steadily made her way through the first week. She had a few hiccups in the opening few rounds, but form seemingly picked up in the third round with a straight sets victory over an in form Irina Begu. Timea Bacsinszky would provide on paper the sternest test on Kvitova’s route to the quarter finals. The Swiss’ inspiring comeback continued with a succession of straight sets victories including an impressive win over Madison Keys in round three. Round four vs Kvitova seemed destined to go three sets, and thus it did only it didn’t go to the Czech’s script. Despite winning the first set Kvitova only won three games in the next two sets as Bascinszky raced to quarter finals.
If anyone told you that Alison Van Uytvanck and Andreea Mitu would be battling for a quarter final place before the tournament, many (including myself) would have called you crazy. However, as proven over the years, in the WTA anything can happen. The early elimination of Eugenie Bouchard was not unexpected, but you would think the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Karolina Pliskova would be the ones to take advantage. Unfortunately for the fans of those two players, they were both sent packing in three sets to Schiavone and Mitu respectively. Bouchard’s loss to Mladenovic opened the draw for the French woman, but Van Uytvanck had other ideas. After dispatching Zarina Diyas, the Belgian made even lighter work of her French opponent. With a maiden grand slam quarter final at place, the two unseeded players competed hard but Van Uytvanck was too strong I the end. The Belgian through to her first grand slam quarter final
Simona Halep’s run to the final last year meant that many people had the Romanian down as one of the favourites heading in to the tournament. What we got instead was the first major seed casualty in the second round. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni was the welcome victor as Halep crumbled to a straight sets loss. The elimination of the third seed opened the draw for a surprise quarter finalist, and in the end it was 20 year old Elina Svitolina who took advantage. After coming through Wickmayer, Putintseva and Beck, the Ukrainian took to Phillipe-Chatrier to battle Alize Cornet and of course the partisan crowd. The Frenchwoman had a great battle against Lucic-Baroni in round three, and after being a set down she rallied back to win in three sets. It took six attempts but eventually Svitolina came through in a dramatic straight sets victory over Cornet.
Ana Ivanovic may have quivered a bit when she saw Caroline Garcia in her section of the draw. After all the Frenchwoman has beaten the 2009 champion three times in a row this year. Fortunately for Ivanovic the pressure of playing on Chatrier got to Garcia, as the 21 year old bowed out in three sets to Donna Vekic. In the meantime Ivanovic made her way through the draw, defeating Shvedova and Doi in three sets before ending Vekic’s run in the third round. The biggest test came in the fourth round against Ekaterina Makarova. The ninth seed had dropped only the one set in the first three rounds, but Ivanovic’s experience on this surface took its toll. The former champion pulled through in three sets to set up an interesting quarter final against Svitolina.
Maria Sharapova’s defence of the Roland Garros crown started as well as it could with three straight sets victories in the opening three rounds. The second seed overcame challenges from Kanepi, Diatchenko and Stosur before the biggest test thus far presented its self in the form of Lucie Safarova. The Czech got off to a flying start with a break, but Sharapova broke back and in the end forced a tiebreak. The Czech was not to be denied, as she stormed to a 7-3 win in the breaker. The second set stayed even until the very end, where Safarova earned match point. The first was fluffed with a forehand, but at the second time of asking the world number 13 took to match and in turn sent the defending champion out.
Carla Suarez Navarro’s build up to Roland Garros had many people excited about her chances of another deep run at the French Open. The Spaniard came through her first two rounds only having to play three sets after Virginie Razzano retired after one set in round two. However, an inspired Flavia Pennetta ruined the hopes of an all-Spanish round four clash with a straight sets victory over the eighth seed. Pennetta would meet Carla’s doubles partner Garbine Muguruza in round four, after the talented youngster overcame Petra Martic, Camila Giorgi and Angelique Kerber for the loss of only one set. Despite Pennetta’s quick start to both sets, Muguruza pulled through to comeback twice and win the match 6-3, 6-4. With the win, Muguruza has now defended her quarter final points from last year and will look to go at least one further this time around.
Quarter final matches:
(1) Serena Williams Vs (17) Sara Errani
Serena was seemingly jaded, and possibly ill against Sloane Stephens, but the world number one still found enough to overcome her challenging compatriot. Now she faces a more consistent but less dangerous player in the form of Sara Errani.
Errani has a good record on the clay and is one of the best movers on tour, but she does not possess the power to trouble Serena. The evidence is in the head to head which reads 8-0 in favour of the world number one, with only two sets dropped.
Anything other than a comfortable victory for Serena will be a shock, whether she is ill or not. Williams should overpower Errani en route to a straight sets victory.
Prediction: Williams In two
(23) Timea Bascinszky Vs Alison Van Uytvanck
Timea Bascinszky’s run to the quarter finals is yet another chapter in her inspiring comeback story, and now the Swiss is a huge favourite to get to the final four.
Alison Van Uytvanck’s run has been a huge surprise and it’s come as a result of an unexpected draw opening that the Belgian took great advantage of. She has showcased her talents over the past week and has established herself as a player to watch in the future.
However, Bascinszky should be too strong for Van Uytvanck at this stage. This is the best player the Belgian has faced in the draw so far, and I feel that will tell. The Swiss moves well and her backhand is excellent and that weapon will be key to a straight forward victory.
Prediction: Bascinszky in two
(7) Ana Ivanovic vs (19) Elina Svitolina
Former champion Ana Ivanovic will be the favourite for this match in many mind’s but her opponent Elina Svitolina has played some good tennis en route to the last eight. The Ukrainian is solid off both wings and plays a consistent game so it is unlikely that she will blast Ivanovic off the court, but if the world number seven is not on her game then Svitolina will be sure to take advantage.
The head to head however does not make for go viewing if you are a Svitolina fan. In six meetings, the 20 year old has only won one set against Ivanovic in Indian Wells last year. Apart from that one meeting, their matches have generally been routine victories for the Serbian, and that includes a straight sets win at Roland Garros this year.
Svitolina’s form will likely mean she will challenge Ivanovic this time around, but with the experience and head to head on the side of 2009 champion I believe that Ivanovic will find her way through this match in two tight sets.
Prediction: Ivanovic in two
(13) Lucie Safarova Vs (21) Garbine Muguruza
Much like a lot of these quarter finals, this match was not in the script. Muguruza and Safarova both came through tough draws to get to this stage, and this is a huge opportunity for one of them to make the last four.
Both players are aggressive and like to use power to overcome their opponents. Safarova is a leftie like her compatriot Kvitova, with a big forehand whilst Muguruza’s two handed backhand is her best shot. Muguruza will have the edge in terms of power, but Safarova is the more consistent player. This is their first meeting, so there are no previous matches to go by,
Muguruza is the better clay courter, but Safarova is right now the more consistent player. If the Spaniard plays to what she is capable of she will win this match, but if not Safarova will likely come through. In terms of prediction I feel both players will be nervy and will be up and down with their play. But with Muguruza’s power and ability on this surface I feel she will pull through.
Prediction: Muguruza in three
Semi Final Predictions:
Serena Williams def. Timea Bascinszky in two sets
Garbine Muguruza def. Ana Ivanovic in two sets
Barring a poor performance from Serena, she should get through a nervous Bascinszky in their clash. In the other semi-final I feel Muguruza will put on a great performance to make her first grand slam final.
Serena Williams def. Garbine Muguruza in three.
In the final I feel Garbine will start strong and race to a set lead, but as the prospect of being a grand slam champion starts to sink in, the pressure will eventually get to the Spaniard. Muguruza will crack as Serena ups her game and after a fairly close second set, Serena will run away with the third and prove why she is the best.
2015 French Open Week 2 Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Week 1 at the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros stayed relatively true to form, while some surprises and upsets took place, all of the top tier contenders are still alive going into the second week, and this second week should prove to be more exciting and pivotal than the first week was. Their was a notable absence of five setters and dramatic tennis on the men’s side, but regardless, here is a retrospective of the week that was, and a lookahead to the round of 16 and onwards.
2015 French Open Week 2 Preview
Men’s round of 16 matchups
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. (20)Richard Gasquet
Novak Djokovic hasn’t dropped a set in three matches, coming close only once, and he’s looking dominant as usual coming in to the second week of play. Novak dominated Gilles Muller and Thanasi Kokkinakis, never surrendering more than 4 games in a single set, and prior to that he got past Jarkko Nieminen, as Nieminen was only able to raise his level for 1 set, a set he eventually lost. For Kokkinakis it was good to reach the third round on clay, but the young gun posed no threat to the world #1.
Gasquet has always struggled against Djokovic, and he had to fight to reach the second week. After dominating Germain Gigounon, a qualifier, he slayed Carlos Berlocq in 5 sets, and Kevin Anderson in 4 sets. Against Berlocq he struggled and dropped the 4th set, but the match was postponed for darkness, and the next day he found renewed form to win it.
Gasquet is fun to watch, and he’ll excite the crowds, but at best taking a set off of Novak would be quite the feat, and Djokovic in 3 sets is a reasonable pick.
(6)Rafael Nadal vs. Jack Sock
Nadal has looked as sharp as Djokovic in the first week, not dropping a set against three opponents, and never surrendering more than 4 games in a single set. He beat Quentin Halys, Nicolas Almagro, and Andrey Kuznetsov in routs, and appears to be rising up and rounding in to form on his favorite red clay in Paris.
Sock is the first American man to reach the second week of the French Open in quite some time, as the young gun American is a threat on red clay with his powerful, high RPM forehand that mimics Nadal to some extent. He uses it to clobber opponents and leave then struggling to beat him. He scored two upset wins this week, the first round was a three set win over a listless Grigor Dimitrov, who appears to be lacking belief these days, and the third round was total domination over teenager Borna Coric, who had scored two hard fought wins to reach the third round over Sam Querrey, and Tommy Robredo. In between those matches, Sock dropped his only set of the first week against dirtballer Pablo Carreno Busta.
Sock is to some extent a poor man’s Nadal, and on clay Nadal has better defense, more experience, and the ability to match Sock shot for shot on the forehand side, thus this matchup isn’t great for him, and I have Rafa advancing in 3 sets. Nadal in 3 sets
(3)Andy Murray vs. Jeremy Chardy
Andy Murray has looked to be playing well in his first three matches, and he has a relatively easy fourth round encounter lined up against the inspired Frenchman Chardy who he is 6-1 against in his career, including a win this year on clay in Rome when Murray was fatigued.
The UK #1 dispatched a pair of young guns, Facundo Arguello, and Nick Kyrgios, the fan favorite Aussie, without dropping a set in rounds 1 and 3, as Murray remains a bad matchup or Kyrgios. In between, Joao Sousa challenge him for two sets, but Murray won in 4, as he fought through the Portugese’s stiff challenge.
Chardy did not enter the French Open in good form, but the home soil and French fans have really helped push him to another career performance in a slam, as reaching the second week is a great feat for him. He upset both John Isner and David Goffin to get this far, beating Goffin in straights in round 3, and Isner in 4 sets in round 2. Prior to that he beat Michael Berrer in 4 sets.
Chardy has had a nice run, but I don’t see Murray dropping a set against him as the Scot should simply move too well to be bothered by the Chardy bread and butter, Murray in 3 sets is the pick.
(7)David Ferrer vs. (9)Marin Cilic
A match that could turn out to be quite competitive, Ferrer leads the h2h over Cilic 3-2, and they haven’t met since 2011.
Ferrer was dominant in his first two matches notching routine wins over Lukas Lacko and Daniel Gimeno-Traver, but he got sloppy against Simone Bolelli, who was punching through him at times and won two sets, eventually losing in 5 as he ran out of gas late.
Cilic appears to be rapidly picking up steam with his form and momentum, he beat Robin Haase, Andrea Arnaboldi, and Leonardo Mayer without dropping a set. Dominating Mayer, who was supposed to challenge him, as the Argentine was in good form going into that match.
It’s a hard pick for me to make, but I’m going to stick with Ferrer and his steady play to win the day, as Ferrer in 5 sets is my pick. This should be a great match, style wise alone.
(5)Kei Nishikori vs Teymuraz Gabashvili
No one is surprised to see Kei Nishikori here, but Gabashvili reaching the second week of a slam is quite the story. The Georgian/Russian has always had the talent but he’s underachieved a bit. This year his baseline power game has been on point, but the Japanese #1 will be his toughest challenge yet, and the road likely ends here for him.
Nishikori only had to play two matches to reach the second week, as he got a walkover in the third round against Benjamin Becker (who upset Fernando Verdasco earlier in the week). He drilled his backhand for wins against Paul-Henri Mathieu and Thomaz Bellucci without dropping a set in the first two rounds.
Gabashvili, who has beaten Nishikori once, compared to three losses including one this year on clay in Barcelona, beat higher ranked opponents Feliciano Lopez, Juan Monaco, and Lukas Rosol without dropping a set. He’s the most surprising name left on the men’s side, and he’s had a tough draw but dealt with it magnificently.
Credit to Gabashvili for getting this far, but I have a rested Nishikori in 3 sets.
(4)Tomas Berdych vs. (14)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Berdych just defeated Tsonga on clay in Madrid, and overall leads the h2h history, but with the French crowd rallying for Tsonga, who seems to play inspired tennis at Roland Garros, many people are looking for a different result this time, and an upset win for Tsonga.
I continue to feel Berdych isn’t getting enough credit for his results, and he continued the streak of not losing to a non top 5 player in quite some time with wins over Yoshihito Nishioka in 3 sets, and Radek Stepanek and Benoit Paire in four sets. Both Stepanek and Paire are rather odd matchups to face, but once Berdych got settled in, he put his hands firmly around the match and take control.
Tsonga has defeated Christian Lindell, Dudi Sela, and Pablo Andujar without dropping a set, though only Andujar can be considered an even halfway challenging opponent, so it’s still hard to tell where his form is right now, besides the fact he hasn’t slipped up when he shouldn’t.
Tsonga should give Tomas a great match, and he loves Paris, bit Berdych is too strong right now to lose this, and Berdych in 4 sets is my pick.
(8)Stan Wawrinka vs. (12)Gilles Simon
This match should be a slow grinding love affair with the red clay, and the Parisian crowd will increase Simon’s chances to win this one over Stan the man. Wawrinka has a minor 3-2 h2h edge but overall these two players are relatively even, as Simon manages to neutralize the Wawrinka backhand attack.
Wawrinka beat Marsel Ilhan, Dusan Lajovic, and American Steve Johnson, dropping just 1 set against Lajovic to reach the second week, as he has avoided a stumble, and even signs of trouble this time.
Simon clawed back to win in 4 against Lucas Pouille, and then upset Martin Klizan in straights before needing five sets against veteran Nicolas Mahut. Simon’s grinding could well win this, but I’m going with Wawrinka in 5 sets. He should be fresher for this one, and hasn’t had to face as difficult of opposition early on.
(2)Roger Federer vs. (13)Gael Monfils
The potential is there for either of these players to reach the final out of the bottom half, and this is a highly anticipated fourth round encounter coming up on Sunday. Monfils has won the last two meetings, both on clay against Federer without dropping a set, including this year in Monte Carlo, and thus it’s clear at a venue he loves, Roland Garros, where he feeds off the energy of the crowd to inspire his highlight worthy tennis, he’ll have a great chance to defeat a legend, and look to carve more Roland Garros history out himself as the home favorite player.
Monfils has had to scratch and claw in his all of his matches this week, as he’s the only player in the round of 16 who has played multiple five setters. He started the tournament winning in a surprise four over Edouard Roger-Vasselin, and then both Diego Schwartzman and Pablo Cuevas pushed the envelope and gave Gael all he could handle, but twice he would fight back. Against Schwartzman he was 2 sets to 1 down and then won the last two sets by a combined score of 12-4, against Cuevas he was down 2 sets to 1 and a break, only to roll off a number of games in the fourth set, and pump himself into a five set win over a choking Cuevas.
Federer should be much fresher, but he’s also older, he beat Alejandro Falla, Marcel Granollers and Damir Dzumhur without incident, not even dropping a set.
Monfils speed and variety can frustrate and both Federer, especially on clay, but Federer has actually had the edge here, and Monfils has looked shaky at times with his focus and consistency in week 1, thus Federer in 4 sets is my pick.
Predictions for the rest of the tournament:
Quarters: Djokovic d. Nadal in 4 Murray d. Ferrer in 4 Berdych d. Nishikori in 4 Federer d. Wawrinka in 3
Sticking with my original picks here basically, Djokovic, Murray, Berdych and Federer have given me no reason not to trust them to reach the semis, and they should be the favorites, not just as top 4 seeds, but also based on their current level of play. Nadal is unlikely to be able to maintain against Djokovic, Ferrer seems less talented than Murray right now, I give Berdych the edge on Kei, and Wawrinka tends to struggle against Federer, Simon could perhaps be more of a challenge.
Semis: Djokovic d. Murray in 4
Federer d. Berdych in 4
Sticking to my guns here as well, Berdych and Murray can both challenge their higher ranked opponents for at least a set, but over a period of five sets, I’d give the #1 and #2 decisive advantages.
Final: Djokovic d. Federer in 4
Djokovic should be better these days than Federer on clay, and if he loses the French Open this year, we’d have to consider it a choke in most imaginable circumstances.
The second slam and the pinnacle of the clay court season has arrived, as our full team of analysts have filled out their draws for the French Open, read on to see our picks.
2015 Roland Garros Predictions
Steen Kirby’s picks
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Murray vs. Ferrer, Nishikori vs. Berdych, Garcia-Lopez vs. Federer Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Murray, Berdych vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Federer Champion: Djokovic
Niall Clarke’s picks
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Murray vs. Ferrer, Nishikori vs. Tsonga, Wawrinka vs. Monfils Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Murray, Nishikori vs. Monfils Final: Djokovic vs. Nishikori Champion: Djokovic
Joe Craven’s picks
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Murray vs. Ferrer, Nishikori vs. Tsonga, Simon vs. Monfils Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Murray, Nishikori vs. Monfils Final: Djokovic vs. Monfils Champion: Djokovic
Chris de Waard’s picks
Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Kyrgios vs. Ferrer, Nishikori vs. Tsonga, Simon vs. Monfils Semifinals: Nadal vs. Ferrer, Nishikori vs. Monfils Final: Nadal vs. Monfils Champion: Nadal
A majority of our analysts picked Djokovic, who has never won the French Open over Nadal, while opinions are mixed in regards to the fate of Tomas Berdych/Kei Nishikori in one quarter, and Gael Monfils/Roger Federer/Stan Wawrinka/Gilles Simon in the bottom half. Steen for example has the seeds holding true to form in the final four, while Chris is predicting the draw gets blown open, as this really is one of the most wide open French Open’s in years.
The rankings basically remain the same going into Roland Garros, Niall and Steen have pulled ahead of the rest of the field to some extent, but Steen is guaranteed to remain in first no matter what happens in Paris
2015 French Open Week 1 Men’s Preview and Predictions (@RolandGarros) Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
It’s time for the second Grand Slam of the season, the 2015 French Open at Stade Roland Garros in Paris. This is one of the most wide open French Opens in years, as the case could be made for at least five different players to claim the title. In addition, the young guns are rising, as over a dozen players under 21 are competing in the main draw and some of them are likely to score some upsets and do well, so read on and check out what all there is offer on the men’s side of the 2015 French Open.
May 24-June 7, 2015
Prize Money: $29,500,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Tomas Berdych (4)
5: Kei Nishikori (5)
6: Rafael Nadal (7)
7: David Ferrer (8)
8: Stan Wawrinka (9)
World #6 Milos Raonic pulled out with a foot injury, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Tommy Haas, both injured are missing, Janko Tipsarevic, and Julien Benneteau were the other withdrawals but all of the other top players are here, including 19 of the top 20.
A rematch of an interesting encounter in Madrid, Tomic lost in a third set tiebreak to the Italian veteran Vanni, who is having a late career breakthrough and will making his grand slam main draw debut as a qualifier. Bernie has been struggling on clay as of late, and has never advanced past the second round of the French, so this match could doom the 27 seed to another early exit in Paris. Vanni is a junkballer, with a game built for clay, as he takes causes weird bounces on his shots, and utilizes the slice and drop shot to win points, rather than power hitting. Tomic has lost five straight matches, and retired in Nice, so his health is also in doubt, while Vanni may be battling fatigue after winning three straight three set matches, including one that finished 16-14 in the 3rd set.
The surprise Sao Paulo finalist will still have to work hard, but this is a winnable match for him, and while Tomic had an excellent spring hard court season, he’s been atrocious on clay, and I don’t see that changing here, thus Vanni in 4 or 5 sets is my pick.
(10)Grigor Dimitrov vs. Jack Sock
By far the best round 1 matchup, this encounter is befitting of a round of 32 or round of 16 contest with the talent that both of these under 25 year olds have at their disposal, and it’s a shame one of them will have to go home after round 1. Dimitrov is of course the favorite, though he has a relatively poor record at the French Open, and has never made it to the second week. The Madrid and Monte Carlo quarterfinalist, and Istanbul semifinalist will have to deal with Sock’s high spinning and vicious forehand that is one of the best 5 in all of men’s tennis.
Since returning from hip surgery this spring, Sock won his first ever ATP title, which came on clay in Houston, and though he is on a three match losing streak on clay, all of those matches were tough three set contests. Sock certainly seems to be improving on clay, and he’s shown tenacity this season and the ability to change the momentum of matches, while Dimitrov has been shaky at times, and really has not performed as well as his top 15 ranking would indicate. I’m still picking Dimitrov, but I see it going five sets, and you can’t count Sock out, as he’s one of the top two American men on clay, and seems to be steadily improving. He’s also fixed his fitness issues that were detrimental in best of 5 set matches.
Nicolas Almagro vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov
This should be a fun match between a pair of excellent ballstrikers who can play well above their current rankings when they are on a roll. Almagro, a three time RG quarterfinalist has not played up to his formerly top 20 self since returning from injury this season, but he does have a pair of quarterfinals and a semifinal this season in ATP clay court tournaments.
Dolgopolov has tumbled down the rankings and is out of the top 50 again, but as always he’s a dangerous shotmaker, and excellent mover who always produces highlights, win or lose. He hasn’t played particularly well on clay since early last season, but you can’t count him out against anyone, as he pushed Novak Djokovic to the brink of defeat in Miami.
The head to head is an even 2-2, and 1-1 on clay, Almagro’s recent losses have been better though, an Dolgopolov lost to the horribly out of form Ernests Gulbis in the Nice warm up tournament, so with that in mind I see Almagro pulling through in 4 or 5 sets of highlight filled tennis.
(16)John Isner vs. Andreas Seppi
In theory the 16 seed John Isner should be on upset alert, as he was not given an easy round 1 matchup, that said, Seppi hasn’t played since losing round 1 in Monte Carlo, and that indicates to me the veteran Italian all-courter had some sort of injury that prevented him from playing any further tournaments until RG. Seppi was on fire early on in the season as he recorded a run to the second week at the AO where he upset Federer, and an ATP final and semifinal in between. However his results since then have been pedestrian, and there are question marks surrounding his play right now, though he has the game to defeat Isner, as he has done so before on clay in Rome.
Isner has had a solid season on European red clay by his standards, he comes off the semis in Nice, and he also reached the quarters in Madrid, overall compiling a 9-4 record, with none of those 4 losses being bad ones. He’s not going to threaten any of the top names on clay, even with that huge serve, but he still should be good enough to get past Seppi, perhaps without dropping a set, and it would be a big disappointment if he didn’t get out of the first round here after the clay season he has had, most of all staying healthy, which is a big bonus for the American #1.
(9)Marin Cilic vs. Robin Haase
Cilic is 4-0 against Haase, including two wins on clay, and it’s unlikely he loses this one, but it’s a sleeper match, as Cilic has really struggled since returning from injury, and has yet to find the form that propelled him to his first Grand Slam, and a top 10 ranking. Haase by contrast is a very streaky player who has the technical talents to score big wins (he beat Stan Wawrinka this year in Indian Wells), but has one of the weakest mindsets in men’s tennis, and that weak mental portion of his game means he can lose to just about anyone.
Since reaching the quarters in Monte Carlo, Cilic is just 2-4, and he played relatively poorly in the Geneva warm up tournament prior to this. Haase recently won a challenger on clay, and also reached the quarterfinals in Estoril, so he’s in reasonable form. I’m still picking Cilic, but Haase likely snatches a set, and if Cilic is rusty and off his game, it will be interesting to see if Haase seizes the moment like he did against Wawrinka and scores another top 15 win.
A match to keep an eye because the seeded player could well go down in defeat, the Czech young gun lefty Vesely has a h2h win against Mayer on clay (2014 Casablanca), and though he’s had an erratic season, he has won an ATP title (Auckland), and reached a final, and a semifinal on clay. Mayer by contrast has been having a poor season, though he reached the final Nice, and though that shows his form is improving, it also indicates fatigue could play a factor in a best of 5 sets match.
This run in Nice is the best result Mayer has posted all season on clay, and Vesely is actually more talented, thus the match should be on his racquet. The issue for Jiri is his lack of consistency, he’s as talented as the other young guns such as Kyrgios, and Thiem that have made waves, but he hasn’t been able to put that together on a regular basis. I’m picking Vesely in 4 but this is a tough pick either way.
Rosol, who posted a pair of quarterfinals on clay this season, and has continued his typical rollercoaster form, likely wins this over the next great Swedish hope Ymer, but you can’t count the young gun out, given Rosol has the ability to play some of the best ball bashing tennis you’ll see, an also some of the worst error strewn disasters you can witness. The Czech comes off of qualifying for Geneva and then losing to Stan Wawrinka in round 2.
Ymer, a rising 19 year old who will be playing in his second Grand Slam main draw, after successfully qualifying and then losing in 5 sets at the Australian Open earlier this year. He recently moved to Barcelona to practice full time on clay, and it’s his best surface as he beat Nick Kyrgios in Barcelona, where he reached the round of 16, earlier this year, and had a relatively comfortable qualifying campaign where he didn’t drop a set in his last two matches. Long term Ymer is quite the talent, and he will have success in the future in Paris without a doubt, but winning this math is still likely to be a challenge, and I’m going with Rosol in 4 sets, as he’s a step up from Ymer’s usual level of competition.
Martin Klizan vs. (WC)Francis Tiafoe
The USTA wild card winner Tiafoe, who is just 17 years old, and is a former top junior, only turning pro in April of this year, actually has a punchers chance against the talented but inconsistent Klizan. Big Foe, as our writer Joe Craven calls him, reached the challenger final in Tallahassee, and the Maryland native, who is coached by Jose Higueras, went 12-3 on har-tru clay in those three USTA challenger events. He will be making his grand slam main draw debut, and he made his ATP debut last season in Washington D.C. at the Citi Open. He’s a talent, and he has plenty of charisma but this match represents a huge step up for the teen.
Klizan won the title in Casablanca this year, and also reached the semis in Barcelona but he has suffered two straight losses, and may be rusty, or not entirely healthy going into this match. Again, the favorite should win this, but don’t sleep on Tiafoe, as Klizan has his off days, and it’s unlikely the young American, who raised by immigrant parents and came from humble roots, literally being raised at a tennis facility, will be intimidated by the stage, or the ranking of his opponent.
(12)Gilles Simon vs. (WC)Lucas Pouille
An all French affair that should delight the locals, Simon has a higher ranking, more experience, and a positive record in Paris, but he retired in his last match in Rome, and pulled out of Nice, something that may be precautionary, or could be the sign that his back injury is serious. Simon had a non-headline making, so-so clay court season, and it’s not likely he’ll be high on confidence going into his home grand slam.
Pouille by contrast is a young gun trying to make a name for himself in his third French Open main draw appearance. It feels like Pouille has been tour for a while, but unlike some of the other players who are 21 and younger like himself, he has yet to pull off either a deep run in a big tournament, or a marquee win to put himself in the papers. He has a gifted forehand that can do damage and he’s a talented ballstriker, who can bend the ball to his whims, but his fitness, and at times his shot selection is lacking, and after reaching the semis in Auckland and pushing Gael Monfils to five sets at the AO back in January, he hasn’t done much, besides an upset of Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo. He struggled in Nice, and also found himself dismantled by Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo, so he’s not exactly in great form, but this is still a match worth watching as you never know if Simon will lay an egg, perhaps due to back pain, though he tends to battle and find a way in slams.
This match is a poor matchup for Pouille as Simon is a human backboard who will massage the ball and likely be able to frustrate the young Frenchman and cause his game to leak errors, as it tends to due under pressure, but the injury concerns for Simon are serious, and that’s why I’m picking Pouille. He will need to be aggressive to get the win, and it’s a risk, but I’m bold enough to pick it.
Two-time, and defending French Open finalist Novak Djokovic is unlikely to drop even a set en route to the third round. Djokovic will open with struggling veteran lefty Jarkko Nieminen, who is fast on his feet, but has declined from his peak, and the Fin is also a player Novak has beaten twice before on clay. After that the winner of Gilles Muller/Paolo Lorenzi awaits, that’s a toss-up match as Muller is not a clay courter, and Lorenzi is a career journeyman, though at his best on clay. I’d go with Muller to get through, but he’s of little threat to Novak on this surface, and Djokovic beat him at the Aussie this year without dropping a set.
In the third round, I have Thanasi Kokkinakis, the Australian teenager, as Novak’s opponent, and it will still be a good showing for him to get that far on clay, though he’s unlikely to threaten Djokovic on this surface. Kokkinakis, who is perfect in ATP qualifying this year and recently won the Bordeaux challenger on clay, will open with qualifer Nikoloz Basilashvili, in the opening round. Basilashvili, the top Georgian player on the ATP tour, has been markedly improved this season and is nearing breakthrough status, but Kokkinakis is simply more talented, and he’s been getting better and better on clay, the more practice that he gets. His movement improving with his lanky frame, and his shots still solid from both wings, especially his forehand side. I feel Kokkinakis actually has more upside than the other part of the Aussie teenage tandem, Nick Kyrgios, and this tournament is likely to increase my belief on that.
Kokkinakis will need to defeat the Vanni/Tomic winner in round 2, if Tomic were to advance, he’ll have a 2-0 h2h against Thanasi with both matches coming this season, including in a competitive match in Indian Wells, but on clay things actually favor Kokkinakis style of play, as Tomic is not a good dirtballer. Vanni, who I have winning in my own bracket, is likely to be fatigued, and his slice and dice game is a good matchup for Kokkinakis, compared to Tomic’s junkballing. Look for Djokovic to reach the second week without dropping a set, and Kokkinakis to be a pleasant surprise in the opening week.
Estoril champion and 20 seed Richard Gasquet is another who could reach the second week without dropping a set. Gasquet will open with 26 year old Belgian qualifier Germain Gigounon, who qualified with relative ease and reached a challenger final on clay earlier this season, that said, Gigounon is making his slam debut, and has never even played an ATP main draw match, so not much should be expected of him. Gasquet’s second opponent will be either Carlos Berlocq, the veteran Argentine grinder, or surprise qualifier Illya Marchenko, who rarely plays on clay, and is a journeyman, but still tour through three qualifying matches. Berlocq has lost four straight matches, with two retirements mixed in, so he may not even be healthy, regardless, neither player is a threat to Gasquet’s versatile game, and the home French fans should enjoy his smooth strokes later on into the tournament.
In the third round, Gasquet is again likely to face a weak opponent, as Blaz Kavcic/Rendy Lu/Tim Smyczek/Kevin Anderson are his options. Kavcic and Lu are both poor on clay and rarely play on the surface, Kavcic having lost three straight. Smyczek is another player who is poor on clay, and Anderson has struggled this year on the surface as well though he did reach the semis in Houston. Given that Anderson is the highest ranked player here, has a 4-0 h2h with Smyczek, and is unlikely to be troubled by Lu/Kavcic, he should be Gasquet’s third round opponent with Gasquet advancing. With only a hard court h2h, Gasquet leads it 4-2.
The Dimitrov/Sock winner will face Pablo Carreno Busta/Victor Estrella in round 2, that’s a tough match as both players have been both good and bad on clay as of late. Estrella reached the final in Quito on clay, reached the third round in Barcelona with two upset wins, and was also a quarterfinalist in Munich, while Carreno reached the semis in Estoril but has been awful otherwise. Look for Estrella to win but then lose to Dimitrov in the next round, though Dimitrov could have problems through his first two matches.
In the third round, danger should continue to loom for the Bulgarian #1, as Croatian teenager Borna Coric is lurking as a sleeper pick to do well this tournament. The 2015 Dubai, and Nice semifinalist, who also reached the quarters in Estoril on clay this season, will open with American Sam Querrey, who reached the final in Houston on clay but has been in poor form since. Presuming Coric beats Querrey, which talent wise is likely if the Croatian can keep his head on straight, he should also beat the 18 seed Tommy Robredo, who has struggled to stay healthy this season and hasn’t played since Barcelona. Robredo’s career is slowing down, but he still should beat journeyman lucky loser Andrey Golubev. Coric represents a fresher and more difficult challenge, and though Robredo is a steady veteran and a five time quarterfinalist here, expectations have to be low for this French Open. I still have Dimitrov sneaking past Coric, perhaps in a five setter to reach the second week, Coric has beaten Nadal, and Murray over the past 12 months, so he doesn’t get intimidated, but Dimitrov still has more experience and should have that extra edge to get the job done.
Below that, we have the 9 time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, who has a 66-1 record at the tournament, but has struggled this season, and seen his ranking drop him out of the top 5, and right into the world #1’s quarter of the draw. No matter his struggles this season, Nadal should have no problem blitzing past overmatched French youngster Quentin Halys, a wild card, but the second round should be more challenging, as he’s guaranteed to face a player who has beaten him before, the Almagro/Dolgopolov winner. Presuming it’s Almagro, Nadal has blown him out twice this season, including on clay, so Rafa is still likely safe to pencil in for the third round, and probably doesn’t drop a set. Dolgopolov is the more explosive opponent, but he’s harder to predict.
Nadal’s third round opponent shouldn’t be overly difficult, as it will be one of Adrian Mannarino/Jurgen Melzer/Andrey Kuznetsov/Malek Jaziri. Kuznetsov, who qualified in Monte Carlo and Geneva, could randomly reach the third round, as Jaziri is a good ball striker with awful fitness, not to mention not overly great on clay, and neither Mannarino, nor Melzer, who is long removed from his run to the semis here in 2010, is in good form. Mannarino is the weakest seed in the draw, and Melzer has done nothing this clay court season, so I have Nadal crushing Kuznetsov to reach the second week.
The Madrid, and Munich champion AndyMurray, is undefeated on clay this year (10-0), and is having his best season since back surgery, as he also reached the AO final, and the final in Miami. Thus, even though never being known as a clay court star, the Scotsman, who spent years as a junior training in Spain on clay, is actually a bit of a dark horse favorite to win the French Open. That’s a big ask, and I’ll tell you now I don’t see that happening unless carnage happens in the Djokovic/Nadal section, but he still should have a good tournament, and could reach this third RG semifinal, after earning his second one last year. Murray will open with lucky loser Facundo Arguello, a young Argentine who takes after the fiery former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, Arguello has struggled to see his talent translate to the main tour level, so Murray is likely to give him the runaround and beat him without dropping a set. After that, Geneva finalist Joao Sousa, or Vasek Pospisil awaits the UK #1, Pospisil is poor on clay and has had a terrible season in singles, unable to find form, and Sousa should be tired, so Murray should reach round 3 without dropping a set. Murray is 5-0 against Sousa over the past three seasons, and he’s never lost a set against the Portugese #1.
In the third round, fearless, and charismatic Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios will be looking to give Murray all he can handle, and not only get revenge for his previous h2h loss, but also score yet another top 10 win, after NK previously beat Roger Federer this season in a Madrid thriller, and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Kyrgios pulled out of Nice with an injury, and he’s had back problems earlier this season, but overall he continues to show improvement and he’s seeded for the first time in a slam, after reaching the quarters at the AO, and reaching his first ATP final in Estoril. Kyrgios will open against the struggling Denis Istomin, and presuming he’s fit and wins that one he will face the winner of Kyle Edmund/Stephane Robert, both of whom are qualifiers. The South African born, English resident Edmund is another young gun in the draw, while Robert is one of the oldest active players on tour at 35, and has been a journeyman all throughout his career. Edmund has been more impressive in qualifying and this season, and he could even shock Kyrgios, but NK plays his best on big stages, so I still see him getting through to the third round.
With the form Murray is in, I actually don’t think the match will be that close, likely four sets or three as a motivated Murray is 2-0 in the h2h against Kyrgios and has yet to lose a set to him, Murray truly has performed well on clay this season, and the coaching team of Amelie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman really seems to have helped him improve on the surface, as his movement, and counterpunching is finally paying dividends. He’s had success at RG before as well, which should help, and he should be fit and rested.
The Isner/Seppi winner will take on Jeremy Chardy/Michael Berrer in round 2. Presuming Isner is fit, I’m pretty comfortable picking him to reach the third round with the favorable draw that he has. Chardy is just 2-4 in his last six matches, and Berrer is a career journeyman serve and volleyer in the last year of his career. He qualified without dropping a set, and of course beat Nadal this season, so he really has had a great year by his standards, and I do in fact have him upsetting Chardy given the h2h, but Isner’s relentless serves should do him in.
In that third round, David Goffin is big John’s likely opponent. Goffin, a quarterfinalist in both Rome, and Munich hasn’t been on fire like he was last Fall, but he’s still been good enough this season to beat Filip Krajinovic his round 1 opponent who is a fringe ATP player, and then Geneva semifinalist Santiago Giraldo, who has been worse this year compared to last year, and not much should be expected of. Giraldo has a big game, while Goffin is a steady ball striker, and the slow RG courts should favor the Belgian. Goffin and Isner have never met on clay (1-1 on hard courts), and as surprising as it is, Isner’s results have been slightly better on clay this year than D Goff, thus I have him reaching the round of 16, but I could certainly be wrong about that, and it’s a tough call either way.
David Ferrer, a former French Open finalist who reached the semis in both Barcelona, and Rome this spring, should blitz through the first two rounds without dropping a set, the underachieving Lukas Lacko is his round 1 opponent, and then he’ll be eyeing Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Joao Souza on the other side of the net in round 2. Souza is on a 7 match losing streak since losing the longest Davis Cup match in history, while DGT has had a career year on clay this year, with an ATP final in Casablanca, a semi in Bucharest, and a quarterfinal in Istanbul. That said, Souza is 3-0 against DGT, no matter neither player has the game to trouble Ferrer, an he’s 3-0 against DGT, including a win this year.
I foresee Simone Bolelli as the matchup for Ferrer in the third round, Bolelli is a talented shotmaker, but he struggles to be consistent, as evidenced by his lone ATP quarterfinal on clay this spring in Bucharest. He will open with serve and volleyer Steve Darcis, who has lost three straight and may not be healthy. In round 2, Bolelli is likely to get an interesting match, as the Viktor Troicki/JL Struff clash is intriguing. Struff is a talented, but underachieving 25 year old who has a challenger semi on clay this year, and isn’t mentally strong, while Troicki snapped a four match losing streak to win two matches in Rome. VT hasn’t been on the same tear he was when he came back from a doping suspension, and in his cooled off state, Bolelli should capitalize. The h2h is 3-3, but Troicki won both their hard court meetings this season. Ferrer is 5-0 against Bolelli and beat him at the French last year, so I don’t foresee the match being that close, same goes if he were to face Troicki.
The Cilic/Haase winner is set to face James Duckworth or Andrea Arnaboldi, Arnaboldi a 27 year old Italian dirtballer, had to battle to qualify. while Duckworth has been in good form, sneaking into the quarterfinals of Nice, and also reaching a challenger semi on clay this spring. The 23 year old Aussie isn’t one you would think to win on nationality alone, but I have him beating a tired Arnaboldi, before falling to Cilic in round 2.
Vesely/Mayer or Jerzy Janowicz/Maxime Hamou await in round 3, most likely the Vesely/Mayer winner. Hamou is another young French wild card who is likely to be overwhelmed by the situation, as he barely has any experience at the top level, as he made his ATP debut in Nice just last week. Regardless, Janowicz hasn’t won a set, much less a match on clay this year (0-3), so I give him little chance against Vesely/Mayer. Cilic just beat Vesely in Madrid in straights, so he should be the favorite for the round of 16, but don’t sleep on Vesely, he could reach the second week of a slam for the first time.
Tomas Berdych has had a tremendous under the radar season and he’s earned his own quarter of the draw. The 29 year old Monte Carlo finalist, and Australian Open semifinalist, who has performed well in every single tournament he’s entered, not losing before the quarterfinals, will open with young gun Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka. Nishioka is an undersized player with fast footwork, who packs a punch on his groundstrokes given his small frame, but Berdych is likely to blast him off the court. After Nishioka, who is making his Grand Slam main draw debut, Berdych should cruise past the winner of Ivan Dodig/Radek Stepanek, a pair of formerly solid players who haven’t been the same since injuries. Stepanek is an aging serve and volleyer on a three match losing streak, while Dodig has two ATP quarterfinals, including one on clay in Istanbul, but nothing else of note this season. Berdych is close to a lock for round 3.
In that third round, Fabio Fognini is his likely opponent, the Italian headcase, who has one ATP final, and one ATP quarterfinal on clay this season (Rio and Barcelona), but has struggled against opponents not named Rafael Nadal, will open with Tatsuma Ito, a Japanese player who is poor on, and rarely plays clay. After that, we could be treated to a headcase special, as Fognini is likely to face Frenchman Benoit Paire. Paire is just 1-4 in his last five matches on clay, but he’s still done well to work his ranking back up to this level. Benwa, and his gifted backhand, will open up against qualifier Gastao Elias, a fringe ATP player from Portugal. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Elias won, but regardless, unless Fognini implodes, which is always possible, he should beat Paire/Elias to reach the third round, as he’s a better player talent wise on clay. Fognini is 2-1 against Berdych on clay, but Berdych survived a third set tiebreak and defeated him in Rome, and given his consistency in the big tournaments this year, I’d give him the edge to reach week 2.
14 seed and former RG semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a home fan favorite will open with Swedish qualifier Christian Lindell, as Sweden has two players in a Grand Slam main draw for the first time in years. Tsonga has been pedestrian with a lack of notable results since returning from injury, but he shouldn’t have any issue with Lindell who is making his grand slam main draw debut. Tsonga will then be a heavy favorite against either Dudi Sela or Mikhail Kukushkin. Sela is poor on clay and Kukushkin has lost three straight, so I don’t see Tsonga losing a set going into round 3.
Tsonga’s round 3 opponent will be either the Philipp Kohlschreiber/Go Soeda winner, or the winner of Pablo Andujar/Albert Ramos. Kohli was a finalist in Munich, and a quarterfinalist in Barcelona, while Soeda basically never plays on clay. Andujar/Ramos is an interesting match, they have played each other a ton of times and Andujar has won the last two meetings, including in Barcelona this year. Both players have ATP quarterfinals on clay this year, while Andujar has a final in Barcelona, regardless of winner, I have Kohlschreiber advancing into the third round. Tsonga has never lost Kohlschreiber (7-0), and with that matchup difference, and Tsonga have the home fans behind him, I favor him to go into the round of 16.
5 seed Kei Nishikori, a semifinalist in Madrid, and champion in Barcelona, will open with French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu, who should be calling it a career soon. The 33 year old is back to being a challenger, and fringe ATP player, ranked outside of the top 100, though he used to be quite solid. After a win over PHM, Nishikori should run into the in-form, but likely fatigued Thomaz Bellucci. Bellucci won the title in Geneva, and his first round opponent Marinko Matosevic is in awful form (8 straight losses). Bellucci also qualified in Madrid, and Rome, and reached the quarterfinals in Istanbul. I’d worry about Nishikori against the big hitting Bellucci, but I feel the fatigue factor, and the fact Bellucci, who took a set off of Djokovic in Rome, tends to choke under pressure, gives Nishikori enough of an advantage to get him to round 3, perhaps with difficulty.
32 seed Fernando Verdasco should be the challenge for Nishikori/Bellucci in round 3. Verdasco will open with qualifier Taro Daniel, the fifth Japanese player in the draw (Nishikori, Soeda, Ito, and Nishioka are the others). Daniel, who trains and makes his home in Spain, plays his best on clay, and he has one ATP quarterfinal on clay, this will be his second Grand Slam main draw. Verdasco, and his huge forehand, will face the winner of Benjamin Becker/Ruben Bemelmans, after defeating the lanky Daniel. Bemelmans isn’t in great form, but Becker’s form is even worse, as he has lost six straight matches, and the veteran is not good on clay, thus I have Bemelmans winning, and then losing to Verdasco. Nando was a semifinalist in Houston but hasn’t done much else this clay season, thus Nishikori should advance, perhaps again with trouble, they battled it out in Indian Wells this year and Kei was the winner.
The 11 seed Feliciano Lopez is a poor 4-5 this spring on clay, and given all of his losses are pretty bad, expectations have to be low coming into the French for him. He will open with Teymuraz Gabashvili, who is a remarkable 14-2 over his last few tournaments. Most of those wins were in qualifying or on the challenger tour, but that’s still an impressive record, as he won two challengers in a row. Lopez is 2-0 against Gabashvili, but those matches were on a hard court, and with Gabashvili getting a bit of rest, I’m actually calling an upset, and putting him through over Flopez into round 2. The winner of Juan Monaco/Federico Delbonis awaits in what will be an all-Argentine encounter. Delbonis has a h2h win over Monaco on clay, and he has an ATP semi in Geneva, and a challenger title on the surface this spring. Monaco was a quarterfinalist in both Miami and Nice. Given his experience, I’m giving Monaco the edge by a hair. Monaco has two previous wins against Gabashvili, including a three setter this year in Indian Wells, so I have the loveable Pico into the third round.
19 seed Roberto Bautista Agut is the player most likely to face Monaco/Delbonis/Gabashvili/Lopez, in that open third round section. RBA opens with Florian Mayer, who is just 2-5 since coming back to the tour from injury. The Spaniard reached the Munich semis and the Barcelona quarters, and I also favor him to defeat Rosol/Ymer. RBA has a h2h win last season against Rosol on clay. I favor RBA to reach the round of 16, no matter who his third round opponent is, and it’s RBA/Monaco in my bracket.
The 2009 Roland Garros champion, and the only player besides Nadal with over 60 wins in Paris, is Roger Federer, the Swiss legend and #2 seed will face lucky loser Alejandro Falla in round 1. He has beaten Falla twice before in Paris, and he didn’t lose a set in those matches (overall 7-0 h2h). Federer won Istanbul, and was a finalist in Rome, so it’s unlikely that he’ll have any issue against Falla or his next opponent, which will be Marcel Granollers or Matthias Bachinger. Bachinger, a journeyman, has qualified for both slams this season with ease, but he’s 0-3 against Granollers who is 4-3 in his last seven matches, after being abysmal prior to that. Federer is 3-0 against Granollers and has only lost 1 set to him, so I honestly see the Swiss maestro reaching round 3 without dropping a set.
Federer’s third round opponent should be quite easy, as he got a great early draw. Both Ivo Karlovic and Marcos Baghdatis are poor on clay, and have lost two straight matches, Baghdatis has a h2h edge over Dr. Ivo, so I have him reaching round 2. Veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny has been awful this season and is 3-5 on clay, retirement looms for him and Casablanca semifinalist Damir Dzumhur, a 23 year old, will look to aid in Youzhny being pushed out to pasture. I have Dzumhur beating both Youzhny and Baghdatis to surprisingly reach the third round in a very weak section of the draw. His form has slightly been superior, and he has the talent to pull it off. Federer should demolish him though.
13 seed Gael Monfils, a former semifinalist in Paris, and a fan favorite, will take on Edouard Roger-Vasselin. ERV has lost three straight, and he’s poor on clay, while Monfils was a semifinalist in both Monte Carlo, and Bucharest. Presuming Gael is heathy, which is always a question mark, he should beat ERV and the Diego Schwartzman/Andreas Haider-Maurer winner in round 2 to reach the third round. DSS/AHM is an interesting first round match that just missed my cut for matches to watch, mostly because AHM has lost three straight after previously reaching an ATP semi (Rio) and quarterfinal (Casablanca) on clay, and winning two matches in Monte Carlo. Istanbul semifinalist Schwartzman, who retired in his last match in Rome, and is a rising young gun, who has a steady compact game built for clay, should win that matchup, before falling to Monfils. DSS is promising, but I don’t think he has the weapons in his arsenal to beat the speedy and defensively sound Monfils.
A big second round match is likely to take place between Dominic Thiem, and 21 seed Pablo Cuevas. Thiem won the title in Nice, thus fatigue might play a factor in his performance, but he’s still likely to defeat Aljaz Bedene in round 1. Bedene did win the Rome challenger on clay, and reached a quarterfinal in Casablanca on the surface, so he’s improving, but likely not up to Thiem’s level. Thiem is 8-2 since struggling in the early part of the clay court season, as he seems to has found his rhythm, and his fitness right when he needed to do so for Paris. Cuevas won an ATP title in Sao Paulo on clay this year, and has two quarterfinals and a final, that one coming in Istanbul, on the surface in 2015. His form has been up and down, but credit to him for building up his ranking into a seed worthy player, and though he’s unlikely to threaten the top names, he’s a reliable dirtballer. Thiem and Cuevas hae never met, but with Thiem likely to be fatigued, I have Cuevas reaching the third round to face off with Monfils, Thiem is the flashier pick but Cuevas deserves his due, and Thiem has been hard to trust this season. A healthy Monfils should be favored other Thiem or Cuevas to reach the round of 16.
8 seed Stan Wawrinka will open with Turkish #1 Marsel Ilhan, Wawrinka has had a very shaky 2015 and is just 6-4 on clay this year. He comes off a bad loss to Delbonis in Geneva, a home tournament, and his only good result on clay this year was the semifinals in Rome, where he got routed by Federer, after beating Nadal. No matter the reasons for his struggles in 2015, I’m bearish on his chances in Paris, but not in his first two matches, as Ilhan and either Dusan Lajovic or Maximo Gonzalez are not difficult opponents who have the game to beat Stan the man. Lajovic was a quarterfinalist in Nice, while Gonzalez has lost three straight matches. Wawrinka really shouldn’t drop a set going in the first two rounds, but with his current poor form, he may do that.
In the third round, Wawrinka could face the opponent that shocked him in Paris last year, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The all-court, multi tool Spaniard, who has two ATP titles this year, one coming on clay, along with a semifinal in Estoril, as he has put together a solid campaign thus far, will open with American Steve Johnson. Johnson is a respectable 3-5 on clay this spring, and he’s improving on the surface, but I give him little chance against an experienced dirtballer like GGL. GGL should likewise breeze past a player who isn’t comfortable on clay in round 2, either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Ricardas Berankis. Stako has lost two straight, and is 0-3 in the h2h against Rycka, but Berankis has lost three straight and been in terrible form for a couple of months now. I have GGL over Stako for a spot in the third round in my bracket.
Wawrinka has had the edge over GGL on other surfaces, but on clay their h2h is an even 3-3, and GGL has won two of their last three meetings. Wawrinka showed no signs of improvement in Geneva, and the Rome win over Nadal feels more like an aberration than anything else, to me the writing is on the wall that he’s going to struggle here, and I have GGL booting him out again for a spot in the round of 16, this would also avenge GGL’s loss to Wawrinka the AO this January.
Pouille/Simon will take on Tiafoe/Klizan in round 2, As mentioned up at the top of the preview, I have Pouille upsetting Simon, and then Klizan edging Tiafoe, setting up that second rounder. If Simon is healthy enough, he should be fine to reach round 3, and I don’t trust Klizan’s health either, while Tiafoe and Pouille lack experience. I have Pouille making a shock run to round 3 in my bracket, but this is the hardest section to pick in my mind, with Simon and Klizan having question marks.
This is by far the worst section of the draw, as just above it, the seed is Ernests Gulbis, who only has two wins this season and a bunch of losses, he defends semifinal points, and will open with qualifier Igor Sijsling, who broke a six match losing streak to qualify, and is a known choker. Gulbis could well crash and burn, but I don’t see Sijsling beating him honestly, and thus I have him into round 2 against the winner of Nicolas Mahut/Kimmer Coppejans. Coppejans is a promising 21 year old Belgian, while Mahut is 33, outside the top 100, and nearly retired. The serve and volleyer isn’t at his best on clay, and he has two straight losses. Coppejans recently won a title, and reached a final on clay at the challenger level and was strong in qualifying.
I have Coppejans defeating Mahut, and then upsetting Gulbis to reach round 3, it’s a risky pick, and Coppejans hasn’t blossomed as much as he could results wise, though he has the skills, because his mental fortitude is lacking, but I’m giving the young Belgian his due here, in such a weak section. I have Coppejans beating Pouille to reach the round of 16 as a qualifier, because he has a h2h win against him on clay, and his recent form has been slightly better, either way I give Pouille/Coppejans/Tiafoe a better shot at reaching the second week than the seed Gulbis. Given that he was a semifinalist last year, that’s shocking, but it demonstrates how far he’s fallen, and the young guns are rising.
Dark Horses (one for each quarter of the draw): Borna Coric, Jiri Vesely, Thomaz Bellucci, Kimmer Coppejans/Lucas Pouille
Coric will need to rise up and find the form that pushed him to semifinal runs in Basel and Dubai, but his run to the semis in Nice shows form and promise, and Dimitrov has been shown to be beatable this season. if Grisha slips up look for Coric to seize the day and reach the second week to do battle with Rafa, who he of course has beaten before.
Vesely will have a tricky path to week 2, as he will need to defeat Mayer, and probably Cilic, but when he’s in-form he’s a great player and he can pull that off, it’s really just a matter of which Jiri shows up. Don’t count him out for the round of 16.
Bellucci has been in tremendous form in recent weeks, fatigue could play a factor, as will mentality, but if he keeps the mojo flowing, and battles past Nishikori he could go as far as the quarterfinals. It’s not likely, but he has perhaps the most range, in terms of result, of any of the non-seeded players.
I see Coppejans or Pouille reaching the second week in a weak section, would be a career result for either player, the section is theirs for the taking, depending on which one players their best. Pouille is the slightly better aggressor, while Coppejans is more defensively sound.
Week 1 Predictions (round of 16 matchups)
Djokovic d. Gasquet in 3 Nadal d. Dimitrov in 3
Djokovic dominates the h2h against Gasquet and has two wins on clay against him, I see no reason why he won’t reach the quarterfinals, and he probably doesn’t drop a set in the process. Nadal is 6-0 against Dimitrov with 3 wins on clay, and he just beat him in Madrid in routine fashion. This is Nadal at the French, and Dimitrov has not looked like a star this year, so again Rafa could reach the quarters without dropping a set.
Murray d. Isner in 3 Ferrer d. Cilic in 4
Murray is 4-0 against Isner, including a big Davis Cup win this year, this is also clay, and Murray has a great return game, so given form and matchup, Murray in 3 or 4 sets is a safe pick. Ferrer and Cilic have a split h2h on clay, but Ferrer has been in way better form this season, so he should reach the quarters, and I believe he would beat Cilic in 3 or 4 sets.
Nishikori d. Bautista Agut in 3 Berdych d. Tsonga in 3
Nishikori has beaten RBA twice this season on clay, and three times overall, if he gets this far, I don’t see him losing before the quarterfinals as it’s a bad matchup for the Spaniard. Berdych is 7-2 against Tsonga, and just beat him in Madrid on clay, these players have been entirely divergent in terms of form in 2015, and Berdych has been strong for players the caliber that Tsonga is at right now.
Garcia-Lopez d. Coppejans in 3 Federer d. Monfils in 5
GGL or Wawrinka should simply be superior to any player that gets out of the section below them, thus it’s a great shot a slam quarterfinal for Garcia-Lopez. Monfils upset Federer in Monte Carlo and has beaten him the past two times on clay without dropping a set, that said, Federer has won both of their matches at Roland Garros, and in a best of 5 format in a Grand Slam, I give him the edge for experience alone. I don’t feel Monfils can maintain his focus and consistency long enough to win a match like that, and will give up a break in the end to put Federer through.
Picking the rest of the way
Djokovic d. Nadal in 4
The final before the final will happen in the top half men’s quarterfinal if Nadal and Djokovic meet as expected. The debate since the clay court season began in earnest in Monte Carlo has been swirling as to whether Rafa or Novak would win a best of 5 match this year at Roland Garros. Djokovic beat Nadal rather routinely in Monte Carlo, a venue that Rafa has an amazing record at, and he has won two of their last three meetings on clay. That said Nadal is 6-0 at the French Open against Novak, and he’s only been pushed to five sets one time (The 2013 semifinals). Many have said that Nadal is simply a different beast at RG, and no matter his form, or how well Novak is playing, there is a mental and surface factor that will always give Nadal an edge when they meet on Chatrier.
I’m apt to disagree, as the Rafa of late 2014/2015 has been a totally different beast, a neutered beast compared to his previous self, including on clay. He has look abysmal and lost at times on the surface this year, and it’s not that his opponents have just outplayed him, it’s that he’s beaten himself, spewing errors, and lacking confidence and consistency. He showed flashes of brilliance in Monte Carlo against Novak but he couldn’t maintain that level and the defensive skills, returning and pushing of Djokovic proved too much for him. Novak has been a total machine this year, especially when it’s mattered against the big four, and late in tournaments. I have a feeling that the world #1 is unstoppable right now, and he should be rested and motivated. If he is ever to win Roland Garros, this is his time with Nadal clearly limping into the tournament and out of the top 5. This matchup is relatively even and both guys know each other well, but the form of Novak, and his tenacity should be able to edge out Rafa, and I don’t even think it will be that close, as I have Novak winning in four sets. Soderling was the only one to beat Nadal at RG, but I don’t see it staying that way this year. Djokovic has been better able to handle intense pressure in recent months, than Nadal has, and I feel the Spaniard is under more pressure with his ranking under the threat of collapse, than Djokovic is right now, given that he’s dominating the fast surfaces and winning almost every tournament that he enters, along with baffling his other rivals Federer and Murray.
Murray d. Ferrer in 4
Murray is 0-4 against Ferrer on clay, so this would be another pick that would buck the head to head trend, but again, Murray has been in excellent form as of late, and he’s performed very well in the big tournaments. He seems to be swinging freely, he’s healthy, and also in excellent spirits with his new marriage and all. Ferrer is a solid player, but against top players, his approach is more to grind and let them beat themselves, as he lacks the weapons to outright win against a big four player. Murray has reached the semis twice before, and I don’t see reason why he won’t do so for a third time this year. His clay court game seems to finally be blossoming as he beat Nishikori and Nadal on the surface in Madrid.
Berdych d. Nishikori in 5
Nishikori is 3-1 against Berdych, but Tomas won their only match on clay (Monte Carlo 2012), additionally, Berdych has not lost to a player outside of the big four except to Wawrinka in Rotterdam, he’s been incredibly reliable this year, almost machinelike, and Kei is good on clay, and he’s been fine, but he hasn’t been up to that same level, my perception is Berdych has an extra gear right now that will push him through in this battle.
Federer d. Garcia-Lopez in 3
Federer is 3-0 against GGL, and I see no reason why the Federer/Monfils winner won’t reach the quarters, even if Wawrinka gets this far, he was awful against Federer in Rome, so regardless this should be perhaps the most routine quarterfinal, as all of the quarterfinals look promising this year.
Djokovic d. Murray in 4
Federer d. Berdych in 3
Djokovic is 2-0 against Murray on clay, and hasn’t lost to him since he had back surgery, they have met three times this year, all on hard courts and the set score was 7-2, given this is clay, if Novak gets this far, I don’t see a way he loses to Murray unless Nadal simply puts him in a wheelchair in a quarterfinal grindfest. If it’s Nadal that gets to this point, I’d actually give Murray a decent chance at reaching the final, but against Djokovic, even as a Murray fan, I have no belief that he can win right now.
Federer has thrashed Berdych twice this year without dropping a set including in Rome on clay. Federer is 4-0 against Tomas on clay, and has only lost a set to him, and that was on fast and slippery blue clay in Madrid. Berdych has been excellent and tenacious against non-big four players this season, but he’s been toothless against the games elite, and I don’t see that changing here, it’s a mental block more than anything else as to why.
Djokovic d. Federer in 4
Djokovic just routined Federer in Rome, and he’s won three of their last four meetings on clay, in a best of 5 set format, Djokovic, because of his superior stamina, especially on clay where it will be harder for the older Federer to shorten points, has the advantage these days. Federer can’t be written off, but Djokovic is more likely to win his first French Open, than Federer is to win his second. He’s the oddsmakers favorite, and I’m going with Djokovic to win the 2015 French Open, if he wins it this time, it will be a well deserved and well earned victory.
2015 French Open Week 1 Women’s Preview and Predictions (@RolandGarros) Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 French Open Women’s Preview
It’s finally time for the pinnacle tournament of the clay court season, the second grand slam of the year, The French Open.
First held in 1881, the French Open was originally held in Paris’ Stade Francais club, and only accepted French club members. It was until 1925 that the French Tennis Federation allowed overseas entrants. In 1928, it was decided that the tournament needed a new site and thus it moved to the Porte d’Auteuil, where it has stayed ever since. 40 years a later after seeing victors from across the world, the French Open became the first Grand Slam to embrace professionalism.
From then a whole host a champions lifted La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, with the likes of Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Chris Evert winning multiple titles in the following years. In the following decades, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Justine Henin and Serena Williams captured multiple French Open titles. Most recently Maria Sharapova lifted La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the second time in 2014, defeating Simona Halep in a classic final. Her previous triumph came two years earlier. Serena Williams won the title in 2013.
French Open Tier: Grand Slam Location: Paris, France Surface: Clay Prize Money: $15,980,135 Date: May 24th- June 7th 2015
Top 8 seeded players (Ranking)
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Maria Sharapova (2)
3. Simona Halep (3)
4. Petra Kvitova (4)
5. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
6. Eugenie Bouchard (6)
7. Ana Ivanovic (7)
8. Carla Suarez Navarro (8)
The only main draw player out of the tournament is Kateryna Kozlova. All the top players are entered into the main draw.
(15) Venus Williams vs Sloane Stephens:
I am sure this stood out to everyone who has looked at the full draw. Venus vs Sloane, with a potential round four with Serena at stake? That is quite the Hollywood blockbuster.
Venus Williams has only played one clay court tournament leading up to the French Open, and that was Rome two weeks ago. The world number 15 made the round of sixteen before slumping to a 6-2, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Simona Halep. Clay has traditionally been the weakest surface for Venus, but she is a former finalist at Roland Garros 13 years ago. On that occasion she lost to her sister Serena in straight sets. The 34 year old lost to Anna Schmiedlova in a crazy second round last year, which also saw her sister lose that same day.
Sloane Stephens is still going strong in Strasbourg as I write this. The American is currently in the semi-finals with potential to go all the way and win it. The 22 year old was once touted the future of women’s tennis, but she has failed to live up to them expectations, and now finds herself ranked 41 in the world. After a good run in Strasbourg, Stephens will be full of confidence heading into this match. Stephens has made the fourth round in her past three French Open appearances, so she knows her way around Roland Garros.
These two have never met before even though they were touted to face each other in Miami two years ago. The match should be very forehand orientated, with both players looking to dictate from that wing. In an extremely packed section, this is the round one highlight and should produce a very interesting and potentially great match that could go either way.
(6) Eugenie Bouchard vs Kristina Mladenovic:
2014 semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard has failed to bring her 2014 form into this season, and as a result, the Canadian is in a mini slump. With semi-final points to defend it’s time for Genie to kick into gear, but unfortunately for the sixth seed she has drawn home crowd favourite Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round.
Bouchard’s performances in the biggest tournaments earned the Canadian a top eight seeding, but this year has thus far been a poor one for Genie. Starting from Indian Wells, Bouchard lost six straight matches. The losing streak was finally snapped in Rome, where Bouchard managed to defeat Zarina Diyas in straight sets. The Canadian lost to Carla Suarez Navarro in the following round, but she took the inform Spaniard to three sets, which was encouraging signs for the Genie army. Bouchard’s impressive run to the semi-finals was halted by eventual champion Maria Sharapova last year.
Kristina Mladenovic is still going strong in Strasbourg, as she guns for her first career title. The 22 year old is in good form, and in front of a home crowd when she faces Genie Bouchard, and that is why this match is so interesting. The Frenchwoman is no stranger to upsetting top players at Roland Garros as she dumped former champion Li Na out last year in the opening round. Mladenovic’s run to the third round last year is her best result at her home grand slam. If she is to go one further, she must upset Bouchard in the opening round.
This match is a must watch because of the sheer upset potential. Bouchard is not in great form, and Mladenovic is in good form. Couple that with the French crowd being completely behind the world number 54, Mladenovic could easily upset Bouchard like she upset Li Na last year.
(7) Ana Ivanovic vs Yaroslava Shvedova: To continue the upset trend, Ivanovic has been dealt a round one clash against the enigma known as Yaroslava Shvedova.
Ivanovic’s resurgence towards to the top of the rankings has stagnated in recent weeks. The Serbian has found herself 2-3 so far in the clay season, which is a poor record for a top eight player. Most recently, the former world number one lost to Daria Gavrilova in three sets in Rome. Despite the recent form, one would be a fool to count Ivanovic out. She is a former champion at Roland Garros, so she knows what it takes to go the distance. With a top eight seeding, the Serbian will look to go further than the round of 32 where she fell last year.
Shvedova fell a round earlier in 2014 to Pauline Parmentier, and the Kazakh’s recent form is not encouraging. However, Shvedova is a former two time quarter finalist at this event and with her known talents, she can beat almost anybody in the world on her day. The 27 year old has lost three straight matches on the clay, but she can peak at any time as shown by her 2012 run from qualifying all the way to the quarter finals. That run included a three sets win over then defending champion Li Na.
The potential of Shvedova to randomly peak against an out of a form Ivanovic makes this match very intriguing. The Kazakh has the talent to blast her opponent off the court, but of course she has to find some good form for that to happen. The head to head reads 1-1, so both players know how to beat the other. Look out for this one because it could be interesting.
Where do I start with this one? The world number one Serena Williams has been dealt with a tough section, which could see her play Victoria Azarenka and sister Venus before the quarterfinals. The path to round three looks relatively simple for the top seed, but when the round of sixteen beckons things will get very interesting. Only a few weeks ago in Madrid, Victoria Azarenka came within millimetres of defeating the world number one. Three match points on serve came and went, and soon a deflated Azarenka fell in the tiebreak. With a potential rematch on the horizon, the Roland Garros crowd will be relishing the opportunity to see the rematch.
The winner of that epic round three encounter could face either Sloane Stephens or Venus Williams In the round of sixteen. The American pair will compete in the pick of the opening round matches. The winner might be favourite to make the fourth round against Serena or Vika, but Barbora Strycova might have something to say about it. The 22nd seed has a crafty game, and could easily catch Venus or Sloane off guard. First, the Czech must defeat Tsvetana Pironkova and the winner of qualifier/Allertova in round two. Either way, Williams or Azarenka will have a difficult round four opponent.
Caroline Wozniacki comes into Roland Garros with no points to defend after around one defeat to Yania Wickmayer last year. However the fifth seed has shown improvements on her worst surface under the tutelage of Aranxta Sanchez Vicario, making the final of Stuttgart and the quarter finals in Madrid. Dangerous Italian Karin Knapp is the round one opponent, and then the Dane will be tested by a big serve in round two as she will face either Coco Vandeweghe or Julia Goerges. The projected round three is Jelena Jankovic, but the Serb pulled out of Strasbourg in the build up to Roland Garros so her condition is unknown. That could open the door for a qualifier or Irina Falconi to make the third round. With Wozniacki’s improvements on clay it’s difficult to see her not making the fourth round unless a Vandeweghe or Goerges zone in.
As well as Jankovic, Andrea Petkovic pulled out of Nurnberg this week citing injury, so the German’s condition is also unknown. Susan Rogers in round one or Cristina McHale in round two will look to take advantage of any potential injuries to the world number ten, but the biggest beneficiary will be former finalist Sara Errani. The Italian was runner up in 2012, and has proven hugely difficult to hit through on the clay. Alison Riske will test the defence of Errani in round one, as will Carina Witthoeft in round two, but the world number 17 should grind her way through. Petkovic’s unknown injury status will make Errani the favourite to make the fourth round and potentially face Caroline Wozniacki in a match between two of the best movers on tour.
After triumphing in Madrid, many people put Petra Kvitova as one of the favourites for the French Open title. But with Petra you never know, and with some dangerous seeds in her section such as Timea Bacsinszky, Irina Begu and Madison Keys, there’s potential upset in the early rounds. Kvitova opens against Marina Erakovic, before moving on to either Sylvia Soler Espinosa or Pauline Parmentier. Irina Begu’s recent good form was highlighted by a straight sets victory over Angelique Kerber in Rome, and a quarter final run in Madrid. Her great run in the Spanish capital was halted by her projected round three opponent Petra Kvitova. The Czech was successful in straight sets that time around, and you would expect the word number four to repeat that success here.
Round four will be interesting choose which way it goes. Bacsinszky vs Keys will be the projected and likely round three, but there are plenty of players who could spoil that party by defeating the American and the Swiss in the opening rounds. Belina Bencic, or Daniela Hantuchova could face Keys in round two providing she defeats Vavara Lepchenko in round one. Bacsinszky faces tough opposition in the form of Lara Arruabarrena whose good form as earned her a semi-final position in Nurnberg. The Swiss’ good form has somewhat faded, making her more prone to an upset. Despite that, she should at least make round three and potentially round four. Kvitova will rightfully be favourite to advance from this section, but there will be potential banana skins in there.
Section four is wide open for a surprise quarter finalist. The top seed in this section is Eugenie Bouchard, whose recent form and first round opponent makes her prone to an upset. If Mladenovic can capitalise on the Canadian’s poor form and the home crowd advantage, the section will open up hugely. A Mladenovic, Schmiedlova or Diyas could find themselves in the fourth round if they can successfully get through the opening rounds.
Perhaps the favourite to advance from this section is 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who re-discovered her grand slam winning form with a final run in Madrid. A leg injury that hampered her against Kvitova forced the Russian to withdraw from Rome, but with two weeks rest behind her Kuznetsova will be prime and ready for the French Open. An interesting round three against Karolina Pliskova stands out as one of the better potential third round clashes. The big hitting Czech is having her best season to date as she continues her climb towards the top ten. Kuznetsova on clay is a difficult task, but with the Russian’s known inconsistencies there is a good chance that Pliskova could make a quarter final run.
Simona Halep’s bid for her first grand slam title continues as she reaches the place where she made her first grand slam final. Maria Sharapova proved too much last year, but with that experience can the world number three take that final step towards Grand Slam success? To do so she may need to face the woman who spectacularly knocked her out of Madrid a few weeks ago, Alize Cornet. Providing Halep gets past Rodina and then the winner of Lucic Baroni/Davis, the Frenchwoman could be staring at a rematch, only this time in front of a home crowd. Cornet has a difficult round one against Roberta Vinci, and then Alexandra Dulgheru will provide a tough test in round two. With this being a grand slam you would expect Halep to have that extra motivation to get her through to round four.
Her opponent at this stage is projected to be Agnieszka Radwanska, but the Pole’s decline in form this year has seen her fall outside the top 10 for the first time in years. Radwanska could face a succession of Germans in round one and two with Annika Beck and Mona Barthel waiting in the wings. Things will get interesting for the Pole in the third round where Elina Svitolina could be waiting. The Ukrainian has Yania Wickmayer in round one, who upset Li Na at this stage last year. If Svitolina can get past the Belgian and her round two opponent, we could be treated to an intriguing round three match between two consistent baseliners. The winner will have a round four match against Simona Halep, who should prove too strong.
Ana Ivanovic hasn’t had the best of clay seasons so far, and drawing one of the WTA tours most erratic yet dangerous unseeded players may just make it worse. Former quarter finalist, Slava Shvedova will be gunning for the upset, and even if Ivanovic overcomes that test, she’ll have an even bigger one in round three. Caroline Garcia defeated the Serbian three times in a row in Mexico and Stuttgart. With that in mind, the Frenchwoman upsetting Ivanovic for the fourth straight time doesn’t seem unreasonable.
The recent good form of Carla Suarez Navarro saw Ekaterina Makarova lose her top eight seeding, but despite being the number nine seed the Russian has a good draw to possibly make the quarter finals. The first two rounds should provide no problem for Makarova, but the third round might give the world number nine her first real test. Shuai Peng is the projected opponent, but the Chinese player has struggled with injuries that have seen her not have much clay practice leading in to the tournament. That could open the door for Elena Vesnina or Kirsten Flipkens to make the third round. It would be surprising to see Makarova not make the fourth round, and with Ivanovic prone to an upset in the first three rounds, she could find herself the favourite to make the last eight. Makarova and Vesnina are frequent doubles partners.
Maria Sharapova will open her defence against Kaia Kanepi in what could be a tough first round match-up for the second seed. Kanepi is a former top 20 player, so if the Estonian can channel that form she will provide the defending champion a difficult test. From there, the Russain shouldn’t have a difficult test until round three where she could face Sam Stosur. Sharapova has a commanding head to head of 14-2 over Stosur, but the Aussie pushed the second seed to three sets last year.
Lucie Safarova is the likely fourth round opponent of Sharapova. The Czech faces the inconsistent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round, and then likely faces Kurumi Nara in round two. Sabine Lisicki is touted for the third round, but the German aggressive style leaves her prone to errors, especially against her first round opponent Monica Puig. The Puerto Rican has struggled this year, but if she can stay consistent she can frustrate an out of for Lisicki. Sharapova vs Safarova will be a good round four clash, which has potential to go three sets, but as Sharapova has shown over the years, she has the fight and determination to get through these difficult three set matches. I expect more of the same there.
Carla Suarez Navarro’s excellent final run in Rome has earned the Spaniard an eighth seed position, but that has not made for an easy draw with the potential of facing Flavia Pennetta, Angelique Kerber and doubles partner Garbine Muguruza. First, Navarro faces crafty Romanian Monica Niculescu. The Spaniard should have too much experience to fall for the spin variation that Niculescu provides. Virginie Razzano in round two could be interesting with the Frenchwoman no stranger to upsets at Roland Garros. In 2012, she knocked out Serena Williams in a dramatic encounter, but I don’t see it repeating against Suarez Navarro. Pennetta will likely await in round three, but with Carla’s recent form, anything less than a round four appearance will be disappointing.
From the round of 16 onwards it will get very interesting for the world number eight. Angelique Kerber vs Garbine Muguruza could be an interesting round three clash providing they can weave their way through some difficult round two clashes. Kerber opens against Timea Babos, before moving onto an Australian clash against either Casey Dellacqua or Alija Tomljanovic. Muguruza on the other hand faces a qualifier in round one and then the winner of the Camila Giorgi vs Tatjana Maria. The Spaniards recent form has been concerning, and it almost feels she needs a good run here with quarter final points to defend. The round two match I feel is key to her tournament, as Muguruza needs momentum and confidence for a good run. She can blast Kerber off the court as proven earlier this year, even though she eventually went on to lose the match. Either way it should be a fascinating round four against Carla Suarez Navarro for either Kerber or Muguruza.
Round of 16:
Serena d. Stephens
Wozniacki d. Errani
Kvitova d. Bacsinszky
Kuznetsova d. Schmiedlova
Garcia d. Makarova
Halep d. Radwanska
Suarez Navarro d. Muguruza
Sharapova d. Safarova
Serena d. Wozniacki
Kvitova d. Kuznetsova
Halep d. Garcia
Sharapova d. Suarez Navarro
Serena d. Kvitova
Halep d. Sharapova
Final: Serena d. Halep
With the tough draw, Serena will be tested early and therefore will be ready when the latter stages come around. I see either Serena losing to Azarenka or going all the way, and I chose the latter because it is the safer bet. That is unless Kvitova repeats her Madrid performance and defeats the world number one for the second straight time
Halep will get revenge of Sharapova for last year’s final defeat, but yet again she will fall at the last hurdle as Serena will be too much to handle.
The draw has opened up for a surprise quarter final run by Garcia, but Halep will prove too difficult to hit through on the clay. Kuznetsova will also have a good run.
So Serena will be the Queen of Roland Garros yet again according to my predictions, but it should be an interesting tournament none the less.
2015 Roland Garros Men’s Qualifying Preview and Predictions Chris de Waard, Tennis Atlantic
The start of the Roland Garros men’s main draw is nearing, but first we will have 128 players competing in the qualifying draw, who will be battling it out for sixteen coveted spots in that main draw.
2015 RG Men’s Qualies Predictions
Top 16 seeds (of 32 total)
1: Hyeon Chung
2: Alexander Zverev
3: Facundo Bagnis
4: Blaz Rola
5: Dustin Brown
6: Luca Vanni
7: Norbert Gombos
8: James Ward
9: Alejandro Gonzalez
10: Kimmer Coppejans
11: Alejandro Falla
12: Adrian Menendez-Maceiras
13: Guido Pella
14: Aleksandr Nedovyesov
15: Tobias Kamke
16: Austin Krajicek
First round match-ups to watch:
(4) Blaz Rola – Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo
Ramirez Hidalgo is 37, but has only improved since the start of this year. Almost out of the top 250 in February, he now is ranked inside of the top 200 again after two semi-finals and two quarterfinals on the Challenger circuit. He is also exactly the type of player Rola might struggle with at this moment. Rola is coming off bad losses against world #515 Rogerio Dutra Silva and #250 Giovanni Lapentti in his last two tournaments.
This is the biggest chance of one of the highest seeds getting knocked out. Brown has been struggling the entire year, first one the main tour and recently even at the Challengers. Daniel knew a rocky start to the year, changing his schedule in an attempt to become more capable on hardcourts, but ever since switching back to clay his results have improved, with the highlight being his title at Vercelli last month.
(11) Alejandro Falla – Lamine Ouahab
Ouahab very nearly made the cut and it will be interesting to see how he will perform here. He is obviously infamous for only bringing his best tennis when he plays in Morocco, repeating that this year with three Futures titles, a Challenger title and a quarterfinal at the ATP 250 of Casablanca, where he beat world #24 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round.
(14) Aleksandr Nedovyesov – Yuki Bhambri
An unfortunate draw for Nedovyesov, drawing a Bhambri who is arguably playing the best tennis of his career, after struggling with injury for a long time. Bhambri comes off a clay final in Samarkand, where he lost to Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Edmund has shown good consistency on clay in recent times, reaching three Challenger quarterfinals in a row, but it’s clear that it’s not his best surface. This is not the case for Melzer, who just comes off a dream run at the ATP 250 event of Munich, where he beat #42 Pablo Andujar (by retirement), #44 Dominic Thiem and took a set off #26 Philipp Kohlschreiber in the semi-final.
18-year-old top seed Hyeon Chung is currently ranked #69 and came into the qualifying event after missing the entry deadline due to a misunderstanding from the Korean tennis association, with the Roland Garros organization making a very unique exception in handing him a wildcard. Naturally, Chung is the big favorite to qualify, with perhaps Nikoloz Basilashvili being the only player that can threaten him on a good day.
The second section knows a similarly big favorite in Alexander Zverev, also 18. Up until recently this might not have been the case due to Zverev’s results being seriously lacking, but recently he has really picked up his game. This saw him winning the Heilbronn Challenger and entering the top 100 last week. He faces Horacio Zeballos in the first round, who is a shadow of his former self and lost 6-4 6-2 to Zverev in the first round last week. The other players in this section don’t have clay as their favorite surface and perhaps Marius Copil is the only one who can threaten Zverev, in the final qualifying round.
Third seed Facundo Bagnis has been playing on green clay in the United States in the lead-up to Roland Garros, with very mixed results. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him go out against one of Renzo Olivo, Andrea Arnaboldi or Denis Kudla in the final qualifying round. Arnaboldi and Kudla face off in a very interesting first round clash, in which Arnaboldi has to be marked the slight favorite, despite Kudla being the seeded player (#30).
The fourth quarter is a highly interesting one, with a bunch of players who could go through. As said, Rola and Ramirez Hidalgo face off in the first round, but Roberto Carballes Baena, Elias Ymer and Thiemo de Bakker are placed in this section as well and might be more likely than fourth seed Rola to go through, with De Bakker coming off a final in Bordeaux last week. Although the Dutchman is highly inconsistent and might well return to mediocrity this week. Carballes Baena plays Peter Gojowczyk in the first round, but the German is just coming back from a lengthy injury lay-off and it’s far from certain if he is healthy enough to be a factor here. Carballes Baena might just have the consistent game to come through this section.
To qualify from this quarter: (1) Chung, (2) Zverev, Arnaboldi and Carballes Baena
As mentioned, fifth seed Brown has a horror draw against Daniel, with the Japanese clay court specialist actually being the slight favorite in their match. The main draw spot will highly likely be reached by someone in the top section, with Marton Fucsovics also being in the mix. The bottom section is headed by Michal Przysiezny and is unlikely to produce someone who can threaten the three candidates from the top half.
Sixth seed Luca Vanni has been one of the revelations this season, making a breakthrough out of virtually nowhere at Sao Paulo, where he reached the final and almost took down the title, but eventually fell to Pablo Cuevas after a long battle. He has a tricky opening round against Adrian Ungur, but should come through and reach the main draw after beating the highly unpredictable Andrey Golubev in the final qualifying round.
Seventh seed Norbert Gombos heads a section that could go either way. Outside of him, Yoshihito Nishioka and Guilherme Clezar all have a fair shot at qualifying as well. #23 seed Farrukh Dustov is in atrocious form at the moment and is unlikely to play a role. Given that Gombos and Clezar aren’t in the best form of their lives either, this might be a golden opportunity for 19-year-old Nishioka to come through.
The eighth section is very hard to predict, with a wide variety of players having a shot at going through. James Ward and James McGee don’t have clay as their best surface, with with highly unpredictable players like Christian Lindell, Christian Garin and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava being their competition, being solid might just prove to be enough.
To qualify from this quarter: Daniel, (6) Vanni, Nishioka and (28) Munoz-De La Nava
Ninth seed Alejandro Gonzalez heads this section, but he comes off a demolition job in the first qualifying round of Rome, where he lost 6-2 6-0 to Thomaz Bellucci. The other seed here, Albert Montanes, seems to be heading towards retirement, which makes this an interesting opportunity for Andre Ghem or Antonio Veic, who face off in the first round. With Ghem being the more consistent of the two, this might be a golden opportunity for the 32-year-old to qualify for his first Roland Garros, although Gonzalez will still be the favorite to go through.
Tenth seed Kimmer Coppejans is hard to ignore in the next section, playing the tennis of his life. Last month he reached two Challenger finals on clay, winning one of them and it’s unlikely that anyone in his section will trouble him. Radu Albot might come close, but he is more at home on hardcourts.
As mentioned, eleventh seed Alejandro Falla faces off against cult hero Lamine Ouahab in the first round. If we pretend that Ouahab is a normal player this is a draw from heaven for him, if he beats Falla he is projected to play Niels Desein/Maxime Authom and Rui Machado/Alexander Kudryavtsev, but since Roland Garros isn’t played in Morocco it’s just as likely he will lose 6-2 6-2 to Falla. Nevertheless, given that this section has no other stand-out favorite, I might as well let my hopes guide me and predict him to go through.
Closing this quarter is a section headed by Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, the 29-year-old Spaniard who is making an unexpected rise and is playing the tennis of his life, nearing the top 100. Based on recent form I have to go with Gerald Melzer, however, who is also a lot more at home on clay than Menendez-Maceiras. Nicolas Jarry, Potito Starace and Kyle Edmund are dangerous outsiders in this section.
To qualify from this quarter: (9) Gonzalez, (10) Coppejans, Ouahab and Melzer
Thirteenth seed Guido Pella has been in more than excellent form, taking down titles in San Luis Potosi and Sao Paulo, plus reaching a final and semi-final in Heilbronn and Santos, making him the big favorite to advance from this section. Pella has an interesting rivalry with Facundo Arguello, the other seed here and the only one who could potentially threaten him, with their head to head being 3-3. They have met twice this year, remarkably with Pella taking the first meeting 6-4 6-3 and Arguello the second one 6-2 6-3. Nevertheless, Pella should be marked the favorite.
The next section might go between two unseeded players, Yuki Bhambri and Jason Kubler, with Bhambri having the edge. Bhambri is severely underranked after coming back from injury, which he showed by reaching the Samarkand final last week. He is a favorite against fourteenth seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the first round and against the other players in this section as well, which includes Jurgen Zopp and Matthias Bachinger.
Fifteenth seed Tobias Kamke heads the by far weakest section of this draw, which also includes Evgeny Donskoy, Iliya Marchenko and Somdev Devvarman. Not only is Kamke on an eleven-match losing streak, none of the other players is strong on clay. Normally Pere Riba would be the favorite here, but he hasn’t played all year due to injury and is far from certain to be match fit. No matter who goes through, he will likely be a very easy opponent in the first round of the main draw.
The final section should be a prey for Marco Cecchinato, who won the Turin Challenger two weeks ago and is in excellent form. He has a very favorable draw against players who don’t favor clay, with the only competition perhaps coming in the final qualifying round, where he is projected to face Austin Krajicek or Filippo Volandri, both of whom will be a solid underdog against Cecchinato.