French Open 2017 Men’s Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The second slam of the season and the pinnacle of the clay court season is upon as Roland Garros starts Sunday. Excluding Roger Federer, the world’s best are taking part in the French Open this year and here is your complete preview with predictions.
May 28-June 11, 2017
Prize Money: €16,790,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (1)
2: Novak Djokovic (2)
3: Stan Wawrinka (3)
4: Rafael Nadal (4)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Dominic Thiem (7)
7: Marin Cilic (8)
8: Kei Nishikori (9)
Roger Federer, who is skipping RG to rest his body, is the only notable absence from the tournament.
First round matches to watch:
(1)Andy Murray vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
Murray starts another slam as the world #1, but he’s had a miserable season thus far, and although he’s never lost to Kuznetsov, he needs to watch out that he doesn’t suffer yet another early tournament defeat. Murray has reached the semis or better for three straight French Open’s, and he reached the final last year, Kuznetsov is 9-4 on clay this Spring and is a steady battler. I don’t think Kuznetsov will have enough in his arsenal to win this given his 2-16 record vs the Top 10, but Murray could slip up.
(29)Juan Martin Del Potro vs. (Q)Guido Pella
Del Potro’s best result this Spring was a quarterfinal in Rome, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous competitor on tour, despite all of the injury problems, and he serves as a bit of a dark horse this tournament. That said, Pella is 12-7 and is a respectable dirt baller, this match should go more than straight sets, and JMDP should be on upset alert.
(9)Alexander Zverev vs. Fernando Verdasco
The veteran Verdasco is in decline, but he’s reached the second week in Paris four times, the last coming in 2014. The young Zverev is 16-3 on clay this year, and with Murray in his section, has a potential path to the final. Germany’s young hope will be a solid favorite and beat Verdasco in Madrid this year, but he can’t get over confident as Verdasco still has the forehand necessary to notch upsets and punish his rivals if he finds his range.
(27)Sam Querrey vs. Hyeon Chung
Querrey is the seed and at 29 he’s developed a respectable clay court game, the 21 year old Chung is a difficult opponent though, he has a semifinal and a quarterfinal on clay this spring and is making his move up the rankings. Chung is a name to watch in the future, and he should find a way to win this one and pull off the upset.
(18)Nick Kyrgios vs. Phlipp Kohlschreiber
The veteran Kohlschreiber has plenty of clay court experience, but he’s just 1-3 since losing the final in Casablanca. Kyrgios has lost two straight and due to personal family reasons his clay court action this year was limited. Kyrgios is the more talented player and can raise his game to a level that Kohlschreiber can no longer reach, but if Kyrgios is off, clay is not his best surface and Kohli could pull an upset.
(31)Gilles Simon vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili
Basilashvili broke through in 2017 and is now a solid tour player, he is coming off the semis in Lyon while Simon carries a disappointing 4-5 record on clay this season. Simon will have home support though, and his grinding wears opponents down in slams. Basilashvili will need to bring his best tennis if he’s going to get the upset.
(23)Ivo Karlovic vs. (Q)Stefanos Tsitsipas
Despite an 0-3 tour record, the 18 year old Tsitsipas came through qualifying and soon enough he’s going to make a bang in a grand slam. Karlovic has just two wins on clay this season and it’s by far his worst surface, the tour veteran is a crafty serve and volleyer, but if the young Greek can survive an early onslaught of big serves, he should be able to notch his first ever tour level win and get a big upset.
Murray and Del Potro look set to meet in the third round, but Murray needs to watch out for Martin Klizan, who has a couple of clay quarterfinals and opens with wildcard Laurent Lokoli and would face Murray in round 2. Del Potro could be upset by Nicolas Almagro, who has been solid on clay this year and starts his campaign against Marcos Baghdatis, who is poor on the surface. Presuming Murray ups his game for this slam, I see him beating Del Potro and surviving some early tests to reach round 4.
Current Lyon finalist Tomas Berdych should be consistent enough to defeat J.L. Struff, the improving young gun Karen Khachanov (who opens with Nicolas Jarry), and either John Isner or Paolo Lorenzi. Lorenzi will face Ricardas Berankis first up while Rome semifinalist Isner will take on Jordan Thompson, who is poor on clay. Isner will probably edge the dirtballer Lorenzi in a long contest, with Berdych as the clear favorite to make the round of 16.
After taking on Verdasco, Zverev should have an easier go against either Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Jared Donaldson, in round 3 he’ll have a challenging contest against Pablo Cuevas, a semifinalist in Madrid and quarterfinalist in Monte Carlo who is excellent on clay. Cuevas starts his campaign against young qualifier Maxime Hamou, then he’ll face either Nicolas Kicker or Damir Dzumhur. Zverev has more talent than Cuevas, and I’ll make him the favorite in that match.
Look for Chung to try and pull the upset against Kei Nishikori, Asia’s best player. Nishikori hasn’t had a great clay season, but should defeat Thanasi Kokkinakis, and Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who opens against Radu Albot. Chung faces the Ernesto Escobedo/Denis Istomin winner in round 2. Nishikori, despite his troubles, is still superior to Chung.
Current Geneva finalist and former Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka is finding form finally after a shaky clay court season. His tournament will begin against qualifier Jozef Kovalik, Wawrinka should then finish off dirtballer Carlos Berlocq, who begins against Alexandr Dolgopolov, who is currently a shell of the player he was. The dangerous Fabio Fognini awaits in round 3, Fognini’s path begins with Frances Tiafoe, an American young gun looking to improve on clay, and then he should face his Italian countryman Andreas Seppi, presuming Seppi defeats veteran Santiago Giraldo. Fognini could peak and knock off Wawrinka, but Wawrinka is a more consistent player and will be the favorite to reach round 4.
Richard Gasquet is just 1-2 on clay this year, and should watch out against qualifier Arthur De Greef. The home hero looks set to clash with fellow fan favorite Gael Monfils in round 3 though, Monfils needs to defeat Dustin Brown and either Thiago Monteiro or French wild card Alexandre Muller. Gasquet’s round 2 opponent will be either Victor Estrella or Teymuraz Gabashvili, both veterans. I have Gasquet as a slight favorite against Monfils, although both players are struggling.
Current Lyon finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had been struggling, but Tsonga, the best French hope this tournament, looks to have found form and should defeat Renzo Olivo, and either Gastao Elias or Kyle Edmund before running into Kyrgios/Kevin Anderson round 3. After Kohlschreiber, Kyrgios looks set to face big server Kevin Anderson, as Anderson should defeat Malek Jaziri. I have Anderson, who has been consistent on clay this spring, upsetting Kyrgios, and then Tsonga through to the round of 16.
Istanbul champion Marin Cilic will face Ernest Gulbis, a struggling and fallen ATP star, Federico Delbonis or Konstantin Kravchuk will follow. David Ferrer, who is also struggling, should get past Donald Young, given Ferrer is better on clay, and the winner of Feliciano Lopez/Bjorn Frantagelo. This is a weak section though and Cilic should ease into round 4.
Rafael Nadal, My Top SportsBook’s favorite to reclaim the French Open Title for a record tenth time, Nadal has three clay titles in hand from this spring and starts his tournament against Frenchman Benoit Paire. Paire’s form doesn’t suggest he can defeat Rafa, Robin Haase/Alex De Minaur also don’t look to be that imposing, and the winner of Viktor Troicki/Gilles Simon will probably be Nadal’s first serious test. I have Troicki defeating Evgeny Donskoy, and then Simon/Basilashvili to reach the third round. Nadal should win his first three without dropping a set.
Roberto Bautista Agut, a solid clay courter, looks set to make round 3, John Millman, and the winner of Mikhail Kukushkin/Tennys Sandgren are the only players in his path, Sandgren is rising quickly but he’s not great on clay, RBA should beat Millman and Kukushkin to setup a third round meeting with Jack Sock. Sock should beat the steady Jiri Vesely, then Aljaz Bedene/Ryan Harrison, although Bedene is a dangerous dark horse after catching fire a few weeks ago and reaching the final in Budapest. I have Sock powering past Bautista Agut for a spot in round 4.
Grigor Dimitrov has been in terrible form, he should still defeat a fading Stephane Robert and neither Tommy Robredo or Dan Evans are in good form, Taro Daniel should defeat Jerzy Janowicz before falling to Pablo Carreno Busta. PCB’s path to the fourth round goes through a struggling Florian Mayer, Daniel, and Dimitrov, a reasonable path for the Estoril champion.
Steve Darcis is at a career high ranking, but Milos Raonic looks to be in good enough form to win their round 1 clash and then defeat Rogerio Dutra Silva or Mikhail Youzhny. Gilles Muller has had his best ever clay court season, and that should help him defeat a struggling Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Marco Trungelliti/Quentin Halys in round 2. Raonic is a clear favorite to reach round 4.
Lacking a clay title this season, but working with new coach Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic will start his French Open title defense against Marcel Granollers. The veteran Granollers is a poor singles player these days, Joao Sousa has been terrible this season, and Janko Tipsarevic may not be fit. Djokovic should ease into the third round against either current Geneva finalist Mischa Zverev or Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman will take on Andrey Rublev first up, while Zverev takes on qualifier Stefano Napolitano. Schwartzman should reach the third round on clay but is no match for Djokovic.
Although he started the clay season well, Monte Carlo finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas is yet another struggling dirtballer in this draw. Ramos should defeat Marius Copil though, with Daniil Medvedev’s poor form likely limiting him to a defeat at the hands of Ramos after beating 20 year old wild card Benjamin Bonzi, who is making his slam debut. This is Budapest champion Lucas Pouille‘s section to lose, Pouille should have the edge against veteran Julien Benneteau, then the Frenchman should defeat Thomaz Bellucci, who begins against Dusan Lajovic. Pouille over Ramos is my pick for round 3.
The consistent David Goffin looks set to defeat qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu, then dispatch either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Rendy Lu before running into Tsitsipas/Karlovic or Horacio Zeballos/Adrian Mannarino. Zeballos is solid on clay and thus the best bet to reach the third round before falling to Goffin.
Dominic Thiem has two finals and a semifinal this spring on clay, he’s in tremendous form and should defeat Bernard Tomic, who is poor on clay, qualifier Simone Bolelli or Nicolas Mahut, and then most likely Borna Coric, who should defeat Mathias Bourgue, and the winner of Steve Johnson/Yuichi Sugita to reach round 3. Look for Thiem to defeat the young Coric to reach the second week.
Dark Horses: Hyeon Chung, Kevin Anderson, Aljaz Bedene, and Horacio Zeballos
Chung has a nice shot at upsetting Nishikori, Anderson could upset Tsonga and make an unexpected run. Bedene could upset Sock and Bautista Agut, and Zeballos could emerge from the Goffin/Thiem section, although it’s unlikely.
Round of 16
Murray d. Berdych
Zverev d. Nishikori
Wawrinka d. Gasquet
Tsonga d. Cilic
Carreno Busta d. Raonic
Nadal d. Sock
Thiem d. Goffin
Djokovic d. Pouille
Murray, Wawrinka, Nadal, and Djokovic, the steady warhorses of this draw should prevail, with only Murray having the chance of getting upset this early. The young Zverev and Thiem should make their moves, despite facing challenging opposition, Tsonga should nip Cilic to be the last French man standing, and I have Carreno Busta upsetting Raonic.
Zverev d. Murray
Wawrinka d. Tsonga
Nadal d. Carreno Busta
Djokovic d. Thiem
A battle of contrasts in form, I have Zverev upsetting Murray given how good of a clay court season he’s had. Wawrinka, Nadal, and Djokovic remain favorites, although Novak should watch out against Thiem.
Zverev d. Wawrinka
Nadal d. Djokovic
I’ll pick Rafa to take home the title, but I have Zverev as a surprise finalist. Wawrinka has not been that impressive this clay court season, and Nadal should have an edge over Djokovic on clay.
Nadal d. Zverev