2013 French Open Week 1 Men’s Preview
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
May 26-June 9, 2013
Prize Money: € 7,984,000
For some reason, this feels like one of the most low-key French Opens in recent years. It’s still a Grand Slam, but it has not ignited as much excitement and discussion as in years past. Regardless, the draw is now out and soon enough it will be time to tune into the famed Parisian red clay once again.
Top 8 seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Roger Federer
3: Rafael Nadal
4: David Ferrer
5: Tomas Berdych
6: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
7: Richard Gasquet
8: Janko Tipsarevic
Nadal is the defending champ, Djokovic is the defending finalist, and Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Murray are the two notable absences this year. Murray is out with a back injury and Del Potro is battling a virus. While they will most certainly be missed, neither were favorites for the title so it isn’t that bad of a blow.
1st round matchups to watch:
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. David Goffin
A lot of eyes will be on Djokovic this time as he takes on Goffin in the opening round. He has not had the best of clay seasons and has been dragged down by a nagging ankle injury throughout. He may still not be 100%. Goffin, on the other hand, has dealt with a bit of a sophomore slump this year and is just 7-13 at the ATP level. He also comes off an opening round loss in Dusseldorf but few can forget his run to the Round of 16 at last year’s FO, and he will try to conjure that magic again. Djokovic should win, but Goffin might be able to take a set off him at least.
Ivan Dodig vs Guido Pella
Dodig seems to be perpetually under-noticed when it comes to top 50 ATP players. He has had a solid year thus far and this match with the rising Argentine Pella, who made his first career ATP semi this week in Dusseldorf is interesting and could go either way. Pella has talent on clay, but Dodig has more experience and consistency.
(16) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Jiri Vesely
After dealing with vertigo in Rome, Peppo Kohlschreiber dropped his opening round match in Dusseldorf. Now he heads into a meeting with the only teen in the ATP top 200 (ranked 127 and climbing) Jiri Vesely, a 19-year-old Czech talent who blitzed through qualifying and has won 2 challengers and 3 futures titles this year. Kohli has been improving his form overall, but his health is still a question mark, giving Vesely a punchers chance at a big upset.
Andrey Kuznetsov vs. Ryan Harrison
Kuznetsov and Harrison both still have to be considered young talents and Kuznetsov has now moved past Harrison in the rankings. Neither have had breakthrough wins this year, but Kuznetsov has been a steady participant in ATP level events and Harrison has clawed his way back from an early season slump, though he did lose in the opening round of Nice. Because this is clay, Kuznetsov is a bit of a favorite but this one could also go either way.
(19) John Isner vs. Carlos Berlocq
Isner remains highly seeded but he keeps struggling and looking hapless on European clay. He has dropped 2 straight matches and will now take on the clay courter Berlocq, who he has never played before. Given the form of both players, Berlocq has to be a bit of a favorite.
(3)Rafael Nadal vs. Daniel Brands
As long as Nadal is healthy, as he appears to be, it is going to take a superhuman effort to beat him, but Brands, a continually improving German could at least make him work for a win. Brands comes off a bad 2nd round loss in Dusseldorf, but his consistently good year and solid game can’t be discounted.
(9)Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Thiemo De Bakker
Under normal circumstances, Wawrinka shouldn’t have an issue beating a player like De Bakker, who has talent but has struggled to put it all together. The problem is Wawrinka is dealing with a thigh injury and it was questionable he would even play the French. De Bakker has been better on the challenger circuit this year and Wawrinka will be a bit of a favorite, but in a best 5 sets match I don’t think Wawrinka’s fitness can be trusted right now even with his remarkable year. This is made even more disappointing by the fact that if Wawrinka was healthy he would have a great draw lined up.
(5)Tomas Berdych vs. Gael Monfils
If you only have time to watch one first round match, this is the one to watch. This match is good enough to be a 2nd week match, but instead one player will have to lose and the other will advance. Monfils is on a red-hot win streak, taking a challenger title and then making the finals in Nice (a tournament he may win). The French showman is utterly brilliant when he is in form in front of home fans, but is still ridiculously unpredictable. Berdych, on the other hand, has to hate his draw because after 2 straight clay masters semifinals (Madrid and Rome), he now faces the possibility of losing in round 1 of the French even though he is better than most of the other players in the field. Berdych has won all 3 H2H meetings, but 2 of those were last year and this is a much different Monfils right now. I still have to give an edge to Berdych here, but 5 sets is almost a given if Monfils isn’t out of gas.
Jan Hajek vs. (Q)Denis Kudla
Dusseldorf Quarterfinalist Hajek is best on clay but is a rather average player. Dynamite Denis Kudla has worked through qualifying and could break the top 100 with a couple of more wins in Paris. Given his form, I have to give Kudla a really good shot at winning this.
(18)Sam Querrey vs. Lukas Lacko
Querrey, like Isner, is struggling mightily on the red dirt and has lost 3 straight matches. Lacko, for his part, has also lost 3 straight and has continually dealt with the label of underachiever. Neither of these players are in form and this could go either way.
(2)Roger Federer vs. (Q)Pablo Carreno-Busta
Federer has a very easy draw up until the semifinals, excluding this match with Carreno-Busta who rolled through qualifying as everyone expected and continues to climb up the rankings. Carreno-Busta is making his Grand Slam debut in Paris. PCB of course had that tremendous winning streak on the futures circuit that led to 7 futures titles this year and he made the semis in ATP Estoril along with qualifying and making round 2 in Casablanca. He has tremendous talent and is playing like a top 60 player right now, but Federer, the Rome finalist, is still Federer, and though PCB should push him, I do not think he is quite at that level yet. Expect some great tennis.
After a meeting with Goffin, Djoker will take on Dodig/Pella before getting a rematch against Grigor Dimitrov, who upset him in Madrid in round 3. Dimitrov just needs to be Alejandro Falla and Alex Kuznetsov/Lucas Pouille. Excluding Dimitrov, Djokovic doesn’t have the most difficult of starts.
The Kohlschreiber/Vesely winner will play Rendy Lu or Simone Bolelli and then could meet Alex Dolgopolov, Dmitry Tursunov, Bernard Tomic or Victor Hanescu. Hanescu has had a career resurgence recently and just upset Albert Ramos in Nice. Tomic, of course, has been dealing with family issues and Tursunov is dangerous but inconsistent.
The slumping Janko Tisparevic has just been abysmal this year, losing once again in the opening round in Dusseldorf. He will try again against Nicolas Mahut, who hasn’t done very much for himself as well.The winner will play Fernando Verdasco or Marc Gicquel in the weakest part of the draw by far. One of those 4 has to make the 3rd round.
Joining them could be 29 seed Mikhail Youzhny, Federico Delbonis, qualifier Julian Reister or most likely Pablo Andujar. Andujar is coming off semis in Nice and has played surprisingly well this European clay season, setting him up to make the 3rd round or better in Paris.
12 seed Tommy Haas, who pulled out of Dusseldorf mid-tournament with a cold, will play Guillaume Rufin and then Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or surprise American qualifier Jack Sock. Few expected to make it this far. Haas could then play Kuznetsov/Harrison or Berlocq/Isner.
The heavy favorite and man to beat once again in Paris is Rafa, who will play Brands before meeting Michael Russell or Martin Klizan followed by Fabio Fognini, qualifier Andreas Beck, qualifier Pere Riba, or a big rematch with Lukas Rosol, who has had a solid year of his own. Nadal was shocked by Rosol last year at Wimbledon. Given that this is on clay, none of those options should trouble Rafa much.
13 seed Kei Nishikori will play Jesse Levine followed by Grega Zemlja or Santiago Giraldo. He should thereafter meet the dangerous Benoit Paire, who is seeded 24th, and opens with the formerly good Marcos Baghdatis and then Lukasz Kubot or qualifier Maxime Teixeira. Paire/Nishikori would be a huge 3rd round match.
Richard Gasquet personally carries French hopes, and will open with Sergiy Stakhovsky, followed by qualifier Michal Przysiezny or lucky loser Rhyne Williams, who lost to Przysiezny in the final round of qualifying. They will play each other again. In the 3rd round, it will be one of Florian Mayer, Denis Istomin, Florent Serra and Nikolay Davydenko.
Above Gasquet, the Wawrinka/De Bakker winner will play Horacio Zeballos or qualifier Vasek Pospisil followed by 21 seed Jerzy Janowicz or Albert Ramos. Ramos or Janowicz should beat Robin Haase or Kenny De Schepper, their round 2 opponents.
Ferrer will take on Marinko Matosevic, followed by current Nice finalist Albert Montanes, or surprise American qualifier Steve Johnson. After that, either Montanes or Ferrer should play another Spaniard, Marcel Granollers, if Granollers can beat the struggling Feliciano Lopez and then Go Soeda or Joao Sousa. This really is a good section for Ferrer.
14 seed Milos Raonic, who has had an off and on clay season, will play slumping Xaiver Malisse, and then qualifier Steve Darcis of Frenchman Michael Llodra. After that, fellow big server Kevin Anderson should come calling if the 23 seed can beat qualifier Ilya Marchenko and Evgeny Donskoy or qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff.
Berdych/Monfils will have the tough task of Ernests Gulbis in the toughest section of the draw, as long as Gulbis avoids being upset by Rogerio Dutra Silva. The survivor of that section likely plays 32 seed Tommy Robredo, but the veteran Jurgen Melzer and the Dusseldorf semifinalist Igor Sijsling are also options. Melzer and Sijsling played a tough match in Memphis this year that was won by Sijsling.
Below that, 11 seed Nicolas Almagro, dealing with some injury issues, will play qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria. If he gets past that, he will play Nice semifinalist Edouard Roger-Vasselin, a Frenchmen who has had a solid year. That is, of course, if Roger-Vasselin beats Martin Alund in the opening round. Almagro, if not too hobbled, has a tailor-made draw, as in round 3 he would play the out of sorts Andreas Seppi, whose game has disappeared from him. Seppi will play Leo Mayer, then Blaz Kavcic or qualifier James Duckworth. Kavcic-Duckworth is a rematch of a grueling 5-setter at the Australian Open that left Kavcic in a stretcher after the match. Hopefully, that won’t happen again. Duckworth-Kavcic could also upset Seppi. Keep that in mind.
After a meeting with Carreno-Busta, Fed should have a bit of an easier go against a pair of qualifiers, either Somdev Devvarman or Daniel Munoz-De La Nava. Munoz-De La Nava is making his 2nd Grand Slam main draw appearance at the age of 31. After that, Fed should play Paolo Lorenzo, Ricardas Berankis, or Julian Bennteau (with whom Federer has some experience). Lorenzi plays Tobias Kamke in the opening round while Rycka and Benny will do battle.
Above him, 15 seed Gilles Simon, who lost early in the quarterfinals in Nice, will play Lleyton Hewitt. Simon should then see countryman Adrian Mannarino or blast-from-the-past Pablo Cuevas, a former top 50 player, who after injuries is ranked outside the top 700. After not playing all of last year, with his last match actually being at the 2011 French Open, he has played 2 challenger events in April of this year and that is it.
Simon could very well play Denis Kudla, if Kudla beats Hajek and then Lacko/Querrey, neither of whom are consistent at all on the dirt.
Top Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will play Aljaz Bedene and then Paul-Henri Mathieu, the fiery Frenchmen who has gotten slightly better in recent weeks, or current Dusseldorf finalist Jarkko Nieminen, who has also had a quality year. Assuming he gets past the flying Fin or the inspiring Frenchman, Tsonga could run into yet another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy the 25 seed. Chardy will have to beat Benjamin Becker and Roberto Bautista-Agut or Gilles Muller to make it happen. Agut just beat Muller in Dusseldorf but it went 3 sets. He shouldn’t be counted out as he has talent, but a wrist injury hamstringed him for a bit.
10 seed Marin Cilic opens with Philip Petzschner. He’ll follow that with a chaser of Radek Stepanek or young Aussie Nick Krygios, who is very talented but given this is clay and his slam debut, not much should be expected. Dusseldorf finalist and 17 seed Juan Monaco will play Daniel Gimeno-Traver and then Viktor Troicki or James Blake. After that, he should run into Cilic.
Week 1 predictions (round of 16 matchups and picks)
Djokovic d. Kohlschreiber
Andujar d. Haas
Nadal d. Paire
Janowicz d. Gasquet
Gulbis d. Roger-Vasselin
Ferrer d. Anderson
Tsonga d. Monaco
Federer d. Simon
Djokovic is still better than the competition he faces even though Kohli did shock him at the 09 French Open. Andujar has a really good chance to upset Haas. Nadal should beat Paire once again. Janowicz just beat Gasquet in Rome, and I have a feeling he will do it again. Gulbis beat Roger-Vasselin in Delray and since Roger-Vasselin is a 4th round surprise, should beat him again. Ferrer is better than Anderson on clay, a surface they have never played against each other on. Tsonga has beaten Monaco all 4 times they have met, including in 4 sets at the 09 French and in Davis Cup on clay this year, even with Monaco being in better form right now. Finally, Federer is superior to the inconsistent Simon who he just routined in Rome.
Picking the rest of the way,
Djokovic d. Andujar
Nadal d. Janowicz
Ferrer d. Gulbis
Federer d. Tsonga
Djokovic and Nadal shouldn’t have any trouble while Ferrer and Federer may struggle a bit against Gulbis and Tsonga, but eventually prevail. Federer is 9-3 career against Tsonga including a 5 set win over him at the AO this year.
Nadal d. Djokovic
Federer d. Ferrer
A healthy clay king in the form of Nadal should beat a not 100% clay prince in the form of Djokovic. Although Djokovic did get his number in Monte Carlo, Rafa has won everything else since, and regardless it should be a barn burner. Nadal is 19-15 overall against Djokovic and has beaten him all 3 times they have played at the French Open. He simply owns court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Federer is dominant over Ferrer and has beaten him an amazing 14 times without Ferrer ever registering a win.
Nadal d. Federer
In a rematch of the Rome final and the 2011 French Open final, Nadal won both, and he should win this one as well. His H2H is now 20-10 against Federer, which is actually a pretty notable gap for one of the biggest rivalries in tennis history.