Rafael Nadal is Challenged by Zverev but Prevails in Rome Final Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Rafael Nadal was challenged in Rome by his final three opponents, but in the end he left the tournament as champion with a 6-1 1-6 6-3 victory over Alexander Zverev in the final, a final that featured rain after Nadal dropped the second set. In the third set Rafa took control, much as he did against Fabio Fognini in the quarters and Novak Djokovic in the semis. Both Fognini and Djokovic tested Nadal for portions of their match, but Nadal is #1 on clay for a reason. Nadal beat Damir Dzumhur and Denis Shapovalov in straight sets early in the tournament. Djokovic played well to reach the semis and has a decent shot at making a strong run in Paris.
The Spaniard heads into Roland Garros as a heavy favorite and he’s captured three titles on clay this season, including two of the three Masters titles on clay that were on offer. Germany’s Zverev should be the #2 favorite at the French Open, he won two titles on clay this Spring, along with reaching the Rome final, and is 32-6 on clay over the past two seasons. Zverev beat Matteo Berrettini and Kyle Edmund in straights, then edged David Goffin in three sets, and powered past Marin Cilic in the semifinals.
In the doubles final Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah beat Carreno Busta/Sousa.
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka Hoping For Rejuvenation in Rome Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2018 ATP stop in Rome is a marquee Masters 1000 event, and the last major tuneup for many ATP players prior to the French Open. Here is your full preview, with predictions of this prestigious event.
Rafael Nadal‘s most challenging opponent looks to be young Denis Shapovalov, who is still alive in Madrid. Shapovalov has posted a strong clay season and presuming he’s fit, he should upset the struggling Tomas Berdych, and then get past Daniil Medvedev or Robin Haase to reach round 3. Rafa needs to beat Damir Dzumhur or countryman Fernando Verdasco to reach round 3. Despite suffering his first loss in a long time in Madrid, Nadal should be favored into the quarterfinals.
Possible Madrid champion Dominic Thiem will be tested by Fabio Fognini or Gael Monfils in his opening match. I’ll back Sam Querrey to beat Peter Gojowczyk and Lorenzo Sonego/Adrian Mannarino before falling to Thiem (or Monfils) in round 3.
Kei Nishikori hopes to snap a three match losing streak against veteran Feliciano Lopez, Grigor Dimitrov awaits in round 2 in a matchup that looks 50/50. I’ll go with Dimitrov to meet Philipp Kohlschreiber in round 3. Kohlschreiber opens with Karen Khachanov, Jack Sock or David Ferrer will follow. Based on form and upside Dimitrov over Kohli is my pick.
Novak Djokovic is just 6-6 this season, he should get past Alexandr Dolgopolov in round 1, then a qualifier in round 2, but his first big test will come against John Isner in round 3. Isner opens with a qualifier or Albert Ramos. I’m not confident but I’ll predict Djokovic into the quarterfinals given his relatively easy draw.
Marin Cilic will face off with Ryan Harrison or Yuichi Sugita and should reach round 3, but I have Diego Schwartzman as the favorite in the section. Schwartzman should beat a qualifier, Richard Gasquet/Benoit Paire, and a struggling Cilic to reach the quarters.
Madrid semifinalist Kevin Anderson will be favored against Aljaz Bedene or Gilles Muller while Stan Wawrinka returns to tour from injury against Steve Johnson. Wawrinka is an elite player, but fitness and form have been a major problem for him in recent months. I’ll back him against Johnson but Pablo Carreno Busta should beat Jared Donaldson, then Wawrinka (or Johnson) before falling to Anderson in round 3.
Still alive in Madrid, Alexander Zverev has put together a fantastic clay court season. Zverev will face a qualifier or Matteo Berrettini in round 2, then should await Kyle Edmund in round 3. Edmund will be favored against a qualifier and Lucas Pouille/Andreas Seppi, with Pouille a disaster right now. I’d expect fatigue to become a factor for Zverev, and I’ll go with Edmund in an upset.
Juan Martin Del Potro will have a big matchup against Borna Coric, presuming Coric defeats a qualifier in the opening round. I’ll go with Coric in a minor upset with David Goffin or Pablo Cuevas awaiting in round 3. Goffin faces Leonardo Mayer, while Cuevas duels with Marco Cecchinato. Coric over Goffin is my pick in round 3.
Rafael Nadal hasn’t lost a match on clay since 2017, a 46 consecutive set run that will perhaps never be matched again on the ATP tour. Nadal, a player that many thought was in the twilight of his career after knee problems, has already put together a pair of seasons on clay that are as good, if not better than his younger years, and now he has the Madrid and Rome Masters tournaments to come, followed by Roland Garros.
Given Nadal’s excellent form against even the ATP’s elite on clay, he has a very good chance of winning every match on clay this season, sweeping his way to an 11th Paris title, and perhaps not dropping a set en route. Nadal has only lost a match since the 2016 French Open. However, if an upset happens in Paris, or along the road to Paris, which player is most likely to trip up Nadal? We take a look at a few of the options.
Former world #1 Novak Djokovic is the first name that comes to mind, Djokovic hasn’t been healthy lately and he’s been undergoing major changes with his coaching team, but he’s still Novak Djokovic. The competitive fire and skill that made him world #1 and allowed him to compete with the rest of the big four, and frequently beat them, hasn’t entirely disappeared. Form is a finicky thing in tennis, and if Djokovic can rebuild his belief by stacking some quality wins together prior to facing Nadal, he could very well catch the Spaniard if Rafa is playing at less than 90% of his best. Djokovic’s seven wins on clay against Rafa far surpass any other active player in terms of h2h results.
Dominic Thiem is the last player to beat Nadal on clay, Thiem has a big game that is suited for the surface, but he’s yet to win a slam and hasn’t yet proven the consistent ability to put his talents to use. That said, in a one off match Thiem has a chance against Rafa.
Some sportsbooks list Djokovic and Thiem as having the same odds to win the French Open (+900) but that’s far from Nadal’s odds, which is set at a very favorable (-225). Nadal is basically going into this as the sure win and if you have as much confidence in him as most others do, this list of offshore betting sites will be your best guide to choosing the right site. Each one has been reviewed by experts so that you can trust them, just like how you can trust Nadal to take home the win. Outside of these top three players, the odds for other players are a bit of a stretch.
A big server such as John Isner or Milos Raonic could disrupt Rafa’s rhythm on clay, most big servers are not at their best on the surface, and they would need to massively improve their return of serve to win that matchup, but at least they possess the skillset to do it. Other players with weapons such as Juan Martin Del Potro, Fabio Fognini, and Gael Monfils also have a shot, of that group only Fognini (2 previous h2h wins) has done it.
Rafael Nadal proved his continued impenetrability on clay with a 6-3 6-2 win over Kei Nishikkori in the Monte Carlo final, and a run of play in Monaco that saw him win every match with ease. Nadal buzzed past Aljaz Bedene, Karen Khachanov, Dominic Thiem, and Grigor Dimitrov, never losing more than 4 games in a single set all week. I twas perhaps the most dominant single tournament performance in ATP history, and it came at the Masters 1000 level no less against a solid group of opponents.
While Nadal looked unstoppable, Kei Nishikori looked healthy. His strongest run of play this season saw a win in three sets against Tomas Berdych, straight set victories over Daniil Medvedev and Andreas Seppi, and then narrow three set wins over Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev to reach the final. Nishikori’s form this week suggests he could return to the top 10 by season’s end.
The Bryan Brothers beat Marach/Pavic in the doubles final, wrapping up a solid week for the veteran pairing.
Rafael Nadal’s 10th title in Barcelona was special, as it came on a court that was named after him at the start of the tournament this year. Rafa, 29-5 on the season, and now 10-0 on clay, did the double once again in is career, taking Barcelona after taking Monte Carlo the prior week. Nadal hasn’t dropped a set on clay in nine straight matches and rolled past Rogerio Dutra Silva, Kevin Anderson, Hyeon Chung, Horacio Zeballos, and finalist Dominic Thiem beating Thiem 6-4 6-1. Thiem, playing his second final of 2017, was blitzed by Nadal but still claimed a win over world #1 Andy Murray in the semifinals, and also beat Kyle Edmund, Dan Evans, and Yuichi Sugita on the week.
Florin Mergea and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi beat Philipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya in the doubles final.
Lucas Pouille claimed his eighth win in nine matches 6-3 6-1 over qualifier Aljaz Bedene to claim the title in Budapest, his first of 2017, and the second of his career at age 23. Pouille needed three sets against Jiri Vesely in his first match in Hungary, but didn’t look back after that easing past Martin Klizan and Paolo Lorenzi to make the final, before thumping Bedene, who had won a remarkable sixteen straight matches leading into the final. In the end fatigue likely hurt his already limited changes against the talented Frenchman. Bedene beat lucky loser Marius Copil twice in two matches then beat Robin Haase, Ivo Karlovic, and qualifier Laslo Djere without dropping a set.
Brian Baker and Nikola Mektic won the doubles title over Juan Sebastian Cabral and Robert Farah.
2017 ATP Barcelona Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The second clay level 500 of the season is underway in Barcelona with a host of top players competing. Here is your preview with predictions.
Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
ATP World Tour 500
April 24-30, 2017
Prize Money: €2,324,905
Andy Murray is struggling but he’s never lost to Bernard Tomic (5-0), and Tomic won his first match in months against Dustin Brown in round 1. Murray should also find his way past Feliciano Lopez (or Albert Montanes) in the third round, as this is not the most difficult section with no one else in better form, despite Murray’s current issues. Surprise Monte Carlo finalist Albert Ramos faces young gun Casper Ruud in round 2, Ruud has won three straight matches having come through qualifying, but presuming Ramos is rested enough he should continue his good run of play. Jan-Lennard Struff is also playing well, but I have Roberto Bautista Agut reaching the quarterfinals with wins over Struff and Ramos, before falling to Murray.
A solid clay courter, Dominic Thiem should clear out Dan Evans while Pablo Carreno Busta looks set to end Yuichi Sugita’s remarkable run, as a lucky loser he stunned Richard Gasquet on clay in one of the upsets of the year, and also has a win against Tommy Robredo thus far. Carreno Busta defeated Andreas Seppi already, but Thiem should prove too much in the quarters given the result of the Rio final on clay earlier this year that Thiem won.
Benoit Paire and Joao Sousa look set to face off in the bottom half, Paire already beat Marcel Granollers, while Sousa is a reasonable favorite against Horacio Zeballos. Look for Paire to sneak into the quarterfinals and face either Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Pablo Cuevas or semifinalist David Goffin, most likely Goffin. Goffin is in great form and should defeat qualifier Nikolosz Basilashvili, while Cuevas beats Karen Khachanov before falling to Goffin. Goffin is the clear favorite to reach the semis here.
Rafael Nadal will play all of his matches in Barcelona on the court named after him, the nine-time and defending champion of this tournament comes off a title in Monte Carlo on clay, and should ease past Rogerio Dutra Silva in round 2, then defeat Kevin Anderson round 3, after Anderson upset a struggling David Ferrer in round 2, also posting a win over Carlos Berlocq round 1. Casablanca finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber needs to defeat Hyeon Chung before facing off with his countryman Alexander Zverev. The younger Zverev will be the favorite, but Kohli is in good form and I have him falling to Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Dark Horse: Pablo Carreno Busta
PCB has a shot at upsetting Thiem and making a run in the top half section, he’s a home player and clearly has the ability on clay, especially with Gasquet already knocked out, to reach the semis or beyond.
Semis Thiem d. Murray
Nadal d. Goffin
Final Nadal d. Thiem
Murray’s poor form on clay suggests Thiem has a great shot at making this final, Nadal is the clear favorite to win yet again in Barcelona though, especially after dominating Monte Carlo.
Roger Federer Completes 2017 Sunshine Double with Title in Miami Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Roger Federer completed the Sunshine double, improving to #4 in the world and continuing his dominance in 2017 with a 6-3 6-4 victory, his third straight, over Rafael Nadal in the Miami Open final. Federer, now 35, has turned back the clock and is the ATP’s best player right now, with few signs that any other player on tour can stop him at the moment. Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych both came close, pushing the Swiss maestro to a third set tiebreak, and prior to that Roberto Bautista Agut lost two respectable tiebreaks. All of that said, in the end Federer mixed skill and experience to pull ahead and secure a twelve match winning streak that is still ongoing heading into the clay court season. Federer has finished the first quarter of the year with a 19-1 record and three titles. He also claimed early wins against Juan Martin Del Potro and Frances Tiafoe in Miami.
Nadal has also experienced a great resurgence the season, his battles with Federer continue to be the stuff of legends and he’s now 19-5 on the season, despite not yet having a title of his own. His best surface, clay, awaits after wins on the trot against Dudi Sela, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Nicolas Mahut, Jack Sock, and surprise semifinalist Fabio Fognini. Only against Kohlschreiber did Rafa drop a set prior to the final and he’s suffered just one truly shocking loss this season, a season that has seem him take part in three finals.
Veterans Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo eased past Nick Monroe and Jack Sock in the doubles final.
Roger Federer captured Grand Slam #18 at the age of 35 this past weekend with his five set victory over long time rival Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3. Federer turned back the clock for two weeks in Melbourne, after missing of half of 2016 due to a back injury. The swiss legend took advantage of the quick surface in Melbourne to gain key advantages against Rafa in the three sets he won. Nadal was broken early in the three sets he lost, and in the fifth set, he was up a break, but lost it, going on to surrender the match. When Federer slipped into more passive play, Nadal took advantage with his topspin forehand, but from the start of the second week, with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray defeated, the tournament looked to be Federer’s to lose.
Federer had not won a title since 2015, and hadn’t won a slam since 2012, many thought he had at most a couple years left on tour. He still may have a couple of years left, but those years are all the sudden looking a lot more promising. The injury layoff gave Federer time to rest and recuperate, and in the right conditions, his ability to play masterful attack tennis is still good enough to beat almost every ATP player on tour.
Federer also showed renewed stamina, outside of his three set victory over Mischa Zverev, who served and volleyed his way into the quarterfinals, ending Andy Murray’s bid for a first AO title, the two other Federer victories to reach the final in week 2 were in five sets. Semifinalist Stan Wawrinka couldn’t keep up sustained pressure after coming back from 2 sets to 1 down. Kei Nishikori also forced a fifth set against Federer, but his serving wasn’t strong enough to take the 5th in their round of 16 match.
Nadal was an underdog all tournament, having not won a hard court title since early 2014. The 30 year old Spaniard was pushed to his limits against Grigor Dimitrov, in his second five set contest of the tournament, but in the end, Nadal’s experience and poise was too much for the less accomplished Dimitrov, who has been playing great tennis in 2017. Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils were Nadal’s two other victims, despite being top 10 players, they were no match for Rafa’s movement, and forehand pace.
Federer’s victory and Nadal’s finals appearance sets up an intriguing 2017 season. Djokovic and Murray remain the overall top 2 players, and should compete as co-favorites for the remaining three Grand Slam titles this season. At Wimbledon and the French Open however, Federer and Nadal will have key roles to play. A renewed Federer is dangerous on a fast grass court, especially if he continues to hit the ball as flat as he did against Nadal. A healthy Nadal remains the king of clay, and has a fantastic shot at winning yet another title in Paris.
Dimitrov has shown signs that he could solidify a spot in the top 10, after an excellent start to 2017. His performance at the eight Masters 1000 tournaments this season will go a long way towards determing his fate however. Dimitrov has historically failed to live up to expectations in clutch moments.
Wawrinka also showed he’s not going to drop from the top 5 anytime soon, having his Swiss countryman back playing at a top level should push Wawrinka to up his game as well. Wawrinka and Dimitrov were both masterful in their quarterfinal matches, defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin respectively.
Players on the second tier of the ATP tour in terms of accomplishment, such as Monfils, Raonic, Nishikori, and Marin Cilic are going to have to play much better if they are going to threaten the tour’s core of Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, and once again Federer and Nadal. They benefited from Federer and Nadal’s relative absence, especially on hard courts, but the competition level of the ATP tour just rose. Young guns such as Alexander Zverev, and Dominic Thiem are also fast improving too.
Henri Kontinen and John Peers took home the doubles title, defeating the legendary Bryan Brothers in straight sets. The Finnish/Aussie duo rose to prominence in 2016, and brought joy to home fans already in 2017.
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.
Nadal Conquers Federer to Capture Seventh Rome Title
Rafael Nadal was once again a cut above as he defeated Roger Federer 6-1 6-3 in Rome, continuing his domination of clay court tennis. It is his 24th Masters title overall and as previously mentioned, his 7th in Rome. Federer, for his part, gained ranking points for the first time this year and made his first final of the year, but dropped to 0-3 career in Rome finals.
Nadal has only lost twice this year and continued his win streak over Fabio Fognini, Ernests Gulbis in 3 topsy turvy sets, David Ferrer in 3 sets and Tomas Berdych in straights. Berdych defeated Novak Djokovic to make the semis.
Federer improved against Potito Starace, Gilles Simon, Jerzy Janowicz and Benoit Paire. Paire upset Juan Martin Del Potro en route to the semis, while Janowicz upset both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet to make the quarterfinals.
Like Nadal, the Bryans continued their own domination of clay and everything else, winning over Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna to take the doubles title.