Rafael Nadal entered as the French Open favorite and left as the French Open champion for the 11th time in his illustrious career. Nadal, the game’s best ever on clay (perhaps by some margin), dropped just one set the entire tournament as he cruised through a crop of solid ATP players to triumph in Paris yet again.
In the final it was Nadal against Austria’s Dominic Thiem, a player that beaten Rafa before on clay, but was contesting his maiden Grand Slam final (having previously reached the semis at Roland Garros). Thiem wasn’t a pushover, and on the surface he’d probably beat anyone else in tennis, but not Nadal. The Spaniard got off to a strong start and in every pressure moment, forced Thiem to buckle under his attack. Nadal prevailed 6-4 6-3 6-2, the scoreline reflecting how he took control of the match as the minutes ticked by. The final point securing Nadal his 17th Grand Slam overall as he continues to chase Roger Federer in tennis history.
Nadal’s path to the final saw him tested in his opening match against Simone Bolelli. The Italian put everything he could into the opening set and nearly took it, but in the end Nadal grinded his way to a three set victory. Guido Pella and Richard Gasquet put up far less resistance in rounds 2 and 3. Max Marterer played a good third set but still lost in straights. The quarterfinal match against Diego Schwartzman was Rafa’s toughest of the tournament. He struggled at the start and went a set and a break down, then the rain came. Forced to come back the next day to complete the match, Schwartzman couldn’t maintain his high level and lost in four sets.
Nadal took on Juan Martin Del Potro in the semis, Del Potro blitzed his way to that stage and was looking to be in great form, but then the Nadal hurricane hit as the Spaniard lost just 7 games and reached the final via straight sets.
Thiem’s path wasn’t so smooth, as he had to battle through the middle rounds. He put away Ilya Ivashka in straights, then defeated Stefanos Tsitipas and Matteo Berrentini in 4 sets. Kei Nishikori pushed him to four at the start of week 2, but after winning that Thiem really found his groove against an exhausted Alexander Zverev and upset hero Marco Cecchinato. Cecchinato stunned Novak Djokovic in the match of the tournament to reach his first ever slam semi, but the rising Italian was no match for Thiem.
French fans found some joy as Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut continued their strong doubles partnership and took the title over Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. It’s the third slam title for the French pair, and their first at their home slam in Paris.
Looking ahead, Nadal and Roger Federer will take their battle for world #1 into the grass and hard court seasons, while Thiem looks set to have a strong run on hard courts (at least), Cecchinato will look to consolidate his breakthrough, and Del Potro will look to stay among the game’s elite.
Rafael Nadal Has Clear Path to Another Roland Garros Final Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The first week of action is complete in Paris, and Rafael Nadal remains the favorite to capture yet another French Open title. Here is a look at the 16 remaining men hoping to capture glory at Roland Garros, and a look at whether anyone can topple Rafa.
Rafael Nadal, the tournament favorite, was challenged early by Simone Bolelli, the Italian veteran pushed him to a tiebreak but Nadal still won in straight sets. His second and third round matches were routs as he dominated Guido Pella and home favorite Richard Gasquet, surrendering just 11 games over 6 sets.
Fourth round opponent Max Marterer has extended his career year with a fantastic run at Roland Garros. The young German has a bright future, as evidenced by his wins against Ryan Harrison and Jurgen Zopp in straights, and Denis Shapovalov, another ATP young gun, in 4 sets. Zopp, a journeyman veteran, upset Jack Sock earlier in the tournament, and given his opposition, Marterer has really not been challenged.
All of that said, Nadal should blow past his lower ranked and less experienced opponent and I don’t see him dropping a set.
Reaching week 2 is a solid result for both players. Schwartzman hasn’t dropped a set, defeating Calvin Hemery, Adam Pavlasek, and Borna Coric with ease. Anderson dropped sets against Pablo Cuevas and Mischa Zverev in rounds 2 and 3, after a straight set win over Paolo Lorenzi in round 1.
Form would favor Schwartzman, but Anderson is a bit more accomplished and I’ll still tip him to edge this contest. This is a clash between one of the ATP’s shortest players, against one of the ATP’s tallest.
Cilic will be the favorite after dropping just one set in three matches, but Fognini has always had the potential to make noise on clay. The Croatian defeated James Duckworth and Steve Johnson in straights, dropping a set to Hubert Hurkacz in round 2.
Fognini had to survive a five set test against Kyle Edmund where he came back from 2 sets to 1 down to prevail. His other wins came with ease against Pablo Andujar and Elias Ymer. I’ll go with Cilic by a small margin.
A great opportunity for either player. Isner has beaten Noah Rubin and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in straights, and Horacio Zeballos in 4 sets to reach this stage. Del Potro dropped a set in round 1 against Nicolas Mahut but then breezed past Julien Benneteau and Albert Ramos.
Isner is actually a solid player on clay, but Del Potro is more well rounded and should win this.
David Goffin will face an opponent he just defeated in Rome. Goffin saved four match points against Gael Monfils and a hostile crowd in round 3, prior to that he survived a challenged from Robin Haase, who collapsed from 2 sets to love up, and put away Corentin Moutet in straights.
Cecchinato is having a career year and rising fast. The Italian defeated Marius Copil 10-8 in the 5th set, then recovered nicely to ease past Marco Trungelliti, a lucky loser who had to drive from Barcelona to accept his spot in the draw and then won his round 1 match. In the third round Cecchinato upset Pablo Carreno Busta, denying PCB a great opportunity to make a run in this soft section.
Cecchinato has a shot at another upset, but if Goffin recovers himself he’ll prevail.
Djokovic looked a bit shaky against Roberto Bautista Agut, but he still won that round 3 contest in four sets, and prior to that he got the job done in straights against Rogerio Dutra Silva and Jaume Munar.
Verdasco is having a late career resurgence on the dirt. The Spaniard with the powerful forehand was pushed to the brink against Yoshihito Nishioka, but after that five set win he defeated Guido Andreozzi and one of the higher seeds, Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets. Verdasco has the talent to push Djokovic, but you can’t pick against the former champion at this stage.
The match of the round it seems, Nishikori is back in form having won in straights against Gilles Simon and Maxime Janvier, and edging Benoit Paire in 5 sets. The Japanese #1 has played at Frenchman in France three straight times, and come out a winner.
Thiem is playing incredibly well on clay right now. He won Lyon in the run up to RG and then put away Ilya Ivashka, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Matteo Berrettini, dropping sets in rounds 2 and 3 but coming away the winner regardless.
This match could go either way but I’ll back Thiem’s form, this is his chance to do something memorable in Paris.
Despite being a heavy favorite in the early rounds, Zverev has struggled mightily after dispatching Ricardas Berankis in round 1. Both Dusan Lajovic and Damir Dzumhur challenged the young German star, with Lajovic succumbing to fatigue and Dzumhur failing to maintain his high level over the final 2 sets.
Khachanov has done nicely to make it this far, he’s not the strongest on clay but he put away Andreas Haider-Maurer, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and home favorite Lucas Pouille to reach this stage.
Zverev has all the ability but I’m far from sold on his mindset, and thus I’ll tip Khachanov in an upset.
Quarters Nadal d. Anderson
Del Potro d. Cilic
Djokovic d. Goffin
Thiem d. Khachanov
Either Del Potro or Cilic could win the right to lose to Nadal in the semis, though Del Potro has a better chance to win that semi. Djokovic should do enough to reach the semis, but Thiem has a chance to be the player of the tournament.
Semis Nadal d. Del Potro
Thiem d. Djokovic
I’ll back an upset in the second semi, but Nadal is not going to lose this championship, particularly if Djokovic doesn’t find form quickly.
Rafael Nadal vs. the Field At Roland Garros 2018: Your Full Preview Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2018 French Open is here and it’s top seed Rafael Nadal vs. the field, as Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Hyeon Chung are among major outs for this Grand Slam. Read on to see whether Nadal will win another French Open title, or if a new champion will emerge.
Rafael Nadal will begin against Alexander Dolgopolov, with Joao Sousa or Guido Pella likely to be his next victim. Home favorite Richard Gasquet should await in round 3 unless his round 1 opponent Andreas Seppi makes a run. The Gasquet vs. Seppi winner takes on Malek Jaziri or Mikhail Youzhny. I’d be surprised if Nadal dropped a set in the opening week of the tournament.
The Denis Shapovalov vs. John Millman round 1 match could decide one of the tournament dark horses for this year. Both players have been solid on clay this year, but I’ll go with the Canadian to face off with Max Marterer (or Ryan Harrison) in round 2. Jack Sock should ease past qualifier Jurgen Zopp, and the Yuki Bhambri/Yen-Hsun Lu winner to reach round 3, with Shapovalov favored to win this section.
Diego Schwartzman should be good enough on clay to defeat Calvin Hemery and Adam Pavlasek/Mirza Basic to reach round 3. I have the veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber winning a toss-up round 1 match against Borna Coric, then defeating Thomas Fabbiano (or Matt Ebden) to reach round 3, where I’ll back him in against Schwartzman.
Kevin Anderson looks set to be a factor in week 2, his path to that stage is Paolo Lorenzi, Aljaz Bedene/Pablo Cuevas, and most likely Feliciano Lopez. Lopez faces Sergiy Stakhovsky and Mischa Zverev/Florian Mayer prior to round 3. Bedene/Cuevas have ability on this surface, but Anderson is the favorite to take the section.
Marin Cilic is in a great position to make a run, his first round opponent is James Duckworth, Hubert Hurkacz or Tennys Sandgren will be next in round 2 with Steve Johnson/Adrian Mannarino or Evgeny Donskoy/Jan-Lennard Struff set to feature in the following round. Cilic against Johnson is my expected third round matchup with Cilic advancing.
Fabio Fognini vs. Kyle Edmund in round 3 has the potential to be a thrilling contest. Fognini’s path will be Pablo Andujar, and Elias Ymer/Dudi Sela. Edmund faces Alex De Minaur, with Marton Fucsovics/Vasek Pospisil on deck. I’ll back Fognini over Edmund in the third round but the matchup could go either way.
John Isner has been presented with a tremendous opportunity, his path to the second week is countryman Noah Rubin, Horacio Zeballos/Yuichi Sugita, and most likely Tomas Berdych. Berdych is a struggling former star who opens with Jeremy Chardy, Peter Polansky/Pierre-Hugues Herbert awaits. Chardy has a real shot at upsetting Berdych, while Isner should win the section.
Juan Martin Del Potro looks set to benefit from the absence of other top stars, Del Potro faces Nicolas Mahut, Leonardo Mayer/Julien Benneteau, then most likely Casper Ruud or Albert Ramos. I’ll back the qualifier Ruud to defeat Jordan Thompson, with Ramos beating Mikhail Kukushkin before being upset by Ruud in the second round.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Grigor Dimitrov looks like the third round matchup in Dimitrov’s section, he needs to defeat Viktor Troicki, Nicolas Jarry/Jared Donaldson and either Verdasco or Taylor Fritz to reach week 2. Verdasco takes on Yoshihito Nishioka while Fritz faces Guido Andreozzi in round 1. I’ll go with Dimitrov over Verdasco in this section, with Fritz a possible dark horse.
Novak Djokovic was struggling but he found enough form to suggest he’ll be a factor in the second week. Djokovic’s path is Rogerio Dutra Silva, David Ferrer/Jaume Munar and most likely Roberto Bautista Agut in round 3. RBA needs to defeat Denis Istomin and Marcos Baghdatis or Santiago Giraldo in round 2. Ferrer is a shell of the player he was, and RBA lacks weapons, so Djokovic, presuming his serve holds up, should reach week 2.
Expect fireworks between Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic in round 1, I’ll back an upset in this section with Marco Cecchinato defeating Marius Copil and the Kyrgios/Tomic winner to reach round 3. Kyrgios fitness is a question and Tomic’s form is always a question, while the Italian has been rising. Expect Pablo Carreno Busta to roll past Jozef Kovalik, Federico Delbonis/Thomaz Bellucci, then defeat Cecchinato in round 3.
David Goffin struggled after injuring his eye, but he has been improving and Robin Haase, Ivo Karlovic/Corentin Moutet will be his first 2 opponents. Gael Monfils always thrills the fans and should beat Elliot Benchetrit in round 1, but I’ll go with qualifier Martin Klizan or Laslo Djere to upset Monfils in round 2. Goffin over Klizan is my pick for the section.
The other star player of the clay court season, Alexander Zverev, should ease past Ricardas Berankis and Dusan Lajovic/Jiri Vesely before running into Damir Dzhumur in round 3. This is a weak section for the #2 seed and I don’t see Dzumhur threatening him. The Bosnian has matches against Denis Kudla and Gregoire Barrere/Radu Albot before the third round.
Lucas Pouille has not been in good form, and despite home support I have him going down to the in-form Peter Gojowczyk in round 2. Gojowczyk faces Cam Norrie in round 1, while Pouille should get past the struggling Daniil Medvedev. Former champion Stan Wawrinka is not in good shape since returning from injury, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will take a crack at knocking him off in round 1, if that doesn’t happen, I’ll go with Karen Khachanov to beat Andreas Haider-Maurerer in round 1, and Wawrinka in round 2, before edging Gojowczyk in round 3.
Kei Nishikori looks set to roll into week 2 past Maxime Janvier, Benoit Paire/Roberto Carballes Baena and Gilles Simon or Frances Tiafoe. Simon is playing at home and taking on Nikoloz Basilashvili in round 1, with Tiafoe or Sam Querrey in round 2. Tiafoe is rising and has impressed on clay, but Simon’s pushing is always tricky. Nishikori over Simon should be the result in this section.
The final section looks to have a must-see round 2 match between Stefanos Tsitipas and Dominic Thiem. Presuming Thiem is fit he’ll beat Ilya Ivashka, while Tsitsipas should put away Carlos Taberner. I’ll go with Thiem to win a tough one then face Ernests Gulbis in round 3. The qualifier Gulbis will get help rebuilding his career with wins against Gilles Muller and Matteo Berretinni/Oscar Otte. Look for Thiem (or Tsitipas) to win out here.
Round of 16 Nadal d. Shapovalov
Anderson d. Kohlschreiber
Cilic d. Fognini
Del Potro d. Isner
Goffin d. Carreno Busta
Djokovic d. Dimitrov
Nishikori d. Thiem
Zverev d. Khachanov
Cilic/Fognini, Del Potro/Isner, Goffin/PCB, Nishikori/Thiem and Djokovic/Dimitrov are the toss up matches here. Djokovic has the experience, Cilic is more consistent, Del Potro I trust more than Isner on clay, Nishikori should be more fit, and I feel Goffin will rise to the occasion.
Quarters Nadal d. Anderson
Cilic d. Del Potro
Djokovic d. Goffin
Zverev d. Nishikori
Nadal looks way too good to lose before the final. Despite Zverev’s poor record in Grand Slams, you have to trust his solid clay season this year (and last year) over a still out of sorts Djokovic. Nadal should take the final.
2016 French Open Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Summer tennis begins in earnest with the 2016 French Open kicking off Sunday. Two weeks of action from the red clay of Roland Garros are sure to yield thrills, spills, and more than a few upsets, as the best clay courters in men’s tennis will vie for supremacy in Paris. Here is a preview, and predictions.
May 22-June 5, 2016
Prize Money: €16,008,750
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (2)
3: Stan Wawrinka (4)
4: Rafael Nadal (5)
5: Kei Nishikori (6)
6: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7)
7: Tomas Berdych (8)
8: Milos Raonic (9)
World #3 and former French Open champion Roger Federer will be missing his first Grand Slam main draw since 1999, as a back injury will snap his 16 year consecutive Grand Slam streak. That means his rival and clay legend Rafael Nadal gets his own quarter of the draw. French favorite Gael Monfils is also absent, as is another talented shotmaker, Alex Dolgopolov, but the rest of the top players are ready to go, many of them looking to benefit in Federer’s absence.
First round matchups to watch:
(31)Federico Delbonis vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
Delbonis beat PCB in Marrakech this year and he’s 4-0 in the h2h, but PCB is one of the tougher unseeded players in the draw, and this match will be a classic clay court battle, featuring long defensive rallies. PCB comes off the quarters in Geneva and he was also a finalist in Estoril. Delbonis also reached the quarters in Geneva, and prior to that he reached the semis in Istanbul and Bucharest, plus won Marrakech to help secure an RG seeding. The Argentine should beat the Spaniard in this one, but I’d expect more than 3 sets.
(20)Bernard Tomic vs. Brian Baker
The veteran Baker is a testament to hard work, tenacity, and overcoming all odds to maximize talent, no matter the circumstances. Tomic is the opposite of that, and the #20 seed is in danger of dropping his sixth straight match to likely finish the clay season without a win in 2016, and fuel swirling questions about his future in tennis. After tanking his way through the clay season, Tomic is actually facing one of the easier round 1 opponents as Baker has barely played ATP level tennis this year, regardless, the American is solid enough on clay and should give Tomic enough of a challenge that he may fold in short order.
Borna Coric vs. Taylor Fritz
Coric has struggled to be consistent on ATP clay this year, but he does have a final and a quarterfinal on the surface this spring. The young Croatian has a bright future ahead, but he’s certainly experiencing ATP World Tour growing pains right now. Fritz isn’t as sharp on clay as his fellow young gun (though he was the French Open junior finalist last year), but he did win a match in Nice after dropping two matches to Radek Stepanek in Madrid and Rome. This young American is also likely to reach at least the top 20 in due time, but now, and in the future, Coric should win this matchup on clay.
Another ATP next gen battle like the matchup above, the 19 year old Halys has less ATP experience than the 20 year old Korean Chung, but the Frenchman is going to have the crowd behind him, and most likely play better on clay, particularly in Paris. After Chung’s poor clay season, Halys should hand him a fourth straight loss.
(32)Fabio Fognini vs. Marcel Granollers
Granollers reached a pair of clay quarterfinals in the run up to the French Open, as the Spanish veteran isn’t quite done with singles yet. Fognini is on a poor three match losing streak, after reaching the semifinals in Munich and the quarterfinals in Barcelona earlier this spring. The ATP clay h2h is even between these veterans, Fognini should be better these days, but you never know with his erratic mentality, and Granollers could grab a win over a seed in Paris.
(24)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Nicolas Almagro
Almagro is 4-1 on ATP level clay against Kohlschreiber, and won the last two h2h meetings. The Estoril champion has been poor otherwise on tour in recent weeks, but he’s demonstrated the ability to find form and make sudden runs, as he also reached a clay final in Buenos Aires. It’ll be feast or famine for Almagro, while the fellow one-handed backhand veteran Kohlschreiber won Munich and reached the semis in Barcelona, demonstrating his own ability to find form. I have Kohlschreiber as a slight favorite, but this match has five sets written all over it, and Almagro’s fitness and mentality may let him down.
Diego Schwartzman vs. Guido Pella
Schwartzman should be the more in form player here, but he’s never beaten Pella, and this will be a tough all-Argentine war on clay. DS comes off the round of 16 in Nice, and he won Istanbul for his maiden title. Pella reached the quarters in both Bucharest and Nice, but he hasn’t had quite as good of a clay court spring (he also reached the final in Rio). Both players are on their best surface, and this match could go five sets, I have Schwartzman narrowly advancing with his undersized game.
Dimitrov had the upperhand against Troicki until he lost in a third set tiebreak final against the Serbian in Sydney earlier this year. That set the stage for Dimitrov going on to be unseeded in Paris, and struggle mentally to finish big matches and get important wins. The Bulgarian has lost three straight matches since blowing the Istanbul final, while Troicki has been mediocre on clay this year with a lack of notable results. Dimitrov *should* win this match, perhaps in straights, but his problem is his mentality, not his talent.
Sam Querrey vs. Bjorn Fratangelo
Querrey won four matches this spring on clay, a decent showing for him, while Fratangelo comes off a clay challenger final in France, and also a clay challenger title and a semifinal. The 22 year old American has been the darling of stateside clay challengers, while Querrey is the experienced and steady veteran with a low upside at this point. I have Fratangelo winning this if he’s fresh enough and perhaps leaving a mark in Paris.
The world #1 Novak Djokovic has a great chance to win his illusive first French Open title. Djokovic has been far and above the elite player on tour this year, but RG is his worst slam, and he’s more vulnerable on clay than other surfaces, as losses to Andy Murray in Rome, and Jiri Vesely in Monte Carlo this year demonstrate. Djokovic didn’t appear healthy in Rome, but he still reached the final, and he’s at least made the semifinals in recent French Opens.
To open his quest, Djokovic should roll past Yen-Hsun Lu, who is happy to collect a check on clay, and then dispatch either Marsel Ilhan or Steve Darcis, both of whom are qualifiers. Delbonis is slated to be his third round opponent, and neither the Argentine, nor PCB, or Gerald Melzer/Aljaz Bedene have anywhere near the level, or the game to threaten Djokovic. Barring injury, he should be safe to reach week 2. I have Delbonis over PCB, then over Bedene before falling to Djokovic in round 3.
The section below Djokovic featuring Roberto Bautista Agut as the highest seed is quite open. The Coric/Fritz winner has a great chance at third round money and points, as neither Tomic or Baker is an intimidating round 2 opponent. I have Coric into round 3, opposite Bautista Agut. The Spaniard hasn’t done much on clay this year, but his round 1 opponent Dmitry Tursunov has been poor and the Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu is 34 and unpredictable. He’ll open with fellow veteran Santiago Giraldo, who is no longer an ATP caliber player it seems. RBA over PHM, and then suffering an upset loss to Coric is my pick. RBA has underperformed recently, and I feel the young Coric will sense his time to rise. Coric has beaten RBA this year, but is 0-2 on clay in his career against him.
David Ferrer has been below his usual caliber this spring on clay, and suffered another bad loss when he fell in the Geneva semifinals. Still, the Spaniard should roll past Evgeny Donskoy, to setup a match with Rome quarterfinalist Juan Monaco. Monaco, an Argentine veteran, is capable of playing great on clay but he’s been fighting injuries, and he could fall to Denis Istomin round 1. I have Ferrer finding a way to vanquish Monaco, and the serve and volleyer Feliciano Lopez, to make the 4th round, more due to the ease of his draw, than his own form. Lopez has been in poor form, but lucky loser Thomas Fabbiano, and Victor Estrella/Illya Marchenko are some of the easiest opponents you can face early in a slam draw as of now. This section is quite unimpressive.
Tomas Berdych will open his French Open against Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who is poor on clay, with Malek Jaziri/Florian Mayer to follow. That’s not a difficult start, and Berdych should ease into round 3, for a big meeting with Pablo Cuevas, presuming Cuevas handles qualifier Tobias Kamke, and the Chung/Halys winner. Berdych has not had a great clay season, and I have Cuevas notching an upset. He’s a purer dirtballer, and though he hasn’t been on fire this spring, he’s still solid and crafty, enough to beat a power hitter like Berdych, who hasn’t found his range on clay this year.
The nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal is one of only two players in this draw to have won a French Open. Rafa, who won Monte Carlo and Barcelona earlier this spring, before losing to Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic in Madrid and Rome, will open with the big serving Sam Groth. After that routine match, he should demolish either Facundo Bagnis or qualifier Kenny De Schepper, with Granollers/Fognini or Nicolas Mahut/Ricardas Berankis to follow. Mahut is poor on clay but he’s at home, I have him beating Berankis, but losing to Fognini, and then Nadal ousting Fognini in round 3. Fognini famously beat Rafa in a slam (US Open 2015), but on clay it shouldn’t be close, given Nadal easily dispatched Fognini in Barcelona not that long ago.
Dominic Thiem looks set to dominate the section below Nadal, the young Austrian was a finalist in Munich, won Nice this week, he also reached the quarters in Rome, and the third round in Monte Carlo this spring. Inigo Cervantes is unlikely to put up a fight in round 1, with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez a dangerous, but underdog opponent in round 2, and Alexander Zverev his likely rival in round 3. GGL opens with Thiemo De Bakker after reaching the quarters in Geneva, he has three clay quarterfinals and a semifinal in the lead up to the French Open, so if Thiem is fatigued, he could pounce. Zverev lost to Thiem in the Nice final, after losing to him in Munich, both matches on clay. The young German could be fatigued as well, but he’s had a strong young gun showing this year and he’ll need a big win over young Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who excels in doubles, followed by a win over Kevin Anderson, the #18 seed who has two wins on clay this year, or Stephane Robert. Given Thiem has been a cut above Zverev thus far, I see him winning that match again to reach round 4, but Zverev will still be a nice unseeded surprise in round 3.
David Goffin, and the Kohlschreiber/Almagro winner are on a collision course for round 3. The Belgian #1. who reached the quarters in Rome, should dispatch young wild card Gregoire Barrere, and then ease past Carlos Berlocq or Paolo Lorenzi to reach round 3. The Kohlschreiber/Almagro winner is likely to face Jiri Vesely, after Vesely beats Rajeev Ram. Vesely has an ATP quarterfinal and a semifinal on clay this spring, and shocked Novak Djokovic for the win of his career. He’s a talent, but he lacks consistency, thus I have Goffin over Kohlschreiber in round 3. Goffin leads Kohli 2-1 in the h2h, and he’s been the better player this season, particularly in big events.
Presuming French #1 and Monte Carlo semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can fend off the challenge of in-form qualifier J.L. Struff, he should be able to defeat Gilles Muller/Marcos Baghdatis, and setup a winnable third round contest with either Joao Sousa, or Andreas Seppi. Tsonga will have home support, though he often struggles under the pressure. Baghdatis should beat Muller on clay, but he’s poor on the surface, while Sousa, a quarterfinalist in Madrid, and semifinalist in Nice, is the favorite against Damir Dzumhur, an Istanbul quarterfinalist, and also the Nice quarterfinalist Seppi, who opens with Ernests Gulbis, an opponent who he has struggled with in past h2h matches, but is far below his previous level these days. Sousa has a h2h win over Seppi, and has been in better match form. Tsonga should be the better player on clay in their third round meeting, he’s the strongest player in this section.
The defending champion Stan Wawrinka has had an awful clay court season, and was slumping for a while, but he may have just found the form he needs to compete at the highest level, as he won the Geneva final on home clay, and just beat his round 1 opponent Lukas Rosol in the semifinals there. If Martin Klizan, who had a good early part of the season before being injured, isn’t too rusty, he could give Wawrinka a stiff challenge, first the Slovak will need to defeat Taro Daniel though, who isn’t likely to have enough game against Wawrinka on clay. With Klizan’s form questionable, I have Wawrinka getting through the first two rounds, though it may not be as smooth as many think. The Swiss veteran is alone in the national spotlight with Federer absent now, and while he’s capable of playing incredible tennis, his poor play this season has hardly inspired confidence. His round 3 opponent will also result in him being a heavy favorite, as Jeremy Chardy/Leonardo Mayer are most likely, and neither have had a great spring. The winner of that match will face Adam Pavlasek or Roberto Carballes Baena, both of whom came through qualifying, but are not top tier talents. Wawrinka over Chardy is my pick for round 3, as like Ferrer, Wawrinka will benefit from a weak draw more than anything else to reach the second week.
The Troicki/Dimitrov winner should be opposite Frenchman Gilles Simon, unless the Schwartzman/Pella winner serves as a dark horse. I have Dimitrov over Troicki, and Dusan Lajovic (who beats Denis Kudla R1), and Simon ousting recent challenger winner Rogerio Dutra Silva to setup a round 2 match with Schwartzman. Their first h2h meeting will have some upset potential given Simon hasn’t done much on clay this year. In a slam I still have to favor the veteran Frenchman to reach the third round, but I have him falling to Dimitrov, who should reverse the h2h loss on clay this year to Simon if he can pull his game together. This is a tough section to predict.
American Jack Sock gets a nice draw. The Houston finalist could be the last American standing after defeating a struggling Robin Haase, and either qualifier Dustin Brown or veteran Dudi Sela in round 2. Geneva finalist Marin Cilic should defeat Marco Trungelliti, a qualifier, and then Istanbul quarterfinalist Albert Ramos, after Ramos beats fellow dirtballer Horacio Zeballos. Cilic isn’t the most consistent higher seed in the draw, and Sock will certainly have a shot at the fourth round, but on clay I give Cilic a slight edge. It should be an intriguing matchup.
Milos Raonic has few obstacles in his quest to reach the second week. The Canadian could have a big French Open, and he’ll start with Janko Tipsarevic, who is still easing back from a series of injuries, followed by Adrian Mannarino or Mikhail Kukushkin, and most likely Lucas Pouille in round 3. Raonic reached the quarters in both Monte Carlo and Madrid on clay. Mannarino found shocking form on clay and reached the semis in Nice, while Kukushkin is poor himself. The big serving Canadian should work his way out of any early round danger, as the young Pouille likely won’t be able to stay level against Raonic’s steady serving. Pouille was a finalist in Bucharest, and a semifinalist in Rome, he’s a solid young talent who should ease past Julien Benneteau, and most likely Andrej Martin, as Daniel Munoz De La Nava is slumping. The French fans will certainly try to will him into the round of 16 though.
Andy Murray has the weakest section of the draw, and the Rome champion and Madrid finalist shouldn’t worry much about Radek Stepanek, who he beat in Madrid, and had to come through qualifying. Mathias Bourgue and Jordi Samper-Montana are both below ATP level players right now, and Ivo Karlovic, who is awful on clay, is the only other seed in Murray’s section. Murray has a clear path, as I have him facing veteran Spaniard Albert Montanes, a semifinalist in Marrakech, in round 3. Montanes should “upset” Karlovic on clay, and also beat either Laslo Djere or Jordan Thompson, both of whom lack much ATP experience. Murray will outrun, and out work Montanes in round 3.
American #1 John Isner should reach the third round, and end up opposite the erratic French favorite Benoit Paire. Isner hasn’t enjoyed clay this year, but his opening round opponent John Millman doesn’t like clay either, and I don’t see Kyle Edmund or qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili as quite ready to step up and earn an ATP top 20 win on clay yet. Both recently won challenger titles, and don’t sleep on Edmund making the third round, but Isner’s consistency works in his favor. Paire has been struggling, but he has two semifinals on clay this spring, and neither qualifier Radu Albot, nor Teymuraz Gabashvili/Donald Young are opponents likely to defeat him. Young should win over Gabashvili given the Russian’s terrible form. I have Paire over Isner because I sense the Frenchman will do well at home, and I don’t trust Isner on clay right now.
Richard Gasquet and Nick Kyrgios always seem to run into each other, as the veteran Frenchman can’t escape his young Australian rival. Gasquet, the French #2, should ease past Thomaz Bellucci, who has been disappointing recently, and also the Querrey/Fratangelo winner, to setup the third round match with Kyrgios. NK has to defeat Marco Cecchinato, and either Adrian Ungur or Igor Sijsling, as his first three opponents are more at home on the challenger tour. Kyrgios has a semifinal and a quarterfinal on clay this spring, and he’s been a top performer at the Grand Slam level, with Gasquet playing at no better than average this clay season, I have Kyrgios winning that match and advancing into round 4. Kyrgios also has a h2h win this year against Gasquet.
Kei Nishikori vs. Andrey Kuznetsov figures to be one of the better round 2 matchups in the draw, Nisihkori has a struggling, and injured Simone Bolelli as his first opponent, while Kuznetsov opens with Benjamin Becker, a veteran who is allergic to clay. Kuznetsov has a pair of clay quarterfinals this spring and he’s a rising talent, but Nishikori has established himself as a player likely to go deep in this draw, given his semifinal showing in both Madrid and Rome, and his finalist result in Barcelona. Munich quarterfinalist Ivan Dodig should dispatch a struggling Mikhail Youzhny, and setup a meeting with Bucharest champion Fernando Verdasco. The veteran Spaniard opens with American Steve Johnson, who is poor on clay, and he should win that match, and defeat Dodig, before falling to Nishikori in round 3.
Coric is my pick to reach the second week opposite Djokovic, Fritz is an interesting opponent, and Bautista Agut can be a consistent performer who plays tough tennis on clay, but he doesn’t have the upside of the young unseeded Croatian. Zverev has to beat Herbert, and a seeded Anderson to reach round 3, and then he’ll need to reverse his result against Thiem and win. That’s a tough ask, but he could still reach the second week.
Schwartzman may lose round 1 to Pella, and Simon is one of the tougher veterans to play in Paris, but if the Argentine gets out of the first two rounds, he’ll likely run into Dimitrov again, an opponent he defeated in the Istanbul final. We could see this Argentine in the second week. Kuznetsov has the toughest early round opponent, as Nishikori looms in round 2, but if Kei plays poorly and shows up in dreadful form, we could see the Russian make a run into the second week. All of these players are relatively young, unseeded, and have strong upside potential.
Round of 16: Djokovic d. Coric in 3
Cuevas d. Ferrer in 4
Nadal d. Thiem in 4
Goffin d. Tsonga in 5
Raonic d. Cilic in 4
Wawrinka d. Dimitrov in 5
Nishikori d. Kyrgios in 4
Murray d. Paire in 3
Djokovic and Murray beat Coric and Paire respectively in Madrid and Monte Carlo, the top 2 players should ease into the quarterfinals. Nadal is 2-1 against Thiem, and won their most recent match in Monte Carlo, that match has upset potential, but over a best of 5, Nadal has a clear edge.
Goffin and Tsonga have split clay meetings, that match could go five sets, but with Tsonga normally playing worse at home, I have Goffin advancing. Ferrer is 3-0 against Cuevas but dropped a set against him in their match this year, I have an upset in that match because I don’t trust Ferrer to play well at all this week, and Cuevas is due for a surprising run.
Raonic likely outlasts Cilic in a close battle of big hitters. Wawrinka is better than Dimitrov, despite Grigor holding a 2-1 h2h edge on clay against the Swiss. Nishikori is 3-0 against Kyrgios and has two wins this season against him, on clay he should prevail.
Quarters: Djokovic d. Cuevas in 3
Nadal d. Goffin in 3
Wawrinka d. Raonic in 5
Murray d. Nishikori in 4
Murray is 6-1 against Nishikori, they play a similar style, and Murray seems to do it better, even on clay. Wawrinka vs. Raonic is tough to predict, Raonic won for the first time at this year’s AO after going 0-4 against Wawrinka. On clay, the advantage likely shifts to Wawrinka, as this is not Raonic’s best surface. However, Stan is shaky right now.
Nadal and Djokovic should be unbothered as they march towards a semifinal against each other.
Semis: Djokovic d. Nadal in 4
Murray d. Wawrinka in 4
Djokovic hasn’t lost to Nadal in the last two seasons (7-0), the world #1 beat Nadal in Paris last year, and has a win this year on clay in Rome. It will be a close and competitive match, but Djokovic has simply outpaced Nadal at this point in their careers, and I’m not sure Nadal is going to be able to get back to his prior level, even on clay. Djokovic’s superior consistency and conditioning should win out.
Wawrinka won his last three meetings against Murray, after Murray had a prior h2h edge. With that said, Murray has been in far superior form this year, and even on clay he’s established himself as an elite player. With Murray playing some of his best clay tennis, he should win the semifinal match.
Final: Djokovic d. Murray in 4
It was important for Murray’s confidence to win in Rome against Djokovic, but the world #1 was not playing at 100%, and presuming he’s healthy and fit, it’s hard to see how Murray will defeat him in a slam final, especially on clay. Djokovic won their previous two meetings this year, including the Madrid final, and he’ll be the favorite if he reaches the final. Last year in the semis Djokovic beat Murray in five sets, and it should be a competitive, and high caliber final. I tip the Serbian to win his first ever French Open title, this seems to be the year for him.