French Open Preview 2007: Federer Seeks History
by Richard Vach | May 25th, 2007, 10:21 am

In the minds of many Roger Federer will ascend to “Greatest Player Ever” status once he wins the only Slam that has eluded him thus far, and 2007 looks to be his best shot yet for a Roland Garros triumph. The Swiss is coming off a Hamburg final where he finally bested world No. 2 Rafael Nadal on clay — albeit a mentally and physically tired Nadal who was on fumes after setting an all-time record of 81 straight wins on clay.

Nevertheless Federer looks mentally rejuvenated after dumping coach Tony Roche who had tried to change his game past the point of comfort, and is once again his own man entering the French.

Like Pete Sampras before him, Federer utilizes a one-handed backhand that sometimes causes him difficulty when opponents bounce the ball up shoulder-high or higher. Bouncing the ball up high on the Swiss’ backhand wing will at times result in a short reply that opponents can jump on. Fortunately for Federer, only a handful of players such as Nadal with his high-kicking lefty spin, his nemesis Guillermo Canas, and a few others on tour have the control and patience to see the tactic through an entire match.

“That I make mistakes on my backhand side, with the aggression of Nadal, that’s normal,” said Federer after losing in last year’s French Open final. “I saw I did a few too many [errors] on that side. I wasn’t as consistent today unfortunately like I was in Rome or maybe even in Monaco [Monte Carlo].”

Federer has competed eight times at Roland Garros, and says every experience brings him closer to his goal.

“I think in every year that goes by, gives me again more maturity on this surface,” said the Swiss, who adds there are numerous factors involved in Nadal maintaining his claycourt dominance. “It’s a matter also of if he can keep it up, if another claycourt player comes along, how the draw looks.”

The 2007 French Open draw has been kind to Federer, who will have time to find his footing with little pressure. Federer opens against 29-year-old American journeyman Michael “Iron Mike” Russell, who is best known in these parts for being up two sets to love on Gustavo Kuerten at the 2001 French Open before allowing the Brazilian to mount a comeback and eventually win the tournament. The Swiss will next face the winner of French wildcard Thierry Ascione and a qualifier, then a potentially-interesting first-time meeting with the French fan-backed Julien Benneteau.

Looming in the fourth round for the Swiss are either Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero or Russian Mikhail Youzhny, and in the quarterfinals either Marat Safin, Tommy Robredo or Ivan Ljubicic. The handful of players fighting to meet Federer in the semifinals includes Nikolay Davydenko, Nicolas Almagro, David Nalbandian, Richard Gasquet, Canas and Fernando Gonzalez.

Likely third round match-ups in that second quarter of the draw are Davydenko vs. Almagro, Nalbandian vs. Juan Ignacio Chela in an all-Argentine, and Gasquet vs. Canas, with that winner likely to meet Gonzalez in the fourth round.

In a very open third quarter of the draw, Serb Novak Djokovic will be the favorite, with a soft draw that could feature little resistance until Spaniard David Ferrer in the fourth round, and a semifinal opponent that is too weak to predict. Other seeds in the third quarter are No. 3 Andy Roddick, No. 12 Ferrer, No. 16 Marcos Baghdatis, No. 21 Dmitry Tursunov, No. 24 Dominik Hrbaty, No. 26 Agustin Calleri, and No. 31 Florian Mayer. Roddick will have his hands full in an attempt to not make a first-round exit against Russian claycourter Igor Andreev.

The bottom quarter of the draw is stacked between Nadal, the erratic yet dangerous James Blake, former French champion Carlos Moya, resurgent former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, and dangerous seeds Tomas Berdych and Robin Soderling.

Nadal opens against Argentine big man Juan Martin del Potro, with a meeting against the Swede Soderling looming in the third round. Blake opens with a tester against Croatian giant “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic, with No. 28-seeded German Phillipp Kohlschreiber waiting in the third round. Moya could meet Berdych in another third-round encounter.

Hewitt opens again old doubles partner Max “The Beast” Mirnyi who has been slumping horribly of late, then faces the possibility of a mouth-watering meeting against former French Open champion and current head case Gaston Gaudio. There is no love lost between Hewitt and any player from Argentina, and with Hewitt back in “C’mon!” mode in the midst of a resurgence, the feisty Aussie could be the story of this French Open.

Likely quarterfinal match-ups to look for: Federer vs. Robredo, Gonzalez vs. Almagro, Djokovic vs. Baghdatis, and Nadal vs. Moya.

All eyes of course will be on Federer and Nadal. The Spaniard attempts to become the first player since Bjorn Borg to win three straight titles at Roland Garros (Borg won four in a row). Federer for his part simply attempts to inherit the “Greatest Ever” title while still an active player.

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12 Comments for French Open Preview 2007: Federer Seeks History

beerme Says:

please please please have another Fed-Nadal final.

FoT Says:

I personally would love to see Roger lift that trophy in Paris!

vanessa Says:

You’ve held Federer high on a cloud, and failed to mention the type of environment the French Open is. It hot, humid and the clay is muddy..just like Nadal likes it. Also, lets not forget what happened in Monte Carlo..where conditions favored Nadal and he beat Federer worse than last year. Not to mention his other two great Clay wins after Monte Carlo. Federer beat Nadal in Hamburg for 2 reasons. Nadal was very tired from a very successful winning streak on the hard battles of Clay, and his success in the US prior and the weather in Hamburg wasn’t to his liking. That isn’t the case now. Nadal has had time to rest and remember it’s the best 3 out of 5…so Federer, if he makes it to the final won’t be so lucky. Lets face it, Federer isn’t the same Federer, he isn’t playing the same, and one steal in Hamburg doesn’t change a thing. Nadal is fitter and plays harder on clay, that is a fact…I like Federer too, but lets be realistic.

zola Says:

you are very right. Federer could lose to Monaco or Moya in Hamburg even though he was well-rested. Hamburg wether was not good for Rafa.He likes the sun and the heat. I hope RG will be like that. Fed did not play well in Hamburg except for the final. so it will be interesting to see what happens in RG.

zola Says:

“The 2007 French Open draw has been kind to Federer”
exactly, they might as well gave him a bye to the final!

FoT Says:

zola, you of all should know that there is no “lock” with Roger on clay! lol! I am pulling for Roger and Rafa to get to the final. But Roger said he has to take it 1 match at a time and I think he’s prepared to do it.

thereturnoftheking Says:

Well, I differ. This year, the winner’s trophy at Philippe Chatrier belongs to the king of tennis.The Swiss is way too focussed to lose this time around.

sickofzola Says:


You must be shaking in your boots now that your hot and humid Parisian condition is not happening this year! Oh, you didn’t hear about the wet & stormy weather for at least 9 days? Guess what, the court will be Hamburglike. Fear strikes in the hearts of Nadal fans.

Now, if you say Nadal is exhausted in Hamburg why do you think that same reason will not be the cause of his demise in Paris? Remember Nadal had the same week off between Monte Carlo and Rome, and that break did not rejuvenate him in Rome where his game had visibly deteriorated. Add his 6 matches in Hamburg, and you have the making of a more weary Nadal. Now, consider 5-set grand slam matches where he has to work hard each match like last year. Boy, he’d be lucky to make it to the finals.

On top of that, Roger is fresh and has barely started. He will peak just right for June 10. Sorry, no 3peat for Nadal.

Fantine Says:

Mr. Vach,
A minimal amount of web research would have told you that Hewitt and Gaudio are actually friends.

hewitt come onnnnn Says:

i hope hewitt and Nadal will meet in 4th round and hewitt down the bull in 5 sets…lol lets hope that will happen.

JCF Says:

I don’t think Nadal is afraid of slow conditions. Clay isn’t meant to be quick. He lost in Hamburg because he played too much tennis. How did he make it to the finals then? Well his opponents were good, but still a notch below him, even when tired. Federer on the other hand, is a better player than those opponents.

Nadal is too polite to make excuses, so he said he was feeling fine physically.

He should be fine for Paris though. He gets a day break between rounds, so physically it won’t bother him like 3 masters series finals with no breaks, + doubles would.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Gaudio thrashed Hewitt in straight sets 6-3 6-2 6-2 a few years ago on the way to the winning the title. Sure he’s a headcase, but he only loses to quality clay court players in Paris.

gizmatage Says:

I’m sick and tired of fan-boys and fan-girls who either cannot take criticism made to their guys, or always just makes excuses when their guys lost a match (too tired, played too much).

Can’t we all just hope for a great final no matter who it’s going to be there?

I for one would like this year to be another “unexpected” final where anyone other than Federer or Nadal would be in the final. Make that Fed and Nadal to lose their quarter or semi on the same day.

Now — that would make all the media drool!

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