Recall at the very start of the French Open, the entire focus was on just where Novak Djokovic would end up in the draw. Would he be in the Roger Federer half or the Rafael Nadal section? Well, a week into the second Major of the season, turns out his ultimate placement among the 128 was nothing more than a buzzkill, that after Djokovic was shocked earlier today by the unheralded Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round at Roland Garros.
Djokovic’s loss cleared the path for the upper bottom half quadrant where Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will lock up for a virtual spot in the semifinals. Kohlshreiber who is a decent foe, will have the luxury of now challenging Tommy Robredo with a quarterfinal berth on the line. Right now, my pick, based purely on energy and enthusiasm, would have to be Tsonga.
In the bottom quarter today, Roger Federer just keeps winning week one Grand Slam matches. Give the guy credit, he wins early and often at Slams. Although, again today he didn’t look terribly sharp but he did manage in the end. Meanwhile Andy Roddick continues to blister the field, albeit in his case a rather soft field. Roddick crushed Marc Gicquel giving in straights sending Andy into his first French Open first round in style, without the loss of a set. Unfortunately for the American his cush draw is about to come to a crashing end on Monday when he runs into my man Gael Monfils. The reckless Monfils has again conjured up the magic, mayhem and mind-boggling athleticism at his French Open. Was perhaps his injured knee was a charade, I don’t know. What I do know is that the Flying Frenchman is playing great tennis and I expect him to take out Roddick.
Tommy Haas is next for Federer and really I don’t envision the World No. 2 slipping up against the German, not with Djokovic now cleared from his path.
For tomorrow, Nadal will likely hammer Robin Soderling in straight sets. How Soderling has even reached the fourth round is a mystery, but I do hope the Swede can keep things close if not interesting (I doubt we’ll see him tugging on his shorts like he did at Wimbledon – it’s not the time nor the place for those antics!).
Another surprise fourth rounder is Victor Hanescu who hasn’t lost a set, but that’s about to end. I expect Fernando Gonzalez to take care of Hanescu in four. Bigger question for the Chilean, can Gonzo upset Nadal? Stay tuned.
Andy Murray and Marin Cilic meet in a battle on young bucks. Murray’s the pick but I think it could go five sets if Cilic is playing well.
And let’s not forget Fernando Verdasco. If only ‘Nando was in a section that didn’t include Nadal. If only… Well, for now he doesn’t have to worry about Rafa but he does have to worry about Nikolay Davydenko who is 4-1 career against the Spaniard. Ha. I’ll take Verdasco to get on the board again against Davy and do it in fairly routine fashion.
As for women, the drama, intrigue and the inability of the lower ranked players to deliver a knock-out punch continue. Today Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez had Serena Williams on the ropes and feeling ill, but the Spaniard couldn’t deliver. That said, props to Sam Stosur who took out my pick, Elena Dementieva, in three sets and to Sorana Cirstea, a late upset winner over Caroline Wozniacki.
As for the women’s final, with Elena out and Maria barely getting by, my pick is now Dinara Safina to beat Serena Williams in the title.
Back to Djokovic. With all the expectations from his stellar play this clay season I am really shocked to see him go down the way he did and this early. And even more worrisome for Djokovic is that he’s failed to reach the semifinals in three of his last four Grand Slams. Was it the pressure? The wear-and-tear of the clay season? Maybe just a bad day at the office? Or was his opponent that good? Only he knows for sure.
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