French Open Begins, Will Rafael Nadal be Champion Again in Two Weeks?
It’s a light start for the opening day of the 2010 French Open tomorrow. The big names (or just names) playing are Venus Williams, Robin Soderling, JW Tsonga and Ernests Gulbis.
Frankly, the Sunday start itself is rather annoying but I’m guessing there’s a decent monetary kickback for the French tennis officials.
I won’t get into the matches for tomorrow just yet, instead I’ll take this opportunity to make some picks on the tournament!
First and foremost I said at the start of the clay season that Rafael Nadal would run the table. Well, I’m sticking with that because he’s going to win the French Open. And that’s no real shock. Not anymore.
In Nadal’s quarter I’ll project he beats Lleyton Hewitt, Tomaz Bellucci and then Fernando Verdasco to reach the semifinals. The Big Unknown in the quarter is Fernando Gonzalez who’s missed most of the clay season. Gonzo can play well on the surface and if he hits his stride he could beat Verdasco and get to the last eight slot opposing Nadal. But even though he lost today to Richard Gasquet in the Nice final, I think Verdasco has to be primed (if not tired from all the tennis he’s played) for a deep run at Roland Garros.
And I think Nadal will face another one of his countryman, David Ferrer, in the semifinals. Ferrer is the class pick in a section that is anchored by Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic. Roddick of course hasn’t hit a ball since Miami and Djokovic’s health remains a question mark if not an outright concern. Roddick could go out in the first round to the Finn or even to Eduard Schwank the Tank in the second. But if Juan Monaco is out there in the round three Roddick hopes will stop there. Otherwise Ferrer will knock him out. As for Djokovic, he’s got a great draw to the quarter with only Juan Carlos Ferrero in his way. The Serb opens against the hard-hitting Evgeny Korolev and unless injuries/allergies/whatever again befall the former Slam winner he should reach the quarter.
The defending champion is Roger Federer, but few are picking the Swiss to repeat. And for good reason. Federer’s hasn’t had a good clay season – no titles – and his draw is loaded once he gets to the fourth round. That’s where I think he’ll meet Stan Wawrinka and then Robin Soderling. I think Soderling takes out the hot-handed Gulbis to set up the Federer rematch which the Swiss wins again keeping his Slam semifinal streak alive. I will say that I think the top-half finalist will come from this section which also is home to Marin Cilic and Gael Monfils who could go deep.
So who’ll play Federer in the semifinals? The Andy Murray quarter is the toughest for me to choose. It won’t be Murray and it’s hard to have full belief in Tsonga. I don’t think Tommy Robredo or Guillermo Garcia Lopez can do it. Mikhail Youhzny’s played well but he reached his lone Slam semifinal a few years ago at the US Open. So that leaves Marcos Baghdatis, John Isner or Tomas Berdych as the other semifinal candidates. And on a whim I’m going to go against everything and pick Berdych. I’d rate Tsonga the next guy in line however his clay results have been suspect (and Berdych’s hasn’t??). So Tomas, I’m with you. I can’t believe it. You beat Roger in Miami and I think you are finally due for a big Slam result.
That leaves my semifinals as Federer v. Berdych and Nadal v. Ferrer. And from there, you can guess the rest. I actually hope that doesn’t happen as a Nadal-Federer final just feels lacking this time. So if someone like Gulbis, Cilic, Monfils or even Wawrinka could clip Federer that may make the final a little more interesting, for me.
Back to tomorrow, among the 32 matches those that might cause a stir are Tipsarevic-Falla, Kuznetsova-Cirstea and I think Julien Benneteau will play Gulbis really tough. Julien has good results in Paris and in France (he beat Federer last fall I think) and Gulbis will be under pressure to perform as a favorite.
And based on the schedule it looks like Federer and the rest of the top half will wrap up on Monday with Nadal, Djokovic and Roddick playing on Tuesday.
If you want my women’s picks, here it goes. Semifinals Henin v. Jankovic, Kirilenko v. Venus. Final: Henin beats Venus.
Matches are on the Tennis Channel during the early morning and then on ESPN2 at lunchtime until the end of play.
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