Nadal v Djokovic, Tsonga v Ferrer; French Open SF Picks And Pans
by Sean Randall | June 6th, 2013, 12:28 pm

Call it what you will: The “real final”, “de facto final” or the “final before the final”, I’ll just call it for what it really is and that’s chapter 35 in a rivalry of the two best players in men’s tennis, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. For the second straight year the two meet at the French Open, this time in the semifinals.

First to the other semifinal, which may be of more interest to local French fans since for the first time since 2008 it features one of their very own, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, against Spanish 31-year-old David Ferrer.

JW Tsonga v. David Ferrer
It’s just the fourth meeting between these two veterans but easily their most significant with a spot in their first French Open final at stake. Ferrer’s back to the semifinals here for a second straight year; Tsonga, after blasting 2009 champ Roger Federer, is in his first.

Both players had two days off and both are well in form – neither has dropped a single set or really come close to losing one – so both guys will be at full strength as they should be. Ferrer really hasn’t had much competition so far. Tsonga, under the weight of the home pressure, did beat Federer, but otherwise also had a very comfortable road.

Nerves will likely factor in at some point. Between the two of them, they’ve played in nine combined Slam semis and have won just one. So it’s quite a moment for both.

Ferrer has won two of their three meetings, beating Tsonga at the Paris Indoors in November. The other came on the Rome clay in 2010. Tsonga gained his lone victory over Ferrer at Wimbledon, unsurprisingly winning in straights on grass.

Tsonga has been remarkably focused all event. New coach Roger Rasheed has him playing good tennis again and after slumping last year against Top 10 players, he’s back beating the big names.

The clay obviously favors Ferrer in this one. It’s his surface, it’s what he grew up on and this event is his most important. But the match is on Tsonga’s racquet. If he gets hot and the weather is warm and dry, I don’t know how Ferrer can match his point-to-point firepower. And once JW gets that momentum and crowd going, it’s going to be tough for even a guy like Ferrer to stem the tide. And I think that’s what’s going to happen.

It’s a tough selection…
The pick: Tsonga in five

Novak Djokovic v. Rafael Nadal
Nadal and Djokovic do it again for the 35th time on Friday, and after so many final showdowns for the first time this decade they meet in a semifinal. Nadal leads 19-15 and 12-3 on clay. But Djokovic will be buoyed by his big win in Monte Carlo, a place like Paris where Rafa also seemed to be unbeatable.

But at the French the task is taller. Djokovic will have to do what only one player, Robin Soderling, has ever done: Beat Nadal over 5 sets on clay. And at the French the two have met four times before with Rafa winning all of them by an 11-1 set edge.

Three of those wins, though, came in the early days. Djokovic, as we saw a year ago, is a far better player, and it’s debatable that Nadal is any better.

For me, the key of the match will be Djokovic’s serve and his return of serve. If both are in harmony and his groundstrokes are firing he could walk away with the win. If he’s deficient in anything, it could could spell trouble.

Djokovic also needs a fast start. You can’t fall behind trying to beat Nadal on his best surface. Winning three sets off Rafa in best-of-5 is next to impossible, but winning three in best-of-4 or even best-of-3 is about unthinkable.

Rafa will be Rafa I’m sure, though early on he too will need to be on his game. Similarly, he too doesn’t want to have to fight from behind. Djokovic isn’t Martin Klizan or Daniel Brands. Novak’s got the experinece, the motivation and the game to put the clamps on Rafa. And since the start of his surge in 2011 he’s held the upper hand in this series.

So the first set Friday will likely be the tell.

For all his improvements, though, I still think Novak’s a year away. He’s not the same player he was in 2011.
The pick: Nadal in five

Tennis Channel will air the Nadal-Djokovic final at 7am. NBC has the Tsonga-Ferrer.


Court Philippe Chatrier 1:00 PM Start Time
Novak Djokovic (SRB)[1] v. Rafael Nadal (ESP)[3]
David Ferrer (ESP)[4] v. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)[6]

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81 Comments for Nadal v Djokovic, Tsonga v Ferrer; French Open SF Picks And Pans

Thangs Says:

I think, Sean wantely pick Nadal knowing his jinx…

jane Says:

“I still think Novak’s a year away.” – well, at least that means he will still win RG at some point (or at least I think that’s what you mean Sean); that’s all I hope for – a Roland Garros title and a Cincy title, and then Nole’ll’ve completed both sets: slams and masters. :) Hope it’s a good semi: Ajde! Indeed, I hope both matches are good.

M Says:

Okay, I love both JW and Ferru.

However, despite everything I know about network politics, I cannot believe — cannot believe — NBC will only be carrying one semi.

*multiple headdesks*

Fedster Says:

Hot and sunny weather will benefit Rafa in two ways. Obviously high bounce is one and then Nole’s movement gets a bit tricky in dry clay.

If Rafa finds his bounce and range, he will be ultra aggressive and will finish off Nole in 3 close sets. My prediction is Rafa is 3 in quick time (approx 2.5 hrs).

But the Rafa of today cannot outlast Nole on any surface. But he has the aggressive game to beat Nole fair and square, especially on clay. If Rafa could not find his A game then he will be doing all the defending and running and end up losing it in 4 or 5 because Nole has the fitness to outlast Rafa.

Considering the weather forecast and Rafa’s form against Wawa, I would say Rafa in 3.

Danny Morris Says:

Djokovic gets the job done in less than 4 sets. As tough as Rafa is, when he gets beaten, he gets beaten very bad. Check AO 2007 loss to Gonzo, 2008 loss to Tsonga,2008 USO to murray, 2009 USO loss to Delpotro, 2010 AO loss to murray, 2011 AO loss to ferrer and all his losses to Novak on clay have been straight sets.

Even the soderling match, he lost in 4. The wimbledon and US open losses in 2011 were in 4 sets. Only exception is AO 2012 and Wimbledon 2007.

Fedster Says:

Weather forecast says it will be a bit windy in the afternoon, which will obviously affect Nole’s serving and flat ground strokes.
All sogns are poiting to an emphatic straight set victory for Rafa.

RZ Says:

Jane, even if Nole doesn’t win the French this year, I’d be shocked if he went his entire career without an RG title. He’s the best claycourter outside of Rafa, who may not have too many years left in him, and the up-and-comers like Dimitrov, Nishikori, Roanic, etc. seem to be still learning their way on the surface. So I’d think that Nole has an excellent chance to win in the next few years.

Jimmy Says:

Tennis Channel is supposed to be carrying Djokovic-Nadal live at 4am pacific time.

jane Says:

RZ, hope you’re right!

Jimmy Says:

Rafa has to explode off that left knee to hit his open stance forehand, even last year it started falling short after the initial bombardment, I agree that a physical long match favors Novak, the start of the match is crucial, if the first set is very physical and Novak wins it, match over, if physical play and first two sets are split, Novak wins, Rafa needs to be up two sets to none to hope to close it out.

Zorrilla Says:

Fedster, Nadal may win in three but there’s no way it will only take 2.5 hours. These two guys take forever to serve. They’ve gone 4+ hours in a three setter. Get ready for a long match regardless of sets.

Jimmy Says:

Speaking of the left knee, Rafa does not appear to be moving as well to the forehand corner, and either needs to slide on it or plant it to hit that shot, players are not fearing his running forehand like before.

Uncle Tony wisely has him going for bigger first serves to get easy points but he needs to serve big or Novak will feast on all the second serves. On the ad side it worked well in Monte Carlo for Rafa to serve wide and follow it in to pick off the cross court return. Will Novak try to return that down the line more?

I look for Rafa play more aggressive on the backhand side to avoid that pattern of Novak pinning him in that corner.

Steve 27 Says:

Rafa on his mission: archieve was nobody has managed to win a single GS 8 times and win at least one GS for 9 consecutive years. 3 or 4 sets will suffice.

Jimmy Says:

And if Novak wins he will have a “Rafa Slam” – he will have beaten Nadal in the semis or final of all four majors (last year he tried for all four in a row in finals!).

contador Says:

All very interesting ideas. But I have to take it as a good sign that Sean Randall picked Rafa because we all know the strength of that jinx.

oh dear, Jo has been jinxed. A Novak – Ferrer final. My imagination is overactive thinking about the possibility of Ferrer or Tsonga winning, simply because of being the last man standing on Sunday. I think the worst possible thing, now that my hopes are high would be for either semi to be a 3 set dud aka wet squid (to use hippy chic’s metaphor – wet squib or squid, is it? lol)

Tennis x hippy chic Says:

Contador lol damp squib :).

Tennis x hippy chic Says:

^Or Anticlimax,probably sounds better^.

Tennis x hippy chic Says:

I have never believed in the whole jinxs or curses concept,im a great believer in the idea that you make your own luck in this world.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

As Kai the Hitchhiker said, “I can’t call it.”

Should be a slobbernocker, I hope its quality tennis, as in their 2011 clay tilts and not a snoozer like the Oz Open 6 hour walkathon.

contador Says:

Well, I am not serious, hippy chic. But Sean has a reputation as a jinx.

And another funny British expression/ description I was laughing at on the cycling forum was “Bone idle …… ” It had me laughing because the poster using it was using it to describe the real Contador as lazy…lol, Alberto Contador is anything but lazy!

BTW – Serena looks better than ever, imo. Would not want to be on the other side of the net against her.

harry Says:

@jane/mat4/WB: you may like these stats from RG so far :)

contador Says:

Damp Squib and Bone idle….

lol, wrote those down.

contador Says:

oh no. I don’t mean to offend anybody by laughing at those expressions – sorry. They may mean something worse or more vulgar as used colloquially – apologies, if they do. Some time just the imagery with an expression can be absurdly funny, is all I meant.

jane Says:

contador, “damp squib” must be a UK saying; Margot’s used it on here before too. Quite funny for sure.

jane Says:

Thanks harry – another great link! :) Very close statistics aren’t they. Where Nole has a few more backhand winners, Rafa has a few more forehand winners, and so forth. Eeek. Nerve-wracking.

I just hope Nole keeps it close, come what may.

Would hate to have it be an anti-climax.

Or worse – a “damp squib” that’s “bone idle”!! ;)

harry Says:

Thanks Jane; yeah, time to have some slivovitz ready :)

harry Says:

^– win or lose…

harry Says:

Ha ha! too funny — message from uniqlo to Djoko…

contador Says:

@jane – think the poster using the other expression was from the land of Ozzies. I can tell a kiwi from an ozzie from a Brit or an Irish, ect easily enough hearing them speak but reading the posts I don’t know. :D

Giles Says:

That’s a big fish you have caught Rafa!

Tennis x hippy chic Says:

Thata a big one Rafa,not to mention the fish either lol.

Giles Says:

The fish is called John Dory also known as St Pierre. Delicious!!

jamie Says:

Sean Randall finally getting it.

mat4 Says:

Just hope I survive that match, whoever wins.

The keys for Novak, tomorrow, if he manages to be consistent enough, are how he will play against the BH slice and how Rafa will deal with Novak’s spin on the BH side.

Anyway, won or lost, I won’t post until the end of the FO.

Tennis x hippy chic Says:

Mat4 i know what you mean,i have a feeling things are about to turn ugly over the next few days or so,i think i will probably leave it for a week to let things calm down a bit,this is not me bailing out,i will come and comiserate or congratulate Novaks fans,Rafas fans,Jos fans,or Davids fans whatever the case may be afterwards,but im in no mood anymore to listen to anymore trash talk ATM.

Steve 27 Says:

Nadal Djokovic 64 63 26 63 my result, Vamos Rafa!

the DA Says:

Off topic for a second, Federer did a Q&A in l’Equipe and I thought this response was kind of interesting:

Q. Ideal Player?

A: Federer: “Djokovic confidence, Murray’s virtuosity, Nadal’s forehand and footwork on clay and my one-handed backhand (smiling)

I think Margot might be at a loss for words ;)

Okiegal Says:

In Oklahoma, we like catfish………hope Rafa is quick as a cat on the court tomorrow. Vamos, Rafa…..and BOOM BABY, YOU DA MAN!!!!!

jane Says:

That’s a pretty great reply from Fed, the DA. Thanks for sharing it. I hope Nole has lots of confidence tomorrow! Alas, I am not sure if it can trump Rafa’s forehand/footwork on clay. Andy’s virtuosity for me shines best on the grass; it’s when you really get a sense of his arsenal imho. Right round the bend, too.

skeezer Says:


good find thanks!

contador Says:

Okay, I just checked. The Party starts at 4:30 a.m. my time and that is in less than 12 hours from now! right? I think so.

Anyway, just to get this off my chest… I will mention the bad and party poopers right now: that would be duds, damp squibs, rain delays, wet blankets, utterly disappointed hopes, anguish, boredom, Bone idle wally’s and eeyore. trolls get a free pass too.

now the good stuff: ajde Nole, vamos Rafa & Da-veed, et allez jo willie!

Jimmy Says:

Not sure i want to know what “Bone idle Wally’s” are …

James Says:

I want Rafa to win the match tomorrow. I think he will. But just in case Nole manages to pull off an upset (keeping Rafa’s record at RG in mind), I won’t forget to congratulate him (on twitter) and his fans. I know FO means a lot to him as well.
But yeah I’m rooting for my boy to take down the Djoker ;)
Game on!

James Says:

contador, you’re correct, it’s in less than 12 hours from now :)

Jimmy Says:

I wonder how much sleep they get before a match like this.

M Says:

No matter what happens, history will be made in the final on Sunday.

It’s a big deal, no? :-)

*counting down*
ETA 11 hours, 30 minutes to semis …

Ben Pronin Says:

History is made in every major final.

M Says:

Anybody else have a little case of the jitters?

Jimmy Says:

“History is an idiot answering questions no one has asked him.” Leo Tolstoy

contador Says:

@ Jimmy – did not know either until someone described the real Alberto Contador during the mountain stage today as being a “bone idle wanker” (I changed it to wally) asked the poster what he meant = lazy ****. lol, Contador it was absurd humor. Contador is not a bone idle wanker – just the opposite.

anyway – yes I am hyper…this is big. This semi is the final, as Nadalista originally said. :D

Okiegal Says:

Does anyone know what semi they will show on NBC? I know Rafa plays 1st at one which would be 6 am in OK. NBC is broadcasting later than that….at 11 am. Are they delaying and watching Rafa and Nole or picking up David and JW? Just wondering. If they don’t show Rafa and Nole…I have to go to plan B. Thanx for the help anyone can give me.

Jimmy Says:

Wanker is definitely worse! Lol

contador Says:

Okiegal, The Match is on Tennis Channel starting PDT at 4:00 a.m.

Could not find anything on ESPN or NBC.

I usually plan to have lemonsport live stream on my computer and Tennis channel on mute. Roland Garros Radio commentators is who I listen to and include Craig Gabriel and Gigi Salmon – very good at calling the matches and then Matt Cronin is on for yakking non-stop but he is actually tolerable – especially if it is WTA.

contador Says:

yea, Jimmy, the cycling forum is not for the thin skinned at all – it is coarse and tends to be condescending to females so a good generic manly pseudo is the thing.

Jimmy Says:

Doesn’t sound like they are kind to males either.

Seth Says:

Novak in 4.

Novak’s superior match-up qualities > Nadal’s superiority on clay.

George o Says:

Nadal wins in four. Vamos Rafa!!!

contador Says:

Well it is a bit twisted to anyone until you get to know the usual suspects. I am desperate because try to find someone to talk cycling! It is actually refreshing in a way because you have to be nuts I guess to still be a cycling fan these days and we love the sport and are not giving up on it. :D

It is off topic but I might post some pictures – stunning parcours today in the French alps. Criterium du Dauphine stage 5 to Valmorel.

Okiegal Says:

Thnx for the response, Contador, I appreciate it.
NBC is broadcasting at 11 am. If Rafa plays at 1 o clock France time, it would be 6 am in Okla. I cant believe that they won’t show Rafa and Nole, but who knows. I will go to live score hunter or sport lemon and I will be getting up very early. ESPN has been live streaming some of the matches, but don’t know about tomorrow since a major network is televising it, gonna do some more research, no??? LOL

Okiegal Says:

@Georg o

Oh, I hope you r right. It will be a tuffy, either way.


Viz Says:

Contador, I’m going to check out the pictures from the Dauphine. I don’t really follow cycling but sometimes come across it on TV and get sucked in, mainly for the scenery! I was watching the penultimate (I think) stage of the Giro a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t believe the conditions they were riding through. And I’ll be watching to see if Chris Froome can follow through on his claims for the Tour de France this year…
Any predictions on how long the Rafa-Nole match will last? I’m guessing 5 hours at least.

Bada Bing Says:

Federer wants Tsonga to win RG

contador Says:

Hello Viz -

Looks like you could win the bracket! Round trip prize to Miami for a pool party with chocolate rackets at Kimberly’s.(That would be fun.)

Yes the Giro d’ Italia had to cancel a stage in the Northeast Italy last weekend – too much snow!

But my Italian favorite pick won – Vincenzo Nibali. This is where I can spend time looking at the photos from the beautiful roads:

And the Giro photos are on that steephill tv site too. It was incredible with the last mountain finish – they rode through a blizzard – epic stuff.

Could not imagine Nadal or Federer as cyclists but Ferrer – I could see him braving that suffering.

Daniel Says:

Kimberly, this game is tense!

contador Says:

@ Viz

Contador, 2 other Spanish riders, a handful of British Team Sky riders, lead by “Vroom Vroom Froome” are the top contenders for TdF, which of course starts about the same time as Wimbledon.

Sir Bradley Wiggins, last years’ winner is not riding – big soap opera drama between Wiggins and Froome competing for team leader. Froome I think is favored to win over Contador atm.

Back on topic: I am guessing and hoping that the match will go on for most of the day….lol.. over 5 hours. And then Tsonga Ferrer over 4 hours…I don’t really know. Another part of my brain tells me not to have such expectations.

contador Says:

One more, Viz

I share with you this thread and its treasures :D
The poster is a brilliant race designer – she really knows what she writes about and writes prolifically, displaying her designs with beautiful photography and profiles:

That one is Germany but another favorite in that thread by “Liberine Seguros” is her Tour of Iceland! Breathtaking, really.

contador Says:

“Libertine” not Liberine

Viz Says:

@Contador: re. the bracket – I know! Beginner’s luck. But the prize sounds good, lol.

Thanks for the link. While I would have liked to see Sir Wiggo try for a repeat win in the TdF, I’m actually glad the soap opera’s over – it would have been too much of a distraction, particularly the handbag fights via Twitter between the WAGs.

Back to tennis, it’s going to be a long night, that’s for sure! One of the things that intrigues me, particularly with Grand Slam tennis, is how they cope with going into a match not knowing whether they are going to have to sustain that effort for under 3 hours or more than 5. At least with cycling or a running a marathon, you know your pace and the distance is finite. With tennis, if the players are evenly matched, it’s so open ended.

Viz Says:

And the other link! With maps as well! That’s my work day gone sideways :) thanks

Michael Says:

Well, Nadal has the edge. But since Novak is the opponent there is some suspense about the outcome of this match and that is the importance of Novak as a player, as a Champion. He has made Nadal work hard even in Clay. Nadal fears Novak more than anyone else. That said, I do not think Rafa can beat Novak in five sets. If it goes to five, Novak will win since he has better energy, stamina and motivation. If Nadal is to win this, he has to do it in straights or in four sets. More than that, Novak will have the edge. As Sean rightly pointed out, it is the return of serve of Novak which holds the key. If that shot is firing from the word go, Nadal will be put under tremendous pressure to cope with the fearsome power of Novak. All said and done, a mouth watering match is in prospect and I am counting the time as to when it will start.

Michael Says:

Tsonga Vs Ferrer is a tough pick. I for one would like Tsonga to get to the finals since he has a better chance of beating both Novak as well as Rafa. He has the power game which if it clicks can spell disaster for the opponent. So on his day, Tsonga can beat anybody. On the other hand, Ferrer is a consistent player who has neither the power nor the will to beat players like Rafa or Novak. So, for competition’s sake, Tsonga should get through this one. But I am not sure as to whether he can beat Ferrer ?? If he has a good start, he can register a win as otherwise Ferrer will get through. A tough call really !!

Margot Says:

@ the DA
Lol, yep.;)
OMG if Fed goes on like this will be inviting him to tea..;
Both expressions used in Uk
Hoping for a gr8 match.

Giles Says:


Lesco Says:

If the down the line backhand is firing on all cylinders, it will be Novak in 3.

Michael Says:

What a tensed atmosphere a Rafa Vs Novak duel creates ? It is this uncertainity which is required for Sport especially Tennis to sustain Spectator interest. I am still not sure about the outcome of this match, so better to leave it at that. The better player who executes the game plan well, will win. Rafa has the experience, Novak has the confidence and so who will get the job done is a million dollar question ?

roy Says:

while i would like to see ferrer in the final, it’s unfortunately one of those situations where the player who takes out one of the big 3 deserves it more. i think in this era, you need to beat djoker,nadal,murray,federer to deserve true final credit.

if ferrer made the final and won, then okay. but to get the GS FINALIST credit without topping one of the gatekeepers isn’t exactly fair when you consider it would put him above say a prime davydenko who basically never had opportunity to avoid fed etc. and make final except the puerta year[where question over drugs] and the year gonzo took out nadal and davy lost to haas. i think basically every other year a big four was in a semi on each side or he was on the side with one.

still be great for him to make a final but would have been better if he’d taken out federer or djoker etc.

nadalista Says:

Interesting take @roy 5:39am.

If Federer had made it to the finals he would have done so without going through any of the other Big 4, 2 qualifiers and a crocked Benny, would you have said he didn’t deserve to be there?

The draw is the draw, we may not like it, but that should not detract from the player’s achievement, not his call who he plays, imho……

Tennis x hippy chic Says:

Im of the opinion that you can only beat whomever is stood in front of you,if player A doesnt beat player B to win the title so what?does it mean that the win is any less legit? IMO no,because IMO that player was not good enough to get there,Roger didnt beat Rafa in 2009 in the final,Rafa was not good enough to get there Roger was,Rafa didnt beat Roger in the USO final in 2010,again Roger was not good enough to get there Rafa was,and so on and so on it goes,the two players that get there are the ones that were good enough to get there,and the one who wins 7 matches holds the trophy end of story,people can dress these things up and sugar coat these things any which way they want,he was lucky in that game unlucky in that game,it changes nothing,nice to pontificate but it changes nothing you have what you have,end of story,no jinxs no curses,no ifs,buts,or BS theres no such thing as a jinx or a curse you make your own luck,end of rant.

Polo Says:

The player who wins the final match is the deserving champion regardless of the ranking of those he beat along the way. To call it otherwise is purely sourgraping.

Tennis x hippy chic Says:

Polo yeah quite right.

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