The draw is out! With Roger Federer not playing and Rafael Nadal assured of avoiding Novak Djokovic, there was little in the way of pure drama today, but the top two seeds have to be happy with the way things turned out. Djokovic and Andy Murray have never won the French Open, but this could as good of a chance as they will ever have. They gotta like their draws.
Meanwhile, Nadal is going to have to work awfully hard to get number ten. Will he get there?
Novak Djokovic Quarter
After just one title in three clay events, questions abound as Djokovic begins his 7-match march to history and the Serb has to be happy with what he sees at least early on with Rendy Lu, a qualifier and then Federico Delbonis. Another meeting with Roberta Bautista Agut could await in the fourth. The probably former finalist David Ferrer in the quarters. Ferrer’s in a pretty open section as well, and he could run into Tomas Berdych in the fourth. But it’s hard to see Djokovic even dropping a set before the semifinals. And that should also allow him to work out any lingering kinks from Rome.
The Pick: Djokovic
Rafael Nadal Quarter
While Djokovic has it easy, Nadal has it hard. Real hard. But I think he’ll be OK. Rafa opens against the big-serving Australian Sam Groth. Then another easy one in the second before things escalate. Fabio Fognini in the third, Dominic Thiem in the fourth and then JW Tsonga in the quarters. Three guys he’s lost to before. Alexander Zverev is also in the mix along with David Goffin who could play spoiler when he meets Tsonga in the fourth round. It won’t be easy, but other than Tsonga I don’t think anyone has the will to beat Rafa in best-of-5 on his turf.
The pick: Nadal
Stan Wawrinka Quarter
Following a very poor clay lead-up, Stan Wawrinka needed a good draw and he got just that. But that doesn’t mean he’ll get through. What it means is that quarter is wide, wide open. With Milos Raonic, Gilles Simon and Marin Cilic the other top names, it’s anyone’s section. And it’s a really tough pick, but I think Wawrinka somehow manages to get through Chardy, Simon and then Raonic. It’s quite an opportunity for someone in that section, but other than Wawrinka there just are no serious clay court threats. Raonic in the semis? So by default…
The pick: Warwrinka
Andy Murray Quarter
Like Djokovic, Murray has a dream draw to the quarters. There’s little opposition even worth mentioning but I will. He’ll likely face back-to-back qualifiers, then Albert Montanes followed by Benoit Paire. After a tough round against Nick Kyrgios, I think Kei Nishikori gets out to the quarter against Murray, and what a match that should be. Kei’s been playing well also this clay season, but Murray is just the stronger, more experienced player here.
The pick: Murray
Djokovic d. Nadal: Novak still has that head-to-head domination. And it’s probably better for him to play Nadal in a semi or a quarterfinal rather than the final.
Murray d. Wawrinka: Wawrinka meets his match in Murray.
Murray d. Djokovic: I just think Murray will be the fresher player, and with all the pressure on Novak to get it done, the Scot pulls the surprise of the season.
Taking a bigger look at the draw, certainly that third quarter with Wawrinka and Raonic is quite a section. Too bad a guy like Federer or Nadal didn’t end up in there to balance things out better. And with four of the of the top six favorites on the top half, that is clearly the stronger side.
And we got some good first rounders including Taylor Fritz-Borna Coric, Phil Kohlschreiber-Nicolas Almagro, Fernando Verdasco-Alexandr Dolgopolov and Grigor Dimitrov-Viktor Troicki.
But once again, it just seems that until these younger guys like Zverev, Kyrgios, Fritz, etc., mature, it’s business as usual.
Matches begin Sunday on the Tennis Channel and on NBC.
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