I was going to make this a comment on the other thread, but I’ll give it its own home. So here are my pre-draw French Open favorites (draw comes out Friday morning).
1. Novak Djokovic
The clear choice. He’s won everything under the sun lately (just never the French!). Dominated the right guys. Seems to be healthy. Is he better than he was in 2011? No. But he doesn’t have to be. He just has to be better than everyone else, and right now he is.
2. Rafael Nadal
66-1 is 66-1. And like I said before, Robin Soderling isn’t walking out on Chatrier anytime soon. So no place better, more friendlier for Rafa to bust out of his slump than Roland Garros. And last year he didn’t look great either coming into the French Open, and what happened? He won the title losing just two sets! He just needs to get that confidence back and some nice weather would also be a plus.
3. Andy Murray
I know he’s 10-0 on clay, but what I like about Murray is he doesn’t have any bad losses per se in Paris – Nadal, Ferrer, Berdych, Almagro of late. He’s also made the semifinals there twice, losing both times in 2011 and 2014 to Rafa. So I don’t think with the way he’s playing he’ll let down and allow himself to get picked off early. I also liked that he withdrew from Rome to give himself more time to prepare.
4. Roger Federer
Speaking of getting picked off early, this could happen to Roger. He’s 33, clay is not his best surface these days (never was), and I just think he’s now very prone to an early upset. Remember he lost to JW Tsonga in 2013 then was stunned last year by Ernests Gulbis (where’s he been?). And the trend for Roger has been down in Paris F->SF->QF->R16->???. This year, though, he has been playing pretty well so I don’t see another Gulbi-type repeat.
5. Tomas Berdych
Mr. Consistent has been just that this year. But even though he beat Nadal in Australia, I’m just not convinced he can repeat the effort in another big quarterfinal or semi in two weeks. He’s still a solid week two pick – been to the semis in Paris before – and if a draw opens up he’s a guy who can take advantage.
6. Kei Nishikori
Can he physically hold up in best-of-5 on clay? Especially if the conditions get heavy? After a strong 2014 he’s had a solid season so far with really only respectable losses and some very good wins. And I expect a second week two effort. To me, he’s shown he’s for real.
7. Stan Wawrinka
I’ll give him a nod only because of his Rome win over Nadal. Otherwise, he just hasn’t had a great go of it recently. But he’s got the game and talent to make a fifth week-two run and erase last year’s disappointing opening round exit.
8. David Ferrer
Isn’t quite what he was, but you just can’t expect him to fade quietly.
Other guys who could do well:
Gael Monfils – Always does well in Paris and he’s also playing well.
Grigor Dimitrov – Flamed out to Karlovic in first round last year, should improve that result next week. But has he hit the ceiling?
John Isner – The guy you just don’t want to play.
David Goffin – Quietly playing well, can he rekindle the magic he showed in Paris a few years ago?
Fabio Fognini – Might show up and play well, might not.
Milos Raonic – Can he be 100% so soon after foot surgery? Sounds doubtful.
Frenchmen – Gasquet/Simon/Tsonga, will be on the big courts and will have the support from crowd, but rarely do they live up to the hopes.
And the youngsters like Borna Coric, Thanasi Kokkinakis and especially Nick Kyrgios should be fun to watch.
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