About the only drama in the French Open men’s draw was if Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic would end up on the same side of the draw, and that’s exactly what happened. Again!
The two tournament favorites are now slated to meet in the semifinals, leaving top seed and floundering Andy Murray in the top half with former champ Stan Wawrinka who, based on his draw, has to be among the Top 3 picks.
Let’s break it down.
Andy Murray Quarter
Murray’s been a mess this year, especially on the clay. There’s now talk he’s sick, fighting shingles and who knows what else. What he’s been fighting the most has been the pressure of being No. 1 and right now he’s losing that battle. Just four clay wins on the year as he tries to defend his final points and no recent titles nor big wins to note. I don’t thing he gets back to the finals and he might not even get out of the first week. Andrey Kuznetsova is tough on the clay, then maybe Juan Martin Del Potro though the Argentine’s now struggling with a shoulder. Tomas Berdych is there, and he’ll face John Isner. Maybe Karen Khachanov can break through. But I look at Alexander Zverev as the guy who, if he can get by Fernando Verdasco, maybe controls this quarter. Kei Nishikori is there as well and so too is Pablo Cuevas, but with Murray struggling and if the court is dry and quick, I like the German here to keep his run going.
The Pick: Zverev
Nobody’s happier with their draw than Stan Wawrinka. The 2015 champion has Fabio Fognini in the third round and then the French gauntlet with Richard Gasquet or Gael Monfils followed potentially by JW Tsonga or maybe Marin Cilic. Overall, it’s the weakest section of the draw with Monfils and Gasquet both coming off injury, Cilic not proven in Paris, David Ferrer aging, Nick Kyrgios also questionable with an injury, Fognini who just had a baby and then Tsonga. So I think it comes down between Stan and Tsonga and I like the guy who’s won Slams before.
The Pick: Wawrinka
Rafael Nadal Quarter
If you are looking for any opposition to Rafael Nadal in his section, you’re going to be disappointed. Benoit Paire is up first but over five sets I don’t think the talented Frenchman can pull an upset. There’s Gilles Simon in the third round, Jack Sock or Roberto Bautista Agut and in the quarters he’ll face either Milos Raonic or Grigor Dimitrov who both have good draws. I could see Nadal losing a set here or there, perhaps to Paire, Raonic or Dimitrov, but that’s about it. If healthy, regardless of weather, he should roll.
The Pick: Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic Quarter
I also like Novak Djokovic’s section. The Serb, who’ll be under the watchful eye of Andre Agassi, will have the grunting Marcel Granollers to start, then in the third Mischa Zverev followed by Pouille or Ramos-Vinolas in the fourth and I would have to guess Dominic Thiem in the quarters. I love Thiem’s draw and other than a meeting with David Goffin in the fourth, he’s in good shape. Problem for Thiem is he can’t seem to solve the Djokovic riddle.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
Wawrinka d Zverev: Took much experience and bullying from Stan.
Nadal d Djokovic: Not even Agassi can get Djokovic past Nadal. Not this year.
Nadal d Wawrinka: It just seems like destiny this one goes to Rafa.
Overall, it’s a good draw. Some really nice first round matches with Zverev-Verdasco, Brown-Monfils, Paire-Nadal which should make for an exciting start to the event.
The first quarter is interesting with Murray, Delpo and Nishikori all bothered by injury or illness of late. So that section is a little open allowing a Zverev or perhaps a Cuevas to get through. And if not Stan than who out of that second quarter?
The bottom half is where you find the three big favorites in Nadal, Djokovic and Thiem.
Weather will likely play a role. Last year we had rain, this year we start out with heat.
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