Why bother playing the French Open now because Rafael Nadal might not drop a set en route to what looks to an easy run to a ridiculous 12th title in Paris.
The draw, which just came out, looks great for Rafa and equally horrible for his main threat, Novak Djokovic.
Roger Federer of course is a big story and for his time away the tennis gods did him a solid with a manageable draw.
Juan Martin Del Potro also returns as well as do a growing number of younger players. But, when all the red dust settles, it should be another Rafa win as I just can’t find anything to threaten him this upcoming fortnight. Can you?
So, to the draw!
NOVAK DJOKOVIC QUARTER
I think this is by far the toughest section with Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and Fabio Fognini. Djokovic will open against the dangerous Hubert Hurkacz, then maybe Sam Querrey followed by French vet Gilles Simon (or Jaume Munar). Fourth round will be tough against Coric (or perhaps Shapovalov) and then quarters against Zverev, if the German even survives a Dusan Lajovic upset bid. So for Novak, nothing easy really but I got to think he’ll find a way especially if upsets do happen. There are also a bunch of good first rounders with Shapo-Struff, Kyrgios-Norrie, Fognini-Seppi and Fritz-Tomic. It’s a fun quarter but only one man can be left standing.
The Pick: Novak Djokovic
DOMINIC THIEM QUARTER
The last three years for Dominic Thiem in Paris: semifinals, semifinals, finals! That’s damn good and I think he’s in store for another good run. Thiem should be in business out to the fourth round where he could collide with Gael Monfils, who also has a great draw. I like Thiem there and then I like him to beat Delpo in the quarters and return to the final four. Delpo did well in Rome and while I worry about the best-of-5, I like the Argentine’s draw with Nico Jarry to start (a tough opener), then Mackenzie Mcdonald, Felix or Feli in the third before Karen Khachanov in the fourth. And that match against the Russian will wear him down just enough for Thiem to take advantage.
The pick: Dominic Thiem
ROGER FEDERER QUARTER
Also in search of that second Career Slam, Roger returns to what looks like a favorable draw. Lorenzo Sonego is very good on clay, but I just think he’ll be overwhelmed by the occasion and by the Swiss. Then Malek Jaziri followed by another Italian, Matteo Berrettini. And it could end there. If not, then Diego Schwartzman finishes him off. I just don’t see Federer getting through if the conditions are cool and damp and he’s forced to play a 5-setter against one of these true clay courters. And like Delpo, by the time he hits Schwartzman he may be running low. Plus, he’s got the grass ahead, so why risk it? Anyway, so I’ll go Schwartzman out to the quarters to face Stefanos Tsitsipas who gets out of a tough section with Frances Tiafoe, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Christian Garin and Stan Wawrinka. Any one of them could emerge, but the Greek has proven to be a top class player all year and he’ll have too much firepower and moxie for Schwartzman in the quarters
The Pick: Stefanos Tsitsipas
RAFAEL NADAL QUARTER
Nadal didn’t need to be in the easiest section but he got it. And as I said, he probably won’t drop a set with his opposition looking like two qualifiers to start, then David Goffin followed by Guido Pella in the fourth. In the quarters, I’ll go Kei Nishikori who edges out Daniil Medvedev for that spot. But by week 2, the injury-riddle Japanese will likely have something physically going sideways and Rafa will roll. So unless there’s some injury to Rafa, this looks like more of what we saw in Rome…
The Pick: Rafael Nadal
Djokovic d Thiem: Playing better tennis, Djokovic avenges French open loss to Thiem back in 2017 and sets himself up just three sets from a second Career Slam and Nole Slam.
Nadal d Tstisipas: Nadal gives another lesson to the kid who does get a set.
Nadal d Djokovic: Nadal too fresh, too hungry, make that a dozen, please.
Yes, Djokovic can beat Nadal — he’s done it before in Paris. But should they meet in the final, I just feel like Nadal will be in much better shape than Novak who has a far tougher draw. And to me, that’s the difference.
As for outsiders, you do wonder about Zverev. Fognini has done well in Paris. Wawrinka? Coric, Delpo, Monfils are some others if the draw opens up.
But it looks to me like the four best players during the clay lead-ups will keep their form in Paris and I just don’t see anyone outside of them (really 3 minus Stefanos) taking the title.
Another factor — especially for someone like Federer — is the weather. Rainy and damp conditions will help some, hurt others. And the same goes if it’s hot and dry, though the forecast for now reads more like somewhere in between.
The tournament kicks off Sunday and concludes a few Sundays later. Vamos.
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