Ricky Dimon

  • French Open draw analysis: Djokovic-Federer again

    2012-05-26 03:46:02

    For the 15th time in the last 19 Grand Slams, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are on the same side of the draw. The trend may be getting old, but their semifinal matches are not. If it happens again and it’s anything like the 2011 French Open or the 2011 U.S. Open, we’re in for another instant classic.

    Like it or not ("it" being Djoker-Fed matches one after the other), the Roland Garros draw ceremony got a lot of things right on Friday. Even though Djokovic is the No. 1 seed, Nadal is a six-time champion and coming off a Rome title, so he has to be considered the favorite. Thus, the second-ranked Spaniard deserves the weaker of the 3-4 seeds—which is obviously Andy Murray instead of Federer. Nadal also finds himself with the worst of the 5-8 seeds (Janko Tipsarevic), while Murray is pitted against the best (David Ferrer, at least on clay).

    On paper, the early rounds leave a little bit to be desired. But that's not necessarily bad news, because it means basically all of the big names should be sticking around in Paris for a while. Starting with the third round or so, count on some serious high-quality drama.


    Djokovic's quarter


    Djokovic should be able to sleepwalk into the semifinals this fortnight, but a few of his opening matches will at least generate headlines. The top-ranked Serb is on course for a rematch of his Australian Open four-setter against Lleyton Hewitt, who may be making his swansong at this event. Djokovic is then likely meet Jurgen Melzer, to whom he lost in the quarterfinals of the 2010 French Open after five sets. Intriguing storylines? Sure. Competitive matches? Absolutely not.

    With Gael Monfils out of the tournament, pressure is even bigger on Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon. They are both in the second half of this section and should be able to play their way into a fourth-round showdown. Stanislas Wawrinka hopes to crash that potential party (in the third round against Simon), but the fans hope to see Tsonga and Simon battle for the right to take on Djokovic in the quarters.


    Best first-round matchup — (22) Andreas Seppi vs. Nikolay Davydenko

    One of the biggest stories of this season (maybe the biggest outside of Djokovic-Nadal-Federer-Murray mainstream news) was Seppi's recent run to the Rome quarterfinals. It included a three-set upset of John Isner and an improbable back-from-the-dead victory over Wawrinka, both of which took place in raucous atmospheres. Davydenko has mostly been dreadful in 2012, but he should have a glimmer of confidence after reaching the Nice semifinals. This could be the best of match of the entire first round if Davydenko shows some semblance of the Davydenko of old.


    Best potential second-round matchup – (11) Gilles Simon vs. Brian Baker
    Best potential third-round matchup – (5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Fabio Fognini


    Possible surprises —Baker may have used up enough surprises for a lifetime already in Nice, where he has made a dream run to the title match. The resurrected American, who will face Nicolas Almagro on Saturday, has taken out Gael Monfils, Mikhail Kukushkin, and Davydenko all in dramatic fashion and in succession. If he has anything left in the tank, Baker could capitalize on a favorable draw in Paris. He opens with Xavier Malisse and nobody is unbeatable until Djokovic all the way in the quarterfinals. I know that's a longshot, but I’m drinking the Baker Kool-Aid. Who isn’t?

    Federer's quarter


    Federer’s path is similar to that of Djokovic, except it is even easier during the first week and likely more difficult in the quarterfinals. The third-ranked Swiss could run into fellow veteran David Nalbandian in the second round. That is a popcorn match, no doubt, but it’s hard to imagine Nalbandian even winning one set. Rounds one (Tobias Kamke), three (Andy Roddick? Doubtful.), and four (Feliciano Lopez and Radek Stepanek are the potential seeded opponents) will be even more routine for Federer.

    The other half of this quarter, on the other hand, is absolutely loaded. It includes Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson, and Juan Carlos Ferrero. A Berdych-Delpo fourth-round collision is arguably the most highly-anticipated matchup of this tournament, but Del Potro will likely face the Cilic-Ferrero winner in round three. Berdych will go up against either Michael Llodra or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his second match before getting Anderson.


    Best first-round matchup — (23) Radek Stepanek vs. (LL) David Goffin

    Needless to say, there aren't many intriguing matchups in this section of the bracket. In fact, before Goffin was put in here the best first-rounder was Llodra vs. Garcia-Lopez!  Goffin is making a name for himself in 2012 and is a win or two away from breaking into the Top 100. This will be an intriguing matchup in styles, and clay will help Goffin more than it will Stepanek even though neither man is particularly strong on the slow stuff. Stepanek is a clear favorite, but his current form (or lack thereof) will give Goffin a chance.


    Best potential second-round matchup – (21) Marin Cilic vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero
    Best potential third-round matchup – (9) Juan Martin Del Potro vs. (21) Marin Cilic


    Possible surprises — You just know every unseeded player in the draw wanted to land in the same pod of four as No. 26 seed Andy Roddick. The American has always been horrendous on clay and his year even on hard courts has been bad aside from a shocking Miami upset of Federer. Nicolas Mahut, who faces Roddick in round one, could be the beneficiary. Don’t be surprised if it's Mahut instead of Roddick going up against Federer in round three. The door is also open for the Stepanek-Goffin winner to make the second week.


    Murray's quarter


    Murray's section was always going to be the most wide open, simply because he is nowhere near the class of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer at the moment. That is even more the case now that the draw has been revealed, because the contenders in this quarter are plentiful. Potential quarterfinal opponents for Murray include Ferrer and Isner, but the fourth-ranked Scot would probably have to get past either Richard Gasquet or Alexandr Dolgopolov just to make it that far.

    Of course, don't count on Murray surviving the first few days at Roland Garros. He is slumping and also dealing with a back problem. If Murray gets past Tatsuma Ito, he will collide with either Jarkko Nieminen or Igor Andreev. The winner of a likely second-round clash between Bernard Tomic and Santiago Giraldo would await Murray in the third round. Veteran Tommy Haas, who qualified for the main draw, will also be looking to take advantage in this section.


    Best first-round matchup — Jarkko Nieminen vs. Igor Andreev

    These two veterans have faced each other only once before and that one also came at Roland Garros (2005 second round, Andreev won in four sets). It's safe to say that neither one is on top of his game anymore, but this could still be good one. Nieminen actually won a title earlier this year (Sydney) and Andreev remains dangerous on clay with his heavy topspin forehand. Breaks of serve will be the norm in what should be an entertaining baseline battle.


    Best potential second-round matchup – (25) Bernard Tomic vs. Santiago Giraldo
    Best potential third-round matchup – (16) Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. (17) Richard Gasquet


    Possible surprises — There isn't a single seed in this section that is unbeatable at any stage of the tournament; not even Ferrer. Although Ferrer seems to be in a state of perpetual state of good form, he never steps up at Roland Garros. The sixth-ranked Spaniard has reached the quarterfinals only twice and he has been past the third round just twice in his last six appearances. As a result, watch out for Mikhail Youzhny and France’s own Paul-Henri Mathieu in Murray's quarter. Mathieu is rusty, but he could go a long way if he somehow upsets Isner (who has cooled off in a hurry) in round two.


    Nadal's quarter


    French Open draws don't really matter when it comes to Nadal, at least not when he is on the opposite side from Djokovic. So when Nadal won Rome and assured himself of being the No. 2 seed, he all but booked his spot in the Roland Garros final. There a few scenarios that at least would have made early-round life relatively difficult for Nadal, but they did not come to fruition. The defending champ will do nothing more than waltz into the fourth round, at which point his title defense will really begin against either Juan Monaco or Milos Raonic.

    The intrigue in this section involves the battle to meet Nadal in the quarterfinals. Tipsarevic is seeded to be the one, but he won’t have an easy time making it through four matches. Rounds two and three should not be difficult for the Serb, but he opens with Sam Querrey and could run into Almagro in the last 16. Almagro has played amazing clay-court tennis in 2012 (as always) and he is in the Nice final after destroying Simon. The Spaniard is on a collision course for the third round with Munich champion Philipp Kohlschreiber.


    Best first-round matchup — (8) Janko Tipsarevic vs. Sam Querrey

    Yeah this could be a blowout…but maybe not. Querrey is working his way back from injury and has firmly entrenched himself in the Top 100. He won a Challenger title in April then qualified for Rome and beat Nieminen before losing to Almagro. Tipsarevic is in the midst of a fine season, but he is not at his best on clay (don’t be fooled by his Madrid semifinal) and he is wasting energy this week in Dusseldorf. If Querrey serves well, this will be a match.


    Best potential second-round matchup – (13) Juan Monaco vs. Carlos Berlocq
    Best potential third-round matchup – (12) Nicolas Almagro vs. (24) Philipp Kohlschreiber


    Possible surprises — They are playing for second, third, and fourth here, but second, third, and fourth could be anyone. Tipsarevic’s nearest seed is Julien Benneteau, who has not played since taking a nasty fall in Monte-Carlo. Any unseeded played in that 16th of the draw could reach the fourth round. In the other half of the section, Nadal’s fourth-round opponent could be Berlocq. The Argentine is enjoying the best season of his career and almost all of his results have come on clay. Whoever wins Berlocq-Monaco will have a great chance against Raonic in round three.


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A Rod's chances of making it to the 3rd round are bleak.
F Lopez can trouble Fed with his serves for a set or so, but cant win it.
The best lot of the draw is Berdych n Delpo's one. So many exciting matches. Then there's a potential 4th rd match Delpo vs Berdych which, should it take place, would be a cracker of a contest and i tip Delpo to win it (if he's fully fit).
Rafa doesn't really have to bother much. I think Rafa vs Raonic would be a more tight contest than Rafa v Monaco.
Murray's quarter is the most unpredictable. Murray is injured, Ferrer inconsistent at RG, Isner is inconsistent too. This quarter of the draw may throw a surprise semifinalist.
Novak's quarter is an easy one. Tsonga, Simon and Wawrinka will battle it out to reach the QF and lose.

abhirf , 5/26/12 9:00 AM

No predictions Ricky?

jaskarans , 5/26/12 9:14 AM

Predictions will come tonight I guess.... Ricky was so good in predictions especially in last US Open and Wimbledon especially in earlier rounds but was not so good in last years RG... But I am lokking forward to wait his predictions....

dertanyan , 5/26/12 10:49 AM

One match at a time, match at a time.


rafaisthebest , 5/26/12 11:11 AM

Does nobody are missing soderling?Especialy in Nadal side of the draw...
He will even skip olymics and vibledon. Even young delpo cant get back on track, I fear Sod will not compete with top anymore.

anatolijs , 5/26/12 12:18 PM

I miss... He was in fire in Gastad last year and also had changed coach and also was too motivated to fight for top 4 but I dont know now what he is doing? :)

dertanyan , 5/26/12 12:33 PM

Does nobody are missing soderling?Especialy in Nadal side of the draw...

anatolijs, 5/26/12 12:18 PM

Not me. I see you're still hanging on to that 2009 FO fairy tale. That's right, that's all it was, a fairy tale. Now, back to reality: Robin is away sick and I wish him well and a speedy recovery back on the Tour. But imaging that were he on Tour and in the FO draw right now on Rafa's side of the draw is simply feeding into that tired narrarive: who can stop Rafa?

Give yourself a break and admit that what Sod did in 2009, while fantastic, was something he was never going to repeat.

rafaisthebest , 5/26/12 12:41 PM

I do miss Soderling. Had he been in the mix, the matches would have been more exciting. He is a player with a game for every court. Hope he recovers quickly.

But putting him in Rafa's side is being naive. Yes, he did beat Rafa in 09. But Rafa beat him in 2010 and 2011. No doubt he would have given a good fight to Rafa, but expecting him to beat Rafa here IMO is bit harsh on the man.

abhirf , 5/26/12 12:56 PM

The trend may be getting old, but their semifinal matches are not. If it happens again and it?s anything like the 2012 French Open or the 2012 U.S. Open, we?re in for another instant classic.

Not to nitpick but should have been 2011

SGHIceman , 5/26/12 1:37 PM

I'm not buying Joker's waltz to the Final. Fed is still Fed and can take him down at the French. I also think Andy can win one more match...but just one!

scoot , 5/26/12 1:55 PM

picks! - n_picks:_More_of_the_Djokovic-Nadal_rivalry

RickyDimon , 5/26/12 2:47 PM


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Current ATP-rankings

1. Djokovic 12 500 pts
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