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Men's Roland Garros Preview 05/22/2009 - 2:47 PM

Rafa

by Pete Bodo

Alright, let’s get right to the point. To me, the biggest question on the eve of the French Open is whether any of the ATP pros can man up and prevent a third re-match between Mr. Roland Garros Perfect Record (Rafael Nadal) and Mr. Just Give Me One French Title, That’s All I Ask (Roger Federer).

For three years in a row, the improbable “dream final” pitting the two players battling for the no. 1 position in tennis came to pass. For three years now, Nadal has beaten Federer, and the way he crushed his Swiss rival last year, allowing Federer just four games, has led more than a few people to sigh and exclaim, Enough already, Rafa, you made your point. Let’s get Roger out of there and give somebody else a chance.

Let’s face it, another Nadal vs. Federer final and you might well rename those fellas Chrissie and Martina (and is there any doubt about which guy would be which gal?).  That’s how much  these two rivals have hogged the spotlight in Paris. On paper, it says that the two will meet agan in the final, but matches aren’t played on paper, and in some cosmic way it’s hard to imagine that Federer will be given yet another chance to beat Nadal in a Roland Garros final. It just doesn’t feel right.

If you prefer your analysis to be grounded more firmly in well-reasoned territory, try this: Given the inconsistency, impatience, and lack of confidence that Federer has shown so often this year (he didn’t win his first title until last week in Madrid; at this time in 2007, he had three, two of them at Masters Series events), whether or not he can reach the final is a more compelling question than whether or not he can find a way to beat Nadal once he arrives there.

So that’s my first – and sure to be most controversial – prediction. I just don’t see Federer making another final at Roland Garros; the use-by date on his chances has expired.  He certainly played well to win at Madrid, but in Paris three critical elements will be different:

1 - The court is bound to play much slower than the one in the Caja Magica in Madrid, partly because of the difference in altitude and partly because of weather conditions.

2 – The slower surface and five-set format will require more patience and focus than Federer has shown in recent tournaments.

3 – Nadal is not only confident, he’s extra-motivated by that loss in Madrid to Federer. That’s a great position to be in for a guy who’s never lost a match on the Roland Garros stage.

As for Nadal, correctly predicting his demise in Paris  would make any man seem more prophet than pundit. You just can’t get there from here, here being the world in which Nadal has not only won four consecutive French Opens, he’s also suffered exactly one loss during this entire clay-court season- the one he dropped to Federer in Madrid.

Okay, so let’s look at the draw, quarter-by-quarter, starting at the top, to see whose path is apt to be easy, and whose will be treacherous.

In the top, “Nadal” quarter, Nadal’s stiffest challenge is apt to come from the no. 8 seed, his pal, countryman, and Davis Cup comrade, Fernando Verdasco.  That’s if Verdasco can make his seed. It’s likely he’ll do that, because he’s made the fourth round for two years running now, and his game and confidence seem to have taken a quantum leap this year. No question that after the no. 3 seed Andy Murray (who‘s in Rafa’s half), Verdasco looms as Nadal’s main obstacle to reaching his fifth final.

Nadal opens against a qualifier, and while he has a seasoned veteran and multiple Grand Slam winner Lleyton Hewitt in a potential third-rounder, the former no. 1 has always been better on hard courts than clay. I don’t think Stanislas Wawrinka moves well enough, especially on clay and over five-sets, to pose a serious threat to Nadal, but Nadal’s quarter also contains two unpredictable players: Nicolas Kiefer and Ernests Gulbis – the latter by far the more dangerous of the two. In just two years in Paris, Gulbis had made the second round, then the quarterfinals. He’s unpredictable, but his heavy artillery is dangerous when he’s on his game.

My dark horse pick for this round is Nicolas Almagro, a lowly no. 31 seed but a quarter-finalist last year.

The “Murray” quarter is tricky, with a whole raft of intriguing and dangerous if flawed performers, starting with  Murray’s first opponent, Juan Ignacio Chela. He’s outside the top 200 now, but he’s a French Open veteran and just the kind of guy who can still paste up the big upset. That said, I still see Murray surviving Chela. One of the better first round match-ups pits Janko Tipsarevic against Albert Montanes, the winner to play a qualifier or Feliciano Lopez in order to (potentially) get at Murray.

Frenchman Gilles Simon, seeded no. 7, is in the bottom of the Murray quarter, and he could be playing US men in the first two rounds, which suggests that the no. 7 may finally make the second round of Roland Garros, something he hasn’t achieved in four attempts. On the other hand, it looks like Mr. Simon suffers from Mauresmo disease, which seems to afflict French players of either gender during Roland Garros. And with Radek Stepanek, Marin Cilic, Marat Safin, Mikhail Youzhny and Fernando Gonzalez also in this quarter, we might see some real fireworks.

I think Montanes will be the ritual “surprise semi-finalist” at the French Open. 

Nole The “Djokovic” quarter features six Frenchman, most of whom will also catch Mauresmo disease. But Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, seeded no. 9. may be an exception. Joe Willy has a big game, and he’s an unknown factor – he’s played at Roland Garros just once (a first-round loss in 2005).  Although his health is always questionable, he doesn’t seem as mentally fragile as some of his countrymen, and he could surprise everyone – including his potential fourth-round opponent, no. 5 seed Juan Martin del Potro. Both men have a lot of flesh and muscle to lug around, but the contrast in styles between the attacker, Tsonga, and defender, del Potro, would make for a very attractive battle for the right to meet Novak Djokovic in the fourth round.

Former French  Open champion and no. 1 player Juan Carlos Ferrero stands in Djokovic’s way in the second round, but other than that, it looks like pretty clear sailing for the no. 4 seed. Tommy Robredo, seeded 16 and with a Roland Garros resume littered with quarterfinal and fourth-round finishes, might not concede the quarter to Djokovic, but it’s hard to imagine Robredo withstanding the kind of bombardment Djokovic delivers with his groundstrokes.

The dark horse pick? Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, seeded 29. But it’s a half-hearted pick, because Djokovic’s star seems to be on the rise.

The “Federer” quarter is at the bottom of the draw, and since I predicted that Federer would not survive to play Nadal in the final, let’s cut right to the chase. The players most likely to take him out are Paul Henri Mathieu, who’s case of Mauresmo disease seems fairly mild (he’s often gone three, four rounds), ever dangerous but unpredictable Tomas Berdych, or Gael Monfils. You’ll remember that Monfils played Federer pretty tough in the semis last year, and for 2009 the draw has Monfils playing the US’s Bobby Reynolds in the first round, then the winner between two qualifiers. The bad news for Monfils fans is that he has a bum knee and may even withdraw from the event.

Andy Roddick. the no. 6 seed, is in this quarter as well, with Eduardo Schwank of Argentina standing in his way in the third round. Schwank is a fourth-year pro who got to the third round of Roland Garros in his lone appearance (2008) in Paris.  If Roddick gets by him, he’ll have his hands full with Monfils. If the French player withdraws, who knows?

 Federer’s first opponent is Alberto Martin, who came within one game of being double-bageled by Federer in their last and only previous meeting, on clay in Monte Carlo in 2006. Federer mostly likely gets Jose Acasuso in the second round, then conceivably Mathieu, Berdych and Monfils – in that order. It isn’t the world’s toughest draw, but the three men I just mentioned are volatile and capable of playing brilliantly.

 So my Final Four are: Nadal, Albert Montanes (who will ambush Murray). Djokovic, and Monfils or Mathieu (should Monfils pull out). Nadal and Djokovic will play the final, and the winner will be Nadal.


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Posted by CL 05/22/2009 at 02:53 PM

Well, wouldn't you just know...I'm the one who cursed Fed with PHM...le sigh.. I apologize in advance to all Fed fans.

Posted by Beckham (Bus Conductor!) 05/22/2009 at 02:54 PM

For the first time going into clay season, I am not at all frazzled, I'm taking the Fed's approach in Madrid, he's not the favourite, no one is giving him a shot in hail, that should help the nerves....I am just pleased as punch that he's actually found his 1st serve again...and as you can tell from my moniker, I'm supremely confident in the Fed...Bring it ON!!!

Posted by Beckham (Bus Conductor!) 05/22/2009 at 02:56 PM

CL: *waves*...I say bring all challengers...dude hasn't lost to anyone not in the top 4, except Stan, I'm not at all worried...hail, I'm not even frazzled about Nole or Nadal... someone wake me up when grass season begins....

Posted by Pspace 05/22/2009 at 02:58 PM

Monfils? He can barely walk! And, he's gonna beat Roddick, let alone Federer? How much would you be willing to lay down on that one? ;-)

Posted by CPM 05/22/2009 at 02:58 PM

Can't help but admire your guts, Pete--the Fedophiles & the entirety of the UK tennis press should be coming at you in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

But before they do: Monfils? My understanding (always a shaky thing, I admit) is that he's a bit gimpy coming into this thing. Didn't he, as recently as a few days ago, say it'd take a miracle for him to be able to play? Or is just being a drama queen about it?

My upset pick: Monaco d. Tsonga in the 2nd round.

Cheers!

Posted by CPM 05/22/2009 at 02:59 PM

A one-legged Frenchman vs. an American at Roland Garros?

Hmm. Tough call, Pspace.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 05/22/2009 at 02:59 PM

Thanks Pedro.
I agree with both your finalist picks, and your champion.
Can't wait to see your ladies' preview.

Posted by Pspace 05/22/2009 at 03:01 PM

CPM, haha, I'll give you that. Though, Monaco over Tsonga hardly qualifies as an upset :-). Much as I like Jo, he can't play on the dirt.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/22/2009 at 03:02 PM

Minimum expectation for Fed is that he gets to 20 straight slam semis.

Maximum expectation is that he reaches the final and wins more than 4 games.

All in all, a narrow window. Not sweating bullets, because Wimbledon is the event that will carry the real significance for Roger, as it always does. That's where he must make his stand, this year and in the future. If he does, he and his fans will be happy, and the record books will be re-written.

Posted by CPM 05/22/2009 at 03:03 PM

Pspace: Shhh! *I* know Tsonger's no dirt-baller, and *you* know Tsonger's no dirt-baller, but the tennis journos seem to think he's gonna make a run ...

Posted by Pete 05/22/2009 at 03:09 PM

CPM - my understanding is "drama queen" I'm looking for the "miracle recovery."

Posted by Beckham (Bus Conductor!) 05/22/2009 at 03:09 PM

MattZ: I'm pretty sure the Fed will get a hail of a lot more than 4 games in the F, how much do you want to put on it???

Posted by CPM 05/22/2009 at 03:12 PM

Pete,

Thanks! It's curious--but, when you think about, totally believable ;^D

Posted by CL 05/22/2009 at 03:13 PM

Beckham - yeah, but its all my fault.. I put the curse of PHM on Fed for raising an eyebrow when PHM beat Muzzah in that exo just before RG. I knew the instant I hit post, the PHM was gonna be in Fed's part of the draw and I'll be having a MUCH bigger conniption fit than if I had had that thought the second BEFORE I hit post. Lets' hope Fed is focused early and or PHM goes out to someone else - always a possibility - even before he gets to Fed, 'cause the guilt would be insupportable. But its not happening. NOT HAPPENING!!! le sigh.

Where did you see Fed's new RF jacket - different than the one he had in Rome/Madrid?

sherlock/deeps - thanks for thinking of me.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 03:18 PM

monfils and montanes? Pete, are you sure you weren't thinking monaco and mischa Z?

Posted by FedFan 05/22/2009 at 03:23 PM

Pete,

Fed will reach semi-final with relative ease and will beat Djokovic in 3 or 4 sets. He will then beat Nadal in the final.

Fed's impatience is limited to the Masters series and other lowly tournaments. He knows he has beaten Nadal on clay in their last match and will fancy his chances once again.

Posted by FedFan 05/22/2009 at 03:25 PM

Fed will dispatch PHM in straight sets if they meet.

Posted by ava 05/22/2009 at 03:25 PM

I have a weird feeling that Fed is going to win this year. I hope I'm wrong. RAFA FTW!!

Posted by C.F. 05/22/2009 at 03:26 PM

Since I'm not sure Monfils is only being a drama queen (I think his injury is a real problem), I don't believe he'll go very far. I don't see Mathieu taking 3 sets from Federer. Berdych... yes. Maybe. Sure, this is clay and not hard court, but Berdych is always tricky for him. I'm sure the AO 5 setter still gives Roger the nightmares.

Still, my money is on Roger reaching the semis and losing to Djokovic.

I'll have a little faith in Andy Murray, too, so it's the Fab4 in the semis for me.

Final? Rafa d. Nole 3-1 Of course, this Nole's set is some wishful thinking because I think he deserves at least a set

Posted by Tfactor 05/22/2009 at 03:26 PM

Fedfan,
I like your confidence. I also find it hard to subscribe to "the use-by date on his chances has expired" for Fed.
Having said that, what a treat for the French crowd if Monfils were to reach the semis.
Vamos Rafa!

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 03:29 PM

pete, can you tell me why they don't play matches on monday?

Posted by looking for objectivity (finding none) 05/22/2009 at 03:33 PM

"Let’s face it, another Nadal vs. Federer final and you might well rename those fellas Chrissie and Martina (and is there any doubt about which guy would be which gal?)"

An yet you and your minions still deny your almost pathological dislike of Federer. Sometimes I imagine you practicing writing "Mrs Rafael Nadal" like some of his other uber-fans must.

Posted by imjimmy 05/22/2009 at 03:34 PM

""I have a weird feeling that Fed is going to win this year. I hope I'm wrong. ""

Ava: Reverse frazzling? Of course you don't have to hope to be wrong, It's more than likely that you are :) Don't see Fed overcoming Nadal on Philip Chatrier. If it has to happen, someone else will need to do it. (at least that's what I think..)

Pete: Thanks for the preview. I just don't see how Fed does NOT reach the SF. Given his draw, the SF looks like a lock for him. From thereon, it's just a question of whether he has exorcised him demons (that have soo possessed him against the Top 4 recently).

Posted by tinad 05/22/2009 at 03:34 PM

Were Pete's predictions to come true, it would mark the end of Federer's run of 19 straight Grand Slam semifinals - in its own way, one of the most amazing runs in tennis history.

I also picked Nadal over Djokovic in the final, but I just can't pick against Fed to make the semis. It seems as blithely contrarian as picking against Nadal to win it all.

Posted by Rosangel 05/22/2009 at 03:38 PM

Annie: they do play matches on Monday, unless there's something wrong with the schedule on the RG site. It's a normal day for them.

Posted by Anne 05/22/2009 at 03:38 PM

At 1st I was bummed seeing a potential Rogi/Dojoko showdown, but when I gave it a bit more thought, I think I prefer it over Andy M/Rog. Of course Rafa is the huge favorite what are these personal probs he has everyone keeps talking about?), but I really think Rog has the best chance of beating him (would not have said that if I had not seen Madrid 09 with my own 2 eyes!) We can talk all day about speed of court, altitude, blah, blah, but when it comes right down to it, there are only 2 players who have shown that they are the best of the best (and one may be the best ever, I'll let you guess who I think it is!) Bring it RG 09!

Posted by Or 05/22/2009 at 03:40 PM

Pete - Monfils?! The guys barely in the draw due to his injury. Come on man, that's despreate :) I know Roger got a bit of a cup-cake going on, but you might as well betted on Roddick to make the upset.

Look, if Roger is playing at least at 85%, he should get to Djoko, what happens in the Semis and in the Finals is anyone's guess.

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed - Still my heartbeat 05/22/2009 at 03:40 PM

I am sorry but why are we wasting time analysing the men's draw when it is a foregone conclusion who will win. With all due respect I think the story of this year's French Open is which woman will step up and win big this time around and frankly speaking I do not think it will be the usual suspects. I believe that this year's FO will actually have someone who will be flying under the radar - say a Suarez-Navarro, or a Lisicki. Who knows maybe Pennetta will break out this season. Why do I feel this way you ask. During this season we have seen many players on the women's side who have made very strong runs in many tour events. They have shown that there is depth in the women's tour and that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. As such, I think the victor will be perhaps someone in the Top 10, but perhaps lower down, say an Azarenka (if she can keep her emotions in control and get some kick on her serve), CWoz, does she have the stamina to maintain over 2 weeks of competition and Sveta (yes Sveta) who I think is a dark horse that really should not be overlooked at all. I am not seeing the big guns on the women's side really being able to perhaps make it into the second week, but I have been proven wrong before, so lets hope I will be proven wrong again.

Posted by SwissMaestro 05/22/2009 at 03:40 PM

NOWHERE NEAR AS GOOD AS MR. TIGNOR'S PREVIEWS...

Posted by Pete 05/22/2009 at 03:44 PM

All, I rewrote to make room for the possibility of a Monfils pull-out. I hate writing previews.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 03:46 PM

CF: I think it's gonna be the fab4 for the semis with rafa d. nole in the final. my only slight wobble is murray who could flame out at the hands of gonzo or steps, like he did in madrid.

Posted by Cheshire Cat 05/22/2009 at 03:47 PM

Who's ALberto Montanes? Does he play tennis?

But sadly, I don't see Federer making the final this year either. Djokovic is surely more hungry.

Posted by Rosangel 05/22/2009 at 03:47 PM

When Monfils lost to Baghdatis on Wednesday at the exo event at the Paris Golf and Country Club, he lost 6-4, 6-0. So he's in good enough shape to play that, but didn't look great in the second set. However, from what I read it was blisters that were cited, not his bad knees.

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 05/22/2009 at 03:47 PM

Montanes a semifinalist?!?! I love it, Pete how did you come up with that one? Statistics or did you find some 20 year old wacky tobaccy in the sofa?

Thats a grinner! Vamos Rafa, by the way...in the words of fellow Texan, the great Mean Joe Greene:

One for the Thumb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Anne 05/22/2009 at 03:48 PM

Monfils pulling out? Why don't we pick ARod for that quarter, if you're going to pick Montanes over Murray?

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/22/2009 at 03:52 PM

Becks:

If Fed makes the final, yeah, he'll win more than 4 games.

I just want Roger to get there, and unless the Djoker suffers an upset, that will be a sticky wicket. I'm picking Djokovic in what is basically a toss-up match not because I'm down on Fed, but because Novak's two recent wins over Roger have him playing CONFIDENT tennis, and a confident Djokovic is a thriving Djokovic. Roger never should have let him off the canvas in Miami or Rome, but now that it's happened, the Serb is a different dude from the lame competitor seen in Australia and Indian Wells.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 03:54 PM

thanks Ros, but there's no tennis coverage here. how weird. boo hoo.

pete, wise move i think ;)

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeee!) 05/22/2009 at 03:54 PM

Montanes and Monfils/PHM in the Final 4?

*arches left eyebrow like Rafa*
*longs for a little bit of what Pete's smoking*

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeee!) 05/22/2009 at 03:55 PM

Who's ALberto Montanes? Does he play tennis?
~~~~~

*chokes on drink*

Posted by TennisFan2 05/22/2009 at 03:56 PM

CPM, I'm with you on the Monaco pick - I think he's ready to step up.

Posted by Rosangel 05/22/2009 at 03:57 PM

BTW, Mathieu made the fourth round last year, going out to Djokovic, but he overcame Eduardo Schwank before that happened (who himself had a great slugfest with Carlos Moya). In the previous two years he's gone out to Andreev (third round) and Nadal (third round). Other years he's gone out to Canas, Hewitt, Agassi and Gaudio. Not exactly a bunch of nobodies, though he doesn't yet have a big win at RG. But he can certainly play well on clay. I watched him a couple of years ago during the match he lost with Andreev, whose forehand was on fire that day. He got massive support, of course.

Posted by Rosangel 05/22/2009 at 04:02 PM

BTW, Montanes had Fed fans frazzling last year (how short some people's memories are!) when he won the first set in their second-round match in a tiebreak.

He won Estoril this year, but in both Monte Carlo and Rome went out to Djokovic, though not before taking a set from Djokovic in MC.

Posted by Papo 05/22/2009 at 04:02 PM

Here's the Tennis.com editor's picks page (incomple as of yet):

http://tinyurl.com/o73dqf

There seems to be a common theme emerging, though.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/22/2009 at 04:02 PM

Pete -

Don't get upset or disoriented, but I'm genuinely not sure if Federer would be Chrissie or Martina.

One could take four angles in the attempt to link Roger and Rafa to Evert and Navratilova.

Angle #1: Personality/Expressiveness. Fed is the Evert-like ice man, Rafa the fiery uber-athlete who bounds around the court, a la Martina.

Angle #2: Claycourt prowess vs. other surfaces: Rafa owns Roland Garros the way Chrissie did, while Federer's spiritual home is the Big W.

Angle #3: Evolution of rivalry: Nadal, like Martina, gained ground and eventually surpassed Federer/Chrissie on an overall level.

Angle #4: Vulnerability to weeping: Fed is all Martina, while the gentle Rafa is/was Evert-like with his tender but more muted concern for Fed during the post-Aussie trophy presentation.

I see many ways of connecting the four tennis greats. A clean, one-way comparison doesn't exist for me. Clarity sought, si vous plais.

Posted by F_press 05/22/2009 at 04:02 PM

Ok, ok, ok...poor Roger is already and old good man, who played the most beautiful tennis ever played by a man, the one that like an elve, seemed to dance so graciously over the court. No effort, no need to grunt nor struggle, it all came so natural...and yes, he will never win Roland Garros, and at his respectable age and lack of confidence, courage and tenacity (never mind, it seems to some older and wiser ones that he never needed that to win 13 Slams), and yes, we are all ready to see the last chapters of such a poetic tennis career.
Roger will not win, and we will see how easily the tennis jock of jocks gets his fifth RG.
But there is always a big if: and this time, the one who will tell us that stunning "if" is the alpha jock...

Posted by Pica_pica(Ajde Noleee!) 05/22/2009 at 04:03 PM

The final's pick is sensible, but I really can't see Roger losing before SF.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/22/2009 at 04:04 PM

Albert Montanes did take the first set from Federer in last year's French Open second round, before falling in four.

Posted by rudy3 (proud Rafaelite since 2005) 05/22/2009 at 04:05 PM

My opinion of Mathieu is that he has come the closest to handing Rafa a defeat. The famous Banana match, he took a set, but he was on fire, and the crowd was squarely behind him. Rafa was not exactly sharp.
I think that this match has been, to date, Rafa's toughest one.

Posted by Dropshot Dragon 05/22/2009 at 04:06 PM

**The “Djokovic” quarter features six Frenchman, most of whom will also catch Mauresmo disease.**

Good one Pete!

If I had to be objective, I too would say Federer would not make the finals but only b/c he would lose to Djokovic. Not to PHM or Monfils!
Oh well, still the most entertaining predictions this year. It's very easy (and dull) to pick all of the Big 4 to make the semis.

Re Chrissie/Martina: which one is Roger and which is Rafa exactly?
Martina had the h2h advantage(like Rafa does). But Chrissie was the clay court "specialist" (like Rafa). And despite the close rivalry, history looks on Martina as the womans GOAT or better overall (same as Federer).

Posted by Russ 05/22/2009 at 04:07 PM

I present to you the Russ 2009 "Floaters and Conturders" based on the FO 2009 Draw (Men's):

Will win: Rafa
Conturders for cheese tray: Djokovic, Federer
Not a hope in hailstones: Rest of field

Comments: Fed gets Djoker. Nads gets Murray. Randomness rears its ugly head! Too bad for Murray. Major unknown is whether Borg will show up to final... last time BB watched someone try and break his consecutive wins streak, contender failed to win and broke down in tears. Repeat not likely, but one can hope. Fed fans as afraid of Djoker as of Murray, but since it's 3 of 5, give edge to Fed against everyone but Rafa. Anyone claiming Rafa has tough draw delusional.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/22/2009 at 04:07 PM

Whoa, just saw the Tennis.com team's picks.

I thought Serena's body isn't fully fit. Didn't she withdraw from Rome with an injury?

Is that not an issue now?

Posted by Cheshire Cat 05/22/2009 at 04:10 PM

Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo was a few points away from beating Federer last year. Takao Suzuki nearly took out Federer during his prime. This doesn't make either of them potential semifinalists.

Indeed, in Suzuki's case, I am willing to bet on it.

Posted by kron 05/22/2009 at 04:11 PM

I honestly can't see Fed not making the semis. I do however think that Nole will handle him with relative ease. Bottom line FED IN THE SEMIS.

Posted by SSJPeter 05/22/2009 at 04:13 PM

I'm not a Nadal fan like Peter Bodo or/nor an American who wants Sampras's grand slam record to remain unbeaten so I think Federer and Nadal will play the final again and it will be another five-setter...who will win I don't know.
The Federer-Djiokovic match will be a close one but my pick is Federer in four sets.
Even if Djokovic gets into the final he couldn't win it because of his lack of stamina that's for sure.

Posted by Matt Zemek 05/22/2009 at 04:15 PM

Cheshire Cat:

I just wanted to assure folks that yes, Albert Montanes does play tennis! :-)

Posted by Octennis 05/22/2009 at 04:21 PM

I would like to buy a ticket on the fed winning the french bus. I put in my request months back.

Im choosing fed, djoko, nadal, murray in the semis. They always seem to be there every tournament and its almost a no brainer pick to have the top 4 in the top 4.

Nadal is clearly the favorite but i usually always get behind the underdog so i wont be hoping for a 5th win for nadal.

Djoko also has an excellent chance to win and i would rather Djoko win than nadal as well.

Murray is the only question mark of the four.

Fed should make it to the finals. I dont think Peter's prediction of him losing ealier than the finals is going to happen. The only one i see in his way is djoko. And pete did not predict that fed would lose to djoko, he predicted he would lose to monfils, or mathieu, or berdych and i just dont see anyone of those guys taking out fed.

I really think Fed has an excellent chance to make the finals. His biggest challenge will be djoko and i wish djoko was on nadals side of the draw because djoko can beat fed but it should be a very exciting match up if it happens.

It will be interesting to see if fed tells the djoko camp to shut it again if they end up against each other in the semis.

Fed takes out djoko in four and takes out nadal in the final in four.

Good luck fed you will need it.

Posted by Cheshire Cat 05/22/2009 at 04:22 PM

Matt: And how about his twin brother Alberto? I know these Spanish names can get confusing :)

Montanes might have been a reasonable pick if he'd been playing a decade back, but with the strength and depth of men's tennis today, it's almost unimaginable for someone like him to make the semis of a Grand Slam.

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 05/22/2009 at 04:25 PM

yes for those that don't look past the top 4, Albert Montanes most assuredly does play tennis and most assuredly has heart and spirit. Just ask Gilles Simon or James Blake... hell you can even ask Gonzo or Guga Keurtan if he plays tennis.

Posted by Ryan 05/22/2009 at 04:27 PM

Roger still makes the semis. He's still a different guy at the Slams, took Nadal to a fifth at the AO and just beat the dude in Madrid. Hard to believe he won't be focused and confident enough for an extended run.

No idea right now how a Fed Djoko match would go. Do know I'm hoping to see it.

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 05/22/2009 at 04:29 PM

Dear Mr Montanes... I thought the Simon win much more impressive.

Posted by Ryan 05/22/2009 at 04:31 PM

BTW, Pete, the Mathieu pick seems disingenuous.

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed - Still my heartbeat 05/22/2009 at 04:31 PM

I like the comments from people commenting as players - awesome. They read so real

Posted by Maha - Roger for the French...?????? 05/22/2009 at 04:32 PM

I'm ASTOUNDED. It's a SLAM. Have SOME faith in the guy.

Posted by NDMS 05/22/2009 at 04:32 PM

Why is Monfils even in the draw if he is injured? He is seeded #11. That is high enough to skew a quarter (don't care whose quarter) if he pulls out.

Albert Montanes as surprise semifinalist? The player with the shortest ball toss you can't even see it. I love the guy's attitude. I nicknamed him "La Cucaracha", the cockroach, the scurrying pest that won't go away until you stomp it out.

In Monte Carlo, he went the distance with Djokovic even though he got bagelled in the 3rd set.

In Rome, he upset Almagro in the 1st round and in the 3rd round he swallowed another bagel from Djokovic but not before he plagued the latter to break a racquet in the 1st set TB.

In Estoril, he saved a MP in the QF against Simon and went on to win the title.

Montanes best singles performance in RG is the 3rd round (2001, 2002, 2006, 2007) in 8 appearances. Not bad. So by that stats, he may get a chance to play Murray in the 3rd round but he has to beat Tipsarevic (R128) and possibly Lopez (R64).

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 04:36 PM

hate to be a killjoy but i thought it was against site rules to impersonate players?

Posted by Mr.X 05/22/2009 at 04:37 PM

Wow, Pete, those sure are risky picks.
Montanes? I just cant see it. Dont you think Gonzo is the best option to prevent Muzz from getting to the SF?
About the dark horses in the Nadal side, i have lost every faith in Almagro. He's just a headcase. A terminal one. Kiefer would be destroyed by Nadal on clay, but he could make some advance. Gulbis is certainly intriguing.
I just dont see Tsonga on clay. If the FO was on grass, with the tremendous connection he could create with the crowd, i would think of him as one of the favourites, but on clay i think he'll lose to Monaco (dont you think there's a really dangerous dark horse?)
If you thought Fed wouldnt get to the final, why not say Djoko will beat him. In my opinion, he is the only one that can do it, apart from Nadal, specially given Fed's draw. I just cant see Mathieu or Berdych taking 3 sets from Fed on clay (Monfils seems to be in a bad physical condition).

Posted by NDMS 05/22/2009 at 04:38 PM

To the poster(s) posting as PHM (4:19pm) and Montanes (4:25pm), that is not allowed in the site. You'll be moderated.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 04:38 PM

naughty: i'm pretty sure the people asking about montanes were being facetious. at least that's how i took it.

Maha: girl, where you been??? Nice to see you!!!

Posted by Or 05/22/2009 at 04:40 PM

Rafa's clothes or the French. Pink and yellow, ick!

http://tinyurl.com/p9mj85

Posted by vetmama - RF FTW!!! (please?) 05/22/2009 at 04:41 PM

Sorry Pete, I don't have faith in some arbitrary "use-by" date.

To my mind, the real question regarding Federer is whether he has truly recovered his physical condition (from the intense training he has done recently) and his mental confidence/stability (from the solid execution of his game plan and title win in Madrid).

Maybe I'm just setting myself up for a fall, but right now I feel the only way you can say Roger's career is going downhill is to liken him to a boulder rolling down a mountain, dangerously picking up speed.

And, no, I'm not putting too much stock in the Madrid win.
It's other things that came together at the same time, leading up to that win. He said his back problem resolved, said he was finally able to train like crazy, he seems happy personally and, voila! We saw much improved play and focus, and a positive result in Madrid.

I think Fed's only going to get better over the next few months.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it!:)

Winner: Nadal (duh!)
Runner-up: Federer
Semifinalists: Djokovic and Fernando Gonzalez

(BTW, they've now posted the qualifier's names in the Draw Challenge, so we can now make picks with more information.)

Posted by Mr.X 05/22/2009 at 04:42 PM

Not that they are worth anything, but this are my picks:
Quarterfinals:
Nadal d. Verdasco in 4
Gonzalez d. Murray in 5
Del Potro d. Monaco in 5
Federer d. Roddick in 3
SF:
Nadal d. Gonzalez in 3
Federer d. Djokovic in 5
Final:
Nadal d. Federer in 4 (or 3, not sure)

Posted by Maha - Roger for the French...?????? 05/22/2009 at 04:43 PM

Annie!!!!!!!! Been busy with exams and all!!! It's half term now.. am in London for a week... then back for Biology and Chemistry exams!!! Aaaaaagh. How are you????

But Pete's predictions... they make me sad!!! :( Not only are they not very realistic, they also seem to make Roger seem like an idiot! I have faith in him... it's not gone!!!

Posted by Maria 05/22/2009 at 04:45 PM

This men's preview seems even more far-fetched than Tignor's for Madrid. Given Federer's consistency in Slams, reaching the past 20 semifinals or so, how can anyone bet on him NOT reaching the semi? His consistency at the French in particular is very impressive. He's shown good form in Madrid, even with all this talk about the fast surface etc etc, and he is CERTAINLY at least as motivated as Nadal to win this one, since he never did. Absurd preview overall.

Posted by TennisTarkheena 05/22/2009 at 04:45 PM

Or not only are his clothes pink, his website is too! It's relatively frightening!

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeee!) 05/22/2009 at 04:45 PM

*shrugs*

Am I the only one who thinks Rafa looks great in hot pink?

I love it. Mmmmm. Like candy.

Posted by Mr.X 05/22/2009 at 04:45 PM

Sorry, but my last post didnt made sense due to a brain snap of enormous dimensions.
The 3rd QF should read "Djokovic d. Del Potro in 3"
I was doubting if Delpo would get there and posted what i think will be his previous match.

Posted by RealTennisNut 05/22/2009 at 04:46 PM

Peter,

Mathieu over Federer may be a bit of a stretch. In the 3 matches that they have played Mathieu has not taken a set. Besides, Mathieu's record for the year is 13-13. I can't see Federer not being motivated at the Slams to fight through a win against him.

Federer versus Djokovic would be the one that I would expect to be a war, assuming it takes place. We said last year that Djokovic might soften up Nadal in the semis but it turned out to be one sided only to have an even more one sided final. On the other hand the cake walk that Federer was supposed to have over Monfils didn't materialize. Alright, first let Djokovic and Federer get to the semifinals. I think Del Potro is motivated to perform well. He has recently beaten Murray and Nadal and is waiting for one more Top 4 scalp. Djokovic would have to go through him.

As boring as it seems, I would still bet on a FEDERER VS NADAL final.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 04:46 PM

vetmama: not to mention he is the current title holder for the U.S.Open. He's got plenty of mojo working.

Posted by Mr.X 05/22/2009 at 04:49 PM

Nadal's outfit makes me think he's overconfident, as if he was thinking: "I am so superior in RG that i can beat all of you wearing PINK, no?":)

Posted by Nic 05/22/2009 at 04:50 PM

Just an interesting note:
@ the time of the this post with approx 6321 players having entered the ATP bracket challenge

63.3% picked Rafa
29.3% picked Fed
5.2% picked Nole
0.5% picked Muzz

Which leaves 1.7% going for other players (I haven't really looked at who). My maths could be wrong.

Posted by Cary 05/22/2009 at 04:50 PM

Wow, PHM and Montanes in the final four? Unconventional picks to say the least. For the surprise semifinalist, I'm picking the winner of Safin and Gonzo (should it come to that). Other than that, I think it'll go according to plan with Djoko, Federer, and Rafa making it through.

Posted by vetmama - RF FTW!!! (please?) 05/22/2009 at 04:50 PM

Right, Annie.

Roger is like a guy who's 18 month hangover is finally wearing off.:)

Posted by Codge 05/22/2009 at 04:52 PM

Hey TWibe, haven't been here in a minute, but feeling excited about RG.
Peeking at the draw, I'm hoping for a Verdasco/Nadal dust up!

BTW, any intrepid bloggers attending?

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 04:53 PM

mr.x: your picks are just as good as any of ours! we gonna see, no?

maha: you dropped off the face of the earth - it seemed right after fed got married. i was actually a little concerned you'd taken it so hard you couldn't post here anymore! (i know, i'm a drama queen)

Posted by maedal (Vamos Rafa and the Armada!) 05/22/2009 at 04:59 PM

Codge, i'm not sure that I qualify as an intrepid blogger, but i'll be attending RG on June 1, 2 and 3....and am not thrilled about the hot pink kit.

Posted by RealTennisNut 05/22/2009 at 05:01 PM

I don't think Nadal's toughest test will be Verdasco. The clay surface negates Verdasco's big hitting. Their last two matches on clay in Rome and Madrid were not compelling other than for a brief period in the second set at Madrid.

I know that Ferrer is not playing as well this year but he could give Nadal the toughest challenge on that side. Verdasco, Wawrinka or Davydenko might emerge from the other side of Nadal's quarter. Of the 3, Davydenko may offer Nadal the sternest test.

Posted by Master Ace 05/22/2009 at 05:04 PM

ATP picks:
SF: Nadal vs Gonzalez and Djokovic vs Federer
F: Nadal vs Federer
W: Nadal to 5-peat just like he did in Monte Carlo and Barcelona with Borg giving him the trophy

Posted by imjimmy 05/22/2009 at 05:05 PM

""Nadal's outfit makes me think he's overconfident, as if he was thinking: "I am so superior in RG that i can beat all of you wearing PINK, no?":) ""

Mr X: Right..Not only does he dare to overcome Borg's infamous hex, but he backs himself to do so wearing a ridiculous outfit! Oh..the Cheek :)

Posted by Maha - Roger for the French...?????? 05/22/2009 at 05:05 PM

LOL Annie... I got over it quickly :P We were never meant to be anyway LOLL. Now I've turned to simple, sincere Fedoration. ^^

Posted by vetmama - RF FTW!!! (please?) 05/22/2009 at 05:06 PM

Question for those of you from Europe/Asia/Australia/S.America/Africa...

Is pink a common color worn by men in your country?

(To my USA-bred eyes, Rafa's pink shirt is surprising, but it may look great on him.)

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeee!) 05/22/2009 at 05:07 PM

Ha, Mr. X. That's been my thinking all along. I've seen Rafa in enough off-court pics to think that no color is off limits with him and he's probably not thinking about the symbolic importance of the color, but I can see how the pink might mess with his opponent's heads. I can already imagine the internal dialogue - "I can't believe I'm getting bageled by this #*&!$#(@&@#*. He's wearing PINK for cryin' out loud!"

The real question is: WTH is Nike thinking? Even though Rafa carries off the look splendidly (IMO), I can't imagine too many other fellas lining up to copy it.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 05/22/2009 at 05:07 PM

maedal: you lucky devil! i'm so jealous. and i think rafa is going to look dynamite in the new kit. much better than AO easter egg and the crap he's been wearing lately.

Posted by Tennis Observer 05/22/2009 at 05:08 PM

I wonder what is Bodó Úr smoking. Đoković - Federer SF will be there. Murray is the only question from the big 4.

Posted by Codge 05/22/2009 at 05:12 PM

@maedal I'll do a bit of vicarious living then. Pivotal dates too, excellent planning.
Y&P shirt is cool, the headband...too much.

Posted by SilentP 05/22/2009 at 05:18 PM

Mathieu in the semis? Having beaten Fed? Really?!?!?!? I make strange picks sometimes, but this takes the biscuit.

Mind you, I thought you were wrong about picking Fed for Madrid a couple of weeks ago, so you might prove me wrong again.

Posted by maedal (Vamos Rafa and the Armada!) 05/22/2009 at 05:19 PM

annie & codge -- yes, at least the easter egg/bunny stripes and pastels are gone. (And Elvis's favorite colors were pink and black.) i agree that just the thin yellow stripe (not headband) would have been a classy touch...

in any case, i think rafa looks great all the time, no matter what he's wearing....!

Posted by malimeda 05/22/2009 at 05:21 PM

"Is pink a common color worn by men in your country?"

A definite yes, even for macho Serbia, both as casual loud t and sweatshirts w/inscriptions and as smart dressy wear (for eg. a very pale pink dress shirt, unbuttoned and without a tie, w/black or midnight blue trousers).

Posted by sally 05/22/2009 at 05:22 PM

i would like to see roger stop rafa from getting 5 in a row, just like rafa stopped roger from getting 6 wimbledon's in a row. it's only fair., but i don't see it happening. nadal will win his 5th.

Posted by Codge 05/22/2009 at 05:29 PM

"Is pink a common color worn by men in your country?"

I live right here in the good ole US of A, and it's quite normal...

Pink is hot ;-)

Posted by TennisRone 1000 05/22/2009 at 05:33 PM

Well....I think pHM bows to the Fed challenge and then Berdy pukes up another 2 set lead to Fed as he returns to the SF's again of a GS. It's hard to pick against Rafa. I want to make a case for Gilles Simon as another SF-ist along with Rafa, Fed, and Djoko.

Honestly, there are a lot of unseeded curious women's matches. Poor Nadia Petrova...staring Sharpie in the eyeballs in Rd 2....surely not a happy occasion. Hantuchova unseeded? Dokic have another run in her? However, Ms. Ruano Pascual will take out the former teen next big thing Ms. Vaidisova in an unseeded battle to grapple with Serena in No. 2.

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