Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Paris Parse
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The Paris Parse 05/21/2010 - 11:49 AM

Rn Scanning each of this year’s French Open draws from top to bottom, the same thought comes to mind first: The guard, despite being tugged and pulled in various directions over the years, refuses to change. The top two men’s seeds, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have held those pole positions in virtually every Grand Slam for the last five years. But their dominance is in its infancy compared to the top two women’s seeds, Serena and Venus Williams, the latter of whom reached her first major final back in stone-age 1997—an entirely different century. Order just keeps being restored.

Once we get below the top rungs, though, the men’s and women’s draws diverge rapidly. The men’s side, where either Federer or Nadal have reached the final each year since 2005, is, on paper, more predictable than ever. Two players who have beaten both Rog and Rafa in the past year, Juan Martin del Potro and Nikolay Davydenko, are out, while the two guys who have given them more collective trouble in recent seasons than anyone else, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, come to Paris with question marks hanging over their heads. The opposite is true for the women. Serena and Venus may be No. 1 and 2 in the world again, but neither has been to the final at Roland Garros since they played each other there in 2002. And while one dangerous player, Kim Clijsters, won’t be in attendance, another, four-time champion Justine Henin, has to be on the short list of Most Imposing 22nd Seeds in history.

Predictable men, unpredictable women? Let’s give them both a shot.

The Men  

First Quarter

Despite the high-profile pullouts, Federer still stumbled into a difficult draw. His quarter includes Soderling, last year’s finalist; Montanes, a pesky dirtballer who beat him a couple of weeks ago; Monfils, a crowd favorite who took a set from him here two years ago in the semis; and, maybe most dangerous of all, the newly reliable Ernests Gulbis, who has already played three three-setters with Federer in 2010, and won one of them. The top seed might even be tested in the second round, where he could get Janko Tipsarevic. They played a five-set classic in Australia in 2008.

Federer has, as usual, set himself up to peak for the French. He played his best tennis since the Australian Open last week in Madrid, avenged the loss to Gulbis, and nearly took Nadal to three sets in the final. The ugly shanks that had followed him through Rome and Estoril appeared to have been ironed out, and by the end of the tournament he was sounding almost defiantly confident about his chances to defend in Paris. So let’s ask the question again: Is this, at last, the major where Federer’s semifinal streak (what is it now, 23? 37? 73?) comes to its inevitable end? Which do we weigh more heavily, that inevitability, or the pressure that any opponent trying to beat Federer will feel as he tries to win a third set against him on center court? Soderling, Monfils, Montanes: Of those guys, only Soderling seems capable of rising to that occasion, but he’d have to win four matches just to get to Federer, and the Sod’s form has been highly erratic of late. Gulbis? Is this a Davydenko replay? A guy beats Federer in the warm-up event no one will remember, but not when history is watching.

First-round match to watch: Gulbis vs. a guy who plays well in his native France, Julien Benneteau

Surprise name to run across: Taylor Dent. What’s he doing here?

Semifinalist: Federer

***

Second Quarter

We start here with an aficianado’s special, between Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet, two sure-shot kids who are, at the moment, not too sure about much of anything. Each will want this match badly, because the winner will find a a pretty wide section awaiting him. Tsonga, Berdych, Youzhny, Isner, Baghdatis, Robredo, Garcia-Lopez: They’ve all had a nice run, or at least a nice match, this year, but can one of them really reach the semis?

Murray will come in with little pressure—he can only go up after the last couple of months, and if he loses, he gets more time to practice on grass. The fragile Tsonga, who retired in the second round in Madrid, will face home-crowd pressure, historically a problem for French players. He’ll also have to face his own frustrating unpredictability. Winning without his best, and sometimes even with his best, isn’t Tsonga’s forte. The stage may be set for Garcia-Lopez, an old-fashioned (and kind of old: he’s 26) clay grind who has had a steady season thus far and reached a career-high No. 38, to make his one move.

In other words, I have no idea whose coming out of this quarter.

Second-round match to watch: Tsonga vs. countryman Josselin Ouanna

Fourth-round match to hope for: The Luke War—Lukas Lacko vs. Lukas Kubot

Semifinalist: Garcia-Lopez

***

Third Quarter

More uncertainty lurks. Novak Djokovic, the top seed in the section, has had allergy issues and couldn’t play in Madrid. Andy Roddick, the second seed, hasn’t played a match on clay this season. In between them are other question marks, guys who could break out one day and fizzle the next: Monaco, Ferrero, Querrey. Even the obvious choice, David Ferrer, isn’t all that obvious. For all of his working man’s persistence and down-and-dirty clay prowess, he’s never made it work for him long enough to reach the semis at the French. But after the solid clay season he’s put in so far, he remains the obvious choice.

Sleeper: Santiago Giraldo, a kid from Columbia with a killer backhand

Semifinalist: Ferrer

***

Fourth Quarter

This is about as favorable a French Open draw as Rafael Nadal could have hoped for as the season began. No del Potro, no Davydenko, no Soderling; of the guys who have troubled him in the last year, only Ljubicic is in his vicinity, and he’s an unlikely threat on clay. Lleyton Hewitt, a tough out, is a potential third-rounder, and either Fernando Gonzalez, Fernando Verdasco or Nicolas Almagro, who took a set from him in Madrid, might be waiting in the quarters. But, compared to what might have been, Nadal has to like the sight of those names.

First-round match for lefty lovers to watch: Llodra vs. Bellucci. Odd but possibly highly entertaining shot-maker's special.

Semifinalist: Nadal

***

Semifinals: Federer d. Garcia-Lopez; Nadal d. Ferrer

Final: While Federer will be motivated to beat Nadal for the first time in Paris and exorcise all the clay demons for good, I’ll take Nadal, not just because it’s on dirt, but because in most of their major finals, he’s found a way to win, to stay a step ahead of Federer both tactically and physically, at the crucial moment. Nadal is not just the king of clay, he's the best at beating the best.

Champion: Rafael Nadal

Jh ***

The Women

First Quarter

As with the ATP side, the top section of the women’s draw is loaded (I’ll go with that word rather than the equally appropriate “stacked.”) Serena, Henin, and Stosur alone would make a murderer’s row—they’ve played the best tennis of 2010 between them—but you’ve also got Sharapova and home-faves Bartoli and Cornet just for kicks. There’s not a lot to keep Serena from reaching the quarters, where you have to guess she’ll get the winner of Henin-Stosur. And you have to guess, based on experience and their only head-to-head match last month, that that will be Henin. Right? I wouldn’t count Stosur out; she may get tight, but she’s been playing with so much strenght this year that it might not matter. Still, while Serena has said she wants another French, clay will never be her best surface. While Henin will probably have to win ugly a couple of times—she's still prone to the odd, inexplicable disaster—I’m not going to pick against the four-time champion.

Semifinalist: Henin

***

Second Quarter

With all that firepower up top, what’s left for the rest of the draw? The picking start to get a little slimmer in this section, where the top seeds are Jankovic and—believe it—Radwanska. But hidden between them are two intriguing names, that of last year’s runner-up, Dinara Safina, and 2009’s most improved player, Yanina Wickmayer. Of all these players, only Safina has reached a final at the French. But Jankovic has been playing the best tennis of late and seems to have found some of her 2008 swagger.

First-round match to watch: Safina vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm

Semifinalist: Jankovic

***

Third Quarter

What about Sveta, you might ask; she is the defending champ. What about her? She’s also as flaky as ever, her commitment and passion impossible to gauge. Do you have any idea how she’ll do? I don’t. She could lose in the first round to Cirstea; she could go all the way to the final.

The top seed on the other side is Caroline Wozniacki, whose athletic-wallboard game would seem to be a natural fit for clay, except that she’s been suffering from the opposite problem as Sveta: over-commitment. Woz has played a lot of tennis already this year. Does anyone else stick out in this quarter? Pennetta? Li Na? Safarova? Kirilenko? Petkovic? If you like chaos and surprise semifinalists, you might get your wish here.

Semifinalist: Maybe you can tell me

***

Fourth Quarter

Order is somewhat restored, at least on paper, at the bottom of the draw. Venus Williams is the top seed, Dementieva is second, a beleaguered but perhaps still dangerous Azarenka is third, and Petrova is also in the area. But it gets interesting with two other, lower seeds, each of whom has come from close to nowhere to win important titles in recent weeks: Aravane Rezai and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

For new blood’s sake, I’d like to see those two continue their strong play in Paris. Unfortunately, I’ve started to count on the opposite happening in the women’s game. That’s not necessarily the case for Williams, of course. She’s become a steadier week to week winner in recent years, but has also made a habit of not taking the next step at the most important tournaments. Her current clay form looks solid enough to give her another chance in two weeks.

Semifinalist: V. Williams

***

Semifinals: Henin d. Jankovic; V. Williams d. Maybe You Can Tell Me

Final: Henin d. V. Williams

Champion: Justine Henin

***

I know, those are pretty safe picks, but the French does breed dominant champions. Either way, I'm in Paris and will be out at Roland Garros for the first week, starting tomorrow.

 


 
117
Comments
 
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Posted by RF007 05/21/2010 at 11:53 AM

First!

Looking forward to the French Open 2010. Hoping for a good tournament with great matches!

Posted by Lila 05/21/2010 at 11:56 AM

vamoooossssssssssss Rafa & Ajdeeeeeeeeee Jelena~!~

Posted by JoshyT 05/21/2010 at 12:00 PM

Fantastic analysis of both the men's and women's draws. Agree that Nadal is just too strong on clay. However, I feel Venus would just get the edge over Henin. However, I want to see Henin in the final if only to see the games most perfect backhand.

Posted by gabriela valentina 05/21/2010 at 12:05 PM

such enjoyable analysis, straight to the point and cheerful!!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/21/2010 at 12:10 PM

Looking forward to posts from Paris, Steve. Hope you have fun. :)

Posted by RF007 05/21/2010 at 12:10 PM

When was the last time the no.1 seed/world number 1 won the men's event? Seems a long way back...

Anyone knows how the court speed will be? Heard or read somewhere that it'll be faster (I don't even remember where I got that)

Posted by MZK 05/21/2010 at 12:16 PM

Predicting Venus won't escape her first-rounder against Schnyder. It'd be too bad, because she could own her half of the draw theoretically, but no matter how good her form looks at an event, it could desert her without warning (Miami and Madrid, anyone?).

Garcia-Lopez? Huh? You get a lot of (silly) flak for your predictions, Steve, but they are usually grounded on some sort of plausibility. It'll probably be a winner of Berdych v Youzhny QF. But really anybody could emerge from that section, as with the 3rd quarter for the women. It would be nice to see Murray live up to his seeding, but he already has the career Slam in in flops (he was the highest seed left standing besides Fed at both the FO and Wimby last year, not that it did him any good in the end).

Posted by Vie 05/21/2010 at 12:29 PM

Am excited. Enjoy Roland Garros trip. Oh the perks. Tell us some of your judgments, insights, thoughts.

Posted by 1963USCtennis 05/21/2010 at 12:34 PM

Rafa Nadal is the favorite because of his looks!

(bwahhhhaaaahhh, call the whaaaaammmbulance)

Posted by Michelle 05/21/2010 at 12:35 PM

I love when experts pick against Serena. It just takes the pressure off of her and she can quietly work her way through the draw and win the whole thing. I do agree with his analysis for the most part.

Posted by TennisFan 05/21/2010 at 12:39 PM

Nadal has a super easy draw. No surprises expected for him. No Gulbis/Solderling/Delpo (I realize that he is not playing), who could use the firepower to get better of Nadal on a good day. Nadal is mostly facing dirt ballers like Verdasco and Ferrer and you can't beat the king of clay at his own game.

Nadal will cruise to the final and in all likelihood win the championship.

Posted by Marshall1 05/21/2010 at 12:40 PM

Wow, talk about a difficult draw for Fed. I hope he can at least make it to the semifinal, which might be a difficult thing this year round, but get stronger every round so he can have a decent match with Nadal (who by the way, you can say has an easy draw)

Posted by thebigapple 05/21/2010 at 12:40 PM

We all expect Rafa to win. Don't we?

Posted by SwissMaestro 05/21/2010 at 12:47 PM

Can't argue with the Nadal & Henin picks. They are just too good playing on the red stuff. I still think we Federer fans can be ready for the worse and hope for the best though. Let's see if Federer peaks to a new all time high peak in case he reaches the final...

Sounds more like wishful thinking? Maybe, but if someone has the game to beat Rafa when he is playing at his very best is Roger.

Posted by sigmund 05/21/2010 at 12:50 PM

I was also amused to see that Venus got Schnyder in the 1st round. And Steve, you forgot to mention that one of your (and my) favourites is a floater in the 2nd quarter - Ana Ivanovic, who could potentially show Jankovic how to do her fist pump the proper way in the 4th round.

Posted by Dinesh 05/21/2010 at 12:50 PM

Yes, Rafa is the King of Clay but did it have to be such a cupcake draw for him? I smell something really fishy here. All his fellow country men in his draw - Verdasco, Ferrer, Almagro simply roll over every time they play against him. BTW, it's worth pointing out that they all grew up on clay and yet none of them seems to even put up a good fight against him. Absolutely pathetic.

Posted by Liz (4 Federer & Serena - 4 ever!) 05/21/2010 at 12:58 PM

Justine Henin as champion -- whatcha been smoking these days, Steve. That I really don't see.

And how can you not pick Serena, the player who is a diffrent player in GS matches? Oh, well since you picked against my two faves, that must be an omen...they will be triumphant!

Ya heard it here first...Roger Federer & Serena Williams Champions in Paris!

Posted by David 05/21/2010 at 01:05 PM

Steve, I have to say, looking over the draw this morning, I was a little annoyed. Why don't they take the surface into account when seeding the French, and why are the year-round all-surface rankings valued over clay court results and recent form? Shouldn't the overwhelming favorite (ya know that guy, the four-time champion coming off of three consecutive wins?) be the number one seed? Furthermore, why is Verdasco, who had the best clay season by someone not named Nadal, doomed to a spot in Rafa's quarter? Furthermore, why is Andy Roddick (a great player, yes, but not on clay) the sixth seed, and Ernests Gulbis 23rd? I know why, actually, but I suggest the French officials consult common sense when determining future brackets.

Having said that, I like Berdych to make a run into the semis, but yes, we seem well set up for a Federer-Nadal final. One can only hope.

Posted by Sophia 05/21/2010 at 01:05 PM

Come on Dinesh, it's not as though Federer hasn't had ridiculously easy draws in the past. It's just what happens when you throw all of the balls in the air and then watch how they fall. You win some, you lose some. Perhaps it means Rafa will draw all of the guys he hates playing at Wimbledon?? It all evens out in the end. I'd argue that anyone who says it doesn't is more than a little biased towards their favourite.

As for Spaniards choking against him, I've seen Ferrer put everything into matches against Rafa - US Open anybody? There have been some good battles in Barcelona as well. Fed has members of his generation who are still so traumatised by his form in 2004ish that they don't believe they can win and are swept away with a whimper.

Conspiraces can be fun, but I'm not buying them here I'm afraid!

Beauty of tennis is anything can happen on any given day....let the games begin!! :)

Posted by Juan Robledo 05/21/2010 at 01:06 PM

Hello Steve,

I read your column almost religiously, enjoy it but had never commented. I'll break my silence to politely point out that Colombia, the country where Santiago Giraldo and I are from, is written with and o, not with an u.

thanks a lot and enjoy Paris.

Posted by w w 05/21/2010 at 01:07 PM

Roger to repeat.Nadal-too many matches on his shoukders will be the excuse,to lose and not make semifinal.Last year Nadal's excuse was bad knees,never that the other player beat him,or he had a bad day.

Posted by sigmund 05/21/2010 at 01:10 PM

Reflection on women's 3rd quarter:

I'll pick Li Na to get to the round of 16, and beat Kuznetsova to reach the quarters (whom she's already beaten once this clay season).
Second half of the quarter - Safarova and Dulgheru have both been playing well these few weeks, and Pennetta is a factor on clay. The seed that's most likely to be upset in this section would actually be Caro, in light of her current injury.

Semifinalist:
1st choice: Li Na
2nd choice: Safarova

Posted by jl 05/21/2010 at 01:11 PM

When did the writer last picked RF TO win a trophy?Tignor seems to play a perverse joke on us-he doest pick Fed so when Fed wins,he get a columm out of it.Hope his editor/s fire him after his stupid picks this time.

Posted by zolarafa 05/21/2010 at 01:12 PM

"He is the best at beating the best'!

Thanks . That sounded great. but you made me feel nervous by picking Rafa! why do you even need to name a name? don't jinx Rafa!

I am glad Gulbis and Soderling are not on Rafa's half, but Ferrer, Verdasco and especially Almagro ( who took a set off him in Madrid) are very dangerous. I know Djoko had allergies, but unless the polen count in Paris goes up for some reason, he will be fine. He will be rested and I think after ( or equal to) Federer, he is one of the most dangerous guys on clay, at least for Rafa.

So , let's take this one match at a time!

----------

1963USCtennis
****Rafa Nadal is the favorite because of his looks!

(bwahhhhaaaahhh, call the whaaaaammmbulance)
****

Are you referring to Bodo's new post? I saw the title and decided not to even bother. I just don't know what is going on with him!

Posted by zolarafa 05/21/2010 at 01:15 PM

Swiss Maestro,

Federer is a man of majors. If he did not play well in the masters, because he didn't feel he needed to. As Steve says, he wanted to peak for the FO/wimbledon. So I think he will do really well and will reach the final ( and I hope for Rafa to reach the final as well and win it!)

Posted by Carrie 05/21/2010 at 01:16 PM

* Ferrer, Almagro simply roll over every time they play against him. BTW, it's worth pointing out that they all grew up on clay and yet none of them seems to even put up a good fight against him. Absolutely *

This again- geeze it seems to me like Almagro played Rafa pretty tough last time they played and was the only one to take Rafa to three sets in Madrid.

I do get tired of the continual bashing of Ferru- he does fight hard and has beaten rafa twice on hard. But insteasd the bitterness and conspiracy theories have to come out where there is bashing of Rafa and David, etc....sigh. David very rarely rolls over for anyone- but yet I guess it is easy just to sneer down at him.

Posted by Axel 05/21/2010 at 01:17 PM

If Roger gets to the final he might be better prepared to beat Rafa who may not be tested till the final. Having an easy draw may also be a disadvantage as you never know what your level of play is. Also don't forget that Nadal was playing his best tennis at the beginning of the clay court season and was less convincing in Madrid.

Posted by Carrie 05/21/2010 at 01:23 PM

And with some of this talk about how how Ferrer is such an easy opponent for Rafa- remember Nole could be the player in the semis. Granted he has had a funky season but when he plays his best on clay he is a very, strong caly courter.

As for the maligned Nico- I think that WTT may have been good for him this week. It sounds like he was playing well during the tournaemtn. If he and Nando play I may tip the edge to Nico in the Battle of the Brains.

Posted by Axel 05/21/2010 at 01:23 PM

I'd love to see Federer win in Paris agains Nadal, and Nadal do the same in Wimbledon. It would certainly be a good thing for Tennis and the guys probably would get even closer. Would love to see them play a double once :-)

Posted by Carrie 05/21/2010 at 01:26 PM

Axel- I too would love to see Rafa and Roger play doubles together once but I have the feeling it will be only after one of them retires and at a benefit or something.

Posted by corto maltesse 05/21/2010 at 01:43 PM

Dinesh, I truly believe you are out of your mind. None of them was able to put up a fight, huh? Are you sure you are watching tennis, not a different sport?

Posted by Dinesh 05/21/2010 at 01:48 PM

Corto Maltesse - Can you please point me to a single clay court win over Rafa by any of his Spanish country men?

Posted by corto maltesse 05/21/2010 at 01:52 PM

Dinesh, I indeed can. Rome 2008, lost to Ferrero. Regardless of that particular match, you said (and I quote) "Verdasco, Ferrer, Almagro simply roll over every time they play against him" and "none of them seems to even put up a good fight against him". Both statements are false. See Rome and Madrid this year.

Posted by Ash 05/21/2010 at 01:53 PM

I love when experts pick against Serena. It just takes the pressure off of her and she can quietly work her way through the draw and win the whole thing. I do agree with his analysis for the most part.
-----------------------------------------------
Doesn't Ms.Egomaniac always assume herself to be the favourite to win every tournament?

Posted by Dinesh 05/21/2010 at 01:54 PM

Corto - My point is that none of his Spanish country men who are all clay courters has any sort of belief that they can actually beat Rafa. They have basically all but conceded the match even before they get on the court with him.

Posted by Ash 05/21/2010 at 01:55 PM

And how can you not pick Serena, the player who is a diffrent player in GS matches?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Another urban myth promoted by Ms.Ego and her fans.

Posted by Carrie 05/21/2010 at 01:56 PM

Dinesh- there are a ton of players who have never beaten Rafa on clay and yet suddenly it is just the Spanairds? If your arguement is that the Spanish players should be derided because they lose to Rafa on clay- well then there are plenty of other players from other countries who are in the same boat.

And I am still wondering any you are calling Ferrer "absolutely pathetic" when he has fought. He may not win- but he does fight. And Nico took a set in Madrid- how is that "pathetic."

Posted by Jenni 05/21/2010 at 01:57 PM

I guess I don't get why the Spaniards are getting singled out. It's not like the rest of the field (non-Spanish clay courters included) is having much luck either.

Posted by 1963USCtennis 05/21/2010 at 02:02 PM

"Are you referring to Bodo's new post? I saw the title and decided not to even bother. I just don't know what is going on with him!
"

I did not even bother to read the article either.

As to the poster above who commented on the seeding; yes it is quite dumb to follow year round point distribution that favors hard court results and have a guy like Roddick seeded high only to lose in the early rounds and open up the draw. Every year the same old story. Verdasco and Gulbis should be seeded high so that we could see a Fed-Verdasco (for example) QF...

the ATP could very easily do a "clay ranking" prior to Roland Garros and use it to seed the players. It's not like Roland Garros is the most important torurnament in the world played on clay and second only to Wimbledon and Flushing Meadow.... or is it?

plus, it's only "specialists" that win it with their looks... oh wait, didn't Roger just win it?

never mind

Posted by corto maltesse 05/21/2010 at 02:06 PM

Dinesh - I get your point and I disagree. Again, see Rome and Madrid this year, both Ferrer (in Rome) and Almagro (in Madrid) put up quite a decent fight.
You are making a statment based on those guy's winning record against Rafa on clay. Following that logic, you might as well say that nobody (not just Spanish players) "has any sort of belief that they can actually beat Rafa".

Posted by CherryNYC 05/21/2010 at 02:15 PM

Steve -- I want to thank you for not picking Fed. He's got a shot now....

Posted by Tfactor 05/21/2010 at 02:19 PM

Steve,
Great preview!
Btw, is this a new font? It somehow reminded me that I need to get me some glasses :)

I don't think Garcia Lopez will make it that far but it would certainly be thrilling for me if he did.
I'm really hoping David Ferrer has a good tournament and he's my pick for one of the semifinal spots as well.
Like you, I believe it will be another Fedal final.

As for the WTA, I don't feel I'm informed enough to give a sound opinion other than I have the feeling Justine is not going to be the last woman standing.

It never ceases to amaze me when people talk about the Spanish players always losing to Rafa on clay as if players of other nationalities have been consistently beating Nadal on the surface!
Nadal has 16 loses on clay to date, compared to 200+ wins (I can't remember the exact number now) and some of those losses happened when Rafa was pretty young and had just started playing at tour level.

Anyway, I hope you have a great time in Paris, Steve. Keep us posted :)

Posted by Tony 05/21/2010 at 02:24 PM

Agree with Henin to win 1st quarter, I think that she is simply better than anyone else on clay.

Agree with Venus in the 4th quarter too, it looks to be a relatively straight run through for her.

2nd & 3rd quarters could produce one relatively fancied winner and, in my opinion, one completely overlooked winner!

I think Pennetta has a great chance in her quarter providing that she can recover her singles form. She has been in terrific form in the doubles events with Gisela but has disappointed in the singles since winning Marbella. I'm taking a chance that she finds some form :)

In the remaining quarter i think Yaroslava Shvedova could spring a surprise! I strongly fancy her to beat Errani, think she has a great chance of beating A-Rad and then its anybody's guess!Vera & JJ in the same quarter too but Yaro hits the ball really hard and is improving all the time :)

Time will tell of course ;)

Posted by Henry 05/21/2010 at 02:25 PM

I like your picks Steve, though I wouldn't be surprised if this will become Dementieva's tournament. That might sound weird regarding her results during the past few weeks but she has no pressure now which I think is helpful for her. Everytime she was named a favorite at a Grand Slam before she failed to prove it but this time things could change.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 05/21/2010 at 02:26 PM

What Carrie, Jenni, Tfactor and others said.

I could make the exact same argument about belief for all those players against Federer, too, no? (I won't - I don't think it is about belief or caving or not fighting or any of that stuff.) It annoys me when players get bashed for not trying or putting up a fight against Roger, just as much as for Nadal. Feel it's quite insulting to everyone concerned, really.

Posted by CPM 05/21/2010 at 02:32 PM

Thanks for getting your picks out there so soon, Steve; that's what I call service.

Something's definitely lacking at the FO with so many top men out -- and that's not even talking about the ones with shaky games at the moment (looking at you, Muzz, Sod & Nole), the ones who haven't even shown up for the clay (o hai, RAndy!), and the ones that have shown up a little too much (so you hurt your ankle in Madrid, Verdasco, and then go play Nice? Mebbe don't let Rafa do your scheduling, friend).

It's hard to imagine Federer not making it to the semis at least; maybe impossible to imagine Rafa not getting there. And unless someone in the other quarters catches fire, no reason we won't see yet another French Fedal -- about which, bleh. Those have never turned out to be good quality matches. Anyway, there's just no credible opposition for The Two if the field's forms this year have been any indication. Not that that will turn out to be a good indication, of course -- or, for that matter, that what we can and can't imagine has much to do with what actually will happen. (Cf. RG 2009)

As for the women's side, I think we're going to have another first-time winner -- Henin has seemed too streaky, Venus seems to suffer horrible, embarrassing losses at weird times, and no one's expecting Serena to win, ergo we all think she will win when we stop to think about it -- ergo she won't win. Q.E.D.

Posted by CPM 05/21/2010 at 02:34 PM

+1 to jewell @ 2:26. I don't buy asterisks, and I don't buy 'minions'. Hey, geniuses -- ever occur to you that maybe Nadal's just really, really good on clay?

Posted by corto maltesse 05/21/2010 at 02:36 PM

For example, let's look at Djokovic's record against Rafa. They've faced each other nine times on clay. Did Novak win any of those matches? No. Can anyone say Dojokovic never put up a good fight? I don't think so.
I am sorry but I think that the winning/loosing argument is simply a poor one.

Posted by BrooklynNY 05/21/2010 at 02:40 PM

Novak is wack. Hes like a Safin headcase, but 30 times worse, and less talented.

Posted by ava 05/21/2010 at 02:43 PM

Nice to see that the idiotic comment about Ferrer rightly rebuked by many. It was downright stupid.
I'm not picking anyone. For the first time in a long time, I'm relaxed for a slam and I hope Rafa can win it and I think he will. Hopefully we'll get at least two Spanish semifinalists.
For the women everything is wide open. But Justine is the best bet.

Posted by 1963USCtennis 05/21/2010 at 02:44 PM

"ever occur to you that maybe Nadal's just really, really good on clay? "

on clay?

the guy who happens to have beat THE greatest of all time on grass the last time they met? (the last man alive to have actually done it, to date)

and, didn't he beat The greatest of all time the last time they met on hard court?


hmmmmmmmmm


maybe he is a great player... period.

Posted by Pspace (Kom op Kimmie!) 05/21/2010 at 02:52 PM

I love the Garica-Lopez pick. Wait...who? I'd lean toward Jo Willy pleasing his home crowd in that quarter. But, otherwise, I'm in agreement on the ATP.

Henin has way too tough a draw to win this RG. She might make the SF, but is bound to run out of gas at some point. I pick "Maybe you can tell me" for the win!

Posted by lilscot 05/21/2010 at 02:54 PM

Vamos Rafa! I love the draw this year. And who on earth would ever doubt Ferrer's ability, especially on clay? The man is a work-horse and deserves all that he's earned this season.

Rog does seem to have the trickiest draw but that may be better for him this time around. If he truly hopes to beat Rafa in the final he'll need some good hard work in his matches before that. Sometimes when either Roger or Rafa breeze into a final they're not quite as prepared as they should be.

I don't think that'll be a problem for Rafa this year. He seems very ready to take this. But, I'd love to see both guys in the final for sure. Who knows how many more times we'll get to see these two GOATS go at it in a GS final.

Vamos Rafa!

Posted by lilscot 05/21/2010 at 02:56 PM

I noticed in the Editor's Picks that Pete has picked Rafa to win. Well, why not? When you look as good as Rafa does how could anyone beat you? (insert sarcasm here)

Posted by TeamNadal 05/21/2010 at 03:03 PM

VAMOS RAFA!!!!!! and, Steve, could you possibly have picked a FUGLIER pic of Rafa?????? At least put up a decent pic, here is a great one with the infamous watch...

http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/00DecU59OWgFp/x990.jpg

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 05/21/2010 at 03:10 PM

I'm liking Pennetta in the third quarter, Steve.

Posted by Cheshire Cat 05/21/2010 at 03:23 PM

Garcia Lopez an old fashioned clay grind?? Clearly you've never seen the guy play. Probably got him confused with Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo...

Posted by Ronald 05/21/2010 at 03:30 PM

Strangely I am looking forward to the women's draw more than the men's draw this year. Why? On the men's side the predictions are just a bit too easy. Rafa should be leaving his teeth marks in the trophy again for their reunion, and his date for the final should be Fed. While the Fedex had not been impressive during the clay court season until Madrid, he has found his game. And everyone won knows that The Man Fed saves his best stuff--and tears (win on lose)--for these big Grand Slam moments. The men's draw is just sorely missing anyone who can prevent either of these two from dancing on the final Sunday.

The four players who could have made it interesting are all absent. Nole is nowhere near his best; and while clay is not Andy's best surface, he has the speed, steadiness, and skill to pull off an upset over the "Big 2". Delpo is injured and out for a very long time; and Kolya as well, though he should make his return to the tour much sooner (I hope). After that teaser at the YEC '09, the slump and absence of these four has really made this first half of the season less epic, except if you like watching Fedal chasing history and the record books. But Roger and Rafa can still put on a great show.

There are other players on the men's side that can make things interesting (Ferrer, Almagro, Soderling, Gulbis) but can they be counted on to impress against the best on that given day? A question to be answered.

The draw for our better half is more intriguing simply because is unpredictable and crowded. It is very plausible for more than 10 women to have a reasonable shot at one of the four semifinal slots. The only big name MIA from the tournament is Clijsters. Then we have the players who are battling injuries, or struggling to reclaim form; but are very capable on the surface. These include Caroline, Dinara, Sharapova, Dementieva, Kuznetsova, Victoria and Ivanovic. Then there are those who have recently hit a rich vein of form: SamS, MJMS, and Rezai. And THEN we have those with the skills and the resume to backup talk of a run (though some more than others): Henin, JJ, SW and VW. And THEN there are also the dark horses who can pull of the upset like a Petrova, Navarro, Li Na, Penetta, and Wickmayer. Thus while not as conveniently predictable as the men's, there is much more potential for some excitement early on.

Let's all hope for a good tournament.

Posted by Stewart 05/21/2010 at 03:34 PM

I'll take Rezai to get through to her semi over Venus on clay anyday

Posted by TeamNadal 05/21/2010 at 03:41 PM

speaking of Rezai, interesting article about her in the NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/22/sports/tennis/22iht-srside.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Posted by Bhai Mirzai 05/21/2010 at 03:41 PM

My heart says Federer ;-)

Posted by nancy 05/21/2010 at 03:43 PM

From ATP website, Roland Garros Player Records **[1) Roger Federer (SUI) W/L-39-10 (Winner – 2009)]**. . .
I know that Nadal has beaten Roger four times at the French (2005-2008)-- could someone tell me who Roger lost to the other six times?? And in which round(s)?
Thanks!!

Posted by TeamNadal 05/21/2010 at 04:03 PM

Nancy, here is the info on Federer's RG performance prior to 2005:

1999 - R128 - Lost to Patrick Rafter
2000 - R16 - Lost to Alex Corretja
2001 - QF - Lost to Alex Corretja
2002 - R128 - Lost to Hicham Arazi
2003 - R128 - Lost to Luis Horna
2004 - R32 - Lost to Gustavo Kuerten

Posted by Tfactor 05/21/2010 at 04:03 PM

Nancy,

Here are Roger’s RG losses:

1999 Rafter R128
2000 Corretja R16
2001 Corretja Q
2002 Arazi R128
2003 Horna R128
2004 Kuerten R32
2005 Nadal S
2006 – 2008 Nadal F

If you go to Roger’s page on the ATP site and select ‘Playing Activity’ you can then select on the tournament tab ‘Roland Garros’ and on the year tab ‘All Years’ to see all of the RG Matches.

Posted by nancy 05/21/2010 at 04:08 PM

TeamNadal - Thanks! Another question: What was Roger's ATP ranking at the time of each of those six losses? And, if there's an easy way for me to look this up myself, please tell me where. Thanks again!

Posted by tina 1 05/21/2010 at 04:08 PM

I have to make a little distraction from draws' discussion. Please check this link. This is from page on tennis.com features site. http://www.tennis.com/features/tournaments/frenchopen/frenchopen.aspx
Is it possible that all of you do not know who are Current French Open Champions. Check the lady with the trophy. As far as I know Svetlana Kuznetova won RG last year. Is it possible for such a serious tennis site to make such a mistake.

Posted by TeamNadal 05/21/2010 at 04:12 PM

Nancy, his ranking history is here:

http://www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Top-Players/Roger-Federer.aspx?t=rh

Posted by nancy 05/21/2010 at 04:14 PM

Hi Tfactor & Thanks very much! My second question about Roger's rankings was answered there as well. Gracias!

Posted by Michelle 05/21/2010 at 04:14 PM

To Ash: Serena may be an egomaniac but she does bring her best goods to the Slams. She is playing for history now. She does not care about the weekly tournaments. You can be mad at her for that but at this point in her career, she has nothing else to prove and there are other younger players who should win the weekly tournaments to help build them up to play the slams better. Serena and Venus will go in the history books because of their slam wins, not how many weekly tournaments they won. There are already some people who have re-written the history books on weekly wins such as Graf, Navratilova, Evert and Davenport (in the current era). Serena wants to make history with her slam wins. She is entitled at this point. Once again, Serena and Venus limited schedules over the years have helped them not hurt them. Had others taken a cue from them, they would not have burned out so quickly (Henin, Clijsters) or been injured so much (Wozniacki, Jankovic, Safina etc.)

Posted by felizjulianidad 05/21/2010 at 04:19 PM

Dinesh, you're an idiot.

1) Nadal has trouble against Spaniards in Grand Slams. Verdasco AO 08, Ferrer USO 07, even Almagro US0 09. They all played above their usual standard those days; look at the best-of-3 tournaments for a more pedestrian display from these guys.
2) It looks like everyone rolls over against Nadal on clay, with only the most random of exceptions. There's only one winner per tournament, you know?

Posted by Sergio Tacchini 05/21/2010 at 04:23 PM

Is anyone concerned about Isner? He has pulled out of some matches in Dusseldorf with a bum arm. That is horrific news for him. If he loses his serve, he'll be out in the first round. I hope he can make it to 4th round, his last two slams he made the 4th round. Would be nice if he continued that streak.

Posted by Nam1 05/21/2010 at 04:43 PM

I keep hearing that the clay season is diminished by the absence of "so many players"; isnt it only Delpo and davydenko who are out due to injury; I think the rest of the top players are playing? Is there anyone else that I am missing?

I am not talking about recent lack of form, mind you, just complete absences.

Posted by Lynne Danley 05/21/2010 at 05:00 PM

The interesting thing about this FO is that three players have so much to play for, so they have added incentive to fight even harder than they would otherwise. For Roger, he could be the all-time leader of weeks at #1 in a career, a coveted title he wants very much. But he must get through that sticky quarter and into the semis to do it. He is going to be very motivated to do that -- look out, everyone in his quarter! He's going to have to play with fewer errors than he has been, though. Either Rafa or Djokovic could take over the #1 ranking if they win the tournament and Roger goes out before the semis. So they are going to be highly motivated by that, knees or allergies notwithstanding. And I think Steve is not taking Ferrer, Almagro and Verdasco seriously enough. By the time he gets to them, Rafa may very well be tired. He's subject to that and he's gone all the way in his last three tournaments. I think these guys would love to beat him and that any of them could do it. Djoker is in a very tough quarter, really, in that all of the top guys in it could win it. But this is his first-ever opportunity to become #1 and he will be well aware of that. Personally, I hope Roger gets his record even if he doesn't win the tournament because he is so amazing and so deserving of it. He doesn't get enough credit for his hard work, grit and courage because he's less demonstrative than others and makes things look easy that definitely are not. The fire is inside, though. He proved that at the last FO. Go, Roger! Nadal and Djokovic are still young and will have their day at the top -- not much to stop Rafa from taking over after the FO because he has so few points to defend and Roger has so many. I'd love to see Roger defend his title no matter who he plays against, and I wouldn't assume he can't beat Nadal.

Posted by Lynne Danley 05/21/2010 at 05:06 PM

Nam 1, David Nalbandian, Gilles Simon and Kim Clijsters are also out due to injury.

Posted by Nam1 05/21/2010 at 05:12 PM

Roger will stay #1; there is no way he will let anything get in the way of that,....it means much more to him than to Nadal....Nadal could care less about the ranking, he just wants to win RG.

Unless something drastic happens, (ie. Gulbis storms his way thru'!!) I dont see anything in the way of another Fedal final.

Posted by fedfan88 05/21/2010 at 05:17 PM

Steve, the only thing I disagree about is your choosing Garcia-Lopez as a semi-finalist.
Dont get me wrong, its a tough quarter to predict for sure, but I bet you Tsonga manages a way to bully his way through.

I predict Nadal d. Ferrer and Federer d. Tsonga. Championship: Nadal d. Federer (in 4 sets)... 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-1

By the way, I predict Ernests Gulbis Vs. Federer in the QFs will be an absolute dirt ball classic....5 sets for sure(still Federer though)

Posted by Nam1 05/21/2010 at 05:37 PM

thx Lynne, forgot about Nalnandian, also Karlovic and Stepanek..

Posted by Charles 05/21/2010 at 05:41 PM

French Open – Men’s Preview – 21 May 2010

At the end of last year I had expected that this year’s French Open would be one of the most open and unpredictable in years – the way it was before the Nadal era when unforeseen champions like Albert Costa and Gaston Gaudio hoisted the hardware. Such has been the deterioration in Gaudio’s game since his victory six years ago that he has already flamed out in qualifying and Costa is long retired.
But the levelling of the field has not happened. Davydenko and Del Potro – who theoretically have the games to beat anyone on clay – are both injured. Djokovic has looked decidedly off on clay this year. Monfils, always dangerous at the French, has missed most of the year due to injury. And last year’s clay surprise, Soderling, did make the final in Barcelona, but has otherwise looked vulnerable.
Federer had been having a horrific clay outing this spring till making the final in Madrid and proving that he’s still potent on the dirt. Meanwhile, Nadal had looked very vulnerable at the beginning of the year, and entered the clay season without a tournament victory in nearly a year. But after 3 straight victories in 1000 tournaments his return to invincibility is complete.
Can anyone prevent another Federer-Nadal final? Do we dare hope for another Fedal classic?

First Quarter
My initial impression is that this is the toughest quarter. There are a number of players here who could beat anyone, including Nadal on clay, on the right day: Soderling, Gulbis, Monfils, possibly Cilic, and of course, Federer. Other than Federer, I’m not sure any of them has title-worthy mentality, but the dogfights that are likely in this quarter should be some of the tournaments best viewing.
Monfils is already well known to the French crowds and is the most likely home-grown talent to go deep – with QF and SF showings here. Cilic has been knicked for greatness and showed it with a SF at the Australian this year. Soderling showed his talent in handing Nadal his only loss here and making last year’s final; and Gulbis, long thought talented but erratic, has finally pulled it together, already winning more matches this year than last, including a victory over Federer on clay.
In a year where Federer has looked vulnerable on clay he could hardly have been handed a tougher quarter. Former Federer-beater Wawrinka is also lurking here. But at the end of the day, despite a highly perilous path, if Federer plays like he can, he has to be favoured.
Federer def Gulbis

Second Quarter
Opposite of the first, this is possibly the softest quarter in the men’s draw. The leading seeds are Murray and Tsonga. Both have some good-ish wins on clay, but when push comes to shove, their games seem better suited for other surfaces. Murray made QF here last year, and Tsonga the round of 16. One wouldn’t expect much more of them except that someone has to emerge from this quarter as a semi-finalist.
Other candidates (and their best previous performance here) are Baghdatis (R16), Isner (R32), Berdych (R16), Youzhny (R16), the declining Robredo (QF x 4), Garcia-Lopez (R64), or possibly first-timer Thiemo de Bakker. None would be an obvious pick to make a semi-final. Murray may well lose in the first round to a resurfacing Gasquet who hasn’t played here since 2007, but given Gasquet’s poor form this year (at least until this week), it’s hard to see him going far. Still, SOMEONE has to win. Isner has at least shown a lot of heart this year and a finalist performance in Belgrade means he can make his game work on clay, but picking him over Murray in a possible R16 meeting is dicey.
Isner def de Bakker

Third Quarter
Normally, in the last couple of years, I would have looked no further than Djokovic, and declared him the obvious favourite for the semi-finals. However, Novak has struggled this year. He did manage a SF in Monte Carlo so can’t be counted out.
The next highest seed at 6 is Roddick, who has only made the round of 16 once in 8 attempts. Roddick has shown some nice results on clay, but those were mostly in America. The European stuff seems less amenable to his heavy-hitting game. Roddick has been in excellent form this year, making the final at Indian Wells and winning Miami. He may well be the favourite for Wimbledon. He hasn’t played since Miami, and although I have absolutely no reason for saying it, a last minute withdrawal here, effectively skipping the entire clay court season, wouldn’t surprise me.
Ferrero and Querrey have both posted some good clay results this year and may meet in a R32 clash for the right to face Djokovic.
The other big name looming in this section, at least on clay, is Ferrer. Twice a quarter-finalist here, Ferrer has posted a tour-leading 33 wins this year, including semi-finals at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid, and a runner-up to Nadal in Rome. He has to be considered one of the favourites. The potential match against Djokovic in the quarters could be a classic – if Djokovic can get there.
Ferrer def Djokovic

Fourth Quarter
Were it not for Nadal’s loss here last year, we could just pencil him in here and move on. Nadal has looked invincible on clay this year. But there are some excellent clay players in his quarter, including Almagro (QF), Gonzalez (SF), Ljubicic (SF), Hewitt (QF), up and comer, Thomaz Belluci, and most significantly, perhaps, fellow lefty countryman, Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco is given 4th best odds for the tournament by the bookies, and has had a stellar clay season, winning Barcelona, semis in Rome, finalist to Nadal in Monte Carlo. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone besting Nadal.
Nadal def Verdasco

First Semi
If Federer can make it through the gauntlet of his quarter he should be able to handle whatever unlikely semi-finalist he may face. If Federer does not make it to the semis, he will lose his #1 ranking if Nadal wins, leaving him one week short of the all time record for weeks at #1 held by Sampras.
Federer def Isner

Second Semi
Ferrer may be playing his best clay game ever.
Nadal def Ferrer

Final
A big shocker this one... Hopefully Federer can keep it close.
Nadal def Federer

Average odds from bookies.com just before the draw was posted
1. Nadal 1.39
2. Federer 4.76
3. Djokovic 16.25
4. Verdasco 30.19
5. Murray 31.00
6. Gulbis 32.06
7. Ferrer 34.25
8. Soderling 51.69
9. Almagro 66.69
10. Monfils 99.56
11. Tsonga 116.47
12. Gonzalez 117.75

Posted by Charles 05/21/2010 at 05:42 PM

French Open – Women’s Preview – 21 May 2010

The anticipation before the start of any Grand Slam is palpable. A world of possibility exists. Who will rise to the top, who will seize the opportunity for greatness? Possibly because it seems the Williams sisters weakest surface, the French in particular has seemed the most open and up for grabs of the female GS events. At least since its domination by Justine Henin and her three straight titles. Now that she’s back, can Henin build on her 21 match undefeated streak here?

First Quarter
Everyone knows Justine is a favourite at the French, perhaps THE favourite. The bookies have her pegged at the top, followed closely by Serena. So it is undoubtedly a shame that these two land in the same quarter. The ranking/seeding system in women’s tennis just can’t handle situations like this. Surely there must be some way to build in a little more flexibility for tournament directors when it comes to seeding.
At least the fateful clash between Henin and Serena isn’t likely to happen until the quarters. But are they really both likely to make it that far? Henin looked very shaky in a loss to a having-the-week-of-her-life Rezai in Madrid. And her first round opponent, Pironkova, took out Dementieva this week in Warsaw. Should Henin survive that, she may face dangerous veteran Zakopalova in the second round, who has wins over Safina and Serena on clay. Henin could then get Sharapova in round 3 (a finalist in Warsaw this week), and last year’s semifinalist, Stosur, in the round of 16. Stosur has to be considered among the top picks for this year’s tournament and wants to improve on last year’s fine performance. In this quarter her work is cut out for her.
Serena seems to have a much easier draw: a potential third-rounder against Pavlyuchenkova might be the only real test. So when it comes time to meet Henin in the QF, should they both make it that far, Henin will likely be more tested, but Serena may be fresher. Serena has been making noise about wanting a 2nd French title. She looks determined. Which is fearsome.
Still, it’s hard to argue against the superiority of Henin’s gorgeous clay game, drenched in variety and thoughtful shot selection. At this level in sports it usually comes down to heart.
S Williams def Henin

Second quarter
The top seeds in this quarter are Jankovic and Agnieszka Radwanska, but there are other dangerous players here as well, including slumping two-time finalist Safina, resurfacing 2008 champion Ivanovic, the always unpredictable Zvonareva, up and coming Yanina Wickmayer, and potential spoilers Kleybanova and Suarez Navarro.
Safina has an excellent draw and a natural clay game. She has descended sharply since her 26 weeks at #1 last year and may be playing closer to #50 than her current ranking of #9. If she can get some wins under belt, she could yet prove dangerous. The same is true of Ivanovic, who showed promise in reaching the semis in Rome.
Radwanska is a model of consistency but doesn’t seem to have the big weapons to beat the best players – still it might be enough to get her deep into this quarter. Mercurial and talented, Zvonareva made the final at Charleston. What she may do here is anyone’s guess.
With a win at Indian Wells, a runner-up in Rome, and the resultant re-ascent to #4 in the rankings, Jankovic is the likely favourite for this quarter.
Jankovic def Zvonareva

Third Quarter
Possibly the most wide open, this quarter features last year’s winner Kuznetsova and last year’s US Open finalist Wozniacki as the top seeds. Their choice as likely quarter-final opponents would be easy were it not for the shocking form of Kuznetsova this year and the recent re-injury to Wozniacki’s ankle.
Kuznetsova’s win-loss tally this year is an abysmal sub-.500 at 8-9, with only one win on clay. She clearly has the talent to do well here, but her mind seems to be elsewhere. She faces the dangerous Cirstea in the first round and could run into Vesnina or Petkovic in the second round, both of whom have the talent to beat her.
Wozniacki’s ankle forced her retirement in Warsaw, just days before the French kicks off and makes her a very risky choice to advance far here.
A possible third-rounder for Wozniacki is Dulgheru who is into her second straight final in Warsaw, after winning there last year. The Romanian has shown the ability to win some big matches with victories over Safina and Dementieva this year. Safarova, Pennetta, and the talented youngster Hercog are also in her section.
Schiavone or Li may well be the favourites in this quarter, given the question marks around the other seeds, but they are in the same half.
Dulgheru def Schiavone

Fourth Quarter
The four highest seeds in this quarter are VWilliams, Dementieva, Azarenka, and Rezai, and unlike the previous, they may actually be the favourites here.
Venus has the tour’s best winning percentage this year. But she has a tough first rounder in wily veteran Patty Schnyder. By the fourth round she could run into Rezai who defeated her in the Madrid final, or the always dangerous Petrova.
Azarenka could face Rome winner Martinez Sanchez in an exciting R32 clash. Meanwhile, Dementieva has a reasonable draw through to the fourth round. Given her talent, Dementieva could go all the way here, but she seems to have fallen off a little this year and one always suspects the head as she gets deeper into GS events.
Despite the snares in Venus’ path, no one else seems a likely winner here.
V Williams def Dementieva

First Semi
If Serena can make it out of her murderous quarter she has an excellent chance to go all the way, however a confident and in form Jankovic should not be under-estimated. Again, it comes down to heart.
S Williams def Jankovic

Second Semi
Given the inexplicably bad losses Venus has suffered this year, predicting her going deep here seems perilous, but the field in the bottom half of the draw does not seem strong. I expect I’m wrong about both semi-finalists, but in the absence of a crystal ball...
V Williams def Dulgheru

Final
Venus would dearly like revenge for her final round loss here to little sister in 2002 but I doubt she will get it.
S Williams def V Williams

Average odds from bookies.com just before the draw was posted
1. Henin 3.01
2. S Williams 6.23
3. Jankovic 7.24
4. V Williams 11.95
5. Stosur 15.70
6. Rezai 17.64
7. Dementieva 20.74
8. Kuznetsova 23.11
9. Azarenka 23.75
10. Wozniacki 24.44
11. Martinez Sanchez 27.82
12. Ivanovic 30.08
13. Safina 32.67
14. Wickmayer 32.97
15. Zvonareva 40.11
16. Sharapova 47.56

Posted by zolarafa 05/21/2010 at 05:53 PM

Charles,

wow!
You should have your own column.
Thanks for the detailed preview and the odds.
--------------

It is great to see some real tennis discussions here. Bodo is trying to qualify for TMZ these days!

I also agree with whoever said that Federer will not let go of his number 1. I think he will fight real hard and we will see him the final.

Posted by wsf713 05/21/2010 at 05:58 PM

"Sleeper: Santiago Giraldo, a kid from Columbia with a killer backhand"

It's actually Colombia, unless you're referring to the University in NYC.

Posted by Charles 05/21/2010 at 06:02 PM

I would like to say, in Steve's defense, that he has correctly picked 8 grand slam champions in the last 12 GS events he has predicted. That means 8/24 = 33.3% accuracy - which is not bad.

I was able to find Steve's picks in old articles dating back to the 2007 French. That year he was correct on 2 out 6 finalists he predicted. In 2008, he was correct on 4 out of 8 GS predictions, and in 2009 he was correct on 2 out of 8 predictions.

This nonsense about him jinxing his picks makes those who say it look foolish.

Here are his picks over the years.
2007 Fre - Fed, Kuz (actual Nad, Hen) 0/2
2007 Wim - Fed, Hen (acutal Fed, VWil) 1/2
2007 US - Fed, Sha (actual Fed, Hen) 1/2
2008 Aus - Fed, Hen (acutal Djo, Sha) 0/2
2008 Fre - Nad, SWil (actual Nad, Iva) 1/2
2008 Wim - Nad, VWil (actual Nad,VWil) 2/2
2008 US - Nad, SWil (actual Fed, SWil) 1/2
2009 Aus - Fed, VWil (actual Nad, SWil) 0/2
2009 Fre - Nad, SWil (actual Fed, Kuz) 0/2
2009 Wim - Fed, SWil (actual Fed, SWil) 2/2
2009 US - Mur, Dem (actual Del, Cli) 0/2
2010 Aus - Djo, Cli (actual Fed, SWil) 0/2

Total 8/24

All those with a crystal ball can try to do better.

Posted by ava 05/21/2010 at 06:19 PM

Charles, you're a whiz.

Posted by fedfan 05/21/2010 at 06:20 PM

Fun post. Enjoy Paris & Roland Garros. Hope the dollar keeps some of its recent strength for the next two weeks.

Don't like Federer's draw, but sometimes a top player can benefit from a tough draw, and I have to say that Nadal has had his share of tough Grand Slams. His 5-hour match with Verdasco in the 2009 Aussie Open seemed to toughen him up for his match with Federer.

Posted by CPM 05/21/2010 at 06:29 PM

Just wanted to say -- great posts, Charles; and way to stick up for Tignor's picks, which are really no worse than what the rest of us mugs can come up with :)

Posted by zolarafa 05/21/2010 at 06:38 PM

Charles,
thanks for the stats on Steve's picks. 33%! not too bad!

***
This nonsense about him jinxing his picks makes those who say it look foolish.
***

I have said that and many others,....I don't think anyone really believes that the outcome of a Grand Slam is not decided by a player's skills and only by a prediction! but it is fun! so, no, I don't think it is foolish!

Posted by SimonSays 05/21/2010 at 06:40 PM

very entertaining analysis great job steve

Posted by RG2010 05/21/2010 at 07:05 PM

When all is said and done it will be Federer defending the title in Paris, and I think Nadal will be in the finals.

Prediction for 2010 French Open Final:

Federer def. Nadal (4 sets)

Posted by TFan 05/21/2010 at 07:11 PM

Nadal has an easier draw, and will most likely win the tournament. I don't think the draw really matters in his case, on clay, at the French Open (when he's healthy).
If Federer beats Nadal in the finals, I don't know what it really means for either man. It's not like suddenly Federer becomes the king of clay.
If Nadal beats Federer, it's no surprise again, and that doesn't change the dynamic as well.
I just hope we have some real good matches/5 setters, and if we go by history (lately), there is a better chance Federer will figure in those.

Posted by Stewart 05/21/2010 at 08:05 PM

I am praying for someone new on the women's side to take the title, with my favorite being JJ - she's just too talented not to win a major. Dementieva I also like but she's gone downhill lately and blew all of her best chances last year.

I'm quite surprised so many people are picking Venus Williams to get to the semis, I would think she's only the 2nd or 3rd favorite to get out of that quarter. Aravane Rezai I pick as that semifinalist by a long shot.

Henin v. JJ will be the biggest and best match of the tournament methinks. Henin has the historical edge and JJ will have to play her absolute best to win. For the record, I don't think Serena has it in her to beat Henin on clay - the power is there, but Henin's attacking, slicing, drop shot laden game will finesse Serena off the court.

If Clijsters were there then things would REALLY be interesting, she'd prob be my fave to win it.

On the men's side, the players that would make things interesting are either AWOL or injured. The 3Ds, Djokovic, Delpo and Davydenko would be my 3 picks to upset but two are out and one's playing like crap.

Posted by VenusRafa 05/21/2010 at 08:27 PM

Tks Steve for picking V (who owns Schnyder 10-0) for the final in perhaps the most difficult draw quarter. I dont agree that the top quarter is the toughest. Henin isn't what she used to be despite having won Stuttgart and Stosur is a much much lesser threat to a Williams than say Rezai.

I agree with someone's choice of Li Na followed by Safarova in the 3rd quarter. Li Na especially has an excellent chance to make the semis given the draw.

I hope a focused V wins her first French as she throughly deserves it with her solid results on clay this season.

I pick Berdych v Federer (or Gulbis) in the semis.

Posted by ObjectiveTennisfan 05/21/2010 at 09:04 PM

Agree with Ash.

Definitely picking Serena for the semis.

All due respect to Henin but her wins in 2007 were over either an injured or off-form Serena including a battling 3 set win agst an injured Serena at Wimbledon. Would anyone seriously say that the 2007 Serena is anywhere near her best or even close to her 2009/10 form?

What's really helping the Williams is that they have matured in a way that have made them physically and mentally stronger and age is just a number. Wont be surprised if they continue to play and dominate another 3 to 5 years and I am talking about Venus here.


Posted by eldnlee@aol.com 05/21/2010 at 09:33 PM

Senior Editor, Bill Gray's comment on his pick to win the French Open, shows what a Fed fan he is.
He states that despite Rafa's lame wins since the Australian Open, Fed will win. "Lame wins"?
Why the hate?? Both players are great! I appreciate the other Editor pick's and their comments.

Posted by Conrad 05/21/2010 at 09:33 PM

What am I missing? How is Venus' first round tricky at all? Patty is 0-10 against the elder Williams who is playing some very decent clay-court tennis.

Posted by Anita 05/21/2010 at 09:40 PM

Gee, w.w., yea it was pretty obvious Nadal was faking the knee injuries. That's why he was out for a few months and has had a hell of a time coming back (11 months without a title). So he could use it as an excuse......what a moronic thing to say! At least Rafa doesn't blow tournaments off as unnecessary or unimportant because he lost (just as Roger did after Madrid). Rafa will win his 5th RG to go with his 18 Masters 1000 titles, his 3 clay court titles (2010), 6 Monte Carlo titles, 5 Rome titles, his 15-0 record on clay (2010) and his 14-7 all-time record against Federer(including 10-2 on clay). Let's see what Roger's excuse will be then.


Posted by CanIhitu 05/21/2010 at 10:33 PM

SEMI-FINALS

Stosur beats Jankovic
Venus beats Safarova

FINALS:
Venus defeats Stosur.

Interesting 3rd matchup: Venus vs Cibulkova in the 3rd round.

Posted by Larry 05/21/2010 at 10:38 PM

The men's picks are excellent, although I give Gulbis a chance to beat Fed. Nadal is the unstoppable clay machine when healthy and motivated.

The women? Impossible to say. I could not even pick Henin with confidence. I think Stosur could do quite well. The Russian women, pardon the stereotype but...most are flaky. Dementieva is also falling away. Martinez is interesting.

I would also not be so sure that one of the giant ATP guys can't get deep into the draw. The high-bouncing ball favors the behemoths.

Posted by Stewart 05/21/2010 at 11:00 PM

CanIhitu - no way Stosur beats Jankovic on clay, or for that matter, beats Henin AND Serena in the same tournament. Her backhand just isn't strong enough, Henin will make her pay.

Posted by Master Ace 05/21/2010 at 11:01 PM

Rafael Nadal Invitational Predictions:
QF 1 - Federer vs Gulbis
QF 2 - Berdych vs Tsonga
QF 3 - Ferrer vs Djokovic
QF 4 - Almagro vs *****
SF 1 - Federer vs Tsonga
SF 2 - Ferrer vs *****
F - Federer vs *****
W - *****


WTA Predictions:
QF 1 - S Williams vs Henin
QF 2 - Jankovic vs Zvonareva
QF 3 - Kuznetsova vs Dulgheru
QF 4 - Dementieva vs V Williams
SF 1 - Henin vs Jankovic
SF 2 - Kuznetsova vs V Williams
F - Henin vs V Williams
W - Henin to win her 5th French Open title

Posted by Frances 05/21/2010 at 11:13 PM

"Nadal is not just the king of clay, he's the best at beating the best."


Vamos

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