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


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 vetmama - RF FTW!!! (please?) 05/22/2009 at 05:34 PM

sally, are you kidding me?
I got the impression you couldn't stand Fed, with the typical drive-by salvos you lob.:)

Posted by Ru-an 05/22/2009 at 05:35 PM

No offense but this is the worst prediction ive seen in my life. Montanes semi-final? Hahaha. Federer not even in the semi's? Even funnier. Mark my words, at least 3 of the top four will be there come semi-final day. Murray is the only one thats doubtful. My intuition says Fed will take care of Djokovic, and meet Rafa in the final a fourth straight year. He has just had his most convincing win over Rafa ever, considering it was on clay. This year must be his best chance ever to take the title.

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

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

vetmama, i'm no fashion expert, so i'm unable to give a general answer. From personal experience, it's not a common one here in Spain, but you can see it sometimes. It wouldnt make anyone stop in awe in the middle of the street.
Personally, i dont think i've ever had a pink shirt. Red,green and specially blue are more my colours.

Posted by vetmama - RF FTW!!! (please?) 05/22/2009 at 05:43 PM

That sounds like in the US. Sometimes a guy will wear a pale pink dress shirt, and you'll see the rare pink tee. But most guys would steer clear of anything pink.

BTW, we are on the same wavelength on picks for RG. We'll shall see, no?

Posted by malimeda 05/22/2009 at 05:44 PM

And speaking of dressy, just check out JJ & Danny Glover in Cannes:

Posted by joao 05/22/2009 at 05:44 PM

what a pathetic preview, it's just for the sake of making people feel harassed and come here and fill out the thread with posts. i guess the publicity on the site is payed by the number of clicks or posts. oh well, it worked with me, i felt harassed and i couldn't resist and call the preview pathetic. Steve, please, come back, you are forgiven about your less pathetic previews. So, following the reasoning if in the federer's half he had donald duck, mickey mouse and goofy he wouldn't go to the final because it didn't feel right in a bodo mind...right...

Mathiew, Berdich and Monfils in clay beating Federer are even harder to imagine than Uncle Scrooge to give is money away...

I just see Djoko to beat Federer but i am not sure djoko will reach semi finals, so i guess we will have another Fedal final and maybe this time Bodo will have to write a new book for his pitty " new goat in town"

Posted by Ru-an 05/22/2009 at 05:45 PM

I get it, you guys are smart. You make a ridiculous prediction so that people read you stuff and come back to discuss. Pretty smart. Me on the other make predictions based on calculation. But since we are at it let me make one or two crazy predictions of my own. Federer will win the French Open and Montanes will lose third round to Murray. Nuff said.

Posted by sally 05/22/2009 at 05:47 PM

i was a huge fan of roger until he started tanking and choking away every match to nadal. nadal has proven he is the mentally tougher of the two who never gives up, ever. roger seems to give up as soon as it gets alittle rough out there, and it is very tiresome. but yes i would like to see roger win the french over nadal, he would just be returning the favour since rafa beat him at Wimbledon.

Posted by TennisFan2 05/22/2009 at 05:47 PM

Rafa could wear anything...that's why Nike pays him so much!!

Vamos Rafa - 5 RGs!!!!

Posted by Mike 05/22/2009 at 05:49 PM

I don't know ... would Fed get jacked up to beat Nole like was doing before the latter bowed out in MC, last year? ... or prior to the rain delay in Rome? ... or frazzle, ala post rain delay and Miami?

I'd like to think that if Fed indeed has his confidence ... and his serve, back ... he can take out Nole as he has in the past.

Posted by Mr.X 05/22/2009 at 05:54 PM

Reading some posts in this thread and in your call, seems that many of us here have similar picks from the QF onwards. I guess those could be called the "safe" picks, while Pete's are more risky.
However, looks that the standings in the TW group will be decided in the first rounds, or in the Fed-Djoko SF and the F, as we pretty much agree on everything else.
I wouldnt sat i stay away from anything pink. It's just that i'd rather wear other colors.

Posted by vetmama - RF FTW!!! (please?) 05/22/2009 at 05:57 PM

Mike, I think he's feeling great now and is drooling at the idea of getting Nole in the semis.

(Now watch him become unpredictable again and make me look like an @ss!)

Posted by Prakash 05/22/2009 at 05:59 PM

Wow!! I am joining the party a bit late here. Peter, I was really surprised and shocked with some of your picks. Don't get me wrong but I think some of the picks are absurd (e.g Paul H Mathieu). Let me cut to the chase. Yes I am hard-core Federer Fanatic Fan who is part of his elite Fan club. Here are my reasons why Federer would do much better than last year and the Finals between Federer and Nadal would be another epic Final.

Federer has gotten over with his back issues and look more confident and has picked up his confidence level further with a win against Nadal.

More Importantly Nadal looked nervous in both Fed and Djockvic matches so he does NOT think anymore that he is unbeatable.

Fed has faced all kinds of defeats by now and he has nothing to lose but will play aggressive and give tough times to those guys on the top anyway. So count me in for Fed and Nadal's finals. Nadal's knee is a BIG factor here guys. I don't think anyone denoted that in this whole thread. The hard physical game coupled with a slight nervousness has opened the door for Fed, Verdasco, DJockvic and a bit for Murray and Del Patro. I pray and strongly root for Fed this time. Let Fed gets the opportunity to get his unaccomplished French and reach the 14th. This is definitely a kicker for Fed with no pressure since he is not No.1 any ways. It is getting better and better as someone pointed out for him.

Posted by just horsen(1234, IT'S TIME FOR #5!) 05/22/2009 at 06:00 PM

here are my picks.

1st= Rafa
2nd=Murray(idon't really think he's got a remote chance but his draw doesn't look that difficult)
3rd= dJOKO
4TH= Fed

Semis=Rafa d. Murray 6-3 6-0, Djoko d. Fed in 3 sets

Final= Rafa d. Nole

Posted by juan vilas 05/22/2009 at 06:05 PM

...Pete...I'm sorry I judged you wrong in the're a master of provoking a solid response from fanatics, especially Nadal's and Roger's,...wonder if you are a tennis expert, a fine journalist, or both....ultimately you keep us reading and responding...sounds like a good game to me..


Posted by charles 05/22/2009 at 06:07 PM

Roland Garros – Preview - 2009
22 May 2009

Men’s Draw

First quarter
Rafael Nadal looms very large in this quarter. He always seems hungry at Roland Garros and he will likely sail through to the QF. Who might face him there is a bit less certain. There are 3 very good clay courters on the opposite side of this quarter, any of whom could be worthy of a SF if Nadal weren’t in their way. Davydenko and Wawrinka could produce an awesome clash in the 3rd round, and it is a shame that they have to meet so soon. Davydenko has been a little rusty since coming back from injury and his health continues to be in question. If he’s feeling good he should get by Wawrinka, only to face a surging Verdasco. Verdasco started to get hot at this time last year reaching the 4R at both RG and Wimbeldon. But he knocked down the gate and stormed into contender status with his defeat of Murray at the Australian followed by a 5-set SF thriller in which he narrowly lost to Nadal. Nadal has beaten him twice since then to take their head to head to 9-0. A fourth rounder between Verdasco and Davydenko or Wawrinka will be well-worth seeing. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how much of a dent (maybe a set?) Verdasco can make in Nadal’s armor.
Nadal def Verdasco

Second quarter
This is probably the weakest quarter in the men’s draw for producing a clear favourite. Andy Murray has had some good results on clay this year, but he’s still probably only 5th or 6th best behind Verdasco and Del Potro, or maybe even after Wawrinka and Monaco – it’s probably safe to consider him on the upper edge of the second echelon of clay-courters, behind the big 3. It wouldn’t be a stretch that he could get into trouble against Zverev in the 2R. The third and fourth rounds are seeded to bring up Lopez and Cilic, respectively, but neither has had their best results on clay. The likely QF opponent for Murray is Gonzalez. Safin and Simon are also in that section and, while both are dangerous on any given day, seem unlikely to sustain a run as far as a QF. Gonzalez’s big hard-hitting game has translated well on grass and hardcourt, but he is no stranger to clay, having reached the QF here twice. If Gonzalez keeps his head together, he could go deep.
Gonzalez def Murray

Third quarter
Djokovic is the top seed in this quarter. He has had probably his best clay season to date, losing only to Nadal in each of the clay 1000 series tournaments. The 3 match points he held against Nadal in Madrid have elevated that match to classic status – at least for this year. He should breeze through to the QF, with minimal resistance from 16th seed Robredo. Waiting for him there will likely be #5 seed Juan Martin Del Potro. JMDP has had some good results this year including wins over Nadal and Murray and twice over Wawrinka on clay. Although he is seeded to meet #9 seed Tsonga in 4R, Tsonga has shown virtually no clay-court cred. Other notables in this section include Andreev and Monaco, but expect JMDP to go through both of these. Not so against Djokovic, who has been rounding brilliantly into form.
Djokovic def Del Potro

Fourth quarter
Federer looks unstoppable in this quarter. His recent win over Nadal on clay has got to have given his confidence a boost. Hopefully it will not have made him complacent in the assumption that he will win. It was good to see a hungry Fed in Madrid, and if he maintains that attitude he should do well here. If he starts acting again like he’s entitled as he did in much of 2008 and early 2009, he could be in trouble. However, there is almost no reasonable opposition to him in this otherwise exceedingly weak quarter. Andy Roddick is seeded opposite him and given the weakness of the players around him, I could almost see Roddick making the QF. I could also see AR losing in the 2R to dedicated clay-courter Oscar Hernandez. The dangerous seed here is Gael Monfils who played a very close and entertaining SF here last year against Federer. Monfils health is in question and given the slightest provocation he seems likely to lose. Nevertheless Monfils’ draw looks decidedly unchallenging with the biggest challenge before the QF likely to come from Melzer or Roddick – neither of whom has been past 3R here. Trepidatiously, therefore I predict Monfils to limp through to the QF.
Federer def Monfils

SF 1
Gonzalez has got huge game, but harnessing it has always been a problem. Nadal on the other hand could give lessons in realizing potential. With Nadal’s insatiable hunger and clay history, he should blitz Gonzalez in straights.
Nadal def Gonzalez

SF 2
Until 2009, Federer has been the clear #2 on clay for the last several years behind Nadal. But this year, Djokovic had clearly usurped that position in the eyes of many with his successive finals in Monte Carlo and Rome, followed by the match points in the SF of Madrid. However the situation became less clear when Federer reasserted himself and shocked Nadal in straights at Madrid. Federer and Djokovic are almost equal favourites going into RG with the bookies. A semifinal between these two will be for bragging rights for #2 on clay. A loss for Federer could be devastating for his confidence going into Wimbledon. Djokovic is more likely to be able to shake off a SF loss without harming the trajectory of his still ascending career. That positive mental attitude could make the difference in this evenly-matched contest, even in the face of Federer’s monumental talent. It will depend more on Federer’s head space – whether he’s putting pressure on himself or playing freely. The burden is on Federer and he’s likely to feel it – turning 28 this year, how many more shots will he get at RG?
Djokovic def Federer

Which half of the draw Djokovic would end up in may well have determined the eventual winner of this tournament. There were many, myself included, who thought that Nadal might be vulnerable if he had to face Djokovic and Federer back to back, as he did in Madrid. The old one-two punch of the softener and the finisher. However with Novak and Roger likely to square off in the SF, Nadal should be strong enough to prevail against either. Djokovic has shown great clay court smarts this year and seems to be in a good head space. He could grab a set, but not likely much more.
Nadal def Djokovic.

Here are the odds from for the RG men’s winner from 20 May – average of all bookies reporting:

1 Nadal, R 1.31
2 Federer, R 7.34
3 Djokovic, N 8.71
4 Murray, A 15.32
5 Verdasco, F 29.26
6 Del Potro, JM 49.42
7 Davydenko, N 66.29
8 Ferrer, D 74.84
9 González, F 85.74
10 Gilles Monfils 101.00
11 Wawrinka, S 114.21
12 Tsonga, JW 129.89
13 Monfils, G 132.19
14 Almagro, N 145.89
15 Simon, G 148.00
16 Robredo, T 151.16
17 Monaco, J 163.35
18 Roddick, A 189.32
19 Andreev, I 205.11
20 Ferrero, JC 207.89

Posted by Tim (2009 Year of Red Rogie and Free Matt Zemek!) 05/22/2009 at 06:08 PM

wait is someone picking Monfils to get to the semis????

what am i missing> and Fed loses to...whom?

as sally said, this is a waste of time, the men's tournay on court wont have much drama at all, The Slugger wont lose

doesnt mean Madrid wasnt great fun and a delight to behold...

the best tennis story of all time would be Fed winning this at last, mght be too much of a fairy tale ending to hope for, alas...

Posted by vetmama - RF FTW!!! (please?) 05/22/2009 at 06:09 PM

I don't think Rafa has ever felt unbeatable, he's not that kind of player. And that's one of his strengths, because it drives him to constantly work in practice and fight in matches. It makes him even more dangerous.

Posted by charles 05/22/2009 at 06:12 PM

Roland Garros – Preview - 2009
22 May 2009

Women’s Draw

First quarter
It seems typical of women’s draws at the majors recently to have quarters heavily populated with favourites, and quarters that seem vacuous. This quarter has at least three possible champions in it. Many are calling this the most wide open women’s draw at RG in years, possibly decades. However, one player has slowly been establishing herself as the front-runner for this tournament, and that is the newly-crowned #1, Dinara Safina. Safina has looked very impressive with her wins in the last two top-level tournaments at Rome and Madrid. She was also runner-up here last year and at the Australian Open in Jan/Feb. She should sort her way through to the QF without too much difficulty – of course no match is to be taken for granted on the WTA these days and Pavlyuchenkova in 3R could be troublesome. On the other half of this quarter are the talented Viktoria Azarenka, last year’s champion Ana Ivanovic, and the volatile Carla Suarez Navarro. CSN has made two QFs in just her first 4 grand slam events, including her first one at last year’s RG. In the early betting, Azarenka was pretty much everyone’s dark horse pick for this tournament, however she has faltered during the clay court season and is no higher than 8th with the bookies. In the bookies’ 7th spot and holding the #8 seed is Ivanovic. Ivanovic clearly has talent but has not handled well the pressure of her win here last year or the pressure of the #1 ranking she acquired shortly afterward. She showed flashes of steadiness during a runner-up run at Indian Wells, but has not looked dependable since. Azarenka will want to show her collapse in Australia to Serena Williams is not indicative of her mettle, but her poor results on clay by no means make her a lock to get by Suarez Navarro. Rolling the dice, I pick Ivanovic to make it to the QF.
Safina def Ivanovic.

Second quarter
At first glance this quarter appears to be reasonably stocked with #3 seed Venus Williams, hot in 2009 Vera Zvonareva, former Australian and Wimbledon winner Amelie Mauresmo, #11 seed and perennial top-tenner Nadia Petrova, and the 3-time major champion, Maria Sharapova. However, the substance is likely much less than the apparition in this case. Zvonareva has had a spectacular 6 or 7 months, featuring a title at Indian Wells and a runner-up performance at the year-end championships. However she has been injured the last few months and whether she will even take the court remains in question. If she does play, it’s likely she will be rusty, nevertheless she cannot be written off completely. Mauresmo has been surging recently and surprised many with a SF showing in Madrid and a title in Feb. However she has never done well here and her recent results are unlikely to be sustained. Petrova had a hiccup of good results early in the year, but seems to be trending more up than down in general. Sharapova is, of course, massively talented and should never be counted out, however clay seems to be her weakest surface. After nearly 6 years of never missing a GS event, she has missed the last two because of injury and her form is very much in question for this event. She fallen below 100 in the official rankings, having not played since the Canadian last July. She has only 3 matches under her belt, all from this week, and looked strong in only one of those. She looks unlikely to be in a good place to make a run here, but with her talent and determination she should never be counted out. Given her current schedule of winning a new major every even-numbered year (Wim 2004, US 2006, Aus 2008) she isn’t ‘scheduled’ to do well here till next year. That leaves only Venus Williams. Venus had a very nice result in Rome, making the SF, but lost what looked like easy ones in Charleston and Madrid. She is currently defending 5 titles including the YEC and Wimbledon, with her run in Rome she looks most likely to make a run in this quarter. There are some other interesting floaters in this quarter like Lisicki, Szavay and ABondarenko, but these are unlikely to sustain much pace. I’m tempted to predict no one will win this quarter, and it may well come down to a default victory of sorts.
VWilliams def Sharapova

Third quarter
The apparent favourites in this quarter are the 4th and 5th seeds Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic, respectively. Dementieva started the year positively afire with back to back tournament victories and a SF at the Australian, but has only smouldered since. She has looked especially mediocre in the clay court season with her best being two middling results at Charleston and Stuttgart. She looked especially weak last week in Madrid. Jankovic started the year very poorly squandering the #1 ranking and falling all the way to #5 and looking plum to go further down should she perform below her SF here last year. However the over-strength-training that has been blamed for this plummet seems to be losing its effect and she has been steadily improving during the clay season, posting a title at Marbella and QFs at Rome and Madrid. The other possibly major factor in this quarter is the presence of Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki is defending no less than 4 titles and had an impressive performance in finishing runner-up in Madrid—albeit without beating a top 10 opponent. Wozniacki and Jankovic could stage an entertaining battle in the 4R, but I expect Jankovic to have the edge based on her improving form and greater experience against top opponents and in big events. Who the winner of that match might face seems an almost random guess, so by default,
Jankovic def Dementieva

Fourth quarter
Serena Williams is something of a bookie’s nightmare. She has looked totally out of sorts heading into RG with her last 4 matches charted as 4 straight losses and not a single win on clay. However it is perfectly conceivable that the 2002 champion could walk away at the end of this event with another title. She loves big events and she relishes the fight. But will she get fired up in time to get the herd charging to victory or will she go out in the first round to Zakopalova? Opposite her in this half of this quarter is Pennetta who made 4R here last year. At the top of the quarter is Svetlana Kuznetsova who had seemed mired ever deeper in self-doubt. After remaining titleless for two years, Kuznetsova stunned everyone, including herself it seems, with back to back final performances in Stuttgart and Rome, titling in Stuttgart, only to fall in the 1R of Madrid. Schnyder and A Radwanska are also in her section and could both easily make it to the QF. Schnyder is perennially strong on clay with a SF last week in Madrid and no less than seven 4R or better performances here, including the last 4 consecutive years and a QF last year. But Kuznetsova has lots of talent and with a little momentum carrying over from the last several weeks, should be able to scrap through.
Kuznetsova def Pennetta

SF 1
Safina has looked determined and uncompromising since gaining the #1 ranking. Venus has looked inconsistent. No doubt that Venus has talent, but Safina does too and seems to favour clay much more than Venus. Both women are former finalists here, but Safina looks to have a lot more desire right now, especially on clay.
Safina def VWilliams

SF 2
Will Jankovic finally realize the promise of the #1 ranking she held last year and triumph on the big stage? Had her form not looked so questionable for the first half of this year, I would think her chance to make the final quite good, but against the talented Kuznetsova and facing the pressure of her own expectations I expect her to come up short. Kuznetsova, on the other hand, probably won’t start feeling the pressure until the final.
Kuznetsova def Jankovic

If these two make it this far, it would be the third time Safina and Kuznetsova face each other in the final in this clay court season, with one win apiece going in. At first blush I would favour neither of these women to play for my life in a major final, the way you might put your stake on Serena Williams. Kuznetsova as one major under belt the US in 2004, but she was young then and has looked unreliable ever since. Safina has already played and lost two major finals. I don’t think a woman has ever won a first GS title while seeded #1. Could Safina be the first? She’s the bookies’ favourite and mine too.
Safina def Kuznetsova

Here are the odds from for the RG women’s winner from 20 May – average of all bookies reporting:

1 Safina, D 4.74
2 Jankovic, J 7.75
3 Kuznetsova, S 8.02
4 Williams, S 8.22
5 Dementieva, E 11.29
6 Williams, V 12.29
7 Ivanovic, A 12.41
8 Azarenka, V 13.35
9 Zvonareva, V 18.82
10 Wozniacki, C 19.29
11 Sharapova, M 24.38
12 Mauresmo, A 30.35
13 Lisicki, S 35.59
14 Radwanska, A 53.38
15 Pennetta, F 68.69
16 Suarez Navarro, C 70.38
17 Petrova, N 79.18
18 Cornet, A 79.71
19 Li, Na 82.20
20 Cibulková, D 86.67

Posted by Andrea 05/22/2009 at 06:14 PM

mathieu and monfils over fed? you have to be joking....

i think nadal has the easiest draw of all, but here's hoping verdasco can do more against nadal this year than last year.

berdych doesn't have the mental fortitude over 5 sets to close out roger....witness the AO this year.

my prediction, if both rog and nadal make it to the final this will go five sets and somehow it will go fed's way. if neither make it to the final, it's a crap shoot.

Posted by Prakash 05/22/2009 at 06:15 PM

vetmama, I agree that he has no limits for improvement but I am sure in clay he has that feeling in him, which I am not saying is bad or anything. This time the pressure is more on Nadal than anyone else (reaching 5th is more pressure for Nadal than Fed reaching french and 14th I think)

I see that very few is counting on Fed to even reach Semi's but with all the recent development I see a fair chance for him this time than the previous years due to mere pressure of being on the top. That is a one big factor that is different here

Fed playing bit smarter in clay this time with improved backhand and serve after his back getting better definitely gives him much more confidence

Posted by Tfactor 05/22/2009 at 06:16 PM

It makes him even more dangerous"

I quite agree Vetmama, it's why I thought the defeat in Madrid wasn't necessarily a terrible thing for him.

On Rafa's outfit, at first I was shocked. Today I set up that same pic (posted here) as my desktop background (to see if I can get used to it before RG starts) and was surprised by the amount of positive responses from people coming in my office (both male and females, tennis fans and non tennis fans alike)

Posted by Corrie (not Carrie or Cory) 05/22/2009 at 06:27 PM

What's with the letter "m"? Monfils, Mathieiu, Montanes?? Since when have the last two ever done anything in a GS? And as it has been said ad nauseum, Monfils is injured. But even if he wasn't, since he didn't beat Fed last year, why would he this year?
There's only one "m" of quality, and that's Murray, who may or may not go far.

Posted by plainsong 05/22/2009 at 06:29 PM

Pink will do :)

From Bryanbros twitter:
'Putting the finishing touches on a pack job. Catching the Eurostar train to Paris in the morn and grabbing an afternoon hit at Roland Garros'
The Eurostar train gets more interesting minute after minute.

Posted by Octennis 05/22/2009 at 06:32 PM

Thanks for all the links and info everyone.

I saw the pink outfit nadal was sporting and i thought it looked fine. I actually liked it better than his mostly yellow outfit.

I think the excitement is building for this french open and i hope that it does not dissapoint.

I love all the different points of view and predictions on this thread.

Posted by Monisha 05/22/2009 at 06:47 PM

I don't think Roger will lose before SF at any cost-it is a grand Slam after all-we have seen his consistency in Grand Slams even when he does not play anywhere close to his best,so lots of guts for the prediction

Posted by Jimbo 05/22/2009 at 06:49 PM

As a heterosexual male, I am strangely taken by Rafa's outfit. It looks good, dynamic.

Posted by Fot 05/22/2009 at 06:50 PM

I love the fact that not many of the 'experts' are picking Roger to get even to the SF! Heck, Roger can just play this tournament relaxed and enjoy himself on the court. No one expects him to win it anyway... (kind of like no one expected him to win Madrid either)... So I'm thankful (as a Federer fan) that all the pressure is on Nadal to continue his winning streak and on Djokovic to get to the finals. I can just sit back and relax...

Thanks Peter and all the other experts for not picking Roger.

Posted by Prakash 05/22/2009 at 06:56 PM

Thx Fot. I am on the same boat as you.

Posted by Mike 05/22/2009 at 07:13 PM

I think (and hope) so, too, vetmama ... I just don't want to put the horns on him. ;)

Posted by cysportsgirl 05/22/2009 at 07:33 PM

i think rafa may lose the 1st set to verdasco but rally back to win in 4. gonzo will defeat murray and could provide an interesting semi for rafa. while i think rafa will ultimately win, this could be a bruiser...

djoko vs fed...we will have to see which fed shows up. i really think djoko should take it, but if roger feels the clock ticking--his age//his desperation not to slip any farther, he may show up for a beauty...this is the seminal match to watch

provided rafa makes it to the final, he will be the clear and easy winner....

Vamos Rafa...And I LOVE LOVE LOVE the hot pink. i think it looks amazing on him. i didn't mind the AO look, but the pale Easter egg he has been wearing during clay courts wasn't my favorite. while i don't think nike is going to have huge commercial success with others buying the hot pink, i think it might be my favorite look since he stopped wearing sleeveless...

Posted by malimeda 05/22/2009 at 07:34 PM

Interesting thoughts and images collected by the French journos at today's RG pressers, right after the draw ceremony. Seems Nole is pleased with his draw and thankful to Ana who did it:

My translation of some tidbits:

Serena answers to questions with two words apiece; finally, she has "no more time, has to go to the hairdresser".

Mauresmo is relaxed and takes her time with press, radio & TV; "Unlike 2 previous years, when I came with no confidence and no benchmarks, it's better now."

Nadal: "I have more control of the ball here than in Madrid. It feels as if the ball stays longer on the racquet. I'd say, it's easier to control it here." He practiced on Chatrier at midday, just before Ana Ivanovic. Novak Djokovic passes by the stands and hollers mightily 'I love you Ana', then proceeds to the press room. Though he lost to Rafa in their last match, it was one of his best on clay ever, each one this season was better than the last and he feels "proud of myself and my progress".

Posted by NP 05/22/2009 at 07:42 PM

Amazing how some people can get so worked up over a freakin' sport. Folks, it's just a game. Don't you have better things to do than to grouse just 'cause your fave didn't get all the respek U want? Seriously.

Posted by Nam1 05/22/2009 at 07:45 PM

I love the hot pink, Rafa looks good in anything but that pink, wow..lots of drooling women!

You go,Rafa, crush them all wearing pink!!


Posted by Mr.X 05/22/2009 at 07:52 PM

Maybe Nole was being a little bit ironic to Ana after she drew that not-so-easy draw for him? I could see that happening if they are good friends.
NP, word, man. So much word. Some perspective would be nice at times.
Time for me to get some sleep.
See you tomorrow, everyone.

Posted by NP 05/22/2009 at 07:57 PM

Mr.X, I don't mind people expressing their displeasure. But reading some of the comments here one would be forgiven to think Pete had spit on a holy relic or something. Anyhoo have a good one.

Posted by malimeda 05/22/2009 at 07:59 PM

Actually, there's a simple cultural reference for this hot pink/magenta combined with yellow - these are the colours of a genuine Spanish matador's cape.

Compare this:

To this (Davis Cup SF Spain vs. US; Armada at the bullring being presented with capes before the tie last year):

Posted by Moderator 05/22/2009 at 08:00 PM

As some posters pointed out, imitating players is out of bounds, joke or not. Those posts have been deleted.

Posted by imjimmy 05/22/2009 at 08:03 PM

People let's bury the hatchet, and remember the good old days. Here's two masters playing a high quality tennis match: 1996 ATP tour finals Becker vs Pistol Pete

Sorry for being OT - just trying to ease some nerves here :)

Posted by NP 05/22/2009 at 08:07 PM

imjimmy, I've linked to the '96 YEC highlights a few times before. If you wanna discuss I'll be on either today's YC or DC.

Posted by mina (Rafa FTW) 05/22/2009 at 08:12 PM

omg. i dont know which one to comment on first. the montanes/monfils or matheiu picks or the completely ridic pink outfit. on red clay. eeek!

i'll stick my neck out and say the montanes/monfils/matheiu picks wont materialise. and that Fed will get to at least the semis. come on, the dude just got a boost by winning Madrid...he should never, ever be counted out considering his resume...

oh and the pink outfit will make many a fangirls' eyes hurt... but y'all know we'll still be watching :) pink on red clay cant stop those are keen on staring LOL

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeeee!) 05/22/2009 at 08:12 PM

. . . "proud of myself and my progress"

Good to hear this from Nole.

Interesting re: the similarity b/t the colors of Rafa's current kit and the 'traje de luces.' Hadn't thought about it that way, but I like the imagery, esp. with the clay court.

Posted by malimeda 05/22/2009 at 08:18 PM

What's more, a matador wears pink socks as well, to go with the cape:

BTW, a smaller red cape is used as well, to conceal the sword in the end.

Posted by Ayan 05/22/2009 at 08:20 PM

Bodo - start writing critically and logically for a change - just do not write garbage to sell your articles!!!

"I just don’t see Federer making another final at Roland Garros; the use-by date on his chances has expired."

This prediction has been based upon three assumptions, out of which the third does not make any sense!!
"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."
Nadal does not meet Roger before the finals, so his "extra-motivation" can in no way affect Federer's rise to the final, but can just affect the outcome of the final!!

DO you people even review whatever it is that you write??

Posted by Ade 05/22/2009 at 08:30 PM


In ignoring my post with Steve, saying let the chips fall where they may....I still see a Fed / Nadal final with Fed wanting it so badly, that I believe he will win it! If my predictions are so far out there, than I will be hoping "in my dreams" then...

The reason I am saying this is because this may be the last year Roger has to do it. The time line may give him the drive to take it to another level to win it. It reminds me of the hunger Nadal showed at Wimbldon last year. Fighting to the bitter end to get a trophy different from a French one. Roger is so very hungry for a French Open title. It would possibly declare him the GOAT and tie the Sampras record. Then winning Wimby would validate his place in history. G-O-A-T.....Beware, he just may muster up what ever it takes to win this one.

I'm reminded how great Fed is because when I see his stats on grand slams next to Rafa's, I just keep counting 7,8,9,10,11,12,13.....WOW. Just incredible. I realize the age difference but I can't see Rafa even coming close. With that said, I can't and I won't ever take Roger out of any equation, no way!!

I believe we are going to see a new Roland Garros champion this year.

Posted by arbi 05/22/2009 at 08:36 PM

I have a feeling that Nadal is not going to win it this time. I don't know but tennis gods usually have a way of trying to shake things up when they get boring, by throwing in a shocker every now and then. Last year it was for Federer at Wimbledon, this year it might be the turn of Nadal at Roland Garros.
Pretty weak argument I know, but as a matter of fact Nadal certainly hasn't played as well as he did last year this clay season. Yes, he did win the same amount of titles but he didn't do it as convincingly as last year when he was practically destroying everyone. He was helped by the fact that nobody was playing decent enough this clay season, except for Djokovic who came so close at beating him in a couple of occasions, while Federer did beat him even though not playing his very best.
To me it looks like by developing his game to suit the fast surfaces and becoming a great player in them Nadal's clay game is paying a bit of a price. He's doing much more errors than in the past because he's playing closer to the baseline and going for winners more often. That's not necessarily a bad thing but it's not his natural clay game that made him invincible. Of course I'm only talking about a very slight difference but that can be enough to get him into trouble. But what's more worrisome is that it looks like he is less energetic and tires quicker this time around.
And he got the kind of a draw that isn't going to help him much about it. He did avoid Djokovic, but as a compensation he got the worst he could get as opponents in Ferrer and Verdasco for his 4th round and quarters. Will they be able to bit him? Of course not, but I do believe they can give him a good fight and make it relatively close enough to tire him out for the finals.
And with that said, we Fed fans can keep our dream alive that this time around it might actually happen for him.
Go Roger, French Open Winner 2009!

Posted by Ross 05/22/2009 at 08:48 PM

"I hate writing previews." Peter Bodo
And he rarely does. But after his Madrid prophecy, he may feel he's missed his calling.

It's just a conversation starter, folks; more fun than picking 1 through 4 to make the semis, and #1 to win it.

Posted by CPM 05/22/2009 at 09:00 PM

I see I wasn't far off in timing the onset of the Fedophiles. Well, good on ya, I say--"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen." That's how fans should act, imho.

Plus, I've come to enjoy the ritual dejection when Nadal tramples those hopes & that conviction underfoot. It's a sign of nature's renewal, like the migration of birds back north.

Posted by frances 05/22/2009 at 09:07 PM

AVA - stop feeling weirrd about Fed winning!! you might make it happen- hhehhee now that nadal has done so well this year and you're acutally starting to doubt my friend:P don't entertain bad thoughts! STAY POSITIVE -- rafa needs all the fans he can get.


Posted by vetmama - RF FTW!!! (please?) 05/22/2009 at 09:44 PM

"Plus, I've come to enjoy the ritual dejection when Nadal tramples those hopes & that conviction underfoot."

CPM, don't be a ghoul!

Yeah, everyone should be 80% sure that Nadal will win the whole banana at RG.
I laughed when I heard Roger say at the beginning of Madrid, "I'd love to win the title here", and I'm a big fan. And I was shocked by the result.

The French Open is completely different from Madrid: different surface, number of sets, atmosphere, meaning, yadayadayada.

But you never know. There's always that 20% of uncertainty...:)

Posted by ladyjulia 05/22/2009 at 09:50 PM

Pete felt he missed his calling after previewing Madrid?

What if Pete;s power of prediction only works when he has Fed winning?

We will find out in 2 weeks...

Posted by great gams 05/22/2009 at 09:52 PM

i think the analogy with Martina and Chrissie is a good one. the last 18 months are similar to the changing of the guard period in which Navratilova passed Evert. Evert, who seemed unbeatable and destined for GOAT status suddenly couldn't even dent her rival. eventually she found a way to beat Martina now and again, and beat her in some important finals but Navratilova generally had the edge. i suspect it'll be that way for Nadal over Federer.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/22/2009 at 09:53 PM

Nadal's got to lose sometime at FO..

as they said at Wimby "All great streaks have to come to an end sometime".

However, I don't think this is the year. Next year when he is going for his 6th straight FO, will rain, the final will be prolonged and 5 sets and fittingly Federer will defeat Nadal by 2 games.

I have too much imagination for my own good.

Posted by tennisrab 05/22/2009 at 10:03 PM

Monfils or PHM in the semis? That's a joke right? Predicting this shows that you have little respect for Roger Federer, a great champion who just so happens to be on a streak of 19 Grand Slam semis in a row. If one were to solely look at the Grand Slam results of the past 5 years, one would aptly notice that Federer has dominated the Slams with a little help from Nadal. Many often forget that an opponent of Federer must win 3 sets in a match to beat him in a Grand Slam. Now, neither you nor I are professional tennis players who have had the honor of experiencing Federer's mastery first-hand, however, I would tend to think that winning three sets off Federer is a much more daunting task than winning two (see Berdych v. Federer, 2009 Australian Open). Until he loses before the semis of a major, it shows great disrespect towards Federer to simply count him out and bet on the likes of an injured Monfils and/or a PHM with recently unspectacular results to defeat him. In a Major. On clay (Yes, many forget Federer grew up on clay). When he has proven to be the second best player on clay for the past 4 years (Sampras never was). When he has a chance to equal Pete Sampras' record. When he has beaten Nadal a week before. When he has a chance to, once and for all, be proclaimed by all as the greatest player of all time. Though by sheer accomplishmet alone, he already is (See his wikipedia article).

Posted by Nam1 05/22/2009 at 10:41 PM

Here's a great article for those interested in Rafa, pink and fashion or all of the above.

Beware Rafanatics, these Rafa pics are only for the strong of heart.

Posted by Joe 05/22/2009 at 11:01 PM

Looking the TV Schedule, I can't believe that they are not going to show any match after 6 pm, just the semis on friday 25, so what about worker people like me 9 to 6?? very unfair

Posted by just a note 05/22/2009 at 11:04 PM

Liked the picture of Rafa in this article - black and white:

Posted by Rogerfedfan 05/22/2009 at 11:13 PM

Pete Bodo, I just read your feature and kin of disgusted about it and disappointed in you. I have always read your comments but I can now completely say that your hatred and jealousy for Roger has been building up for a long time now. You never say anything good about him, You are obviously a Nadal fan and as a fortune teller, you have already predicted that Nadal will win and Roger will not get to the finals. Well, I can't wait to laugh at you and have you humiliated with your stupid prediction when Roger makes it to the finals and by the grace of God, win that coveted title and to your utmost dismay, Nadal will not make it to the final this year let alone win it. This is my prediction, let's see who wins at the end of the day.

Posted by C.F. 05/22/2009 at 11:17 PM

I must admit, I'm starting to love Pete's predictions. They're so bold they seem crazy, but after some passionate comments they generated... ouch, if either the Montanes one or the PHM d. Fed comes to pass... we'll deserve a HUGE "I told you so" from our host here at TW.

Who knows. What we are taking as bizarre right now, may end up being brilliant after the next two weeks.

Posted by d'alba 05/22/2009 at 11:18 PM

"... Enough already, Rafa, you made your point. Let’s get Roger out of there and give somebody else a chance...."

Pete, your post is alarmingly unfair, and your pick is a vision that I simply do not share. As stated by another reader, "your almost pathological dislike of Federer" is finally coming to surface.

Yes I concur, a Nadal vs Federer final in 2009 after 3 consecutive Federer vs Nadal at the french open is not appealing. But the reason why it is not appealing is not because Nadal made his point denying for ever that trophy to Federer. No, the reason why it is not appealing to me starts with the very actual fact that Nadal is suffering from OCD.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is surprisingly common and affects about two or three people out of every 100. Many tennis players suffer from this disease, to a certain degree (a brilliant example is Ivan Lendl). But the one who is #1 in showing signs of severe OCD is Rafael Nadal, to the point that actually it is becoming embarrassing.

Yes, Nadal is a great champion, but I simply don't like his game, even if I respect his phenomenal fighting spirit, and his tennis skills which are just superb.
To see him pitch his anus every 30 sec or so, his mimics during serve, his hideous gruntings, his maniac prematch preparations, his constant attempts to slow the game, his obvious violation of the 25 sec rule, etc etc... the list is so long ... I am in no mood to talk about it in length...
On the other hand, Roger has is stubbornness, his magical touch, his dancing tennis. Yes he is a dandy, and yes being #1 for so long and having to give that many interviews has rendered him a bit "boring". But what a magnificent player he is.
Furthermore, Roger on clay has a fantastic record, on not only because he is the only player who has beated Nadal 2 times on this surface.
To deny Roger the right to attempt another final, just because you dislike him, and to avoid a Nadal vs Federer final is simply unfair.
If it is just the combination of those two names that you want to avoid, then pick another name on the upper draw.

My prediction: final Verdasco vs Federer (winner: the best of the two)

Posted by Syd 05/22/2009 at 11:25 PM

Final Four includes Mathieu? And he goes through Federer to get there?

LOL! Er, I want some of that stuff you're smoking Pete. :)

Posted by Joe 05/22/2009 at 11:33 PM

Calm down Rogerfedfan, usually Peter talk very good about Federer, but RG is something else, if you still keep the idea that Roger can win because Madrid, just one tournament in almost one year, I don't think so, his time is gone

Posted by yoyo 05/22/2009 at 11:37 PM

fed will make it into the semifinals.

Posted by susan 05/22/2009 at 11:37 PM

CNN sports guy just said following a short French Open report: "No disrespect to Nadal, but I would love Roger to win it." Feels right to him, Pete.

Posted by Syd 05/22/2009 at 11:42 PM

d'alba; Word.

Posted by shawn 05/23/2009 at 12:07 AM

ill literally eat my shorts if fed doesnt make the semis and montanes makes the semis. bodo could at least try to get the picks right for the semis.

Posted by Joe 05/23/2009 at 12:11 AM

And I'm in no mood neither to argue about the "taste" who is better player or about bad critics about Nadal, it would be to waste my wonderful time.
Nadal is NUMBER 1 in the world, the best player on clay, great human been, he is going to break Borg record and to bite his fifth trophy RG at 22 years old, and not just because his "fighting spirit". To be a Champion and number 1 in the world he needs to have a great game, that is exactly he has, GREAT GAME, GREAT HEAD, GREAT ARMS, GREAT LEGS, GREAT TOUCH.
Otherwise, if he is not so good, then Federer (number 2) is worse
Why some of the Federer fans like to insult to not just to the person that talk good about Nadal, also to Nadal. Very pathetic

Posted by susan 05/23/2009 at 12:53 AM

"Real men do wear pink, baby blue, and (sorry, forgot the other color)" but just not all over, according to male fashion stylist on NBC Miami website.

SEE this video from Miami NBC news site:

hilarious on some levels.

Last line from the stylist: "bottom line, it's not what you wear, but how you wear it. confidence....."

(he ruled out capris with a big X and a buzzer).

Posted by susan 05/23/2009 at 01:10 AM

Re: previous post. The presenter is also a model. He said 'pink, baby blue and lavender, but not from top to bottom".

also ended with: "Confidence is everything."

I love the pink Rafa. By the way, what a bummer of an article for any Fed fan to read. I admire Nole (smart guy), but who bore the responsibility of being Tennis Ambassador for four or five years while maintaining his dominance on the court? geezz

Pete, you contrasted Rafa's and Roger's press conferences last year around august or sept, saying that rafa's were a joy and that roger's were long italicized bureaucratic name, very similar to above article (in other words, dull and boring). But Nole is serious and responsible. hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

oh well may the best player win...

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war 05/23/2009 at 01:49 AM

Hey everyone. :)

*scared to jump in to thread in case do not give Federer enough respect and am lynched*

So starting with the shallow stuff - I really like Rafa's outfit, that pink and gunmetal grey combination is...mmm. MMM.

The Real Men Don't Wear Pink strain in some comments is interestingly reactionary.

I'm not very good at draw analysing, but I don't see Murray reaching the SF - not this year. I'm surprised at how many people are tipping Tsonga for a good run - his clay record is not good, and then there might be Mauresmo disease.

I expect Rafa to be in the final, despite him looking "beatable" on clay. For God's sake, the man just won three out of four clay events and made the final of the fourth, where he lost to Federer - that's a pretty good record, no? What else does he have to do? LOL. He had a few matches last year where he looked beatable, too. And I'm sure he doesn't take anything for granted or think he is unbeatable - he knows every match has to be actively won.

My feeling is that Federer will make it through - purely because I want a classic Fedal final, I guess. :) I think he'll have tough matches, like Andreev at USO and Berdych at AO - but, it being a Slam, and Slam magic working on Feddy - I think he'll come through to the SF. If Djokovic gets there and is on form, that could be an absolute classic, and it really wouldn't be surprising if Nole won.

I don't think Pete is outlandishly far out with the Ms, either - certainly any of them could give Federer a properly tough match. But to me there is still a difference between Masters and Slams - and I don't think Feddy will lose concentration so easily at the FO - and if he does, I think he'll fight through to win.

I still think he'll have some pressure, too - it's not like he's ever been the favourite at RG, not even in 2005 - and it's got to be the ultimate prize for him.

*hopes for WTA preview, despite your preview hate, Pete*

Posted by btill0 05/23/2009 at 02:19 AM

Verdasco will beat Nadal because he always plays him tough and finally wants to make a splash, not just have a "good" loss.

Posted by btill0 05/23/2009 at 02:21 AM

Of course, Federer will beat Verdasco in the final. No problem there.

Posted by Mike T 05/23/2009 at 02:45 AM

Bodo’s poor piece was probably meant to generate cheap controversy to draw in Federer fans. Another anti-Federer sports writer rationally exploiting the Federer name for profit.

Bodo would have discounted Federer’s post Australian Open record had he checked his buddy Sampras’ record (several times in his career, Pistol Pete was unable to win any title in five to eight tournaments in a row). Steffi Graf had a slump of one Slam a year for three years in the middle of her 22-Slam career. You can’t jump to conclusions about the Tennis Greats. But I digress.

You can’t disregard the fact that Federer is probably one of the top five to ten clay courters in tennis history. Federer has dropped a total of only five sets in the French Open over the four years from 2005 to 2008 (three of those sets were lost in 2008 when he was playing catch up due to his mononucleosis illness). I believe that Federer even spent less total playing time on the Roland Garros courts than Nadal, except in 2008. While Bodo dreams that Federer will lose in his quarter, I expect Federer to reach the French Open final again, without dropping more than two sets. Even if he meets Djokovic. Federer will likely straight set Mathieu and Berdych on clay, as well as the injured Monfils because he’ll want to conserve his energy for his semifinal and final. When Federer has tough Grand Slam draws, it forces him to focus.

It would not surprise me if Djokovic falls to Ferrero, Andreev, Tsonga or del Potro. Otherwise, I consider Federer the favourite in any Grand Slam match with Djokovic (who has been in Federer’s half of the draw in five of the last six GS, including the last four in a row). Federer is 2-1 against Djokovic on clay. Fed should have won their Rome match given his leads in the final two sets had he not imploded without Djokovic doing anything super special. And as if Djokovic and Nadal haven’t imploded themselves in other matches. Djokovic’s game on clay is better suited for Nadal than it is for Federer – thus, Djokovic probably has a better chance of beating Nadal than Federer.

Now for the final. So what if Roland Garros plays slower than Madrid? Federer has beaten Nadal on both ends of the clay spectrum – slow Hamburg and fast Madrid. Federer is a different creature in the Slams than he is in “recent tournaments.” Nadal is ripe for his first loss at Roland Garros. Like Borg and Max Decugis before him, Nadal will have to lose some time. The pressure of winning five FOs in a row to break Borg’s record will put extra pressure on him. For the first time we’ll see Nadal playing with something big to lose this year (like the chance Fed had last year to break Borg’s Wimbledon record). What happened when Nadal became number one last August – he tightened up and couldn’t win a tournament for five months.

Hmmm. The final might not even feature Nadal this year. Perhaps Nadal will lose sets or the match to Wawrinka, Ferrer, Davydenko, Hewitt, Verdasco, Simon, Murray, Gonzalez, Youzhny, Querrey, Kiefer, Gulbis, Almagro, Stepanek, Safin in his half. The unthinkable happens.

Federer humbled Nadal in Madrid. He was the better player. This straight-set win on Madrid's sandy hard clay (good for Nadal’s topspin) – in Nadal’s favourite city backed by partisan Spanish crowd – is more significant for Federer than his beating Nadal on Hamburg’s slow clay two years ago. Unlike Nadal’s sluggish and tentative start against Djokovic, the Spaniard came out ready to play against Federer. But Federer surprised him and eventually the Spaniard’s game broke down. Roger moved his best on clay. His serving in the clutch was back. His high backhand more than held up to Nadal’s topspin attack -- that took away Nadal’s key tactic. Federer employed a good gameplan, and his aggression and unpredictability kept Nadal guessing. For the first time since 2007, the zen-like calmness of Federer in the clutch was on his face again. The Mighty Federer is back.

The Madrid match reminded me of the Shanghai Tennis Masters Cup, semifinal Nov 2007, where the swashbuckling Roger creamed Rafa 6-4, 6-1 in only 59 minutes (see link).

Federer ended 2007 with a 3-2 match record over Rafa on all surfaces. It looked like the rivalry would be dominated by Federer going forward, until mononucleosis struck one month later and threatened to derail Federer’s game as it did to Ancic. Federer's trainer Pierre Paganini said of the impact of the mono: "Roger finds himself forced to restart his physical training from scratch and live his life as a professional player at the same time." Has any tennis writer bothered to consult a top sports doctor about the impact the mono probably had on Federer’s performance in 2008 and beyond?

When Federer wins his first French Open title this year, will Bodo and his colleagues eat crow and apologize to Federer for their biased analysis?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/23/2009 at 03:15 AM

Mike T - Rafa was getting closer to Roger year by year at Wimbledon, mono be damned, frankly - Djokovic was improving too. I'm not saying it didn't have an effect, but I don't think you can ascribe all Fed's ills to mono. He looked pretty fit to me at Wimbledon last year - AND all through the clay season, with SFs and finals all the way, no?

As far as I remember Djokovic has beaten Feddy twice on clay. *off to check H2H*

As for Rafa tightening up after becoming #1 - Olympics, USO SF where he lost in four sets to an on-fire Murray, Madrid SF, losing a tight match to in-form Simon, injury for the rest of the season which kept him out of Paris and YEC, then the AO warm-ups - I think SF and QF for those - then winning the AO as no. 1 seed, and IW. I wouldn't call that tightening up.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/23/2009 at 03:19 AM

Clearly my memory is rubbish. :)

Posted by Aphie 05/23/2009 at 03:22 AM

With all due respect, mr Bodo; is it April Fools' Day in your universe?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa and JJ for FO Champions 2009!!! 05/23/2009 at 04:45 AM

...just realised the Olympics was before Rafa became official #1. Ignore me. ;-)

Note to self: do not attempt defence of Rafa when annoyed. LOL.

Posted by Or 05/23/2009 at 05:11 AM

I'm pretty sure Pete doesn't think PHM is going to defeat Roger, we're talking about one of the least mentally solid men on tour, and he hasn't done anything this season.

He's just saying this to rile us Fed kads, all good. I would have felt worse had he chosen Djokovic to beat Roger in the semis.

Posted by Cotton Jack (Rafa @ RG, Roger @ Wimbledon, The Frowning Scotsman @ USOpen, that'll be all God, thank you) 05/23/2009 at 05:27 AM

I wish the average pro-Rafa post was as thoughtful and detailed as Mike T's pro-Roger post above. Very enjoyable. Mind you, I wish the average pro-Roger post was as good as Mike T's, too. When I finally get to read a thoughtful anti-Murray post I'll probably choke on my toast.

Posted by Buy Avodart 05/23/2009 at 05:48 AM

Are you suffering from benign prostate hypertrophy? Then don’t worry because Avodart has brought for you a complete solution for this. With the use of this you can heal your enlarged prostate problem.

Posted by Rosangel 05/23/2009 at 05:54 AM

Considering that Pete has written more articles about Federer than any other player in recent times, and that quite a few of them (including this week's) were well-liked by many Federer fans, the irony of his being accused of lack of respect, or of having an "almost pathological dislike of Federer" is overwhelming:) They're only predictions, after all. Not an exhortation to burn him at the stake.

Posted by Llednar 05/23/2009 at 06:05 AM

So much is made of Djokovic. In Madrid, he failed to beat Nadal because he tried playing exactly like Nadal. If you're going to run around for hours on a tennis court trying to outplay Nadal in that fashion you'll more than likely lose, because there's no one in the ATP circuit who is better at playing Nadal's game than Nadal. If you expect Djokovic to beat Nadal in a best of a 5 set match, employing the same game plan on the slower RG surface, you are dreaming. There is only one person with the potential for the needed consistency, tactics and shot making that can challenge a Nadal on this slower surface, and we all know who he is.

Posted by marie j vamos rafa en 2009 ! 05/23/2009 at 06:10 AM

hello my dear pete ! and waves everybody !

how in hell phm with not even a willingness to change his game in years to simply move a little more forward on his fh/bh or monfils, not even fit for an exhib and lacking of training can beat fed ???

pete, you definitely amused me to no end with your picks, not to mention montanes !
yes fed doesn't look at his peak on clay, but he's still one of the guys to beat, and beating fed these days isn't really for the likes of phm or monfils yet... fed who wasn't playing his best last year did not lose to monfils who was at the best he could have been in a slam. fed lost to djoko and stan, worthy guys on clay, no ?

the only explanation i see, is that you just lost an easy bet with your collegues at the mag, and they made you write the most "improbable" picks you could ever take on RG ! LOL

anyway, making predictions can be a lot of fun, and it should be just a funny thing to do it in light mood, some guys, girls here are taking it too seriously ? pete dislikes fed for no picking him in a final ? waouuuu

fed, djoko and rafa will reach the semis if they play their normal level, who will be the 4th guy this year ??? murray has still better chance than say safin, simon or lopez... but if i had to pull the most improbable pick fo that one i'll choose gaudio, but honestlly the guys with more chances right now on paper are gonzo or murray...

when someone gets snapped a streak 4 or 5 is allways a critical number... fed and borg lost their 5 streak year it at wimb, for sampras, it was at 4, in fact so few players manage to win more than 3 strait tittles.
here is the list of consecutive winners of 3, 4 or 5 slam tittles : borg 4RG and 5Wimb, fed 5 wimb and still alive after 5 US, lendl 3US, Jmac 3US, sampras 3 and 4wimb, all the greatest others never could win more than 2 strait consecutive slam like courrier, agassi, becker, rafter, connors edberg or laver...

so for me rafa and fed are on another league for that matter, beating them at slams isn't for anyone.

but i would love to see djoko playing the final against rafa, it's the first year he can have more chances to reach the final, even if he needs to beat fed in the semis, which he possibly can and he'll have big motivation to do it.

sorry for the long post and enjoy RG !!

Posted by Samantha Elin(supporter of all things Scandinavian) 05/23/2009 at 07:00 AM

Hej alla, I've been searching for a schedule for tomorrrows matches. Can't find it. I would appreciate if anyone can tell me what times Caro, Venus, Serena and hott mess match are scheduled for? Thanks.

Posted by thebigapple 05/23/2009 at 07:11 AM

(1) Good article, the writing was very assertive and gave a sense of forward propulsion.
(2) Fed is a old geezer now and has not played well for a while. One sparrow does not a summer make, his Madrid breakthru was heartwarming but do not expect the same in Paris. He has not been playing consistently well.
(3) I will be shocked if Rog won. This is Nadal's to lose.
(4) However, if Roger soes win, I will problably get drunk or close to it. It would be an early Christmas in my house. The drunkeness will come from toasts to/with my following friends: (i)JL who played tennis competitively but who has been unable to watch the sport live since Wimby 08 and who takes a long run every he checks the Internet for the result and see Fed has lost; (ii) IW a weekend hacker who responded with a string of expletives mixed in with Nadal's name when I suggested we go to French or Wimby this year. May not go the US Open either although it is so close to home; (iii) M who missed Wimby 08 because of church but cried when she heard and then watched the match and cried again. For these three, I know TMF's game is an artform and for them in particular, I hope Roger rocks Paris.

Posted by Alex 05/23/2009 at 07:14 AM

Hey Peter, you are without doubt Nadal's biggest fan, this has made you lose some objectivity. Federer in a grand slam is a completely different prospect. This is not the first time you've been wrong and not the last either!

Posted by lottis 05/23/2009 at 07:20 AM

Here is tomorrow’s schedule

Posted by lilscot 05/23/2009 at 07:47 AM

So this is where everyone is! I was talking to myself on the other posts!

Posted by Samantha Elin(supporter of all things Scandinavian) 05/23/2009 at 07:58 AM

Tack Lottis.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/23/2009 at 08:03 AM

Well in my eyes to beat Rafa at RG in a 5 set match you will need the following,

1. Mental concentation on every point in the match,which cannot be waivered.

2. Top physical shape to be prepared to stay in long rallies,be moved from side to side endlessly

3.Play unhuman level of tennis for at least 3 hrs just to say draw level if you can

4.Be able to play shots that are normally outside your zone and make them go in.

5.Under no circumstances have a high u/error rate

6.Always get your first serve in.

7.Prefably to serve aces on first serves eg,so the sure is not returnable

8.Second serve again must not have any error,making sure again its not short or unreturnable.

9. Have top spin on your shots

10. Be able to volley well on the clay

11.Be able to return Rafa's heavr one side curved top spin on both winngs

12.Be able to move on the clay well at all times

13. Also be able to pray to the Teninis Gods if need be

14.Alternate plan,surprise tactics,though can you keep this up?

15 If the above all fails,just turn to God and say,

Hey I gave it my best shot,I am done and dusted,I will be back again to do it all next year.

Remember nothing in Tennis is Never A Given.

That also applies to the world no 1 player in the world and on the clay Rafa Nadal.

Posted by Vincent 05/23/2009 at 08:09 AM

I would be happy with a semifinal for Fed. Against Djokovic in a semi I would give Federer the edge, he will run Djokovic ragged. Against Nadal in the final everything can of course in theory happen, but I cannot see Federer winning, at best it will be the same story as in 2005, 2006, 2007, one set and that's it. Unless Federer can successfully pin down Nadal in his backhand corner with a barrage of slices and forehands. A nice dream. Can you imagine what would happen to this site and to every tennis forum if that was the case ? They would simply explode.

Posted by Tfactor 05/23/2009 at 08:14 AM

I think some of us are overreacting (?)
Predictions are just that, predictions. People have different perspectives, ideas and feelings on which to base them.
I personally feel Roger will get to the semis, but I understand not everyone may agree.
As a Rafa fan, I long for a tournament where Rafa is not the clear favorite. It takes away the tremendous pressure and allows me as a fan to really rejoice if he actually wins the title.
When my favorite is expeced to win, the victory in the end (if it happens) feels more like a relief: phew he lived up to all those high expectations!
Anything can happen and of course Roger could end up winning his first French Open, just think how sweet it would be!

Posted by lottis 05/23/2009 at 08:23 AM

If you were to choice someone to go out early of the top players, Roger doesn’t seem to be the guy to chose. It’s not like he has been handed a very tough draw, then Rafa or Nole would be better and make some sense as they could face some players with a good game and are healthy. Monflis would be a danger for Roger, if Monflis health wasn’t an issue, but as it is, it’s not even sure he going to play let along make it as far to meet Roger. Then I guess you could name AndyM as someone not to make it as far as the semifinal of the top 4 but that probably wouldn’t be much of an upset as he has had a so and so clay season so how good he is, is hard to say.

But it always seems so hard to make predictions, I sure didn’t see Fernando getting himself together and reach the semifinal in AO and then push Rafa as much as he did. So I’m sort of impressed by people willing to do it and do it so public as journalist have to make it. After all, more often then not something unpredictable happens in tournaments.

Posted by Aussiemarg{Madame President in Comma Rehab in 2009} 05/23/2009 at 08:30 AM

In regards to Monfils he is to have a final rigerious training session on Saturday as spoken by his coach Roger Rasheed on Sydney radio the other day.I also posted this information

He is still struggling with his knee injury which Roger said had been on and off sine the US OPEN last year.

Roger will determind after the last hard hit our if Monfils will play at RG this year.

He is hopeful how ever seeing Monfils is French which kind of puts added pressure for him to play in Paris.

Posted by C.F. 05/23/2009 at 09:01 AM

Rosangel, I completely agree with you. Predictions are predictions, you don't have to be against a player to believe this player may lose early.

That's why I enjoyed Pete's predictions. At least they are far more interesting than my "fab4 on the semis, Nadal d. Djokovic on the final".

Another interesting aspect of this is that we should start getting used to it. No streak can last forever. Maybe these predictions will come to pass, maybe they won't. But I don't think it will be long before Roger actually does start losing earlier on Slams. It's only natural that the younger players will keep getting better and that he won't be able to keep up forever. So unless he pulls a shock-retirement very soon, sooner or later we WILL have to deal with him losing early. Might as well get used to it, at least as far as predictions go.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/23/2009 at 09:30 AM

Sure C.F.

Fed will start losing early in GS sometime..but if he can get to the SFs of MS tournaments on a 30% serve and a non-working FH, he can be expected to at least reach SF to face Djoko. At least now some of that serve and FH is back!

Even if he loses to Djoko (who has defeated in a Fed in a five setter before), i still think its a pretty good result considering that he was playing extremely bad in Miami and Monte Carlo.

Besides, he seems to be enjoying playing tennis freely...its good that there is no pressure on him...all the pressure is on Nadal, who ofcourse will bite the trophy as we all know when the time comes.

Posted by Budour (Hott Mess for FO'09) 05/23/2009 at 10:22 AM

Don't think anyone cares but:
Well done, Alexandra Dulgheru! What an unbelievable tournament she's had, getting through qualies and winning 8 consecutive matches. All those who criticise the WTA of lacking depth--though I do think some of the criticism is justified--should watch the first set of today's final. Some brilliant rallies from both girls, and Alexandra's different brand of tennis was refreshing. I hope she doesn't turn out to be another one-tournament wonder, she has a very nice game and great attitude.
The top players should be quite happy she's not playing. She has the type of game that can drive the hard hitters crazy. Her defence, from what i saw in the matches against Dani and A-Bond, is old JJ-like, and she is capable of mixint it up with lovely little slices and the occasional volleys ...

Posted by Budour (Hott Mess for FO'09) 05/23/2009 at 10:27 AM

Just checked Dulgheru's profile. We are almost the same age, her B-day is just two days before mine.

Posted by twist serve 05/23/2009 at 10:39 AM


I think you mean djokovic has beaten Federer in a best-of-five match, but it was in straight sets. the djoker has never beaten fed or nadal in a match that actually lasted more than three sets.

Posted by Syd 05/23/2009 at 10:59 AM

Mike T:

Thanks for a great post. Yeah, "Swashbuckling" Federer - suits him to a T when he's on his game.

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