by Kevin Craig
Novak Djokovic was able to complete the “Novak Slam” on Sunday as he defeated Andy Murray for his first French Open title after four runs to the final, and he now has won all four major titles consecutively.
The Serb was able to withstand an early onslaught from the Brit, who many believed to be the favorite in the match, and eventually won in four sets by a score of 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, giving Djokovic his 12th major title and making him the first player to simultaneously own all four major titles since Rod Laver in 1969.
“It was flawless tennis. I really felt like I played on a high quality,” said Djokovic.
The Serb, so excited to win that one major title that had remained out of his grasp throughout his career, called it “a thrilling moment. One of the most beautiful I have had in my career.”
Djokovic, who had beaten Murray in 12 of their past 14 matches, attacked first, breaking at love to open up the match before Murray turned the tables. Two breaks in a row with a hold at love in between gave Murray a 3-1 lead, and he didn’t look back from there as not much went against serve from that moment on. Three holds later and Murray was two sets away from his third major title.
“Nerves kicked in. I needed a little bit of time to really find the right rhythm and start to play the way I intended,” said Djokovic.
The No. 1 player in the world wasn’t going to go down that easy, though, and the second set was all his as he was able to find that right rhythm. After saving a break point in the first game of the set, Djokovic completely dominated. Murray was broken in two of his three service games, and the one in which he was not broken he fought off a break point and was taken to deuce. The Serb also only lost three points total in his last three service games, completing the recipe of how to win a set 6-1.
The third set was more of the same as Djokovic broke Murray twice. There was more difficulty on serve in the set for the Serb as he lost at least two points in each of his service games, while being taken to deuce twice. In one of those deuce games, Djokovic staved off four break points, making the statement that he would not be missing out on another opportunity to win his first French Open.
With a break to open up the fourth set, Djokovic had all but finished off the No. 2 player in the world. After losing only one point on serve total in his next three service games and taking Murray to deuce twice, Djokovic earned a 0-40 lead at 4-2 and capitalized on his first opportunity to break and set up a chance to serve for the title.
The Brit was able to show some signs of life as he broke Djokovic and consolidated his serve to extend the match, but it just delayed the inevitable. In the next game, Djokovic was able to hold to close out the match, finally earning the right to call himself a French Open champion.
“In the last point, I don’t even remember what happened…it’s like my spirit left my body” said Djokovic.
With this title, the 29-year old has become just the eighth man in history to complete the career grand slam, solidifying his right to be in the conversation of the greatest tennis players of all time.
by Kevin Craig
Garbine Muguruza of Spain won her first major title Saturday defeating defending champion and world No. 1 Serena Williams 7-5, 6-4 in the French Open women’s singles final.
The Spaniard, who was the No. 4 seed in the tournament, gave Williams a taste of her own medicine as she was able to completely outhit the 21-time major champion, blasting winner after winner.
Muguruza came into the match on a roll, having won 10 sets in a row and nine of her last 10 matches. The 22-year old, after dropping her first set of her French Open, was able to grow in confidence throughout her run in Paris, beating the 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and the 2010 French Open runner up Sam Stosur along the way, while also losing more than three games only three times in 10 sets, as well as winning two sets at 6-0.
Not only was her recent run of form a reason to feel confident heading into this match, but so was the fact that she had already defeated Williams at the French Open, coming in the second round of the 2014 edition of the tournament.
The confidence of Muguruza carried over into the final and never wavered throughout the match despite how many opportunities she had to crumble under the pressure of playing in just her second major final, the previous coming in 2015 at Wimbledon where she lost to her opponent on Saturday.
Williams, who was the defending French Open champion, started off well, dropping just one point in her first two service games and forcing Muguruza to save two break points in just her second service game of the match. Saving those break points proved to be a turning point for the Spaniard, though, as she was able to break in the next game, eventually holding a 4-2 lead.
Williams, who was seeking her fourth French Open title, was able to break back later in the set, but Muguruza continued to go for her shots and asserted herself on the court, allowing her to break in the 11th game of the first set before fighting off two more break points in the next game to take the one set lead.
That run continued for Muguruza as she was able to break Williams in her first two service games of the second set, allowing the American to win just two points on serve, but those two breaks bookended a run of three consecutive breaks overall, meaning Muguruza only had a one-break advantage to work with.
With Muguruza holding a break lead at 2-1, it was a test of nerves for the rest of the match as the whole tennis world waited to see how long it would be before she would falter. That moment never came, though, as Muguruza only lost a total of four points on serve in her final four service games.
When Williams served to stay in the match at 3-5, Muguruza looked poised to take the title in that game as she had a look at four championship points in a 16-point game, but Williams showed her tenacious spirit that she has become known for, fighting them all off and extending the match.
The feeling was present that Williams would be able to apply pressure on Muguruza as she served for the title, especially after saving those four championship points, but the Spaniard was having none of that as she held at love to win her first major title, sealing the deal with a lob winner that landed on the baseline.
Muguruza, who will now reach a new career high ranking and become the No. 2 player in the world, has proven to the tennis world that she will be a major threat on the WTA Tour for a long time.
This title makes her the third consecutive first time major champion as Flavia Pennetta won the US Open last year and Angelique Kerber won the Australian Open earlier this year, both being first time winners.
Muguruza also tied the record for fewest titles owned when winning her first major title, as she had only won two titles on the WTA Tour coming into this event.
by Kevin Craig
Andy Murray dethroned the defending French Open champion Stan Wawrinka on Friday with a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 win.
Murray, who became the first player from Great Britain to reach the French Open in 79 years after Bunny Austin did so in 1937, played an almost perfect match as he reached his first French Open final and his 10th major final overall.
“I played one of my best matches here today,” said Murray in his post-match interview on court.
The No. 2 seed Murray, who had to battle from a two sets to love deficit in the first round against Radek Stepanek and a two sets to one deficit to a French wild card in the second round, has been able to gain confidence throughout his run to the final and return to the form that saw him win the title in Rome just before the French Open began.
That form from Murray was at peak levels on Friday against a player who reached his own peak levels of form in the French Open final in 2015 as Wawrinka put on a masterclass performance to snatch the title and the calendar grand slam from Novak Djokovic last year.
When Wawrinka, who was on a 12-match win streak at Roland Garros, held at love and forced Murray to take 11 minutes to hold his first service game, it looked like things may very well be in the favor of the Suisse in the early stages. This may not have been surprising at all to fans of Wawrinka as he had won his last three matches against Murray and had never lost a set to him on clay.
That feeling quickly changed though as Murray was able to save a break point before breaking Wawrinka in the next game, eventually leading 3-1.
The rest of the set was pretty straight forward until Murray served to close out the set as he was forced to fend off three break points before taking the one set lead.
It was all Murray in the second set as he broke Wawrinka at love for a 2-1 lead before breaking again two games later, eventually closing out the set 6-2, losing just three points on serve in the set that lasted only 27 minutes.
Murray continued to roll on serve in the third set, holding at love in his first three service games. The problem for the Brit was he was unable to convert the one break point he saw in the set, and Wawrinka was able to take advantage of the first poor service game Murray played since the beginning of the match, fighting back from 40-15 and winning four points in a row to break and win the set.
Wawrinka stealing the third set just delayed the inevitable as Murray’s roll went right over that minor speed bump as he was able to break in the first game of the fourth set. Murray had zero trouble on serve in the fourth set, losing just four points in four games, including a hold at love to close out the match and clinch his spot in the final.
“Stan has been unbelievable the last two years. I’ve played one of my best matches today…I’m just really proud. I never expected to reach the final here…Hopefully I can put up a good match in the final,” said Murray.
Murray’s impressive fitness level and ability to hit effective groundstrokes from anywhere on the court were on full display, as he looks like he can pose a very dangerous threat to Djokovic in this year’s final.
by Kevin Craig
Shelby Rogers, the 23-year-old American ranked No. 108 in the world, reached her first major quarterfinal at Roland Garros Sunday as she dispatched the No. 25 seed Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.
Rogers, the second-to-last directly accepted player into the tournament, is making the most of her opportunity as she has now defeated her third seeded opponent in four rounds.
After defeating the No. 17 seed Karolina Pliskova in the first round and the No. 10 seed Petra Kvitova in the third round, Rogers went into her fourth round encounter with Begu brimming with confidence.
“I have done that pretty much this whole tournament, starting with the first round” said Rogers of backing up a big win with another stellar performance. “That was a huge upset for me and kind of set the tone for the last few matches I have played.”
Rogers, who made the final of a clay court tournament in Rio in February of this year, got off to a good start on Sunday, breaking Begu in just the third game of the match to get out to an early lead. That lead would be backed up by a strong serving performance in the first set, as Rogers didn’t face a single break point and only lost one point in her last two service games before grabbing another break at 5-3 to close out the set.
Rogers ensured that she kept playing with the aggressive mindset that she had used to get her to this stage and it was paying dividends so far in the fourth round.
“Keep your game plan and your strategy and keep doing what you have been doing…just keep going after it…It was working in the first, it’s going to work again. So keep doing it,” said Rogers.
After Begu was able to break in the first game of the second set and jump out to a 2-0 lead, Rogers was able to turn the momentum back in her favor with that same strategy, allowing herself to reel off four games in a row, including two breaks and two holds at love, putting herself just two games from the quarterfinals.
The Romanian did not go away, though, breaking Begu back and taking the set to 4-4. Rogers was able to restore order with a hold to go up 5-4, before quickly going up 15-40 and capitalizing on her first break point of the game, getting an unforced error from Begu that gave her the win.
Rogers, who will now take on the No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, has to keep reminding herself that this isn’t a dream.
“I’m definitely outside of my comfort zone already and I keep telling myself you belong here,” said Rogers. “I’m ready to step up the challenge. I have nothing to lose. I have no pressure. It’s just been a great experience here and I want to keep enjoying it and keep pushing myself.”
Richard Gasquet also had an emotional win on Sunday as he was able to reach his first quarterfinal at the French Open with a four set win over Kei Nishikori, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
When the rain came and delayed play for a couple hours, Gasquet found himself down a break in the first set. However, once he and Nishikori returned to the court, the Frenchman had everything going his way, and, before he could even realize it, found himself up two sets to love.
“I think this rain interruption did me a world of good because we had a very good chat,” said Gasquet of utilizing his time off the court to discuss strategy with his coach Sergi Bruguera.
Gasquet closed out the second set with a winner off of his majestic one-handed backhand wing and sent the French crowd into a frenzy. That French crowd has been looking for a home champion since Yannick Noah won the title in 1983.
Gasquet, of course, still has three more matches to win, the first of which will be against Andy Murray in the quarterfinals, but reaching the quarterfinals is an achievement in itself for him.
Calling Court Philippe-Chatrier the “biggest stage in the world for a French player,” Gasquet had more than enough motivation to get himself through the match and earn the win.
The match felt like “a Davis Cup match for me today,” said Gasquet. “I admit it made a big difference for me and of course it will be the same on Tuesday, but for sure I need to play a big match.”
by Kevin Craig
The biggest news of the day at the French Open on Friday wasn’t caused by something that happened on the court, rather by a decision made by nine-time champion Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard, who was the No. 4 seed in the event this year, announced that he had withdrawn himself from the tournament.
“This is one of the toughest press conferences of my career…If it wasn’t Roland Garros, I probably wouldn’t have taken the risks (of playing with an injury). It’s the most important event of the year for me,” said Nadal.
The cause of Nadal’s surprising decision was a left wrist injury that the Spaniard has been dealing with for the past “couple of weeks”, just another bullet point on a long list of injuries that have hindered his success in the past few years.
Nadal first felt pain in his wrist three weeks ago when he played in the quarterfinals of Madrid, but attempted to play through the pain in Rome, and then in Paris.
After beating Sam Groth and Facundo Bagnis in his first two matches in Paris, losing only nine games in the process, many began to believe that Nadal would be able to provide a tough challenge to Novak Djokovic in the latter stages of the tournament.
Unfortunately for Nadal and fans of tennis, there will not be a 50th meeting between the two great champions, as the pain in Nadal’s wrist continued to grow.
“I arrived here with a little bit of pain but I thought it was something I would be able to manage, but every day it got a bit worse,” said Nadal.
While many will be disappointed with his decision to leave the tournament, Nadal is doing what is best for him and his career as he is weary of the potential problems that would come from playing with his injured wrist.
“It’s not broken, but if I keep playing it’s going to be broken in the next couple of days,” said Nadal.
“To have won the tournament I would have had to play five more matches and the doctor told me that was 100 percent impossible,” said Nadal.
Nadal and his team hope that he will be able to play in Wimbledon and are taking all the necessary steps to ensure that happens.
“I need a couple of weeks with the immobilization. Then we’re going to do the treatment and we hope the treatment works well. We expect to recover quick,” said Nadal.
Nadal’s withdrawal grants fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers a walkover into the fourth round.
On the court, headlines were made by 23-year old American Shelby Rogers as she upset two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova by a 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-0 score line.
After racing out a hot start, converting on three out of four break points and saving the only one she faced in the first set, Rogers began to be challenged by Kvitova in the second set. The Czechwoman had a breakpoint in Rogers’ first service game of the second set but couldn’t convert, but did grab her first and only break of the match when Rogers was serving up a break at 4-3 and looked like it could be a turning point.
Kvitova went on to take the second set in a tiebreak, but was unable to carry the momentum over into the decider. Rogers stood strong and continued to play well as she had done all match, going up 0-40 in Kvitova’s first service game and breaking for an early lead. Kvitova had a look to break right back, but once again failed to convert on a break point, and that was ultimately where the match ended.
Rogers went on to break twice more, with a hold at love thrown in the middle, to close out the set and the match.
Rogers, the No. 108 player in the world, earned her first appearance in the fourth round of a major with her win over the No. 10 seed. The moment gave Rogers, and fans of American tennis, plenty to cheer for and be emotional about.
“It was incredible…I’m one that cries very easily and I think everyone saw that. I immediately started crying,” said Rogers.
Irina-Camelia Begu, the No. 25 seed from Romania, will be Rogers’ next opponent.
It is the ninth time that Rafael Nadal has won the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. The win has increased Nadal’s French Open odds. He was crowned champion last Sunday after he won 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 against Gael Monfils in the final. He is now the second favorite to win the championship in Paris. It was an extra special day as Prince Albert II along with Princess Charlene watched from the royal box to see Nadal win a 28th trophy on the ATP tour.
It was the first win for Nadal in nearly two years. The 29-year-old went on a record winning streak of 46 matches unbeaten at the Monte-Carlo Country Club between 2005 – 2012. His run came to an end when Novak Djokovic beat him in the final in 2013.
The win puts Nadal back in the frame for the French Open. His form has suffered in recent years due to injuries and age taking its toll. He showed though at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters that he is back to his best. Many experts are making French Open tennis predictions that he will make the final.
The last time that Nadal won a competition on the APT World Tour was in August 2015. He won in Hamburg beating Fognini in the final.
The final between Nadal and Monfils lasted two-hours and 45 minutes. It was an epic battle and to begin with it looked like Monfils would be victorious. He made great shot selections when it mattered most, and his defensive side of the game was exceptional. Nadal hit his stride though and to pull the victory out of the bag.
Nadal proved he is back to full fitness at long last, and it was his energy that won it for him. Monfils was worn out having to return all of Nadal’s powerful baseline shots. After winning match point, Nadal was extremely emotional falling to his knees. You could tell exactly how much it meant to the player from Spain.
Monfils was graceful after the game saying the better man won on the day. He left Nadal played unbelievably well, and there was nothing he could do to counter it.
It was a staggering 100th final at tour-level that Nadal has competed he. The Spaniard has managed to win 68 of them. It is the sixth time that a player has reached 100 finals in Open Era on the ATP Tour. He is just a single trophy away from beating the record of most titles on clay-court. The record for the Open era is set by Guillermo Vilas and stands at 49. With the event in Paris on clay-court Nadal’s French Open odds of beating the record have tumbled. It could be a magical tournament for Nadal if he can carry on his form from Monaco.
It is going to be interesting in Paris to see if Nadal or Djokovic will make it to the final and claim the crown. It is hard seeing past them both when making French Open tennis predictions. If Nadal wins, he will beat the record and if Djokovic wins he will claim the only trophy missing from his cabinet. Hopefully the effects of Nadal’s recent loss in Australia won’t be affecting him, and both players bring their best game
The French Open is the only major tournament that British number one Andy Murray has not reached the final of and the Scot is in full swing to carve out the historical accomplishment. His first clay-court match of the pre-French Open swing came at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he Murray took on the qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Murray did not have things all his own way however, as after taking the first set in dominant fashion, Murray let his attention drop, eventually losing the second 6-4 before prevailing in three sets. Murray is now offered odds of 10/1 with Coral to claim the trophy in Monte Carlo come the end of the week.
With next month’s French Open on the horizon, Murray is looking to equal or better is effort of winning two trophies on the red dirt last year.
Having recently become a father for the first time with wife Kim, Murray certainly has a lot to juggle over the coming months. After the clay court season he will return to home territory to begin his preparations for another charge towards the Wimbledon title. The world number two will go into the tournament as one of the favourites usual, with bookmakers Coral giving odds of 7/2 for Murray to claim his second title in South West London. The odds on Murray winning Wimbledon this year of course take into account the form of Djokovic, who after claiming the season opening Australian Open, looks in ominous form.
Murray knows he will have to significantly up his game if he is to have any chance of adding to his two Grand Slam wins to date, with early tournament defeats to Grigor Dimitrov and Federico Delbonis in recent weeks a real cause for concern.
Without a doubt, Novak Djokovic is the best tennis player on the planet and the Serbian won three of the four Grand Slam titles on offer in 2016. This year, the world number one will be looking to go one better and claim victory in all four major tournaments as he looks to cement his place as one of the greatest male tennis players of all-time. Here is why Djokovic is capable of defying the odds and enjoying an incredible season in 2016.
Okay, so Djokovic is an exceptional tennis player. In fact, it could be argued that he is more or less unbeatable on his day. The Serbian’s consistency at the top level stands him apart from the rest and his hunger and strive to achieve greatness helps to motivate him in almost every single tournament that he enters. As of January 11th, Djokovic is priced at 6/1 with Coral to win all four Grand Slam competitions this year and many will be backing the Serbian to succeed in the sports betting in 2016.
Perhaps the most straightforward tournament of all will be the Australian Open, which gets underway later this week. In Coral’s sports betting markets, Djokovic is priced at 4/6 to win a sixth Australian Open title. It is by far his favourite event and the Serbian will be well favoured, especially if Andy Murray is forced to drop out of the competition due to the impending birth of his child. Djokovic loves the Melbourne event and must rank as the greatest player on the planet on the hard court surface.
The trickiest tournament will be the French Open. Djokovic is yet to win at Roland Garros and while Rafael Nadal has struggled in the last couple of years, it would be foolish to rule the Spaniard out. If the Serbian is going to win this particular title, his time is now – especially before last year’s winner Stanislas Wawrinka becomes one of the top players in the world. It will be tough but if anyone is capable of defying the odds, it’s Novak Djokovic.
From there, Djokovic will only need Wimbledon and the US Open to complete the set. In 2015, the Serbian won both of these tournaments with relative ease although he did have to dig deep in order to defeat Roger Federer in both finals. The Swiss superstar may not be the same athlete that he was five years ago but he still possesses sheer talent and is capable of denying Djokovic the coveted Grand Slam quadruple.
So, will the Serbian achieve this goal? Well, it’s an incredibly difficult ask but Djokovic is an exceptional tennis player. A lot will hinge on the performances of Andy Murray – if the British number one performs at his best, Djokovic will find it tough. However, any slip-up and the Serbian will be too good and should capitalise. Fans are set for a great year of tennis and it could be a record-breaking performance if Djokovic has his way.
By Cliff Richey
The following is written by Cliff Richey, a former U.S. No. 1 tennis player, who was a semifinalist at the 1970 French Open and the 1970 and 1972 U.S. Open, who was also a member of the winning U.S. Davis Cup teams in 1969 and 1970. Richey is author of the book “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” available here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257669/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_iLEBvb1W4RNYX
When I was younger the scariest thing in my life was facing Arthur Ashe’s serve! Trust me, that was scary. But it doesn’t compare to two potentially lethal diseases I’ve been in treatment for. Nineteen years ago my skin doctor diagnosed me as clinically depressed and three weeks ago my current skin Doctor gave me the news that I had Melanoma. It is ironic that a skin doctor diagnosed these two different diseases. And as different as they seem to be these two diseases have a lot in common. For one thing in my case the two sick parts of my body are only about twelve inches apart–my right shoulder and my brain! Both diseases at their most basic level are human cells gone awry. Why does that happen? The best researchers of both diseases say there are two main reasons. The first is genetic predisposition inherited from your forebearers in other words. The second reason is stress. For your skin, stress can be the sun, tanning lamps or too much radiation. For your brain, stress can be the negative circumstances life throws to all of us–job loss, divorce, addictions, illness. So a predisposition combined with stress can produce both of these diseases. The good news is both are treatable and curable. I am in good treatment for clinical depression and my recovery has been very good. I had the melanoma leasion removed and thankfully it was caught very early and in spite of eleven stitches i am told it is 100% curable.
Now the bad news. Both diseases left untreated can kill you. Only 30% of our population who need treatment for depression receive it and 20% commit suicide. Of those who get proper treatment 85% gain good recovery. Melanoma has a high mortality rate unless caught early.
I am going to switch gears here for just a bit and get on my soap box. But lets create a more warm and fuzzy setting. I’m on my easy chair and you’re on my couch and here is what i want to tell you. We ain’t doin’ all this stuff the right way. Yes both of these diseases kill but only one of them has a higher mortality rate that has nothing to do with the disease! Stigma! Stigma of mental illness is killing many people. Obviously no one person is at fault. But our community can do better. My brain is only 12 inches from my right shoulder and guess what? the DNA is the same in both places. Look i’m a pro athlete. I know that there is a lot of male maucho tied in with even whispering the words mental illness. Pros are comfortable asking for help in order to win on the playing field. We had head coaches, trainers, dieticians and team doctors. We see asking for help as a maucho strength. Wanna win? Get good advice! In my tennis career i had great coaches and others who helped me in areas i needed help with. I felt more confident and performed better when i got that help. I played 1500 pro matches in 500 events all over the world. I wanted to know all about each opponent i played. I had a game plan every time. I wanted to win.
I truly looked at clinical depression and melanoma as opponents i want to beat. I reached out for help with experts that know both of these deadly foes. As a pro athlete i looked to my doctors much the same as i did the coaches in my career. Of course there is just a slight difference one helps you win a tennis match the other can save your life. Mental illness or Melanoma can kill if we don’t ask for help. My serve can be improved (and it needed help!) but hey the worse that can happen if i don’t ask for help is that I lose a tennis match!
So pal, my preaching if over. Ask for help when you need it. As we say in the locker room “Don’t be a dumb ass.” Stigma is an opponent too. Let us all reach out. We will beat stigma and remember — never, ever, ever give up!
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by Andrew Eichenholz
Novak Djokovic is playing the best tennis of anybody on the men’s tour, no ifs, ands or buts about it. However, as the Serbian star looks to grab his first French Open title, he faces stiff competition and an even tougher draw.
If he will lift his first Coupe des Mousquetaires after all the dust settles, he will have denied Rafael Nadal, who seeks his tenth French Open championship, Andy Murray, who pushed Djokovic to his limit in Australia and Roger Federer, who is a 17-time Grand Slam champion.
The big debate heading into the draw ceremony on Friday was whether or not the tournament supervisors should make an exception and seed Nadal higher then his No. 7 ranking, making him the sixth seed at the tournament due to the withdrawal of Milos Raonic. Would it be fair to the higher-ranked players who may have to deal with the Spaniard earlier then usual?
Djokovic was anything but the beneficiary when the tournament decided to leave Nadal at No. 6, as arguably the two best clay court players in the world ended up in the same quarter of the draw, making for what should be an entertaining fortnight in Paris.
So much for the top seed supposedly deserving the easiest draw. Novak Djokovic faces what really is not all that tricky of an opening week in Paris, but he may not fall for the City of Love even if he were to get through the toughest sections of the four. By the time Djokovic could face his first seeded opponent, he should be pretty fresh, with no clear threat early on, as Gilles Muller of Luxembourg is far more dangerous on a quicker surface with his lefty serve. However, a duo of Australians who will more than likely face off in the second round, No. 27 Bernard Tomic and Thanasi Kokkinakis, may pose somewhat of a challenge to the World No. 1. Even though Novak comes into the second major of the year with a 35-2 record, it is hard to believe he will come out of the gates in peak form, giving a player like Tomic, who tends to draw the worst out of his opponents, a chance to make a fight of affairs.
Nadal on the other hand is the king at Roland Garros. Nine times he has conquered the terre battue, with his only loss coming against Robin Soderling. It will take a tremendous effort to take him out, and it is hard to see it happening unless Djokovic does so. Now, their potential quarterfinal match may very well be the early final, but first, Nadal may face some of the tour’s next big stars. In the round of 16, Grigor Dimitrov is the likely opponent, one of the most naturally talented players in the world. He broke through at Wimbledon, but is he ready to do so again? Others to look out for include Borna Coric and tough veteran Tommy Robredo.
Popcorn Match-Grigor Dimitrov v. Jack Sock OR Pablo Carreno Busta v. Victor Estrella Burgos
First Seed Out- Adrian Mannarino
Quarterfinal Result- Novak Djokovic def. Rafael Nadal
If Andy Murray plays the type of tennis that he conjured during the first couple of sets of the Australian Open final when he looked for all the world to be the best pure ball-striker in the world, he will advance through this quarter. But, there will be a huge issue in the form of a small, but tough-as-nail man— David Ferrer. Murray tends to fall apart most when he gets frustrated, and there are few on tour who are better at scraping balls back and making an opponent work for a point than Ferrer. The “Little Beast,” as Ferrer is called, has arguably the easiest 1/16th in the draw, with Murray facing far tougher challenges along the way. Vasek Pospisil recently hurt himself playing doubles, but has the firepower to test the Scot in the second round if he does not come prepared, with the energetic Nick Kyrgios lurking in the third round for what be one of the most fun matches with two of the biggest personalities on tour. Kyrgios is scared of nobody, but if Murray is aggressive right off the bat, the Australian may not have enough experience and guile to stay in touch. David Goffin is the most improved player on tour in the last couple of seasons, but again, will not have enough to take it to Murray. But, all of the obstacles in his way may take just enough out of Murray for Ferrer to pounce.
Popcorn Match- John Isner v. Andreas Seppi
First Seed Out- Leonardo Mayer
Quarterfinal Result- David Ferrer def. Andy Murray
This section of the draw may have the most diverse group of players and talents in the tournament and in recent memory, with players from all over the world and court looking to advance to the semifinals. Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori, seeded fourth and fifth, respectively, are the most talented players of the group, both elite ball-strikers who are two of the few capable of competing from the baseline with Djokovic and Murray. There are enough lefties in this section to fill multiple courts, distinguishing themselves with many different playing styles. Feliciano Lopez is a slicing and dicing serve and volleyer who on his day can keep anyone on their heels, while Fernando Verdasco has the only lefty forehand within realms of Nadal’s. Thomaz Bellucci is one of the hottest players on tour, and the list keeps on going. But, there are also the players who bring an out-of-the-ordinary game onto the court, with the flat strokes of Roberto Bautista Agut and confusion of Florian Mayer. Then, there is the enigma that is Fabio Fognini, who can blitz anybody in the section when focused, but could lose in the first round to Tatsuma Ito if he is not ready. This is the most unpredictable section with many talents, but look for two of the more dynamic players to get through.
Popcorn Match- Roberto Bautista Agut v Florian Mayer
First Seed Out- Feliciano Lopez
Quarterfinal Result- Kei Nishikori def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
It is impossible to ignore the greatest player of all time, and that is what is happening in the lead-up to the French Open. Roger Federer may have the easiest road to the second week, yet all the talk is about whether or not Djokovic or Nadal were affected more by ending up in the same quarter. His first two opponents will be a qualifier and possibly Marcel Granollers, who does not have enough weapons to threaten Federer. Ivo Karlovic and eventually Gael Monfils could be looming, but could either really put together a solid enough block of play to take out the No. 2 seed in a five-set affair? If Roger plays well, neither can, and then comes his compatriot Stan Wawrinka. The man is one of the most talented in the sport, as he showed when he won the Australian Open last year, but his play so far this season has left much to be desired. It is never easy, but if Federer is focused from the get-go, it is his section to lose. Arguably the highlight is the potential drop that Ernests Gulbis may suffer in the rankings pending his result. The Latvian made the semifinals in Paris last year, even with his odd forehand, but losing those points combined with a lackluster start to the year can plummet him to near the boundary of the top-100.
Popcorn Match- Guillermo Garcia-Lopez v. Steve Johnson
First Seed Out- Ivo Karlovic
Quarterfinal Result- Roger Federer def. Gilles Simon
DARK HORSE- Dominic Thiem
MOST TO LOSE- Ernests Gulbis
FINAL RESULTS-Djokovic def. Ferrer, Federer def. Nishikori; Djokovic def. Federer