Sunday, May 22, 2011

French Open Preview

So the world didn't end this weekend, which is not only fantastic news for, well everyone, but also for us tennis fans because Sunday marks the beginning of the French Open, the second tennis Grand Slam tournament of the year. Since I don't have time to do my usual draw analysis, here are my scattered thoughts for both the men and women instead.

The main story for the men this whole season has been the absolute dominance of 2nd seed Novak Djokovic. Undefeated this year, he has won 7 titles and shows no sign of slowing down. Defending champion and 1st seed Rafael Nadal is still the favorite, but the fact that Djokovic beat Nadal four straight times this year including twice on Nadal's beloved clay makes the whole thing just a bit more interesting. And even though 3rd seed Roger Federer is a former champion, his form and his chances here at least compared to Nadal and Djokovic aren't so good. Then again he IS the last person to defeat Djokovic (at last year's year-end championships). Then there's 4th seed Andy Murray who is slowly coming out of his post-Australian Open funk fighting Djokovic on clay this year closer than anyone else has.

Fifth seed Robin Soderling has reached the French Open finals two times in a row beating the defending champion en route each time. We doubt he'll do it a third time, but weirder things have happened. Other names to watch out for include David Ferrer (always a threat to test our your endurance), Richard Gasquet (beat Federer recently on clay), Milos Roanic (newcomer of the year, no?), and Juan Martin Del Potro (comeback of the year, no?).

Rafael Nadal d. Robin Soderling
Nicolas Almagro d. Andy Murray
Roger Federer d. David Ferrer
Novak Djokovic d. Mikhail Youzhny

Rafael Nadael d. Nicolas Almagro
Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic

With Justine Henin retired and the Williams sisters injured, the big story here is that anyone, I repeat, ANYONE can win this thing. The one who seems to be a few people's favorite is 2-time French Open finalist and 2nd seed Kim Clijsters even though she's injured and hasn't played competitively in two months. Top seed Caroline Wozniacki should see this as yet another golden opportunity to win that maiden slam especially since she has probably been the most consistent player on the tour this year. Defending champion and 5th seed Francesca Schiavone should not be counted out (remember her implausible dream run last year?), but she really hasn't been the same player since. Then there's 7th seed Maria Sharopova who is one of the very few multi-Grand Slam champions on the list and with her recent successes in clay, you never know. She could win the career Grand Slam.

Third and fourth seeds Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka can most definitely claim the championship, but they're their worst enemies. Then again this pretty much goes for a whole slew of players such as Li Na (have struggled recently, but always a threat in slams) and Sam Stosur (she was last year's finalist!) as well former champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic who both possess the talent obviously, but recently not the self-belief to win. All I really have to say is, Elena Dementieva surely retired from the game one year too early didn't she?

Caroline Wozniacki d. Samantha Stosur
Vera Zvonareva d. Francescha Schiavone
Victoria Azarenka d. Petra Kvitova
Kim Clijsters d. Maria Sharapova

Vera Zvonareva d. Caroline Wozniacki
Kim Clisjters d. Victoria Azarenka

Kim Clijsters d. Vera Zvonareva

FINAL WORLD: Somehow I find myself predicting the top four women seeds to reach the semifinals as improbable as that outcome may be, but that's what happens when I don't pay attention to the recent results. For the men, I predicted the top three plus Almagro since I just don't trust Murray to reach that far. In the end though Nadal will most likely repeat while there will be a first-time French Open champion for the women.

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