Posts Tagged ‘Tomas Berdych’

PostHeaderIcon Novak, Stan, Tomas, and Roger: My US Open Men’s Quarterfinal “Quick Picks”

Novak Djokovic (Pete Staples/usopen.org)

Novak Djokovic (Pete Staples/usopen.org)

There wasn’t much extra time for writing today, but I still wanted to throw my hat into the men’s quarterfinal ring. So here are my quarterfinal quick picks for what look to be some pretty terrific quarterfinal match-ups.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs Andy Murray (GBR) [8]

H2H: Djokovic leads 12-8

I can’t believe that this is a quarterfinal match! After all, these two have contested 4 previous Slam finals with two won by Novak (Australia ’12, ’13) and two won by Andy (US Open ’11, Wimbledon ’13). Unfortunately for Andy, these were contested before his season-ending back surgery after last year’s US Open. He’s come a long way in his recovery, but is still not quite at the level needed to derail Novak.

Pick: Djokovic

Stan Wawrinka (Corey Silvia/usopen.org)

Stan Wawrinka (Corey Silvia/usopen.org)

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [3] vs Kei Nishikori (JPN) [10]

H2H: Wawrinka leads 2-0

Kei played a great match to topple Milos Raonic in the R16, but was clearly running on fumes by the end. By contrast, Stan seems to be getting stronger and feistier with each round. With Kei on the verge of breaking down physically (again), I can’t see him beating Stan, or outlasting him in a protracted duel.

Pick: Wawrinka

Tomas Berdych (Corey Silvia/usopen.org)

Tomas Berdych (Corey Silvia/usopen.org)

Tomas Berdych (CZE) [6] vs Marin Cilic (CRO) [14]

H2H: Berdych leads 5-3

This won’t be the most exciting match of the four, but it will most definitely feature big hitting from both men. Cilic hasn’t beaten Berdych on a hard court since 2011, and was fairly well-throttled in their last hard court meeting in the Rotterdam final (6-4, 6-2). On top of that, Cilic was pushed hard in his R16 4-hour (plus) marathon against Gilles Simon, while Berdych breezed past Dominic Thiem in just over 1.5 hours with the loss of 7 games. Bottom line: it doesn’t look good for the Croat.

Pick: Berdych

Roger Federer (Andrew Ong/usopen.org)

Roger Federer (Andrew Ong/usopen.org)

Gael Monfils (FRA) [20] vs Roger Federer (SUI) [2]

H2H: Federer leads 7-2

Gael and Roger have the potential to be the most entertaining of the men’s quarterfinal matches. However, after a grueling win over Grigor Dimitrov, I can’t see Gael having the legs to withstand the oncoming Federer onslaught over the long haul. I’m sure there will be plenty of entertaining points, and a few jaw-dropping “Monfils Moments”. But Gael’s great run will end here.

Pick: Federer

PostHeaderIcon Serena Stumbles (Again): A Wimbledon Weekend Edition of “Shock or Not”

serena-shock-header

Serena came to Wimbledon looking for a 2014 Major reset, but it wasn’t meant to be. She fell in the fourth round at the Australian, the second round at the French and, after losing on Saturday to Alize Cornet, in the third round at Wimbledon. It’s not often that a prohibitive favorite falters this badly in the Majors, but it makes for a great weekend Shock or Not. Read on for my (slightly less glib than usual) breakdown of Serena’s loss, Berdych’s nighttime distress, Gasquet’s loss to the exciting Aussie youngster, Kyrgios, and Venus’ Alamo-like stand against Kvitova.

Alize Cornet defeats Serena Williams: Shock or Not? Shock AND Not!

Without taking too much away from Cornet in her victory over the 5-time champion, this match was as much about Serena’s inability to play consistently at her highest level as it was about Cornet’s ability to keep her inner drama queen at bay for the biggest Slam win of her career.

I had no expectation that Serena would rebound after a disappointing French Open to win her first Major of the year at Wimbledon. After some initial hedging, I updated my preview piece with the caveat that she had a good chance at the title only if she made it to the quarters. With Cornet and a surging Genie Bouchard in her path, that was going to be a tall order; and tall orders haven’t been Serena’s strong suit this season.

There are many reasons for Serena’s disappointing performances at the Slams. (I won’t use any of this space to discuss her horrific volleys.) And though I hate to say it, many of them can be attributed to her advanced age. Thirty-two isn’t “old” by any stretch of the imagination, but for an athlete who’s been playing at the top of the game for over fifteen years, it’s clearly taking a toll.

I’m not generally a big fan of ESPN’s crowded commentary booth, but there was some good discussion, especially by Chris Evert, on the challenges Serena faces in her thirties. Declining serve speeds, varying levels of daily motivation, and varying levels of physical output to name a few.

I’d also add the crushing burden of expectation. Previously loathe to discuss inner weaknesses, Serena has pointedly mentioned – in several interviews – the pressure she feels from the world to win every match and tournament she enters.

Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic in darkness (Ben Curtis/AP)

Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic in darkness (Ben Curtis/AP)

There’s also the pressure she puts on herself to reach Slam title #18, placing her in the lofty company of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. She wants it so badly that it so badly that it nearly cripples her ability to hit the most basic shots.

Outer expectations, inner struggles, a body that sometimes doesn’t perform as she needs… It’s been too much for her in 2014. The question now is not about whether she can regroup for the US Open, but whether she can find motivation to keep going against this new generation with that burdensome target on her back.

Marin Cilic defeats Tomas Berdych: Shock or Not? Let’s call it “Nighttime Shock”.

I picked Tomas to come through this match in my men’s preview. Then again, that was before Wimbledon decided to give them flashlights to finish their match. Cilic, a former Queen’s Club champion, is no slouch, and took it to Tomas in this match. Cilic was the aggressor throughout, and was rewarded for his efforts.

BUT, and this is a big one, there was absolutely no need for the tournament referee to keep these guys on court until after 9:30pm. With his back against the wall facing a tough opponent, Tomas felt like he got a raw deal from the tournament referee; and he did.  With as many matches as had been carried over in previous days (Tsonga-Querrey, for one), it wouldn’t have killed them to let this one slide as well.

Nick Kyrgios (from his Twitter)

Nick Kyrgios (from his Twitter)

In a tense match where keeping focus and nerve means everything, it all goes to crap when a player feels they’re getting screwed. And when you can barely see the ball for your shots, know that the chair umpire and linespeople can’t see much better, and Hawkeye is turned off because of fading light, it stands to reason that you might feel like you’re getting screwed.

Sorry Tomas.

Nick Kyrgios defeats Richard Gasquet: Shock or Not? Shock, but I like it A LOT!

This kid is awesome! He’s interesting, likeable, talented, and fights on court like few in his age bracket. Gasquet may have come in as the favorite, but he hasn’t always responded well to big match pressure. We all know about his inner struggles with confidence, but it’s tough to take him too seriously anymore as a legitimate threat at the Slams.

Kyrgios, on the other hand, has no pressure, and always looks to be playing with house money. He’s got a big game, and is great to watch.  This year has proved a breakout year for him, with 3 Challenger titles firmly under his belt. The last one, in Nottingham on grass, gave him entry into the Wimbledon main draw. Three victories later, he’s in his first Wimbledon R16. The kid’s got game!

Though Kyrgios’ match against Rafa Nadal on Monday is going to prove too tough ‘an ask’ for the talented teen, there’s absolutely no doubt that we haven’t seen the last of him on the big stage.

Venus Williams (Jon Buckle/AELTC)

Venus Williams (Jon Buckle/AELTC)

Petra Kvitova defeats Venus Williams: Shock or Not? No Shock, and heckuva match!

For anyone who may have thought Venus couldn’t produce in a match of this caliber over three tough sets against another former champion, myself included, this should be enough to give us heart that she might still surprise us with another tour title if not a Slam title.

Great win, Petra! Now please stop shrieking.

PostHeaderIcon Novak’s Time to Shine: My Wimbledon Men’s Preview

Novak Djokovic (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

Novak Djokovic (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

Owing to the unpredictable nature of grass court tennis, Wimbledon is always ripe for early round upsets. Remember Rosol and Darcis’ triumphs over Nadal, or Stakhovsky’s takedown of Federer? Nothing is a given on grass if your opponent gets hot. This year is probably no exception, with a handful of potential upsets looming early. Still, I don’t see anything stopping Novak from a second Slam title after Paris disappointment. Let’s dive in for a “best guess” at who’ll be the last man standing on grass.

(* – Expected R16 matches)

Top Half, Top Quarter

Djokovic [1] – Tsonga [14] *

Wildcards: Simon (Djokovic), Querrey (Tsonga)

Gulbis [12] – Berdych [6] *

Stakhovsky or Verdasco (Gulbis), Cilic (Berdych)

Now is as good time as any to stake my claim on Djokovic as my Wimbledon favorite. Away from the clay (or even on the clay in best of 3), Novak has proven to be the most consistent of the Big Four at making the late stages of his tournaments. And his loss in the French Open final will just add fuel to the fire for another Slam title.

After dispatching Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in R16, Novak’s likely opponent in the quarters will be former finalist, Tomas Berdych, after he gets through his own tricky R16 with Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis won their last encounter a few weeks back at Roland Garros, but Berdych won their earlier meeting in Rotterdam, and also has a few more grass matches under his belt. So, barring another ’12 first-round upset (ironically, to Gulbis), Berdych takes this by a razor-thin margin.

Gilles Simon doesn’t really pose a threat to Novak, but he’s always dangerous when he cares enough. Querrey, a former Queen’s Club champion, could cause problems for Tsonga (see above for Simon). Gulbis will need to watch out for Sergiy Stakhovsky or Fernando Verdasco, and Berdych will definitely need to watch out for Marin Cilic. In the end, however, look for a Novak – Tomas quarterfinal.

Top Half, Bottom Quarter

Murray [3] – Fognini [16] *

Wildcards: Bautista Agut (Murray), Anderson (Fognini)

Dimitrov [11] – Ferrer [7] *

Wildcards: Thiem or Dolgopolov (Dimitrov), Brown (Ferrer)

Mauresmo notwithstanding, Andy Murray will be lucky to make it out of this quarter…and I’m just not sure he’s going to be THAT lucky. Odds are good that he’ll make a quarterfinal appearance, but then he’ll likely face off against Grigor Dimitrov, the newly-crowned Queen’s Club champion. And with Grigor’s much-improved game and 5-set match fitness, Andy could be hard put to reach the semifinals.

Though he is the expected R16 match for Murray, Fabio Fognini is a non-starter. Kevin Anderson is more likely to reach the R16 than Fognini. To a lesser extent, the same could be said of David Ferrer in the bottom section with Dimitrov. He’s the expected match, but comes into Wimbledon on the heels of an injury. His first test could come in the form of Dustin Brown, a talented-yet-unpredictable player who knocked off a tired Nadal in Halle. But even if he gets past Brown, he won’t get past Dimitrov.

Though I might be selling Andy short in this quarter, Grigor finally looks primed to reach his first Slam semifinal.

Bottom Half, Top Quarter

Wawrinka [5] – Isner [9] *

Wildcards: Istomin (Wawrinka), Lopez (Isner)

Janowicz [15] – Federer [4] *

Wildcards: Janowicz (Janowicz), Muller/Benneteau (Federer)

This quarter, titled “The Monte Carlo Rematch”, will likely pit the current Swiss No. 1 against the former Swiss No. 1.

Though he’s had an uneven season, Stan Wawrinka is still one of the game’s elites, and not half-bad on grass. He might receive a challenge from John Isner, but it’s not likely. Big John hasn’t had the best season, however, and hasn’t been able to use his big serve for success at SW19 a la Andy Roddick. But his presence should keep Stan on his toes, as should the presence of Feliciano Lopez; a surprisingly adept grass court player.

Roger’s path to the quarters goes through Jerzy Janowicz, which could be tough. Jerzy hasn’t had the best year, but could catch fire like he did at last year’s Championships (semifinal loss to Murray). Roger will also have to watch out for two potential upset artists: Julien Benneteau and Gilles Muller. Benneteau had him on the ropes in 2012, and Muller always seems to lift his game on grass.

But even with all of the potential challengers, it’s hard to see this quarter being won by someone NOT from Switzerland.

Bottom Half, Bottom Quarter

Raonic [8] – Nishikori [10] *

Wildcards: Kohlschreiber (Nishikori)

Gasquet [13] – Nadal [2] *

Wildcards: Kyrgios or Monfils (Gasquet), Klizan or Rosol or Karlovic (Nadal)

Rafa Nadal is about as vulnerable this year as any year I’ve seen. Yes, he won a record ninth French Open title, and he’s the World No. 1, but there’s a greater sense now at the ripe old age of 28 that his body is becoming more and more uncooperative to the stresses of the game. Grass is one of the biggest stresses for him (knees) because of the low/unpredictable bounce. And let’s not forget that troublesome back, which nearly took him into a fifth set against Novak in Paris.

Rafa’s draw doesn’t help either, seeing as it’s littered with potential landmines all the way to (and including) the quarterfinal match. Klizan, Karlovic, and his 2012 slayer Rosol all have a chance at an early Nadal scalp. Richard Gasquet has grass-court credibility as well. If Gasquet can get by the surging, young star Nick Kyrgios AND countryman Gael Monfils, Rafa will have his hands full.

And that’s only in his section of the quarter. The other side poses even greater threats with Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori.  Raonic has improved his movement over the past year, but still gets challenged on grass – even with his huge serve. Luckily for him, he has no real challengers up until he faces Nishikori.

How that match might swing will depend on many factors. The first is Nishikori’s body. He always seems to be at risk of retiring or breaking down in way too many matches. Longer Slam matches don’t help. The good thing for him, however, is that he’s playing some of his best tennis and is a better mover than most. If he can get by Kohlschreiber, I think he’ll get past Raonic for a spot in the quarters.

My gut tells me that Rafa won’t make it out of this quarter. Then again, my gut told me that his knee wouldn’t hold up for last year’s US Open; and we all know what happened there, right? In all seriousness, Rafa’s best chance this year is to pray for a hot and dry fortnight that will make for drier grass and, eventually, a more clay-esque environment for his game.

Quarterfinal Picks

Djokovic – Berdych, Murray – Dimitrov, Wawrinka – Federer, Nishikori – Nadal

Notable First-Round Matches

Steve Johnson (USA) v Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) [27]

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [11] v Ryan Harrison (USA)

Donald Young (USA) v Benjamin Becker (GER)

Samuel Groth (AUS) v Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) [21]

Martin Klizan (SVK) v Rafael Nadal (ESP) [2]

PostHeaderIcon The Novak and Rafa Show: My French Open Men’s Semifinal Preview

Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal (© FFT)

Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal (© FFT)

Ernests Gulbis (LAT) [18] vs Novak Djokovic (SRB) [2]        

Novak Djokovic (© FFT)

Novak Djokovic (© FFT)

H2H: Djokovic leads 4-1

Original Picks: Novak Djokovic*, Roger Federer

Gulbis did a couple of things really well the other day in his quarterfinal against Tomas Berdych. The first, and most important, was the excellent way that he managed himself. That’s no small task given his volatile on-court persona. The second was how well he managed his game against Berdych. Though Berdych was clearly “off” his game, Gulbis was very effective in keeping him off-balance with the same type of shot variety that kept Federer similarly off-balance in their R16.

The problem for Gulbis in this particular match is that Djokovic is a cut above Berdych. He possesses better movement, better defense, more varied offense, and is the “best on tour” in his ability to turn defense into offense at a moment’s notice. Gulbis’ dropshots won’t bother him, his pace won’t bother him, and Djokovic’s return game is the best around.

Simply put, there’s nothing Gulbis can do that will cause sufficient stress to Djokovic’s game. Conversely, there’s a ton that Djokovic can and will do to stress Gulbis’ game. For example, he’s probably going to stretch him wide to the forehand like Berdych tried, but will better be able to handle any ensuing squash shots or short balls.

I could go on but you get the gist of it. This match is Novak’s to win. BUT I do expect at least one broken Gulbis racquet.

Revised Pick: Novak Djokovic in four sets.

 

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [1] vs Andy Murray (GBR) [7]

Rafa Nadal (© FFT)

Rafa Nadal (© FFT)

H2H: Nadal leads 14-5

Original Picks: Rafael Nadal*, Stan Wawrinka

Andy has NEVER beaten Rafa on clay. Unfortunately, that trend will continue in their French Open semifinal match when Rafa beats Andy to reach his ninth final in ten attempts.

Andy might take a set off of Rafa because of his incredible defense, and I do mean incredible, but it won’t be more than that. And admittedly, I’m only giving him that set because Rafa isn’t at his imperious best these days. The outcome of this match, however, will never be in doubt.

The situation might be slightly different if Ivan Lendl were still in the picture. One of the things he pushed Andy to do was be more aggressive with his forehand when he plays Rafa, and to also not be afraid to rip that backhand down the line. Both of those strategies have been shown to be highly effective against Nadal, and would certainly enhance his chances in this match.

Sadly, in the absence of Lendl’s aggressive coaching, Murray has digressed to his earlier defense-oriented game. Defense isn’t enough to beat Nadal. The only way you can beat Nadal with defense is if you can turn defense into offense as effectively as Djokovic. Murray doesn’t have that ability, and will have a hard time attempting to do so.

Apart from the match-up difficulties, Murray also comes into this match with suspect discipline. He cruised early against Monfils but then struggled badly as the Frenchman found his game (to put it mildly). He completely reverted to “Pre-Slam Andy” in sets 3 and 4, and only got the win after Monfils imploded. Champions raise their game at crunch time. They don’t grab at body parts while complaining to anyone courtside who will listen.

That’s not to say that Nadal is at the top of his game, because he’s not. But as one would expect from the 8-time champion, he’s raised his level as the tournament has progressed. If you expect to beat him in these latter rounds, you’re going to have to play at a high level for a very long time.

Ferrer found this out the hard way. He came out swinging, and took the first set. Once Nadal got his teeth into the match after taking the second set, Ferrer’s game quickly unraveled. He couldn’t sustain his initial level of play over the long haul, and received a bagel and breadstick for his efforts in sets 3 and 4.

Nadal’s cleaned up the more troubling parts of his game from earlier in the clay season i.e. the mistimed forehands from the baseline, no penetration on his backhand, weak serving, and badly-missed short balls. His back still bothers him, and he’s not able to serve with quite as much pace as would be preferable, but he’s playing ‘well enough’.

That should be more than good enough for a 4-set win over the regressing Murray.

Revised Pick: Rafael Nadal in four sets.

 

PostHeaderIcon Crunch Time For The Women and Men in Paris: A Quick French Open Quarterfinal Preview

Sharapova, Errani, Halep, and Bouchard

Sharapova, Errani, Halep, and Bouchard

Here’s a quick preview of the French Open quarterfinals, including my original picks AND my revised picks. Ladies first…

WOMEN

* – original pick for quarterfinal winner

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) v Maria Sharapova (RUS) [7]
H2H: Sharapova leads 1-0

On paper, Maria is the clear favorite in this match. But that means nothing in an upset-laden tournament such as this one. Nor does it matter to the woman who knocked out Serena Williams then backed it up with two more solid wins. My gut says Maria, but I won’t be surprised if Garbine comes out of this one with another high-profile scalp to add to her collection.

Original Picks: Serena Williams*, Maria Sharapova

Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) [14] v Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [18]
H2H: Suarez Navarro leads 1-0

Carla’s playing great tennis and Eugenie has a ton of confidence. Since I haven’t seen either of their matches, I can’t really use their prior matches to predict this outcome. It’s a toss-up, but I’ll give the nod to Eugenie. My gut tells me that, all hype aside, she’s the real deal. Let’s hope she lives up to it.

Original Picks: Aga Radwanska*, Flavia Pennetta

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) [27] v Simona Halep (ROU) [4]
H2H: Head-to-head is tied at 2-all

Out with the old, in with the new! Sveta has done well to make it this far, but Simona is playing excellent tennis. She’s completely owned her ascension to the top of the women’s game, and doesn’t look likely to be derailed from a first-ever French Open semifinal. If Sveta has a good day, you never know what could happen. But it’s not likely…

Original Picks: Simona Halep*, Ana Ivanovic

Sara Errani (ITA) [10] v Andrea Petkovic (GER) [28]
H2H: Head-to-head is tied at 1-all

Add me to the ranks of people who are thrilled to see Andrea fit, and playing great tennis again after way too many injuries in her short career. That said, this is an interesting (and odd) match-up with not much history to help us figure out who will come out on top. Sara has gone much further than I thought she would after her injury in the Rome final, and looks poised to go further. Experience will make the difference in this match-up.

Original Picks: Li Na*, Jelena Jankovic

Revised Quarterfinal Picks: Sharapova, Bouchard, Halep, Errani

Nadal, Murray, Gulbis, and Djokovic.

Nadal, Murray, Gulbis, and Djokovic.

MEN

* – original pick for quarterfinal winner

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [1] v David Ferrer (ESP) [5]
H2H: Nadal leads 21-6

Before the tournament began, I gave the nod to Rafa in this quarter in spite of Rafa’s loss to David in Monte Carlo. All of a sudden, however, there’s a lot of background chatter about Rafa’s back. (And we all remember what happened in Australia when his back went out.) Still, if injury isn’t an issue, I can’t see David hanging with Rafa for “best of five”.

Original Picks: Rafa Nadal*, David Ferrer

Gael Monfils (FRA) [23] v Andy Murray (GBR) [7]
H2H: Murray leads 3-2

As I tweeted earlier today, this match pits “ridiculous defense against ridiculous defense”! But in the end, Andy’s experience will win out. His game is a notch or two more disciplined than Gael’s, and that will be enough for a trip to the semifinals. And don’t forget to bring your popcorn.

Original Picks: Stan Wawrinka*, Andy Murray

Tomas Berdych (CZE) [6] v Ernests Gulbis (LAT) [18]
H2H: Berdych leads 4-2

It’s anyone’s guess as to who will prevail in this quarter. Tomas has had an excellent tournament, dropping only two sets along the way. He seems to be in a good headspace and is playing excellent tennis. Ernests, however, has a huge amount of confidence and momentum coming into this match after defeating Roger Federer in R16. Tomas leads the H2H, but Ernests is playing with such variety that I can see him unsettling his Czech opponent early, and often.

Original Picks: Roger Federer*, Roberto Bautista Agut

Milos Raonic (CAN) [8] v Novak Djokovic (SRB) [2]
H2H: Djokovic leads 2-0

Milos has worked hard to improve his suspect movement on clay, and the results speak for themselves. Unfortunately for him in this match, he’s playing the second best clay court player in the world. Novak moves better, and has shot variety, can return big serves, and easily turns defense to offense. Even if Milos plays the match of his life, it still won’t be enough to overcome Novak’s ruthless path to the final.

Original Picks: Novak Djokovic*, Milos Raonic

Revised quarters picks: Nadal, Murray, Gulbis, Djokovic

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Men’s French Open Preview: Best of Five Helps Rafa Get Number Nine

Rafael Nadal (© FFT)

Rafael Nadal (© FFT)

The spring clay court season demonstrated to us all that Rafa is definitely beatable in a “best of three” format IF his opponent can execute their game plan from first ball to last. It’s a whole different matter, however, when you need to win three sets against the King of Clay.

If Rafa Nadal wins a record ninth French Open title, it will be with the help of the “best of five” format. But it won’t be easy. He’ll need to exact revenge on all of his major foes from 2014 to do so. The toughest of the group, Novak Djokovic, wants this title more than anything else, and has the game to do it.

On top of everything else, he’s riding high on confidence after besting Rafa in consecutive Masters Series finals: the last on clay in Rome. Can Rafa turn the tide in Paris? Let’s take a quick look at the draw, and its’ likely outcome starting with the quarterfinals.

Top Half – Top Quarter (Rafa Nadal [1])

This quarter starts with Rafa and this year’s sacrificial lamb, Robby Ginepri. From there he’s likely to face Nico Almagro in the R16, and then David Ferrer in the quarters. It’s not an ideal draw, but one that is still pretty manageable with the “best of five” format. Both Nico and David beat Rafa this spring, but in “best of three” matches. And I don’t give either player the benefit of the doubt in this format.

Stan Wawrinka (© FFT)

Stan Wawrinka (© FFT)

Even though Grigor Dimitrov, the Bucharest Open champion, is also in this quarter, I don’t expect him to get by David for the chance to take on Rafa. He’s improved his game, and fitness, by leaps and bounds since his 2012 Roland Garros cramp-fest. But “best of five” on clay against two of the games preeminent clay-courters is simply too much to expect.

Top Half – Bottom Quarter (Stan Wawrinka [3])

Stan is a question mark in this year’s French Open. Why? After winning the title in Melbourne, he went AWOL through the rest of the hard court spring. The clay swing starts and he’s back on top again in Monte Carlo, only to go AWOL again. Honestly, it could go either way. Luckily for Stan, his draw looks good to make it through to the quarterfinals where he’ll likely face Andy Murray.

Roger Federer (© FFT)

Roger Federer (© FFT)

Andy has an 8-6 H2H with Stan, but has never beaten him on clay. When you add that to his lack of a coach (and subsequent return of his past “bad” Andy behavior), it doesn’t look good for the former member of the Big Four.

Bottom Half – Top Quarter (Roger Federer [4])

If I were to go strictly by rank, Tomas Berdych would be the choice to reach the quarterfinals from the top section of this quarter. But ranking doesn’t amount to much when facing a potentially dangerous opponent like Roberto Bautista Agut. Roberto, still riding a wave of great play that started early last year, reached the semifinals in Madrid. Conditions are different in Paris, but he’s still capable of an upset.

Novak Djokovic (© FFT)

Novak Djokovic (© FFT)

In the bottom section, Roger will need to get by the dangerous-yet-unpredictable Ernests Gulbis in the R16. And like with Rafa versus Nico and David, “best of five” will be the deciding factor. From there, Roger should be good to make it through this quarter.

Bottom Half – Bottom Quarter (Novak Djokovic [2])

Always one to give credit where credit is due, I give all credit to Milos Raonic for putting in the work to get his movement where it needed to be in order to well on surfaces other than hard court. He’s moving better, playing smarter, and should have no issues in getting through the top section of this quarter.

Unfortunately for Milos, Novak will once again await him on the other side. And barring injury, there’s little that’s going to keep Novak from reaching the final!

Quarterfinal Picks

Rafa Nadal defeats David Ferrer

Stan Wawrinka defeats Andy Murray

Roger Federer defeats Roberto Bautista Agut

Novak Djokovic defeats Milos Raonic

Semifinal Picks

Rafa Nadal defeats Stan Wawrinka

Novak Djokovic defeats Roger Federer

Final Pick

Rafa defeats Novak for his ninth French Open title with help from the “best of five” format.

Notable First-Round Matches

Rafael Nadal v Robby Ginepri

Nicolas Almagro v Jack Sock

Grigor Dimitrov v Ivo Karlovic

Milos Raonic v Nick Kyrgios

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