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Monday, 25 May 2015

Les hommes cherchent a coup de pied dans un peu d'argile
A two-man race for the Roland Garros title?

The second Grand Slam of the season has been one where predictability and dominance have reigned supreme.  The Coupe des Mousquetaires has been glued to the hands of Rafael Nadal for 9 of the past 10 years.  Sure we still have seen some great tennis over these two weeks in the past but the end result continues to be the same.

This year could be different though.  Nadal enters as the #6 seed and has struggled the past few years with injuries.  If he fails to win this major, it will be the longest he has gone between major wins (4) since 2010, and that has included two injuries which sidelined him. But come on, this is Rafa right?  Should we really doubt him in Paris?

Well, of any year, this seems to be the one.  There are a few challenges who may be ready to step up and take the top spot as King of Clay for 2015.  And we all know who the big favorite is right?

Let's take a look at the #TwineTime preview and predictions:

The Favorite

Novak Djokovic (#1) - Besides Nadal a few seasons back, I don't think any player has entered this event on more of a tear to start the season and having this large of a target on his back.  He is not just the favorite to win....but he is EVERYONE'S pick to win.  And rightfully so.  The Djoker has lost only 2 matches this season and has steamrolled through every player who has been on the other side of the net.  Fresh off the 2015 Australian Open, at this point of the season Novak is a threat to win the ultimate Grand Slam of all 4 majors in one year.  Novak has also put a lot of pressure on himself to win this event.  This is the only title he is missing from the career grand slam and this is the year he is most primed to pull it off.  Honestly, if anyone other than Novak is hoisting the championship trophy in 2 weeks, consider it a HUGE shock!  Although look who he drew as a possible quarterfinal opponent....

Watch Out For

Rafa Nadal (#6) - Ok so he is not having his best season.  His ranking has dropped to its lowest point in years and he enters a tournament he has dominated for 10 years as an underdog.  But let's not count the guy out.  Winning this event 9 of the past 10 years, including the previous 5, automatically makes you a threat.  The big question will be how the knees hold up and if he still has the magic to pull off the wins.  The expected quarterfinal between Rafa and Novak is going to be surreal to watch, if it happens.  These are guys used to playing one another in slam finals or semifinals, not quarterfinals.  It almost seems  unfair to think one of them will not be in the final 4.  Consider this, if Milos Raonic had not withdrew due to injury, Nadal would be seeded even lower.  Crazy....

Andy Murray (#3) - The 28 year old has never really excelled on the clay but he has put a ton of effort into improving his clay court game in hopes of being a real threat for this title.  Murray has won his last two events (Madrid and Rome), including the jaw-dropping destruction of Nadal in Madrid.  His clay court game seems to be at its highest peak and this could be the opportunity for him to cash in.  The biggest downside to Murray will be his draw.  He is played on the same side of the draw as Djokovic and Nadal.

Roger Federer (#2) - The resurgent RFed is back and looks to have a stellar shot at a deep run here in Paris.  With the focus and attention being on Novak, Nadal and Andy, Roger could just quietly go about his business and find himself in another French Open final.  His biggest competitors are all on the other side of the draw so he has to consider himself lucky.  His toughest opponent until the quarterfinal will probably come in the second round.  If he can avoid the early upset bid, he should be smooth sailing until the Final 8, where he could see fellow Swiss star Stan the Man Wawrinka.  Is he a threat to win?  Probably not.  Can he pull it off though?  Well, he is Roger Federer after all and you don't get to 17 Grand Slam titles on luck of the draw. 

Dark Horse

Dominic Thiem - If you have been following along with my twitter account (shameless plug: why aren't you following me by the way?), you won't be surprised by this mention.  I have been a HUGE supporter of this up and coming Austrian for quite some time now.  Austria has not been a major player on the tennis circuit since Thomas Muster but Thiem could be the guy to resurrect the single's game in Austria.  Entering the French Open ranked #48 in the world, Thiem enters Roland Garros fresh off his first ATP tour title in Nice where he beat quality players like John Isner and Nick Kyrgios.  Technically the tour win propelled his ranking to #31, which would have given him a seed at this event but it was after the cut off point.  He is a dangerous young player most other players on tour will be wanting to avoid, especially in those early rounds.  Remember, this is the same guy who made the 4th round at the US Open last year so he is familiar with making deep runs at a slam now.  the question is when will he pull it to the next level?  Unfortunately for Dominic, he finds himself in the same section of the draw as French favorite Gael Monfils and Roger Federer.  The draw could be his biggest road block this time around.

So how will it all shake down?  According to #TwineTime, here are the picks:

4th Round

(1) Novak Djokovic def. (20) Richard Gasquet
(6) Rafa Nadal def. (10) Grigor Dimitrov
(3) Andy Murray def. (17) David Goffin
(7) David Ferrer def. (23) Leonard Mayer
(19) Roberto Bautista Agut def. (5) Kei Nishikori
(4) Tomas Berdych def. (14) J-W Tsonga
(8) Stan Wawrinka def. (12) Gilles Simon
(2) Roger Federer def. Dominic Thiem

Quarterfinals

(1) Djokovic def. (6) Nadal
(3) Murray def. (7) Ferrer
(4) Berdych def. (19) Bautista Agut
(2) Federer def. (8) Wawrinka

Semifinals

(1) Djokovic def. (3) Murray
(2) Federer def. (4) Berdych

2015 FRENCH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP:  (1) Novak Djokovic over (2) Roger Federer in 3 sets - Novak is just too strong right now.  I really do not see anyone beating him, unless an injury or something weird happens (and let's hope it doesn't).  He is amazing to watch and his clay court game has been elevated the past few years.  Plus, who doesn't want to see him earn the career Grand Slam?  He deserves it.  And what better way then to eliminate Nadal, Murray and Federer all in a row!

Ok ball boys and girls, there is the #TwineTime preview and predictions for the second slam of the year.  What do you think?  Do you foresee a different outcome this year?  Maybe a different dark horse?  Or did I forget or overlook your fav player?  If so, let me know and let's keep the conversation going.  Enjoy the romantic setting of Paris over the next two weeks...

Also, take a look at my preview of the ladies draw HERE