Madrid and Rome were not the ideal preparations for Novak Djokovic as he suffered losses to Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych as he failed to progress past the quarter-finals of either tournament. Djokovic could at least get a chance for revenge with Dimitrov as he is on course for a third round showdown with the Bulgarian. Djokovic opens his Roland Garros campaign against David Goffin, who will lose a large chunk of ranking points having made the 4th round last year. If Djokovic and Dimitrov did meet in round three, I could quite confidently say that I think Djokovic would progress as Dimitrov just does not have the fitness for best of five set matches. The section vying for Djokovic’s round of 16 opponent is pretty drab with Alexandr Dolgopolov and Philipp Kohlschreiber the two highest ranked players.
There was a possibility that we could have had a Ferrer-Tipsarevic quarter, but thankfully the tennis gods have spared up. Still, we are stuck with Janko Tipsarevic as a top eight seed, who has won just two matches through five clay court tournaments. He plays Nicolas Mahut, who is not much cop on clay and could offer up a rare win for Tipsarevic; however getting past Fernando Verdasco (or even Marc Gicquel) in round two will be his stumbling block. This section could be be blown out of the stratosphere after the first two rounds as John Isner is going to struggle to get past Carlo Berlocq in round one, having lost four of his last five matches on clay and Mikhail Youzhny has a very tough starter against Madrid semi-finalist, Pablo Andujar. Step forward, Tommy Haas who has a superb chance of making the quarter-finals…
Richard Gasquet has never done particularly well in front of a Parisian crowd, but if he wants to break from tradition, he has a reasonable draw to do it. His first match will be against Sergiy Stakhovsky and his first seed is likely to be Florian Mayer. The real challenge will come in round four where Gasquet is expected to meet Stanislas Wawrinka. The Swiss number two had a terrific run winning Oeiras (d. Ferrer) and making the final in Madrid (d. Tsonga and Berdych). I have heard rumours he is struggling with an injury, but I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt as he has yet to withdraw! Jerzy Janowicz will be a danger in this section of the draw, but could easily come unstuck in his first round match against Albert Ramos, who beat him earlier this year in Barcelona.
David Ferrer fell twice to Rafael Nadal in his last two tournaments of Madrid and Rome. Both matches though went three sets and showed a marked improvement on the earth shatteringly bad drubbing he suffered to Nadal in Acapulco. Ferrer will take on Marinko Matosevic in the first round before a potential third round encounter with fellow Spaniard, Marcel Granollers. His 4th round opponent comes from a section that could throw up a really interesting third rounder between Milos Raonic and Kevin Anderson. Both have had consistent years, but if they do meet in the 3rd round, I would give the edge to Anderson.
Roger Federer must have had a huge grin on his face when he saw his draw because it is an absolute gem. His first two round will feature qualifiers, the first of those against Pablo Carreno-Busta, the most dangerous of all the qualifiers following a few notable runs through the clay court season. In round three, Federer could meet Julien Benneteau, who has beaten him this year but that was on a fast indoor hard court and clay is not Benneteau’s surface. A Rome rematch with Gilles Simon is on the cards in the 4th round with Sam Querrey, the other seed in this section, unlikely to offer much resistance.
The first test for Federer is not likely to come until the quarter-finals where Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be the favourite to meet Fed. Tsonga plays Aljaz Bedene in the first round before a potential third round encounter with fellow Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy. Juan Monaco and Marin Cilic are also in this section and pose a threat as Tsonga’s 4th round opponent. Cilic has not had particularly strong results on the clay, meanwhile Monaco has done pretty well, making the final this week in Dusseldorf and overturning a horror start to 2013.
You can view my full predictions for the mens draw at Roland Garros from Saturday. I will be updating the draw throughout the two weeks so you can keep an eye on how my predictions are doing.