French Open men’s preview: Changing of the guard?

I am taking a slightly different approach with my men’s preview of the French Open. Instead of four quarters, I will be breaking the draw into the top and bottom half, while still occasionally referencing quarters of the draw. My hope is that this will make the post shorter and easier for you all to follow. The draw for this event has created a ton of pretournament hype. It is also placed one legend in prime position to perhaps steal glory in the French capital one more time. Allow me to elaborate.

Top Half- Group of death

Men’s tennis has been dominated by the so-called “Big 4” for nearly a decade now. We are used to Roger Federer, Rafael (Rafa) Nadal, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic battling it out for the big trophy during the final weekend at the majors. However, this major will be a bit different. Nadal owns this event with 9 titles and 1 career loss. Read that line over again. However, the “King of Clay” has not won a European clay court title leading into Roland Garros for the first time in his career. This has landed him with a career low French Open seeding of number 6 and in the quarter of top seeded Djokovic. Nadal vs. Djokovic has been the matchup in 8 major finals as well as 2 of the last 3 in Paris. Nadal has denied his Serbian rival a French Open title countless times over the years. The French Open is the only major missing from Novak’s mantle. A quarterfinal matchup between the two here is unfortunate, inconceivable, and inevitable. Expect yet another long grueling affair between the two best movers and defenders this sport has ever seen. The only stern test for either man in the early rounds could be 20th seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet for Djokovic in the 4th round.

This half gets even more ridiculous when you consider that the winner of the Rafa/Novak match will likely have to contend with British 3 seed Andy Murray in the semis. Murray has finally figured out a winning clay court formula, snagging two titles on the red dirt this year. He is as fit as he has ever been to make a deep run here. He may have to deal with big servers John Isner of the US and Nick Kyrgios of Australia early on, but he is solid as a rock in all aspects at the moment. Murray is poised to pick up the scraps in the semis after Rafa and Novak beat the holy hell out of each other in the QFs. Remember, the men play best 3 out of 5 sets at the 4 majors.

First round match to watch here: I like young American Jack Sock to upset 11th seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in what is sure to be an entertaining first round affair.

Semifinal prediction: Murray d. Nadal.

Bottom half- A highway to the final for Federer?

Roger Federer must be pinching himself right now. In order to add to his record of 17 major singles titles, the Swiss maestro only has to be one of his chief rivals. Better yet for Federer, that wouldn’t have to happen until the final. He has only won this event once (2009). However, the 30+-year-old will never have a better chance to snatch another major. The only 2 names that could challenge Federer before the final are flashy Frenchman (13) Gael Monfils in round 4 and 5th seeded Japanese backboard Kei Nishikori in the semis. Federer must serve big and keep points as short as possible to stay fresh for the later rounds. TV coverage begins tomorrow at 5 a.m. on ESPN2 and will be split with Tennis Channel and NBC throughout the 15 day event. Semifinal prediction- Federer d. Nishikori.

Final: Federer d. Murray

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