Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roland Garros Men's Draw Analysis - Who's standing in Rafa's way?

It's 8 hours till kick off people and am sure you're all as excited as I am. The French Open draw, which was picked out with the help of defending champions Ana Ivanovic and Rafael Nadal last Friday, is now complete with all the qualifiers. Here's the breakdown of the 2009 Roland Garros men's singles draw:

The Rafa Quarter

The four-time defending champion, Rafael Nadal, goes to Roland Garros for the first time as the world number 1. He is 28-0 in Paris and will be looking to become the 1st player in the history of the game, to win 5 consecutive French Open titles.

Rafa opens his 2009 Roland Garros campaign against Brazilian qualifier, Marcos Daniel. His first real test could come as early as the third round, where he could meet either 26th seed, Ivo Karlovic, or former world number 1, Lleyton Hewitt.

Just like in Madrid and in Rome, Nadal is drawn to possibly face his compatriot, Fernando Verdasco [8] in the quarterfinals, but first he might have to overcome another dangerous Spaniard, David Ferrer [14] in the 4th round.

Meanwhile Verdasco will have to fight the likes of Nikolay Davydenko [10] and Stanislas Wawrinka [17] to make it to the quarters.

First round hot matches:

Lleyton Hewitt vs Ivo Karlovic [26]
David Ferrer [14] vs Frederico Gil
Sam Querrey vs Ernests Gulbis

"I can't really read the future but what I know is that I will do my best to win once again. Then again there is a big difference between trying and winning of course... Everything's quite complicated, there are some very good players out there, and it's gonna be very tough to beat the players that I'll come against so I just wanna think about training and be ready for my first match."

The Murray Quarter

World number 3, Andy Murray, has been drawn to face Nadal in the semis, which means that Roger Federer [2] and Novak Djokovic [4] could feature in the other semifinal.

Murray, whose best performance at Roland Garros came last year when he reached the third round, is set to face Juan Ignacio Chela in the first round on Sunday, and is drawn to clash with 7th seed and home favorite, Gilles Simon in the quarters.

Murray could bump into Feliciano Lopez [28] in the 3rd round, Radek Stepanek [18] or Marin Cilic [13] in the 4th, before meeting Simon [7], Fernando Gonzalez [12] or Marat Safin [20] in the last eight.

First round hot matches:

Janko Tipsarevic vs Albert Montanes
Gaston Gaudio [WC] vs Radek Stepanek [18]

"I want to reach the second week and I'll try to do that. That's a good starting point for me... I feel much more comfortable on clay than I did last year. Obviously the confidence is better and that's a big factor."

"He's (Juan Ignacio Chela) obviously a tough clay-court player. He had a bad injury last year but has come back this year and is playing well so I definitely can't afford to look past him at others in the field."

The Djokovic Quarter

World number 4, Novak Djokovic, is having the clay season of his life at the moment (despite slipping to #4 in the rankings) and let's hope he can keep it up for 2 more weeks.

The Serb, who is considered by some to be the greatest threat to Nadal's unbeaten record in Paris, opens against Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti and is drawn to potentially meet 5th seeded Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarters.

But before Djokovic thinks about the quarters, he must beat the likes of former French Open champion, Juan Carlos Ferrero, or Ivan Ljubicic in the 3rd round, followed by a possible 4th round against Tommy Robredo [16].

The top part of Djokovic's quarter is filled with field mines as Del Potro [5], Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [9], Marcos Baghdatis and Juan Monaco are all potential quarterfinal opponents for the Serb.

First round hot matches:

Fabio Fognini vs Igor Andreev [25]
Marcos Baghdatis vs Juan Monaco
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [9] vs Julien Bennetau (French vs French in France!!)

"This clay court season has been probably the best that I had in my career and I've made some major improvements since last year. I changed the racquet, which is a lot faster than the one I had before so maybe I can use that and try to get a step further at the 2009 Roland Garros."

The Federer Quarter

Roger Federer, who will be playing his first French Open as a non-top-seed since 2003, opens his quest for this elusive Grand Slam title, against Spanish veteran, Alberto Martin.

Andy Roddick [6] lies at the opposite end of Federer in that quarter of the draw, and the two will have some not-so-difficult obstacles to overcome, if they are to meet in the quarters.

Federer could face Frenchman Paul Henri-Mathieu [32] in the 3rd round before he could get his first test in the 4th round against James Blake [15] or Tomas Berdych [19].

If Roddick makes it to the quarters, his only main challenge en route, could be in the form of a not-so-fit Gael Monfils [11] in the 4th round. This part of the draw is definitely a lot easier than all the others, or at least it appears so on paper.

First round hot match:

Simone Bolelli vs Tomas Berdych [19]

"I know that if I play well I can beat everybody on all surfaces and that includes Roland Garros... I think that I'm a lot more relaxed now than I have been in the last few years."

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