Sunday, May 22, 2016

Roland Garros Preview 2016

I admit this post comes a little late, but with the limited action today due to weather (only 10 matches completed) and no seeds out, it is still appropriate.

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams enter this edition of Roland Garros with the "favorite" tag applied, and rightfully so.  When they are on their game, it is extreme difficult, if not impossible, for them to be beaten.


As has often been the case in the past few years, there are few men who have a legitimate chance at winning this tournament.  But Marin Cilic did break through to win the '14 US Open, so I suppose there is some small chance for "the field".  I feel like there are only 3 men who can win Roland Garros this year: Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal.  Maybe I am selling Wawrinka short, but despite winning 3 titles this year, he has flopped at the biggest events, so I would be surprised to see him in the final, if he can even get to the semis.

Djokovic would be the overwhelming favorite were it not 3 things: his Monte Carlo loss to Vesely, his Rome loss to Murray, and the play of Nadal at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona as well as his tight loss to Djokovic in Rome.  Djokovic is still the favorite, of course, but one can see him losing to Nadal or Murray, at this tournament which he's never won.

It's debatable whether Murray or Nadal is the second favorite, both with Nadal being drawn into Djokovic's half, there's a decent chance Djokovic will have to go through both to win his first French Open.  Murray probably has the slight advantage that he will (likely) get to play Djokovic after the world no. 1 first battles Nadal.  As we saw in Rome, Djokovic can be vulnerable to fatigue.  However, if Nadal were able to beat Djokovic, I think the Spaniard would prevail in the final.

All of this assumes that all three of these men will be waiting for one another in the later rounds, but there's little reason to suspect that won't be the case.  Nishikori has had a very nice clay season but hasn't beaten the top players.  I won't completely count out Wawrinka, but a run to the final Sunday would be surprising to me.  The second tier of men's tennis (I'm talking primarily about Berdych, Ferrer, and Tsonga) after so much consistency the past few years behind the Big Four, has really dropped off this year and I expect most of them may fail to defend their seeds and reach the QF.  Therefore, my dark horses of this tournament are those guys that have played well this year, and mostly a younger set: Kyrgios, Thiem, and Goffin.  I'm expecting one of those guys to have a breakout slam, although Thiem has been drawn near Nadal.  Interestingly, none of that trio has been drawn into Wawrinka's quarter, which along with providing some optimism for Stan, provides a large opportunity for someone.  Can Raonic (who has quietly had a nice year), Cilic, or Sock take advantage?

I actually think this is the year Djokovic finally puts it all together and completes his career grand slam.


This is such a wide, wide open tournament for the women.  There's probably 20 women you wouldn't be surprised to see in the semis, but any of those same women losing in the first round wouldn't be a big shocker either.  While Serena is the favorite, at enters the tournament after winning in Rome, she's as beatable as she has been is years, and clay is in theory her worst surface.  I doubt she'll lose early this year, but there are plenty of women who could beat her in the later stages.  It will depend how she's playing at the time.  She lost 5 sets en route to the title last year but I'm not sure if that means she's due to lose or she knows how to overcome adversity and will do it again.

Beyond Serena, there are few top players who can be counted on to defend their seed.  I do think Halep, after her Madrid title, is due for a deep run here.  Kerber, the winner at Stuttgart (and of course the Australian Open) should be able to go deep but has a tricky first rounder against the in form Bertens, who won a title yesterday.  Beyond those three, the top 10 is full of question marks.

Radwanska, Azarenka, and Kvitova have been plagued by injuries or poor play, Muruguza had a good run in Rome but has been otherwise inconsistent...and the list goes on.  Let's focus on those lower ranked players who could make a nice run.  Cibulkova has been very good the past few weeks, losing to Halep in the Rome final after beating Radwanska and others.  Kuznetsova has been in good form recently and usually always plays well in Paris.  Safarova seems to have put it back together in time to defend her finalist points.  And if you're looking for a dark horse in the weak Muguruza/Kvitova quarter, look at 25th seed Begu, who is the only woman to reach the quarters in both Madrid and Rome, although I wonder if that means she'll be fatigued.  There's a Bacsinszky, Keys, and Kasatkina in varying degrees of good form recently.

I have no idea what's going to happen in this women's draw, but it should be fun to sit back and watch.  Maybe someone new will be holding up a trophy at the end.  For what it's worth, my personal pick was Halep over Cibulkova in the final.

2015 Results

Wawrinka def. Djokovic
SF - Murray, Tsonga
QF - Federer (w/d), Nadal, Ferrer, Nishikori

Serena def. Safarova
SF - Ivanovic (no way that's happening again), Bacsinszky
QF - Errani, Svitolina, Muguruza, van Uytvanck (w/d)

Former champions in the draw:
-Nadal, Wawrinka
-Serena, Ivanovic, Kuznetsova, Schiavone

Former junior champions in the draw:
-Mathieu, Gasquet, Wawrinka, Cilic, Klizan, Fratangelo (not much success on the ATP tour for recent junior Roland Garros champs)
-Dominguez Lino, Razzano, Radwanska, Cornet, Halep, Mladenovic, Svitolina, Beck, Kasatkina

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