Friday, May 25, 2007

Roland Garros: Men's Singles Draw

by Craig Hickman

Roger Federer SUI (1) vs. Michael Russell USA
Qualifier vs. Thierry Ascione FRA
Qualifier vs. Potito Starace ITA
Carlos Berlocq ARG vs. Julien Benneteau FRA (30)

Juan Carlos Ferrero ESP (17) vs. Amer Delic USA
Stefan Koubek AUT vs. Qualifier
Nicolas Lapentti ECU vs. Alexander Peya AUT
Jan Hernych CZE vs. Mikhail Youzhny RUS (13)

Tommy Robredo ESP (9) vs. Sergio Roitman ARG
Chris Guccione AUS vs. Qualifier
Janko Tipsarevic SRB vs. Qualifier
Qualifier vs. Marat Safin RUS (22)

Filippo Volandri ITA (29)
vs. Qualifier
Martin Vassallo Arguello ARG vs. Alejandro Falla COL
Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo ESP vs. Stanislas Wawrinka SUI
Arnaud Clement FRA vs. Ivan Ljubicic CRO (7)

Roger shouldn't fret too much with this draw. Unless, of course, some Gustavo Kuerten-esque clay-courter comes through qualifying and steals the show. (How often does Roger get the most qualifiers in his section of the draw? One could almost think this quarter was guaranteed to the man, but only a fool thinks draws are rigged, no?) After his win in Hamburg, the top seed says his confidence is back, but early round matches in Slams for him are either blowouts or unexpectedly tough. As much as I adore Potito Starace's game on clay (and his name), I can't imagine he'll trouble the Messiah unless he's firing on all cylinders out of the gate. Filippo Volandri, the not-so-surprising upset specialist in Rome, won't post in Paris, so forget about him. Really. Defending semifinalist Ivan Ljubicic will be lucky to get out of the first round and the seeded Spaniards in this quarter just don't cut it. Marat Safin needs to do everything he can to get to Roger so we can finally get a Slam rematch of Melbourne 2005 when he upended the defending champ in five brilliant sets. But even if that happens, Raja takes his quarter.

Nikolay Davydenko RUS (4) vs. Stefano Galvani ITA
Alexandre Sidorenko FRA vs. Werner Eschauer AUT
Michael Llodra FRA vs. Nicolas Devilder FRA
Justin Gimelstob USA vs. Nicolas Almagro ESP (32)

Juan Ignacio Chela ARG (18) vs. Fabrice Santoro FRA
Olivier Rochus BEL vs. Gael Monfils FRA
Qualifier vs. Qalifier
Hyung-Taik Lee KOR vs. David Nalbandian ARG (15)

Richard Gasquet FRA (11) vs. Nicolas Mahut FRA
Kristof Vliegen BEL vs. Danai Udomchoke THA
Martin Verkerk NED vs. Simone Bolelli ITA
Victor Hanescu ROU vs. Guillermo Canas ARG (19)

Jurgen Melzer AUT (27) vs. Jose Acasuso ARG
Qualifier vs. Juan Monaco ARG
Edouard Rogervs.Vasselin FRA vs. Qualifier
Radek Stepanek CZE vs. Fernando Gonzalez CHI (5)

This quarter could prove most interesting. David Nalbandian was last seen playing golf in Cordoba, and Jurgen Melzer doesn't post at Slams, but any of the other seeds could win this quarter if the stars are aligned. But watch out for Gael Monfils. Recently transplanted Stateside with a new and passionate coach in Tarik Benhabiles, the three-time junior Slam champ knows how to win in Paris. I know, I know. The ITF isn't the ATP. But it's something. And he's having quite a run in Austria this week. Win or lose in the final, he'll arrive in Paris with a lot of momentum. And he'll devour the raucous crowd's love like creme fraiche. Nicolas Almagro, 2007 Valencia champion, might finally have his Slam breakthrough. Afterall, no players in this section will intimidate him with their presence. Verteran Guillermo Canas, who recently lost his doping appeal, plays well on clay, but outside of Slams, he's had his best results on hardcourts. And his claycourt season hasn't exactly been stellar. And look for Fabrice Santoro to play another 5-hour match. If it comes down to the new generation, I'll go with the homeboy (not the one with the red shoes), but it's hard to pick against Nikolay Davydenko at a Slam.


Novak Djokovic SRB (6) vs. Qualifier
Sam Querrey USA vs. Qualifier
Jonathan Eysseric FRA vs. Olivier Patience FRA
Qualifier vs. Agustin Calleri ARG (26)

Dmitry Tursunov RUS (21) vs. Alessio Di Mauro ITA
Fernando Verdasco ESP vs.Qualifier
Robby Ginepri USA vs. Diego Hartfield ARG
Daniele Bracciali ITA vs. David Ferrer ESP (12)

Marcos Baghdatis CYP (16) vs. Sebastien Grosjean FRA
Kristian Pless DEN vs. Yen-Hsun Lu TPE
Thomas Johansson SWE vs. Jan Hajek CZE
Qualifier vs. Dominik Hrbaty SVK (24)

Florian Mayer GER (31) vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu FRA
Vincent Spadea USA vs. Gilles Simon FRA
Luis Horna PER vs. Nicolas Massu CHI
Igor Andreev RUS vs. Andy Roddick USA (3)

This quarter is wide open. The top seed won't get out of the first round, and if he does, he's getting booted in the second. Having failed to take advantage of soft draws two of the last three years, it's only right he get it tough on paper this time around. All seven players in his section can defeat him on clay. (Wouldn't it be ironic if this becomes the first time he advances past the third round? Well, I can wish...) Good luck at Wimbledon, Andy. That leaves the Djoke as the next highest seed, and since I have nothing good to say about him, I'll say nothing at all. David Ferrer could take this quarter if he brings his A-game, which includes the oft-missing mental tenacity he possesses if he's not playing someone whose aura overshadows him. Watch out for all the Frenchman in this section, along with Nicolas Massu, Florian Mayer, and unheralded Jan Hajek who won matches in Dusseldorf this week. I'll go with David Ferrer just because.

James Blake USA (8) vs. Ivo Karlovic CRO
Peter Luczak AUS vs. Jonas Bjorkman SWE
Qualifier vs. Oscar Hernandez ESP
Qualifier vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber GER (28)

Carlos Moya ESP (23) vs. Andreas Seppi ITA
Florent Serra FRA vs. Igor Kunitsyn RUS
Robert Kendrick USA vs. Qualifier
Guillermo Garciavs.Lopez ESP vs. Tomas Berdych CZE (10)

Lleyton Hewitt AUS (14) vs. Max Mirnyi BLR
Marc Gicquel FRA vs. Gaston Gaudio ARG
Benjamin Becker GER vs. Mathieu Montcourt FRA
Feliciano Lopez ESP vs. Jarkko Nieminen FIN (20)

Robin Soderling SWE (25) vs. Albert Montanes ESP
Ernests Gulbis LAT vs. Tim Henman GBR
Qualifier vs. Teimuraz Gabashvili RUS
Juan Martin Del Potro ARG vs. Rafael Nadal ESP (2)

According to the picture above, Rafael Nadal drew his own quarter. Let's just say he shot himself in his painful foot. Paris plays relatively fast, and there are some big hitters in this quarter - Robing Soderling, Rafa's potential third round opponent; Tomas Berdych, who's had a suprisingly noteworthy claycourt swing; James Blake, who upset Nicolas Almagro, the third hottest player this time last year; and, of course, Dr. Ivo himself, who no one expects to do anything on clay and then he goes and wins his first ATP title on the stuff. (Green, yes, but many have said, including Serena, and she ought to know, that the fake stuff can be slower than the terre battue.) And then there's that Lleyton Hewitt, who pushed Rafa mightily in Hamburg, and Jarkko Nieminen, who, up a set and a break, came mighty close to ending Rafa's streak in Barcelona last year.. Still, how can anyone in their right mind pick against the two-time defending champion? As much as I go against the grain, I won't this time: no matter how tough the battle, Rafa win his quarter.

No comments: