Friday's draw ceremony threw up some interesting prospective clashes. Here, I analyse how it panned out for some of this year's key participants:
Nadal will probably be reasonably happy with his draw, at least for the early rounds. He faces Robby Ginepri in the opener, before a potential clash with exciting youngster Dominic Thiem in the second round. While Rafa is seeded to face Vasek Pospisil in the last 32, there are some serious question marks over the Canadian's recent form, so the Spaniard is perhaps more likely to come up against Teymuraz Gabashvili or Leonardo Mayer. I'm backing Nicolas Almagro to reach the fourth round rather than Tommy Haas, in which case the defending champion will be looking to make amends for his quarter-final defeat in Barcelona earlier this year.
David Ferrer has a fairly tricky start as he bids to defend the 1200 points he earned by reaching last year's final. Igor Sijsling is his first opponent before a potential 3rd round clash with in-form Santiago Giraldo. Grigor Dimitrov will likely have to overcome big-serving Karlovic and Anderson in order to set up what could be an interesting round 4 face-off with Ferrer.
If the Spanish terrier does indeed reach the last eight, Rafa fans will be hoping that lightning doesn't strike twice (at least not within ten years) after Ferrer's victory over the world number one in Monte Carlo earlier this year. Needless to say, I'm taking the sensible route and backing Nadal to come through this quarter.
Many have pegged Wawrinka as one of the favourites for the French Open this year, and he has a mixed prospective route to the latter stages. On one hand, his opening match couldn't be much tougher, with Monte Carlo quarter-finalist Guillermo Garcia-Lopez drawn to face the 3rd seed straight away, but if Stan comes through that, his next serious test shouldn't come until the last 16, where he could face Italian clay court specialist Fabio Fognini. In the fairly probable event that Fabio's antics prevent him from going deep at Roland Garros, Gael Monfils is the most likely to be awaiting the Swiss number one at that stage, if he gets over the injury which saw him pull out of Nice this week.
It's hard to know what to make of Murray's draw. He'll have mixed feelings about being in Wawrinka's quarter, as he probably wouldn't swap it for a quarter-final against Nadal or Djokovic, but on the other hand, Stan crushed the Scot in their last clay meeting in Monte Carlo and also beat him in straight sets at the US Open last time they met at a major. Andy will be fairly happy with his opening few matches though, with Golubev, Matosevic, Kohlschreiber and Gasquet all men he should feel fairly comfortable beating even on his weakest surface.
If Wawrinka and Murray both reach the last eight, I'll be backing the Swiss to come out on top, but the upside for the British number one is that Stan's inconsistent form this year has seen him lose to some relatively underwhelming opponents at times. I'm still backing the 3rd seed to reach the semi-finals, but Murray's draw gives him a solid chance of reaching the last four at Roland Garros for the second time in his career.
Of all the big names, Roger Federer will arguably be the happiest with his draw, as his opening matches against Lukas Lacko and a qualifier should enable him to find his feet on a clay court after that early loss to Jeremy Chardy in Rome. Seeded to face Tursunov in the third round, Roger's first big test could come against Ernests Gulbis in the last 16, if the Latvian can come through a section of the draw that includes Mikhail Youzhny. A prospective quarter-final clash with Tomas Berdych could be interesting, as the Czech has caused Federer a fair amount of trouble in the past, but clay remains the 6th seed's trickiest surface, and lost here in the first round last year.
Berdych will be looking to avoid a repeat of his 2013 French Open, and you fancy his chances of overcoming the qualifier he'll face in his opening match, as well as either Devvarman or Nedovyesov in the second round. The Czech is then seeded to face Roberto Bautista Agut, though, a tie he won't be relishing after the Spaniard knocked him out of Indian Wells earlier this year. Berdych has his work cut out to reach the quarter-finals, with that tie following another tough test in the last 16, most likely against Tommy Robredo or John Isner.
I can see Berdych failing to set a quarter-final date with Roger Federer, then, but even if he does I can't see past the Swiss to reach the final four. With a relatively kind draw in front of him, the only thing I can see stopping him from reaching the semi-finals is himself. There was talk of Federer not having his heart in his Rome campaign last week following the birth of his twin boys, so let's hope that isn't the case in Paris.
Djokovic has probably the toughest route through the early rounds, starting with Joao Sousa in the opener. After a likely test against Jeremy Chardy, the Serb is then seeded to face Marin Cilic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and that's just to make it as far as the quarter-finals. Still, Novak has proven countless times in his career that he's more than capable of overcoming the potential early round banana skins at the major events, and you'd expect him to get through those matches to reach the last eight and set up a potential rematch of his Rome Masters semi-final with Milos Raonic. If the big Canadian falls before that stage, Djokovic could instead face the arguably even more dangerous Kei Nishikori, or Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Raonic has a decidedly difficult task on his hands to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final. He faces an opener against up-and-coming Nick Kyrgios, who received a wildcard into the main draw, before facing Lukas Rosol or Jiri Vesely in the second round. The Canadian is then seeded to face Gilles Simon in the 3rd round before either Alexandr Dolgopolov or Kei Nishikori, both men who have beaten him this year, in the last 16. On a surface that doesn't suit his game, I'll be surprised if Raonic does end up on the opposite side of the net to Novak Djokovic in the middle of the second week.
I think it'll be Nishikori who comes through that tricky section of the draw to set up a quarter-final tie with Djokovic, and the Japanese will prove to be a very tricky customer for the 2nd seed to overcome, but ultimately I believe that the Serb will come through and go on to win the French Open for the first time.
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