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Tennis

French Open men’s preview and predictions: Legacies at stake

Anthony Bibard/FEP/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire
Anthony Bibard/FEP/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire

There’s no need to manufacture storylines for the 2016 men’s French Open. Cutting right to the chase, this is the most important men’s tennis event since at least Wimbledon 2014 (when Novak Djokovic turned around his bad mojo in major finals and denied Roger Federer his 18th major) and maybe even the 2012 French Open (the other time Djokovic had a chance to hold all four majors at once).

If Djokovic can win his first French, he seizes his 12th major, completes the career Grand Slam, becomes the first since Jim Courier in 1992 to win Australia and Roland Garros in the same year, and holds all four men’s majors at the same time, which hasn’t been done since Rod Laver in 1969. He’d be two shy of Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras in total Slams and within reasonable striking distance of Federer’s 17. On the other hand, if Nadal wins, he’s four majors clear of Djokovic again, would have a preposterous 10 French Opens and would revive his own chances of catching Federer.

And that’s without even covering Andy Murray, who hasn’t won a major since Wimbledon 2013, or Stan Wawrinka, who has a legit chance to defend his title. The next two weeks will reverberate for a long time.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC [1] QUARTER

Contenders: Novak Djokovic

Big name, little chance: Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer (both have declined and struggled to contend with Djokovic even on their good days)

Notable floaters: Borna Coric, Taylor Fritz, Pablo Carreno Busta, Hyeon Chung, Juan Monaco, Quentin Halys

Upset alert: Pablo Cuevas potentially over Berdych and/or Ferrer

Breakdown: The first round matchup of Coric vs Fritz is the highlight of a quarter that lacks anything resembling a challenge to Djokovic. Berdych would be the only interesting threat considering he’s a total wild card after firing coach Dani Vallverdu.

RAFAEL NADAL [4] QUARTER

Contenders: Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Dominic Thiem

Big name, little chance: David Goffin (could reach the quarters, but doesn’t the firepower to threaten Nadal), Kevin Anderson (clay’s not his surface and he’s just coming back from injury)

Notable floaters: Sascha Zverev, Jiri Vesely, Nico Almagro, Ernests Gulbis, Marcos Baghdatis

Upset alert: Zverev over Anderson in round two

Breakdown: Nadal’s draw was seen as the toughest of the top four seeds, but it may not pan out that way. While potential fourth round opponent Thiem is a beast on clay, he was still in Nice winning a 250 event over Zverev on Saturday. That’s a quick turnaround, and either a third round rematch against Zverev or fatigue/injury troubles (he called a injury timeout in the final for his right arm) could derail the anticipated Nadal-Thiem clash. The biggest challenge could come from Fabio Fognini in round three if he’s in form and gets through Marcel Granollers. Almagro vs Philipp Kohlschreiber is a round one match to watch in this region.

STAN WAWRINKA [3] QUARTER

Contenders: Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Gilles Simon, Jack Sock

Big name, little chance: Marin Cilic (made the final in Geneva, losing to Wawrinka, but is still returning from injury)

Notable floaters: Grigor Dimitrov, Lukas Rosol, Martin Klizan

Upset alert: Sock over Cilic in the third round

Breakdown: Wawrinka couldn’t have asked for a better draw. After a lousy clay season, he found some clutch tennis in Geneva and there’s really no here who should trouble him. If he loses, it’s because he one of his bad days, not because someone rose up to beat him. Although Sock is overrated by the American media, he’s got a great draw and his game caters best to clay. The quarterfinals aren’t out of reach given his potential path. Dimitrov too has daylight in his draw but he’ll have to prove it before anyone believes in him again anytime soon.

ANDY MURRAY [2] QUARTER

Contenders: Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios

Big name, little chance: Richard Gasquet (still in top 10-12 but little more than a speed bump for the Big Four), John Isner (could play himself into a rhythm with a kind draw but Murray on clay will swallow up his serve)

Notable floaters: Fernando Verdasco, Kyle Edmund, Thomaz Bellucci, Andrey Kuznetsov

Upset alert: Verdasco over Johnson, although that’s barely an upset

Breakdown: If Murray had to play Kyrgios and Nishikori, there might be reason to doubt. However, those two would have to face each other in the round of 16 before meeting Murray in the quarters. While Nishikori could certainly best Murray on the dirt, their respective histories make the Scot the favorite. Those two potential matches are the only real fascinating parts of this quarter.

PREDICTIONS

Quarterfinals: Djokovic over Berdych, Nadal over Goffin, Wawrinka over Raonic, Murray over Nishikori

Semifinals: Nadal over Djokovic, Wawrinka over Murray. Both are extremely tough calls. Wawrinka and Murray have only played once since the start of 2014, and that came when Murray had the Davis Cup final looming over his head the following week.

Final: Nadal over Wawrinka





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