Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Belated Roland Garros Primer

Photo by Flickr user bg_os used under a Creative Commons license.

Though we are well into the second round of the Roland Garros (French Open, to those of you who aren't tennis fans), it certainly isn't too late for a primer, that is, unless you're American. So, brought to you with limited commercial interruption, here are the biggest stories out of Paris (Men's draw only, because it's really all we care about).

All Eyes on Me

Rafael Nadal has never lost at the French, and all odds point to his adding to his unblemished 18-0 (now 19-0 actually) record. Nadal is certainly the best clay-court player in my lifetime, and is knocking on Bjorn Borg's door to take over the all-time title.

Don't Forget about the Clown Prince

Novak "It was just a" Djokovic is swiftly moving up the ranks of the tennis elite with his runner-up finish at last year's US Open and win at this past Aussie Open. With the year Federer is having, Novak has to be the favorite to upset Nadal when they inevitably meet in the semi's, and he seems poised to do it as he has lost only to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal during this year's clay court season. Had Djokovic beaten Nadal in the Hamburg Masters 2 weeks ago, he would have taken over the world number 2 spot, which Rafael Nadal has held for 147 consecutive weeks. Over the next two weeks, we'll see if the Clown Prince can do his best Nadal impression and steal the show.

They Came from the Darkness

Here we highlight 2 potential sleeper candidates. Now, historically my sleeper picks have been a little off, but hopefully the tide will turn.

Firstly, we have Nicholas Almagro. Almagro has been a known clay-court specialist for a while, but has never really parlayed that into any sort of success at the Roland Garros tournament. He has battled bouts of inconsistency his entire career, but seems to be pulling it all together this year, winning 21 out of 26 clay court matches so far. People forget that though it seems like Almagro's been around for a while, the kid is only 22, and not everyone is Rafael Nadal. he has a relatively easy path tot the quarters this year (Andy Murray, then probably David Nalbandian) and then when he gets there he will give his countryman, Rafael Nadal a run for his money (well, maybe not, but it won't be a walkover)

Next, there's Gael Monfils, another guy we've known about since he tore up the juniors along side the aforementioned Novak Djokovic. Since they graduated, Monfils road has been significantly less auspicious, but the fact remains that he still oozes with talent and potential. I mean look at him and his 6'4" frame, rippling with muscles upon muscles (no homo). His body is built for the French, where athleticism reigns supreme. He's also in a fairly weak section where he is slated to meet Davydenko in the 4th round and David Ferrer in the Quarters, both of whom have had relative success in the past on clay, but have been significantly short of dominant.

Don't Unpack Those Bags Yet

It's kind of late to prime you about early-exit candidates, considering that the second round is already underway...

So far, Juan Monaco (13), Carlos Moya (16) and Marcos Baghdatis (17) were the highest seeded players to be sent packing in the first round and Tomas Berdych (11) joined them in the second. You can probably count on Andy Murray (10) and David Nalbandian (6) adding to that list pretty soon. I'm still not convinced that James Blake (7) has learned to play on clay yet either.

Happy strokes.