Stay tuned to Nick's Picks throughout the French Open for predictions and analysis of the tournament. Wednesday, we began with our breakdown of the Men's Field and yesterday we had the Women's Breakdown. Today we are looking at the draws!
After taking a quick look through the men's draw it seems to be pretty balanced. Nadal could face either Hewitt or Karlovic in the third round, but on clay I don't think either of those guys will give him a big problem. A potential fourth round battle with fellow Spaniard, David Ferrer, whom Nadal is 7-3 against in his career and 6-1 on clay, is lurking as well. Nadal could also face Davydenko or Verdasco in the quarters - two guys he has never lost to on clay. Standing in Nadal's way for a potential birth in the finals could be either Gilles Simon or Andy Murray. Neither one of those guys has had much success in the past at Roland Garros and like just about everyone else, neither has beaten Nadal on clay. All in all, the top half of the draw doesn't look too bad for Nadal.
There are a couple interesting first round match-ups on the top half of the men's draw starting with Ivo Karlovic and Lleyton Hewitt. Karlovic hasn't been past the second round in Paris while Hewitt is a two-time quarterfinalist but is definitely nearing the end of his great career. Karlovic is 3-0 against Hewitt, but they have never faced on clay.
Another interesting first round match will feature Ernests Gulbis and Sam Querrey. Gulbis reached the quarters last year, but is not having a good 2009 while Querrey has never been past the first round. These two have never faced before, but this will be a match I am keeping my eye on. Two other first round matches on the top half will be between Andy Murray and Juan Ignacio Chela and Radek Stepanek and 2004 French Open champion, Gaston Gaudio (who received a wild card into the main draw).
On the bottom half of the draw, everyone will be keeping their eyes on Roger Federer. The three time finalist begins with Spaniard Alberto Martin and then will get either Jose Acasuso or a qualifier in the second round. His first test could come in the third round against local favorite, Paul-Henri Mathieu. Federer is 3-0 against Mathieu, but the Frenchman has the game to challenge him on clay. Assuming Federer wins, he is looking at a fourth round match against any number of guys -could be James Blake, Tommy Haas, or Tomas Berdych or even Jeremy Chardy. Federer's quarterfinal opponent is very much up in the air. If the seeds hold he would face Andy Roddick, but we know Roddick's track record on clay isn't good. Another possibility is Gael Monfils, but he recently said he didn't even know if he was going to play because of a knee injury. The other seeded players there are Jurgen Melzer and Rainer Schuettler, so Federer's draw is looking pretty good so far.
In the other quarter of the bottom half of the draw, Novak Djokovic leads the charge. The Serb will take on Nicolas Lapentti first, but could face Ivan Ljubicic, JC Ferrero or Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round. Waiting for him in the fourth round may be Spaniard Tommy Robredo or possibly American Mardy Fish. Both guys have had poor results at Roland Garros in the past, so there is a bit of a question mark surrounding this section of the draw. Finally, Djokovic could meet Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarters assuming he gets past a tough first round opponent in Michael Llodra and then can survive potential guys like Igor Andreev and Jo-Willy Tsonga. Both of those men could present a big challenge for Del Potro.
Assuming that Djokovic and Federer both get to the semis, that would be a very interesting match. Federer is 7-4 in his career against Djokovic, and is 2-1 on clay. Although, that loss on clay came just a couple of weeks ago in Rome. Federer is going to be focused, and I would have trouble picking against him until he faces Nadal!
Should be a great tournament for the men, and you know everyone wants to see Nadal vs. Federer once again, especially after Federer just beat Nadal on clay in the finals of Madrid.
I've been saying this all week: The women's field is wide open. The favorite has to be Safina with the way she has been playing recently, but there are certainly no guarantees in women's tennis. Speaking of Safina, she opens with a tough opponent in Anne Keothavong. Assuming she gets past that, she could face a couple of Russians en route to the quarters - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round and Alisa Kleybanova in the fourth round. Both are good young players who would present interesting matches for Safina. Waiting for Safina in the quarters could be Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic, or Carla Suarez Navarro. Azarenka has been one of the most consistent women on tour this year, but is 1-3 against Safina in her career. Ivanovic is who Safina lost to in the finals last year, but she hasn't played well in 2009. Navarro was the surprise of 2008 at Roland Garros and she reached the quarters in Australia as well. That would be a fun match to watch.
In the bottom quarter of the top half of the women's draw the top-seed is Venus Williams. She will get a familiar opponent in the opening round in American Bethanie Mattek. The second round could present a challenge for Venus as she would face either Lucie Safarova or Sabine Lisicki. If you remember, Lisicki, an NBTA student, beat Venus en route to the title in Charleston last month. Venus could also face a couple of Russian women who are coming back from injury in Maria Sharapova or Vera Zvonareva. Sharapova played in Poland this week (after a very, very long layoff) and Zvonareva hasn't played since Charleston. Both have the stuff needed to beat Venus on clay. If the seeds hold, a Venus/Safina semi would make for good television!
On the bottom half of the draw Serena Williams is the clear favorite (if she is healthy). Her first round opponent is Klara Zakopalova who actually just beat Serena in Marbella on clay a couple of weeks ago. Her second round opponent could be tricky as well, as she could face veteran Virginia Ruano Pascual or Nicole Vaidisova. Serena is looking at another potential tough match in the fourth round against Flavia Pennetta. If Serena's knee holds up and she gets to the quarters she is looking at Kuznetsova, Schnyder or Radwanska - all would be tough for her.
In the top quarters of the bottom half of the women's draw, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, and Caroline Wozniacki are the top seeds. It wouldn't surprise me to see any of those girls in the quarterfinals, but I think Dementieva probably has the best chance because of her history here. Look out for Medina Garrigues and Alize Cornet as well as both players are solid on clay.
It's going to be a wild two weeks for the ladies, and I can't wait for it to begin!