Djokovic Off to Solid French Open Start, Murray Struggling

Hello, folks. Since the last time I posted, Djokovic played his first match while Murray finished his first round match and played his second match today. Nadal also played his first match while Stan completed his second match today as well.

  • Top Half

Djokovic had a slowish start in his match against Lu after getting broken back in the first set at 4-3, but in the next game, he broke from 0-40 down and held serve to win the opening set 6-4. It was a very average set by his high standards but for the rest of the match, he was untouchable winning the following two sets 6-1, 6-1.

So after a slightly concerning start ,Djokovic looked extremely solid in the last two sets and you would have to say it was a very good start from him. He looked very relaxed and in control out there while playing some terrific drop shots that left Lu with no chance.

He has great feel on that backhand drop shot and it is a very important shot for him especially on clay. It is great for variation and, of course, on clay the drop shot is a must have. Tomorrow Djokovic will be second on Lenglen against Darcis.

Looking at his quarter of the draw again it does look quite comfortable for a player of his quality and his goal would be not to drop a set until the semis. But this is tennis and you just don’t know. He could lose to Darcis for all you know.

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Fedfans have been critical of Djokovic’s on-court behavior…

In the second quarter, Nadal had a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Groth who is a poor clay court player. Fognini lost first round so Nadal won’t have any competition until the fourth round at least where he could face Thiem.

Thiem dropped the first set against Cervantes but won in four. He really should make fourth round given his form of late and at least he may be able to test Nadal. But the early loss of Fognini helps Nadal because he will gain confidence even from destroying three mugs in a row.

At least Thiem did defeat Nadal in Buenos Aires so he could test Nadal if he makes the fourth round.

  • Bottom Half

Murray had to come back on Monday to complete his first round match against Stepanek which he ended up winning in five sets. So the French Open still doesn’t have lights which means Murray had to play three days in a row.

But not only that he played ten sets in those three days. The fact that he went to five sets in both his matches is his own fault but it didn’t help that he had no rest day. Today he was at it again against unknown French player Bourgue.

He won but it was another bruising battle. I’m glad there was so much hype around Murray after he won Rome because as we have seen time and time again with him when there is hype around him he chokes.

And that is exactly what he did in his first two matches. He played like he was under immense pressure when he should have straight setted both opponents. Now he has an uphill battle ahead and he has the toughest draw of the top four with Nishikori and Kyrgios in his quarter.

Unless he goes into the zone and starts winning everything in straight sets he will be exhausted if he does make the final. But I think it is more likely that he loses before then. He can make quarters but then I see Nishikori or Kyrgios shutting him down.

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…they must think Murray is a serial killer

Nishikori and Kyrgios have both been moving along smoothly without dropping a set and are on course for a fourth-round clash. But they both have dangerous opponents in the next round in Verdasco and Gasquet.

Nishikori is still the favorite for me to come through that section and to the semis as well. In the third quarter Stan almost lost in the first round but after coming through in five sets over Rosol he won in straight sets today.

How much of a physical toll will winning Geneva and beginning with a five-set match take on Stan? We know when he goes on a hot run he can just destroy everyone in his path but he doesn’t have a physique for endurance so tiredness could come into play.

His draw is such that he can easily make semis but then if he gets into a tough match with Nishikori, for instance, he could get tired. So as things currently stand the real final will still be between Djokovic and Nadal for me.

Yes, that is looking way ahead but I think if that match happens then Djokovic will easily be the favorite and whoever will be in the final in the bottom half could have tiredness issues. Djokovic and Nadal would still likely be fresh for the final.

  • Highlights

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Is This Djokovic’s Best Chance to Win the French Open?

The French Open started today but there wasn’t much tennis as rain interrupted play and the matches had to be postponed until Monday. Some matches were finished for instance 17th seed Kyrgios won in three tight sets and 19th seed Paire won in five sets.

It’s a shame that the French Open still doesn’t have a roof. I wonder if they even installed lights yet because the lack of lights may have cost Djokovic the title last year when the semi-final couldn’t be finished due to bad light.

It is bad enough not to have at least a roof over the center court but no lights? That is just criminal for a grand slam. The French Open has never been my favorite slam and it is probably the most unpopular slam judging from what I read on forums.

It just lags behind the other slams in terms of organization and professionalism. I see rain is forecasted for tomorrow as well which means more frustration for fans and players. If you have a roof over center court then at least the fans can still watch tennis on TV.

Oh well. Maybe in 2025, they will have lights and in 2050 a roof. One can dream.

  • Is Djokovic in a Race Against Time?

Now I want to get to today’s topic. This is, of course, the year that there is a lot of hype around Djokovic and his quest to finally win the French Open and silence the doubters. Yesterday was Djokovic’s birthday which means he is now 29.

In the past, that would have been old in tennis terms but nowadays it is more like middle age. Federer turned 34 last year and he played some of his best tennis. You have Stan playing some of his best tennis in his 30’s and the same for Ferrer and Lopez at 34.

Murray is 29 now and so is Nadal. I don’t think 29 is that old in tennis terms but for Djokovic, I do think he would want to put the French Open demon to bed this year. The draw is such that it shouldn’t be too difficult either.

It is totally understandable that he couldn’t get the job done last year. The draw and the schedule were just too difficult. But the good thing about that was that this year the draw could only get easier.

Nadal represented a demon for Djokovic in itself. He had lost 6 previous times to Nadal including that devastating 2013 semi-final loss. I look at last year as putting the Nadal demon to bed at the French.

Winning the title was one step too far. This year Djokovic’s draw is much more favorable and Nadal does not represent the burden to Djokovic that he used to. He will expect a tough match if they meet in the semis but he won’t have any doubts that he can defeat him.

Tiredness shouldn’t be a problem this year either. Djokovic has a favorable draw until the semis. Even if he has a tough match against Nadal he should still be fresh for the final. And there is a good possibility that whoever he faces in the final will be in worse shape physically than him.

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Djokovic recently won a third Laureus Sportsman of the Year award

I don’t see any reason why he won’t get it done this year, but let’s not forget that there is a lot of pressure on him. Not only to finally complete the career slam but also to complete the Djoker slam.

If he wins it will be a double whammy. It is a huge opportunity which creates a lot of pressure at the same time. But again, after what happened in Wimbledon and New York last year I don’t have any doubts that he has the mental fortitude to get the job done.

He is just extremely solid in the mental department. But what I want people to clearly understand is that there is added pressure for Djokovic due to the Djoker slam and if he pulls it off it would be unprecedented.

At least in modern times. He would have done something that the great Federer and Nadal could not do and he can then definitely surpass them in the GOAT debate.  So I am not trying to say in any way that it will be easy. It will be very difficult.

I am just saying that if anyone can get it done it is Djokovic. Records are meant to be broken and even if Djokovic doesn’t pull it off it is exciting to watch him try. It is the best time to be a tennis fan.

Unless you are so attached to the outcome that you are totally shattered if he either pulls it off or does not pull it off. As a fan, I will be disappointed if he doesn’t pull it off but there will always be next time.

For me, it is more about the Djoker slam than the career slam because that would set him apart from Fedal. Fedal fans would have nowhere left to hide and that would fascinating.

Is this Djokovic's best chance to win the French Open?

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French Open 2016 Draw – Murray Gets Nishikori

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The much anticipated French Open draw is out and the first thing to look out for after Federer’s withdrawal was in whose quarter Nishikori landed, given that he has been one of the top four best clay courters this season.

As it turns out Murray is the unlucky individual who gets Nishikori. But what is interesting is that Kyrgios is in Nishikori’s eighth of the draw who is also a dangerous player. The two met in Madrid and Nishikori scraped through 6-7(6), 7-6(1), 6-3.

So the bottom quarter will be interesting to see who comes through there. Then the third quarter seems pretty weak given Stan and Raonic’s clay form but Stan just made the final in Geneva and if he wins the title he may go on another hot run like last year.

And that would be bad news for whoever comes through in the bottom quarter.

Now to the top half. The second most important thing to look for in the draw for me was in whose half Nadal landed, and as it turns out he landed in Djokovic’s half. You’d expect both him and Djokovic to come through their quarters but Nadal has some potential stumbling blocks.

If Fognini makes the third round and goes into the zone we know how dangerous he can be. In the fourth round, Nadal also got Thiem who made the final of Nice again today and will try to defend his title tomorrow.

Thiem has been the fifth best clay courter this season behind Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, and Nishikori. He is my dark horse after Stan. I watched some of his match against Mannarino today and he looked very comfortable in his 6-1, 6-3 victory.

I think he will defend his title against Zverev tomorrow and then I’m hoping for a strong run from him at the French. If you look at his draw he should make the fourth round at the very least.

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A dark horse

His one-handed backhand may be a liability against Nadal but I want to see him at least make it a competitive match. Other than that Nadal has no one to worry about and he will probably make semis.

In the top quarter Djokovic doesn’t have much to worry about and as I suggested in my previous post his draw could only be easier than last year. No Nadal in his quarter this year after the withdrawal of Federer and no Nishikori either.

So as a fan I can’t complain much and I don’t think he will either. At most he will probably have two tough matches to win the title in the semis and final. And surely the semis won’t rain out this year which would give him a day of rest before the final.

I think you would agree that the scenario is much better for him than last year. The bottom half of the draw is also pretty stacked and whoever will be the finalist from that half could be tired in the final.

Djokovic should make the fourth round comfortably where he could face Bautista Agut who can be dangerous but Djokovic defeated him 6-2, 6-1 in Rome so he shouldn’t have too much trouble there.

His quarter looks pretty comfortable as well because neither Berdych nor Ferrer has shown much form of late. It will all probably come down to the Djokodal semi-final again. Whoever wins there will be the favorite for the title.

Stan is of course always a danger if he goes on another hot run but at least if Djokovic plays him in the final again this year he will be much more rested and ready. I think in the end it is a pretty fair and balanced draw and as a Djokovic fan, I don’t have much to complain about.

Yes, I would probably have preferred Nadal in the other half but then again if Djokovic has to play him in the final the pressure is higher. With every match Nadal wins, he will gain confidence and he will be easier to stop in the semis than the final.

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An even bigger dark horse

Djokovic stumped him 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 last year and just defeated him in straight sets in Rome again. Yes, it was pretty close but Nadal has not won a set against Djokovic in seven meetings. That is some serious ownage and would be a big mental barrier for Nadal to overcome.

That said, Djokovic doesn’t have the best of memories against Nadal at the French but after what happened last year I don’t think Djokovic has any difficulty believing that he can beat Nadal at the French. It was a proper beatdown.

But it was still important that he defeated Nadal in straight sets in Rome, and that after Nadal served for the second set. If Nadal won a set he would have seen that as progress and believed that he could possibly turn the tables on Djokovic again at the French.

But now you would really think that Djokovic is the favorite if they met in the semis. Of course, there will still be a lot of pressure but if Djokovic stays calm he shouldn’t have too much difficulty. He’d want to avoid it going to five sets too.

He wouldn’t want it to become too tight so that memories of the past creep into his mind and also with an eye on the final. At most, he’d want to get it done in four sets and go rested and confident into the final.

But now I am getting way ahead of myself. As always, the draw is just a loose framework and it always works out differently than one expects!

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