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.
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.
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!