Roger and Serena in Top Spots

French Open 2010
By Hiland Doolittle, May 21st, 2010
Roger Ferer Roland Carros in Paris

Roger Ferer Roland Carros in Paris

Sixteen-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer leads the men while 12-time Grand Slam Champ Serena Williams leads the women into the 2010 French Open on the red clay of Roland Garros in Paris. Each of the top seeds has won just once on the famed Terre Battue.

As he has proven with his three consecutive Masters 1000 clay court titles and with 4 French Open Championships in five outings, Spaniard Rafa Nadal is the prohibitive bookmaker’s favorite at 2/5. Nadal’s genius was in full display at last week’s Monte Carlo Open when he swept past Federer in the straight set final.

Nadal’s only loss in Paris happened last year, when he was ousted by Robin Soderling in the fourth round. The loss was attributed to knee problems that sidelined the Spanish star for much of the year.

The resurgent Henin of Belgium owns four Roland Garros titles and although ranked 23rd on the tour is the bookmaker favorite at 7/4. Although knocked out of Madrid in the first round by power hitting French woman Aravane Rezai, Henin appears fit to play in Paris.

The Men’s Draw Overview

As expected, the top four seeds are Federer (9/1), Nadal (2/5), Novak Djokovic (14/1) and Andy Murray (20/1). The Federer quarterfinal bracket poses some potential hurdles for the game’s brightest star. 27th seed clay-courter, Feliciano Lopez will be the first obstacle but 20th seed Stan Wawrinka, 13th seed Frenchman Gael Monfils, and 10th seed Marin Cilic (50/1) are waiting in the wings.

Meanwhile Latvian Ernests Gulbos (33/1), who stunned Federer in Rome before taking him to three sets in Madrid could well play his way through to a quarterfinal pairing with the Swiss. Gulbis will have to play through the fifth seeded Robin Soderling (33/1) to reach the quarters

Winner Poker

Fourth seeded Andy Murray appears very vulnerable. Since his loss to Federer in the finals at Melbourne, the Scot has lost his focus and his competitive edge. In the Murray quarter bracket stands 8th seed French favorite Jo Willy Tsonga, 25th seed Cypriot Marcos Bagdhatis, 21 seed Spaniard Tommy Robredo, 11th seed Mikkhail Youzhny, Czech rising star Tomas Berdych and American power player John Isner.

The world’s second best clay court player is the third seeded Novak Djokovic. Lat year, Djokovic battled Nadal to a three hour thirty minute marathon semifinal match against the Spaniard in Madrid. It may well have been that match that paved the way for Nadal’s fall to Federer in the finals.

The Djokovic (14/1) bracket is loaded with potential land mines, including Victor Hanescu, Sam Querrey of the USA, Spain’s hot playing David Ferrer (33/1), who leads the tour in wins this season, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Austrian Jurgen Melzer and sixth seeded fast surface specialist Andy Roddick, who likes Paris but not the red clay.

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The Nadal bracket shapes up favorably for the volatile Rafa. He may receive challenges from Ivan Ljubicic, Chilean Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Almagro. However, another left-handed Spaniard Fernado Verdasco (26/1) may well play his way to a quarter matchup with Nadal. There is no love lost between these two countrymen.

The Women’s Draw

Serena Williams of America

Serena Williams of America

The women’s draw, like the women’s rankings will yield some unexpected results. Serena Williams and her sister are ranked 1-2. Serena showed signs of rust in her Madrid effort and clay is not suited to her power game. Additionally, her bracket is loaded with traps, including consistent Shahar Peer, France’s own Marion Bartoli, Maria Sharapova, Samantha Stosur and remarkably the Belgian scrapper Justine Henin, herself. Good luck Serena!

Unlikely fourth seed Jalena Jankovic (10/1) has climbed the ranking’s ladder with some power tennis of her own. Potential landmines include Alone Bondarenko, Daniela Hantuchova, 16th seed Belgian 21 year old Yanina Wickmayer, former number 2 Dinara Safina, indefatigable Russian Vera Zvonareva and 8th seed Agnes Radwanska. All things considered, this seems a soft bracket. Jankovic could well play her way into the semis.

Third seed Caroline Wozniacki (12/1) will battle her own inconsistencies as well as clay court expert and defending champion 6th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova (16/1). Russian pretty-girl Maria Kirilenko, Italian Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Penneta, Lucie Safarova and China’s hustling Li Na are also in the bracket. This bracket is wide open and whichever player grabs momentum will most likely advance. Li is never an easy out and has performed more consistently than any player in the bracket, but do not rule out Safarova.

Second seeded Venus Williams (12/1) looked tired at the conclusion of Madrid. The thirty-year old superstar has developed a disturbing habit of losing first sets. That makes wins on the clay an exhausting ordeal. In the Venus bracket are Power hitter Nadia Petrova, who on a good day can beat anyone, 10t seeded Viktoria Azarenka, 5th seed Elena Dementieva (16/1), the best player to have never won a major and home town favorite and Madrid champions, 23-year old, Aravane Rezai (14/1).

The Way We See It

In the men’s draw, we believe a rested Djokovic will seize this opportunity and overcome the tenacious Nadal en route to the championship. It is never easy to bet against Nadal especially on clay, but Djokovic is hungry, lean and mean. Look for the upset.

In the women’s draw, we see the Belgian favorite Justine Henin fulfilling her destiny and claiming her eight Grand Slam title. However, if Reza continues her gambling style, she will turn away Venus, Elena and the winner of Li and Wozniacki. The 5’5” dynamo has too much power and is sure to have a healthy surge of national adrenalin. Then, watch the streets of Paris light up! OOOH la la Aravane!


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