Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Roland Garros - The 2009 French Open

If you like red clay, long rallies and lots of unforced errors, then you should be watching the French Open. The French Open has long been a place where relatively unknown players from countries such as Argentina, Chile or Spain can make names for themselves. The slow, red clay used at the Roland Garros has created a vein of players that dominate on the surface, but struggle to translate their game over to grass or hard courts.

Rafael Nadal started out as one of these clay court specialists back in 2005 when he won his first French Open title in his first attempt. Since then he has won three more French Opens, but has also proven that he can play on more than just clay. Last year, he won his first Wimbledon title, becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1979 to win both Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same season. Nadal then proved he could win on hard courts when he earned his first Australian Open to start off 2009. That win denied Roger Federer his chance to tie Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam titles. Federer still needs a French Open title to complete the career Grand Slam (winning at least one title at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open), but he has lost to Nadal for four consecutive years. Could this be the year where he finally breaks through?

The Clear Favorite:
Rafael Nadal - As I said earlier, Nadal has won four straight French Open titles, and he's never lost a match at the French.

The Contenders:
Roger Federer - While Federer has never won a French Open, he has been to three straight finals, losing to Nadal every time. Age is no longer on his side though, as no man over 26 has ever won a French Open title.

Novak Djokovic - Djokovic won his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2008 and has been to the quarter-finals or better in three of his last four Grand Slam appearances. He has also made the semi-finals of the French Open each of the past two years.

Andy Murray - Andy Murray still has not won a major, but he made it to his first final against Roger Federer at the U.S. Open last year. He has risen to #3 in the world and his incredible fitness and his defensive style of play make him a tough out for any opponent.

The Dark-Horses:
Juan Martin Del Potro - Del Potro has never been past the quarter finals of a major, but he is playing as well as anyone lately and should easily live up to his seeding, and will be tough for anyone to play in the quarter finals.

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga - Tsonga hasn't played in a French Open since 2005, but he has been one of the hottest players on tour over the past year. He'll have the backing of the French fans, but he is on a collision course for a fourth round matchup with Del Potro.

Gael Monfils - A local favorite, Monfils made it to the semi-finals here last year, but injuries have kept him from making a serious run at a title since then. However, with the backing of the French crowd, a return trip to the semi-finals is very possible.

Just Hoping to Win One Match:
The American men - There used to be a time when American's such as Jim Courier and Andre Aggasi would regularly compete for, and win, French Open titles. However, in the past few years, they have struggled in France. No American man has been past the second round since 2005 (I think).

No comments: