10 Favorites for Roland Garros

Bracket Busters?

Fabio Fognini, John Isner, Gael Monfils, Fernando Verdasco, Juan Monaco, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be among those circled on the draw as possible problems for bigger name players.

Tier 3 – A Puncher’s Chance? Probably Not

10.  Tomas Berdych – The Big Czech may be more likely than many to reach the quarterfinal.  However, he has proven unable to beat Murray, Federer, or Nole in 2015 and his win vs. Rafa in January seems long ago.  His 4th seed should help.

9.  Nick Kyrgios – He has weapons and young legs.  Does he have any chance of winning 7 matches on Roland Garros’ clay?  I don’t think so.

8.  Grigor Dimitrov – Outside of the top 7 players I’ve listed, he seems to have the tools to put together a credible run.  Still, Dimitrov seems to have lost some momentum since last year.

Tier 2 – If the Winner Does Not Come from Tiers 1 & 2, I will Cry (Not Really)

7.  David Ferrer – He is unlikely to beat himself.  He is tough on clay.  He reached the 2013 final.  Is he going to win?  I doubt it. 

6.  Stanislas Wawrinka – He played well vs. Rafa in Rome and won Monte Carlo in 2014.  Stan seems to bother Nole more than most.  If he can plausibly beat the two biggest bullies in the draw, he might be considered a contender.

5.  Roger Federer – Roger won Istanbul and was runner-up at Rome.  He has a great game for clay, but at 33 the surface does not allow for enough free points to regularly beat Nole.  He also had had a very hard time with Rafa on clay for over a decade.

Tier 1 – I’d be Shocked if the Winner Does Not Come from these 4

4.  Kei Nishikori – Kei won Barcelona and played well enough in Madrid and Rome.  He has a great game for clay.  His play last year in Paris does not inspire a lot of confidence, but if he gets to the second week he will be one to watch.

3.  Andy Murray – He has 2 titles on clay including drubbing Rafa in Madrid.  That has to build confidence.  If his form from Germany and Spain carries over to Paris, Murray may bag this title.

2.  Rafael Nadal – Rafa is the greatest clay court champion ever.  He has won 9 of the 10 French Opens he has played.  3 of 5 sets and a court he loves filled with great memories may provide Rafa with a lot of confidence.  Rafa has been lacking confidence, but if his form improves and belief in his form grows over 2 weeks, Rafa might be favored in the final Sunday.  His ranking makes his draw quite interesting.

1.  Novak Djokovic – Novak has great tools for clay court tennis.  He returns exceptionally well and moves as well as anyone on tour.  He has had a lot of successes on clay in his career.  A simple question remains.  Will Nole win Roland Garros?  He seems to be the favorite by a good distance entering this French Open.  Obstacles are in his path, but no one is better suited for navigating 7 matches in Paris this year than Novak Djokovic.

2015 Power Ranking: Rome – Novak Crosses the Rubicon

2015 Power Ranking #6: Novak Abolishes the Roman Republic

  1. Novak Djokovic – Novak looked a little out of sorts in his first 3 matches in Rome.  He then won four straight sets versus David Ferrer and Roger Federer to enter Paris with a ton of momentum.  Will he complete his career grand slam and win his 9th grand slam?
  2. Andy Murray – Andy did not play 3 full weeks on clay, and that was probably smart.  Murray has a lot of positive mojo heading into Paris.  Murray will also be flying under the radar given Nadal’s decade of dominance and Novak’s winning streak.
  3. Roger Federer – The Fed did not have any answers for Nole in the Rome final, but he did win 4 solid matches in Rome.  Federer has been in 5 finals this season.  At 33, that is no small task, but on a slower clay court, I am not sure Roger can do more than reach the 2nd week in Paris.
  4. Tomas Berdych – The Big Czech keeps beating players he should and then getting tuned by the Big 4.
  5. Rafael Nadal – Rafa played well for most of the first set versus Wawrinka.  He also beat some decent players earlier in Rome.  From 6-2 ahead in the 1st set tiebreak, Wawrinka steamrolled Rafa. His 5 losses on clay in 2015 is problematic, but he can’t be counted out in Paris.  
  6. Kei Nishikori – Kei reached the quarters in Rome and played Nole tough.  His play in Barcelona, Madrid, and Rome make Kei a contender of a sort in Paris.
  7. John Isner – Big John did not look terrible versus Rafa, but he did not look as solid as he did in Monte Carlo.
  8. Stanislas Wawrinka – Stan showed some of the fire that has been missing since Rotterdam in Rome.  He had a great win over Nadal, but then Roger Federer crushed him in the Rome semis.
  9. Nick Kyrgios – Nick reached his first tournament final in Estoril and knocked off Roger Federer in Madrid.  That is enough for him to grab the #9 slot in this ranking.  Change since last ranking – Not ranked 
  10. Grigor Dimitrov – Grigor played well enough to keep his 10th slot, but he needs a big win against one of the top tier guys.

Biggest Mover –  Roger Federer +3 

Dropped Out of the Poll – Milos Raonic – Injuries are a reality, but Milos is likely to be back in a hurry.

Entered the Poll – Stanislas Wawrinka

Masters Rome 2015: May 15th ATP Quarterfinal Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

This Day Has it All: The Big 3, The Big Czech, Kei, Ferrer, The Swiss #2, and The Shire’s Davis Cup Hope

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) vs [6] Tomas Berdych (CZE)  – I am tempted to take Berdych as he has been quite solid this clay court season while Federer has lost to La Monf and Kyrgios.  Still, Fed rolled Berdych at Indian Wells.  Clay seems to be the surface that bothers Roger the most these days.  If Roger is content to have reached a quarterfinal and is unwilling to dig into his reserves, Berdych might well clip him here.  Roger is the favorite though.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs [5] Kei Nishikori (JPN) – If this were a game of Risk, Nole’s armies from Monte Carlo would be facing Kei’s Barcelona brigade in Rome.  Nole has not inspired confidence thus far in Rome.  Still, he is the defending champion and world #1.  He also does not want to embolden Kei any more than Kei already is so I expect Nole to be dialed in fully.

[4] Rafael Nadal (ESP)  vs [8] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) – The practice buddies will face-off for the first time since Stan won the 2014 Australian Open vs. Rafa.  Stan looked pretty good after winning 2 early titles in 2015 and pushing Nole to 5 sets in Melbourne.  Since that time, Stan has looked like a top 50 player and not a top 10 player.  Rafa also wants to add some good vibes to his somewhat rocky 2015 campaign.  I expect Rafa to have enough of a plan B to win on clay even if Stan comes out hitting big shots.

[7] David Ferrer (ESP) vs  David Goffin (BEL) – David vs. David lacks a biblical tone, but this should be fun.  Goffin could win this, but I have to think Ferrer is favored.

Masters Rome 2015: May 13th ATP Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

[3] Andy Murray (GBR) vs Jeremy Chardy (FRA) H2H – Chardy’s forehand and serve could cause a few problems, but if Murray struggles he will find a way to Chardy’s backhand and grind out a win.  I doubt Murray struggles.

[4] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs [Q] Marsel Ilhan (TUR) H2H – Rafa’s opponent is match tough, but I think Rafa plays through.

[2] Roger Federer (SUI) vs Pablo Cuevas (URU)  H2H – Roger has not had the best clay draws this season.  He got Monfils in the 3rd round in Monte Carlo (but only Roger’s 2nd match).  Roger then played Nick Kyrgios in his 1st match in Madrid.  Now, Roger gets Cuevas in a rematch of the Istanbul final that Federer won 6-3, 7-6.  Federer will need to be sharp, but I expect Roger to pull through.

[5] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs Jiri Vesely (CZE) H2H – This could be closer than it might look on paper, but Kei should win.

[12] Gilles Simon (FRA) vs Dominic Thiem (AUT) H2H – I like both players, but I think Simon’s consistency wins the day against a younger opponent.

[11] Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs Viktor Troicki (SRB) H2H

[10] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs Fabio Fognini (ITA) H2H – A re-match from Madrid.  I expect it will be an equally tight match.

[13] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs David Goffin (BEL) – Goffin could win, but he is giving up a lot of size.  I think Tsonga imposes his will on this match.

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) vs [Q] Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) H2H – Maybe qualifying will have Dolgo extra motivated, but I think GGL is consistent enough to beat the enigmatic Dolgopolov.

[16] John Isner (USA) vs Leonardo Mayer (ARG) H2H – Big John is big on clay in 2015.

[14] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs [Q] Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) H2H

2015 Power Ranking: Madrid – Murray’s Clay Feat

2015 Power Ranking #5 – Murray Does Damage on the Dirt

  1. Novak Djokovic – Novak has not played since winning Monte Carlo because frankly he didn’t have to.  Will he cross the Rubicon and take Rome?
  2. Andy Murray – I can’t move Andy to #1 because of Nole’s stellar 2015, but Murray won Munich and was the last man standing in Madrid after a difficult schedule marred by rain delays and late night matches.  Murray beat Raonic, Nishikori, and Rafael Nadal by winning 6 straight sets.  
  3. Tomas Berdych – The Big Czech was soundly beaten by Nadal in the Madrid semis, but he is a model of consistency in 2015.  Change since last ranking +1
  4. Rafael Nadal – Rafa has two 2015 losses on clay to Fabio Fognini.  He just took a beating from Andy Murray in Madrid.  Still, Rafa beat Dimitrov and Berdych in straight sets.  He does not look like the Rafa we know, but a semi in Monte Carlo and runner-up in Madrid moves him to #4.  Change since last ranking +2
  5. Roger Federer – Roger won the first ever Istanbul event.  He promptly lost an extremely close match to Nick Kyrgios in Madrid.  I don’t think Roger has given up on clay, but his own words even suggest that he does not have the match on his racquet on dirt.  Change since last ranking – 2
  6. Kei Nishikori – He continued to do well in Spain.  Kei won Barcelona for the second consecutive year and destroyed Ferrer in Madrid.  He did not show much against a red hot Murray though.  Change since last ranking – Not ranked
  7. John Isner – Between Monte Carlo and Madrid, a case can be made that Isner is most effective on clay.  Who wants to play him in Paris?
  8. Milos Raonic – The big serving Canadian stays at #8, but he will miss big events to heal his nerve issue.  Team Raonic should not worry about short term ranking losses as his steady rise suggests he will get those points back sooner rather than later.
  9. Nick Kyrgios – Nick reached his first tournament final in Estoril and knocked off Roger Federer in Madrid.  That is enough for him to grab the #9 slot in this ranking.  Change since last ranking – Not ranked 
  10. Grigor Dimitrov – Grigor played well enough to keep his 10th slot, but he needs a big win against one of the top tier guys.

Biggest Mover –  Rafael Nadal +2 and Roger Federer – 2

Dropped Out of the Poll – Gael Monfils and David Ferrer

Entered the Poll – Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov

Masters Madrid 2015: Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray Championship Prediction

Murray Rising

Andy Murray is playing the best clay court tennis of his career.  On Monday, Murray won his first ever clay court title in Germany.  He has backed up this victory with successive wins over Kohlschreiber, Raonic, and Nishikori.  Kei Nishikori is a serious threat on clay, and Murray took him down in straight sets.  Andy Murray has some traits of a great clay court player.  He returns well, he runs well, and his fitness is of a high level.  Murray can be a bit negative on court, but he also fights for victory.  He has the makings of an excellent clay court player.  Can he beat Rafael Nadal in Madrid on clay?

Rafa’s Latest Restoration?

Rafael Nadal’s consecutive straight set wins over Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych have the Spaniard looking quite a bit like his old self.  We have seen Rafa injured and eventually restoring his game.  This restoration program may have taken a bit longer, but it seems to be ending up in a usual place.  Outside of Djokovic, who else would someone pick to win Roland Garros right now aside from Rafa?  I think even if Murray beats Nadal, Rafa would still enter Paris with a fair bit of momentum.  Rafa’s forehand was fearsome versus Berdych.  If it is clicking versus Murray, does the Scot stand a chance?

Murray-Rafa: Jonas Bjorkman’s Influence

I think Murray has the tools to execute a similar game plan to what Nole uses versus Rafa.  Murray may even get a few more points off of his first serve than Nole.  Also, Bjorkman will likely have Murray use his excellent return to open up surprise forays to the net.  This could be a major factor in the match.

Rafa’s Forehand

If Rafa hits his forehand as well as he did versus Berdych, Murray is in serious trouble.  Obviously, Murray will try to prevent Rafa from hitting from his favored spots.  The match will come down to how well Murray does that and how well Murray returns Rafa’s serve.  I think these guys will test each other physically in a way Murray has not done versus Rafa on clay.  So my prediction?

My Prediction: I am tempted to take Murray.  I think he has a great team of coaches, is playing with confidence, and has the tools to bother Rafa.  Still, I feel like we’ve been here before and seen Rafa raise his level of play on clay to a nearly untouchable level.  Therefore, I predict Rafael Nadal to defeat Andy Murray 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.

Masters Madrid 2015: Semifinal Prediction Rafael Nadal vs. Tomas Berdych

Rafa will be happy that the surface is clay and not blue 

Rafael Nadal vs. Tomas Berdych: This May be Closer than One Would Think

Rafael Nadal on clay in Spain versus an opponent he has dominated in the past.  Sounds like a recipe for a one-sided thrashing.  Rafa has played well enough in Madrid to make Barcelona seem like a thing of the past.  Is there any reason to think Berdych has a chance?  Actually, yes.

Tomas Berdych pushed Novak Djokovic hard at Monte Carlo.  Berdych is #2 in the points race for 2015 due to consistently good results across events.  Berdych’s best win in 2015 came over Nadal at the Australian Open.  If Berdych serves and returns well, he can dictate play in many points.  This first strike tennis has been working well as of late.  It can work on clay versus Rafa, but will it?

I think if Rafa’s backhand has enough depth and he takes care of his own serve, Rafa will be too much on clay for Berdych.  Normally, I don’t qualify Rafa’s chances on clay with ifs, but Berdych and Rafa’s 2015 form dictate a few ifs being added.  Still, I think Rafa is the favorite.  I do think playing in Madrid and a revenge factor from Melbourne both help Rafa’s chances as well.

My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Tomas Berdych 7-6, 6-4

Madrid 2015: ATP Quarterfinal Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

I am still sick and missed predicting the WTA semis – good thing as I would have gotten both wrong

[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs [10] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) H2H – If Grigor wins, panic might be warranted by the Rafa fans.  I don’t think that will happen though.

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs [16] John Isner (USA) H2H – Big John is playing well and perhaps making the case that clay is his best surface.  Still, Berdych’s 2015 form has been rock solid except versus Murray, Federer, and Djokovic.

[2] Andy Murray (GBR) vs [5] Milos Raonic (CAN) H2H –  Milos could bully Andy and win, but I think Murray’s foot speed and return will be the difference.

[4] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs [7] David Ferrer (ESP) H2H – This strikes me as a 50-50 match.  I like Kei due to his momentum from Barcelona.

Masters Madrid 2015: May 7th ATP Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

I am a bit ill so these are coming later than usual.

Manolo Santana (11 a.m. start)

[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs Simone Bolelli (ITA) H2H – I like Rafa to advance.

[7] David Ferrer (ESP) vs Fernando Verdasco (ESP) H2H – This match should be pretty awesome, but in the end I like Ferrer’s consistency.

[4] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs [14] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) H2H Kei loves Spain.

[5] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs Leonardo Mayer (ARG) H2H – Milos is flying under the radar at the moment. That is not a bad place for the big Canadian to be.

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1 p.m.)

[8] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs [10] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) – Grigor seems to be finding his form.  Stan may be doing so as well.  If both men are in form, this should be a great match for fans.

[2] Andy Murray (GBR) vs [WC] Marcel Granollers (ESP) H2H – Andy Murray pulled off some late night magic after his long slog in Germany.  If he is not exhausted, I expect Murray to advance.

Stadium 3

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs [12] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) H2H – This could go either way.  Berdych has been so consistent in 2015 that I think he has an edge though.

[16] John Isner (USA) vs Nick Kyrgios (AUS) H2H – Take cover when returning serve… I expect tiebreaks, but I have no idea who will likely win.  I am taking Isner simply because Kyrgios might have a mental letdown after beating Federer.

Masters Madrid 2015: May 6th ATP Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

(This is an incredible slate of matches)

[3] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs Steve Johnson (USA) H2H Johnson is a great story, but not every story has a happy ending.

[1] Roger Federer (SUI) vs Nick Kyrgios (AUS) – I could see this going either way as Roger may be pacing himself for Paris.  However, if Gasquet can solve Kyrgios on clay, shouldn’t Roger be able to do the same?

“We played a few games on Sunday, finished a match on Monday, and now play on Wednesday?”

[2] Andy Murray (GBR) vs Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) – This seems a bit cruel to both men, but it should be great for the fans.  I think Murray wins in 3 sets over Kohlschreiber for the second time in 3 days.

[7] David Ferrer (ESP) vs [Q] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) H2H – Some of Ferrer’s early 2015 momentum is gone.

[10] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs Fabio Fognini (ITA) H2H – Dimitrov beat Fognini in Monte Carlo last month so I predict a similar result here.

[11] Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs Leonardo Mayer (ARG) H2H – As much as I like how FLo has been playing over the past 18 months, I think his backhand could breakdown in this match.

[13] Gael Monfils (FRA) vs [WC] Marcel Granollers (ESP) H2H – Gael could make a run to the final weekend or crash out of the event.  I am picking the later.

[4] Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs David Goffin (BEL) H2H – This is the match I most want to see.  I think it should be a lot of fun for fans, but Nishikori is the favorite based on his results in Spain and overall game.

[9] Marin Cilic (CRO) vs Fernando Verdasco (ESP) H2H – I picked both to lose in the first round so Cilic will be glad that I think Hot Sauce advances.

[14] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs Sam Querrey (USA) – 4 US players in the round of 32 on clay in Madrid?  Well I don’t think all 4 advance to the round of 16.

[16] John Isner (USA) vs [Q] Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) – Bellucci leads the head-to-head 2-0, but I think Isner secretly likes dirt more than we’d expect.  I think John finds a way with at least one set going to a tiebreak.

[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs Richard Gasquet (FRA) H2H – The Big Czech has been quite consistent in 2015.  He is #2 in points earned since January 1.  Gasquet just won a title and feels healthy.  This could be quite good, but Berdych has been too consistent for me to predict a loss here.

Simone Bolelli (ITA) vs [Q] Luca Vanni (ITA) H2H – Non parlo italiano (but I wish I did).

[12] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs Jack Sock (USA) – This could be interesting.  Sock’s forehand has so much spin on it that he can develop into a headache on clay.  I am not sure he is there yet though.