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.