Rafael Nadal‘s quarter is not ideal. Still, he has to be considered the favorite. Nicolas Almagro beat him in Barcelona and looms as a possible round of 16 opponent. Grigor Dimitrov is on the cusp of the top 10 and is another possible quarterfinal opponent. If Dimitrov plays closer to his Australian Open level as opposed to his Rome level versus Nadal, we might have a fun match on our hands. The biggest issue for Nadal is that a re-match of last year’s final is likely in the quarterfinal round. David Ferrer has not played at his 2013 level, but on clay in a 3 out of 5 format I think Ferrer wins 4 matches and faces Nadal in the quarterfinal round. Nadal would of course be favored, but Ferrer did win their most recent encounter at Monte Carlo. Paul-Henri Mathieu could set up a rematch of the 2006 banana match as well.
Predicted Semifinalist – Rafael Nadal
This quarter is wide open. Winning Monte Calro proves that Stanislas Wawrinka can play on clay. His first round opponent is no slouch. Unpredictable players such as Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini, Richard Gasguet, Thomasz Bellucci, Michael Llodra and Fernando Verdasco populate this quarter. Andy Murray looked like himself for the first time in months in his Rome showing. Carlos Berlocq recently took a title. Phillipp Kohlschreiber, if healthy, could also cause issues.
Predicted Semifinalist – Andy Murray In an unpredictable section of the draw, my rule is to look for the most talented player who is in good form. Murray is talented and at Rome he played well so he barely gets my nod. I could see Fognini or Hot Sauce Verdasco come out as well.
Roger Federer made Grand Slam semifinal and quarterfinal runs with consistency that is unlikely to ever be matched. He entered the French Open as the mysterious player in the top 4. Like Wawrinka, he has not done much since Monte Carlo, but Wawrinka’s results are attributed to a drop in form. Roger withdrew from a tournament, saw his twin sons born, and then lost a match he could have won. Roger may need a little match play, but if he gets through two rounds he will have 6 sets under his belt. This is not an overwhelming portion of the draw as a recently out of sorts Tomas Berdych is the other top 8 seed in this quarter. Mikhail Youzhny is playing well enough, but is he semifinal material? I think Ernests Gulbis (always unpredictable) and Roberto Bautista Agut are the most dangerous players to Federer.
Predicted Semifinalist – Roberto Bautista Agut Federer very easily could be in the final four. Still, I think the combination of clay and a dogged fighter like Agut may be enough to lead to a quarterfinal upset.
This is the hardest quarter in the draw. Novak Djokovic has a number of competent and crafty players standing in the way of the quarterfinal round. Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic, Jeremy Chardy, and Pablo Andujar could all be tricky for Novak. What makes this draw the hardest is the potential quarterfinal opponents that await Novak. Kei Nishikori won Barcelona and nearly took Madrid. Nishikori-Djokovic in the quarters could be electric. If Kei is not there, Milos Raonic gave Nole all he wanted in their Rome tilt. Raonic may not get out of the first round as he faces the best under-20 talent on tour in round one. This quarter has a lot of great possible matches early and could have a great quarterfinal match.
Predicted Semifinalist – Novak Djokovic As good as this quarter is, Novak is able to find a level no one else in this quarter is likely to match in a 3 out of 5 set format.
Predicted Semifinal Results
Rafael Nadal d. Andy Murray in 4 sets
Novak Djokovic d. Roberto Bautista Agut in 3 sets
Predicted Final Result
Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal in 4 sets