2009 French Open – Men’s Preview

Can Andy Murray win his first Grand Slam title in Paris?

Can Andy Murray win his first Grand Slam title in Paris?

Stay tuned to Nick’s Picks throughout the French Open for predictions and analysis of the tournament. Today, we begin with our breakdown of the Men’s Field. Tomorrow we will have the Women’s Breakdown and Friday we will take a look at the Draws.

Top 10 Ranked Players

Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Height: 6’1”
Weight:  188 lbs.
D.O.B: 06/03/1986
Turned Pro: 2001
Current Ranking: 1
Plays: Left-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Australian Open, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome
2008 French Open: Champion

Nick’s Thoughts:

Nadal is having a fantastic 2009, with wins at the Australian Open and Indian Wells and not to mention on the clay courts of Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome. Although, he had his 33 match clay-court winning streak snapped by Roger Federer in the finals of Madrid just last week. Nadal looked tired after his grueling semifinal match against Djokovic, but I wouldn’t expect to see any hangover effects come French Open time. He has won this tournament every time he has entered (four straight years) and hasn’t lost a set there since the 2007 finals against Federer. I would definitely say Nadal is the favorite and right now it would be difficult for me to see anybody taking him down.

Roger Federer (SUI)
Height:  6’1”
Weight:  177 lbs.
D.O.B:  08/08/1981
Turned Pro: 1998
Current Ranking: 2
Plays: Right-handed (one-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Madrid
2008 French Open: Finals

Nick’s Thoughts:

Federer absolutely needed that victory over Nadal in the finals of Madrid. He hadn’t won a title since October of last year (Basel) and people are starting to think that maybe Federer doesn’t have it anymore. The win should not only quiet his critics for a bit, it should also give him some confidence if he gets the chance to face Nadal in the finals once again. Federer has stated numerous times that this tournament is his focus for 2009, and I wouldn’t count him out just yet. With a good draw and the right situation he has the ability and talent to win this tournament. I know he hasn’t had the best year, but he turns it up during the Grand Slams.

Andy Murray (GBR)
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 175 lbs.
D.O.B.:  05/15/1987
Turned Pro:  2005
Current Ranking: 3
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Doha, Rotterdam, and Miami
2008 French Open: 3rd Round

Nick’s Thoughts:

Murray comes into the tournament ranked a career high of #3 in the world. Next to Nadal, Murray is having the best year of anybody on tour. He has a great record and has already claimed three titles thus far in ’09. He has only played the French Open twice in his career and has never been past the third round. Clay is definitely not Murray’s best surface, but I certainly feel he has what it takes to win a Grand Slam.

Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Height:  6’2”
Weight: 176 lbs.
D.O.B:  05/22/1987
Turned Pro:  2003
Current Ranking: 4
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Dubai and Belgrade
2008 French Open: Semifinals

Nick’s Thoughts:

Djokovic has been to the semis here the last two years and was a quarterfinalist back in 2006. His clay-court game has been excellent thus far in 2009. He gave Nadal one heck of a match in the semis of Madrid, won the title on clay in Belgrade the week before that and reached the finals of both Rome and Monte Carlo (falling to Nadal both times). Many people don’t think of Djokovic has a great clay-courter, but clearly he has shown in the past and this year that his game translates well on every surface.  His groundstrokes are fantastic from both sides, and I think at times he could apply a little more heavy spin and depth.

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
Height:  6’6”
Weight: 182 lbs.
D.O.B:  09/23/1988
Turned Pro: 2005
Current Ranking: 5
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Auckland
2008 French Open: 2nd Round

Nick’s Thoughts:

Del Potro had a nice run to the semis in Madrid, beating Murray and Stan Wawrinka before falling to Federer. He hasn’t had great success at the French Open in the past, but that is partly due to the fact that his ranking has been low in previous years giving him a poor draw. Del Potro moves very well for a big buy and because of that I could see him making a run well into the second week.

Andy Roddick (USA)
Height:  6’2”
Weight: 195 lbs.
D.O.B:  08/30/1982
Turned Pro: 2000
Current Ranking: 6
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Memphis
2008 French Open: Did not play

Nick’s Thoughts:

It’s no secret that Roddick has never played well on clay. His best result actually came in his first main draw appearance in 2001 when he reached the third round before falling to Lleyton Hewitt. Since then he has lost in the first round four times, including his last two appearances. He is playing better in 2009 since hiring coach Larry Stefanki. His played in Madrid last week and advanced to the quarterfinals (beating Haas and Davydenko) before losing to Federer in three sets. That is an encouraging sign and perhaps that will give him some confidence in Paris.

Gilles Simon (FRA)
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 152 lbs.
D.O.B.:  12/27/1984
Turned Pro:  2002
Current Ranking: 7
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: None
2008 French Open: 1st Round

Nick’s Thoughts:

Simon is now the highest ranked Frenchmen in the world, and with that comes big expectations when playing at Roland Garros. He hasn’t had success in the past, reaching the second round in 2007 and losing in the first round last year. He has played eight clay-court matches thus far in 2009 and is 4-4. Simon’s game is more suited for the hard courts, because he needs to add a little more variety especially from the baseline when playing on clay. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the new pressure from the French press this year.

Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Height:  6’2”
Weight: 179 lbs.
D.O.B:  11/15/1983
Turned Pro: 2001
Current Ranking: 8
Plays: Left-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: None
2008 French Open: 4th Round

Nick’s Thoughts:

Verdasco is the newest addition to the top-ten in 2009. This lefty-Spaniard has a monster forehand and moves very well. He has been to the fourth round the last two years and reached the quarterfinals of each of the four clay-court tournaments he has entered thus far in 2009 (lost to Nadal twice). He made a big-time breakthrough earlier this year by advancing to the semis of the Aussie Open, and it will be interesting to see if he can repeat that success at Roland Garros.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 200 lbs.
D.O.B.:  04/17/1985
Turned Pro:  2004
Current Ranking: 9
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Johannesburg and Marseille
2008 French Open: Did not play

Nick’s Thoughts:

Tsonga has been up and down this year and hasn’t really played well on clay up until now. His results include a first round loss to Gasquet in Rome and a second round loss to Ljubicic in Madrid. This will be his first appearance at the French Open since 2005 when he lost to Andy Roddick in the first round. Tsonga has the tools to do well on any surface and is a crowd pleaser because he can knock out the very best with one punch. The question: Is he healthy and ready to play long points?

Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Height:  5’10”
Weight: 154 lbs.
D.O.B:  06/02/1981
Turned Pro: 1999
Current Ranking: 10
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: None
2008 French Open: 3rd Round

Nick’s Thoughts:

Davydenko hasn’t played much in 2009 because of injuries, but he did get to the semis in Rome and Estoril and the quarters in Monte Carlo. Davydenko has always played well at Roland Garros, reaching the semis twice and the quarters once. His game is extremely solid and he is a tough out for anyone. If Davydenko is feeling well, he could be a bit of a dark horse.

Others to Watch

Gael Monfils (FRA)
Height:  6’4”
Weight: 177 lbs.
D.O.B:  09/01/1986
Turned Pro: 2004
Current Ranking: 11
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: None
2008 French Open: Semifinals

Nick’s Thoughts:

Monfils made an incredible run to the semis last year and he had the entire nation of France captivated by his outstanding play. He is an incredible athlete; he just needs to stay mentally focused at all times. You never know what you are going to get from Monfils, and his unpredictable nature makes him very exciting to watch. He could lose in the first round or he could find himself back in the semis, it all depends on his mental approach.

P.S. He has a lot of points to defend so he better keep that in the back of his mind…

Marin Cilic (CRO)
Height:  6’6”
Weight: 180 lbs.
D.O.B:  09/28/1988
Turned Pro: 2005
Current Ranking: 13
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Chennai and Zagreb
2008 French Open: 2nd Round

Nick’s Thoughts:

Cilic has played in four clay-court tournaments already this year, without much success. He is 6-4 on clay this year and has only played at Roland Garros twice. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Cilic make a deep run because he has a great game, but at the same time, without a whole lot of clay-court success, it is difficult to predict a big tournament from him.

Radek Stepanek (CZE)
Height:  6’1”
Weight: 167 lbs.
D.O.B:  11/27/1978
Turned Pro: 1996
Current Ranking: 19
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: Brisbane and San Jose
2008 French Open: 4th Round

Nick’s Thoughts:

Stepanek had an excellent start to 2009, winning titles in Brisbane and San Jose and reaching the finals in Memphis. He got to the quarterfinals in Barcelona back in April and has a solid clay-court game. Stepanek is going to make you work and like Davydenko isn’t someone you want to see on the other side of the net. Keep your eye on Stepanek…

Ernests Gulbis (LAT)
Height:  6’3”
Weight: 169 lbs.
D.O.B:  08/30/1988
Turned Pro: 2004
Current Ranking: 41
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: None
2008 French Open: Quarterfinals

Nick’s Thoughts:

I really thought Gulbis was going to have a breakout year, but it hasn’t happened yet. He is just 8-14 in 2009 and hasn’t gotten past the second round of any tournament this year. Still, you saw what he did in last year’s tournament by reaching the quarters. I expect to see Gulbis play well in Paris, but he is still young and unpredictable.

Tommy Haas (GER)
Height:  6’2”
Weight: 195 lbs.
D.O.B:  04/03/1978
Turned Pro: 1996
Current Ranking: 63
Plays: Right-handed (one-handed backhand)
2009 Titles: None
2008 French Open: Did not play

Nick’s Thoughts:

Haas has not played in the French Open since 2006, and even his best result (4th round) isn’t a great indicator of how good he can play on clay. His game is suited for any surface, but his mind and body must be ready to go. Do not be shocked to witness my student of 18 years knock off a top seed!

Who are your dark horses? Let us know!

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~ by Nick's Picks on May 20, 2009.

4 Responses to “2009 French Open – Men’s Preview”

  1. […] Open for predictions and analysis of the tournament. Yesterday, we began with our breakdown of the Men’s Field. Today we have the Women’s Breakdown and Friday we will take a look at the […]

  2. […] Open for predictions and analysis of the tournament. Yesterday, we began with our breakdown of the Men’s Field. Today we have the Women’s Breakdown and Friday we will take a look at the […]

  3. […] Open for predictions and analysis of the tournament. Wednesday, we began with our breakdown of the Men’s Field and yesterday we had the Women’s Breakdown. Today we are looking at the […]

  4. […] Open for predictions and analysis of the tournament. Wednesday, we began with our breakdown of the Men’s Field and yesterday we had the Women’s Breakdown. Today we are looking at the […]

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