2011 French Open – Nick’s Picks – Men’s Singles Round 1
Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. John Isner (USA)
If you missed what I said about Isner earlier this week on ESPN.com I will recap it for you, because I think it applies more than ever when he is going to play Nadal.
“We caught up with Agassi’s former coach, the vastly experienced Nick Bollettieri, to discuss the quartet’s prospects, paltry as they might be, and what they need to do to win a few rounds. Isner, for one, needs to “put a firecracker up his a–,” Bollettieri said.”
“Bollettieri on Querrey and Isner: “The good thing is no one expects them to do anything, so go in and say, ‘Screw you — I’m going to show you I can do something.’ But I don’t think they’re going to do something playing a conservative game on clay. It’s not going to happen.
“They’re big guys. They have to do what [Juan Martin] del Potro does, come inside the baseline on high backhands, which catches the opponent out of position. They have to play that shot and come forward some of the time.
“Querrey moves a little better. The question mark on Isner has always been the physical conditioning and movement. But remember, these guys have good groundstrokes. They have to tell themselves how good they are and go out and play a big game.”
If nothing else, some wins, and thus confidence, ahead of the more fruitful grass-court swing would do nicely for the foursome.”
On the other side, Nadal has been quoted recently saying that he is in danger of losing his #1 ranking to Djokovic. Well, while that may be true, in my eyes, he is still the favorite to win this tournament (especially since it is best three out of five sets). He needs to forget all that and just take it one match at a time. He is the best clay-courter in the world and he needs to remind everyone of that again.
For Isner to win this match, he is going to have to pull out all the stops. He needs to serve into the body of Nadal and attack his backhand. He is going to have to hope Nadal has an off-day as well, which he doesn’t seem to have on clay. I look for Nadal to win, but this will be fun to watch.
Nick’s Pick – Nadal in 3 sets
Xavier Malisse (BEL) vs. Dmitry Tursunov (RUS)
Malisse is 3-1 against Tursunov, but the two have never met on clay. Tursunov is clearly not the same player he was a few years ago when he was in the top 20. He’s had some injuries and age has caught up with him. He is still very talented, a bit unpredictable and is funny off the court as well! I don’t feel he has enough right now to beat Malisse though.
Malisse has really dedicated himself to tennis over the last year and it has shown. He moves around the court like Muhammad Ali did around the boxing ring, his groundstrokes are solid and his serve is very good as well. As long as he stays focused he should advance.
Nick’s Pick – Malisse in 4 sets
Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
I feel as though Federer has been holding back a bit over the last month in preparation for the French Open and that he is going to have a very good tournament. He’s 8-0 against Lopez, so that should give him a confidence boost. Lopez does bring challenges though as he is a lefty with a huge serve that moves well. Once the ball is in play though, it really favors Federer. I look for the Swiss star to use a variety of shots include more forehands and I also expect him to get a higher percentage of his first serves in. Lopez could steal a set, but in the long run, this match belongs to Federer.
Nick’s Pick – Federer in 3 or 4 sets
Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE)
This is the first career meeting between the 27-year old Lu and the 21-year old Nishikori. Kei has been working with Brad Gilbert a bit, while also traveling with IMG Bollettieri coach, Dante Bottini. He has recently had a minor injury and that could have an effect on this match as Lu is really a solid player. He won’t make many mistakes and he will force Nishikori to win every point. Kei has to be steady, but also aggressive and he must pounce on any defensive balls. I look for Nishikori to advance, but this could go the distance.
Nick’s Pick – Nishikori in 4 or 5 sets