The 2013 French Open at Roland Garros seems to some to be a pre-set tournament, Rafa for men’s singles and Serena for women’s singles. However, the Spanish number one has been challenged to four sets by Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. And remember, they will be the first and second seeds when announced, and Djokovic is going to be especially confident, being 3,620 points clear of second placed Andy Murray in the rankings. The draw itself will begin at 10:30AM GMT, and it will be done ‘semi-manually’:
“The draw that will be performed on Friday 24 May this year will be “semi-electronic”. It will begin with the women’s singles: the (96) unseeded players will be placed electronically in the draw. The 32 seeds will then be drawn “manually”, a procedure that is usually performed by the reigning men’s champion, namely Rafael Nadal.”
– The French Open website
Below are a list of the top conenders for the Roland Garros title, and why we think they could go all the way, all accompanied by a fact file.
There’s only really one person with which we can start this Roland Garros preview, and that’s the King of Clay. He’s won six of the eight tournaments he’s competed in this season, and won the most recent three clay tournaments in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome. He also won on the red clay of Acupulco, Sao Paulo and the hard courts of Indian Wells. Combined with coming runner-up in Vina del Mar and Monte Carlo, he scored 5000 of a possible 5,500 ATP points – not bad for his first four months back. If Nadal wins in Roland Garros, he will level the record of eight wins there – and that previous record was set in 1914 by Max Decugis when the tournament was exclusive only to French Club members. There is a large chance he will win the tournament, being the seven time champion and given his run so far this season. How does he do it? As shown in the below clip, he uses the surface to his advantage by sliding to meet the ball, allowing him to return seemingly impossible shots with great accuracy. Furthermore, he exploits a wider variety of shots than many other players can on clay; for example, in his match with Djokovic in the 2012 final he used powerful forehands and backhanded lobs, mixed in with dropshots and a good deal of spin. The world number one however, only really used his powerful forehand.
Also, he will have large support, as there are few French players at the very top level of the game currently. The Spaniard will also be inspired by what former ‘King of Clay’ Bjorn Borg said of him:
“He’s incredible – he’s the best player that there has ever been on clay. On clay though, he’s still the man to beat – and that will always be the case for as long as he is playing. We saw that at Monte Carlo and that’s not going to change at Roland Garros, where it’s best-of-five sets out on Centre Court. He’s only ever lost there once, remember.”
He continued by saying he is an ‘artist’ on the surface, and that he is convinced his so far unstoppable will earn him success in the upcoming French Open. The bookmakers also shared this view, as he is 4:6 to win the tournament.
Best French Open Performance: Champion (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012)
Last Year at Roland Garros: Champion
Grand Slam Titles: 11
2013 Win Percentage: 94.7%
2013 Clay Win Percentage: 93.9%
The top seeded player for Roland Garros has had a tough time in the two most recent tournaments; falling in the second round at Madrid to Grigor Dmitrov and in Rome his misery continued, losing 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 to sixth ranked Tomas Berdych. Still, he carries a tremendous ATP points lead of 3640 over Andy Murray into the next round – which is exactly equivilant to one Richard Gasquet and one Philipp Petzschner (3090+550). But back to Novak. The Serb reached the final last year, where he took Rafa to four sets. There’s more on his style of play in the Nadal section, and the video. According to Ladbrokes, he is 2:1 to be champion.
Best French Open Performance: Final (2012)
Last Year at Roland Garros: Final
Grand Slam Titles: 6
2013 Win Percentage: 87.5%
2013 Clay Win Percentage: 77.7%
I’m really not sure how this one will go for Fed, last time around he reached the semi-finals before losing out to Novak Djokovic, and personally I think he will match this. I don’t see, even with the matches spaced out more over the two weeks of a Grand Slam, how he can beat Nadal or Djokovic. He hasn’t been performing very well recently, even after his break, he came back and in Madrid lost to the powerful forehands (but quite weak serving) of Kei Nishikori. Yet, in Rome he played better, and reached the final after a tough semi with Benoit Paire. The final was with Nadal, and there was only going to be one winner as the Spaniard won 6-1, 6-3 – perhaps an omen for the RG13 final? Roger is beginning to show signs of an aging player, he cannot fling from one side of the court to the other like he used to, but he hasn’t lost too much ground in rankings during this stint of the season, as for the last five years it has been dominated by Nadal. Sporting Bet have placed Roger at 20:1 to earn his second title.
Best French Open Performance: Champion (2009)
Last Year at Roland Garros: Semi-Finals
Grand Slam Titles: 17
2013 Win Percentage: 75%
2013 Clay Win Percentage: 71.4%
At 31, David Ferrer is older than many people think, but unlike Federer, he is currently at his prime. He still has great power in his right arm and wrist, allowing him to control a few rallies against fellow countryman Nadal. However, he doesn’t think quickly enough for me, and therefore does not have a great weaponry of shots. There’s a good example of this after 5 1/2 minutes in the below video – showing the highlights from when the pair met in the semis last year.
The best odds for Ferrer winning his fist Grand Slam are 40:1.
Best French Open Performance: Semi-Finals (2012)
Last Year at Roland Garros: Semi-Finals
Grand Slam Titles: 0
2013 Win Percentage: 77.5%
2013 Clay Win Percentage: 76.2%
What do you think?
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– Fact files by Nathan Morley, everything else by Jacob Lee