With world number two Novak Djokovic prevailing over world number one Rafael Nadal at the last two Masters tournaments, the clay universe’s order of the past six seasons has been thrown into chaos. Djokovic could upstage Nadal on his home turf and yank away the number one ranking from the Spaniard.
The French Open draw has been released and by far, the top two players are the favorites. However, with seven rounds to be disputed prior to someone being awarded the trophy, any number of persons can trip Nadal or Djokovic. Here’s a more detailed look at the draw.
Although his performance has been patchy this year, Nikolay Davydenko has a 6-4 record against Nadal. With ten titles on clay including one recently in Munich, Davydenko, the twice semifinalist at Roland Garros, is a formidable potential challenger for Nadal in the round of 16.
Despite a downward slide the last two months, Robin Soderling can at any time regain the form which brought him three consecutive titles early this year. As such, the two time French Open finalist, the only person to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros, could be a serious obstacle in the quarterfinals.
Along with Nadal, Andy Murray is in the top half of the draw which could set up an intriguing semifinal clash between the two. The dangers for Murray include rising star Milos Raonic in the third round and talented Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in the fourth round.
In the quarterfinals, Murray could face stiff opposition from clay court specialist Nicolas Almagro and 2010 French Open semifinalist Jurgen Melzer. Yet, after the disappointment of failing to close out Djokovic in the semifinals in Rome, Murray’s greatest roadblock may be mental.
Provided his left thigh is at 100%, Juan Martin Del Potro could end Djokovic’s perfect season in the third round. Beforehand though, Del Potro will need to dispatch Ivo Karlovic in the first round.
If Mikhail Youzhny and 2010 French Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych had built on their success from last year, they could be viewed as true threats to Djokovic in the quarterfinals. However, with their results of late, Berdych and Youzhny are unlikely to pull off an upset considering Djokovic’s play and confidence at an all time high.
After flirting with a second round exit in Madrid at the hand of Feliciano Lopez, Roger Federer faces the Spaniard in the opening round. On notice, Federer will have to be vigilant if he plans to stick around for round two.
In the round of 16, Federer could also be tested by hometown favorite Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. Furthermore, David Ferrer will be a perilous quarterfinal adversary for the Swiss.
For the first time in many moons, Federer finds himself in the backseat when it comes to being one of the favorites at a major. To once again become part of that conversation, Federer will need to mute Djokovic in the semifinals.
With Nadal victorious last year and Djokovic solely defending his quarterfinal status, only the latter can gain ground in the rankings. Consequently, after the French Open, there might be a radical shift at the summit with Djokovic king of the mountain. The event begins in two short days.