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Clay Court Chaos: 2017 French Open Men’s Preview

Novak Djokovic

On the men’s side, the storyline of the 2017 French Open is clear. With Roger Federer skipping the event and both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic struggling, the path for Rafael Nadal to an unprecedented tenth Roland Garros title looks very straightforward, but is that really the case? Before we get there, here are a handful of interesting first round matches.

(9) Alexander Zverev vs. Fernando Verdasco- The ninth seeded 20 year old has arrived in the big time after upsetting Djokovic to win Rome, but Verdasco is a veteran lefty who was near the top of the sport a few years back. He can still cause problems for anyone.

(15) Gael Monfils vs. Dustin Brown- Get your popcorn ready. These are two of the most flamboyant shot makers on tour. You can sample the work on Monfils below on the TennisTop10s YouTube channel, Brown is not far behind.

Nicolás Almagro vs Marcos Baghdatis- Here, we have got two players who have been around a long time and have made runs at majors before. Their best days are behind them, but it will be fun to see them tangle.

(18) Nick Kyrgios vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber- The always unpredictable Aussie going up against a German who has been a solid player for the better part of a decade is the ultimate contrast in styles.


Top half:

I was not very bullish on World No. 1 Andy Murray’s chances to repeat his 2016 run to the finals here, then the draw came out. The Brit is surrounded by big servers and hitters like John Isner and possibly injured Argentine Juan Martin del Potro.

Andy Murray

These are exactly the kind of players Murray, and for that matter Djokovic have mostly had their way with over the years thanks to their all-time great return skills.

Even a possible quarterfinal with Zverev is not all that concerning for Murray, even if he is not playing above his C level. Zverev won only six games in their sole meeting. Also, as well as the young German played in Rome, best of five sets at a Grand Slam is a whole different beast. Murray has the perfect draw to play his way into form and the semis.

With Djokovic and Nadal on the other half of the draw, picking a semifinal opponent for Murray is difficult. Third seeded Stan Wawrinka is fresh off a title and a former winner here, but is often inconsistent, Australian rebel Kyrgios could always catch lightning in a bottle as well. However, waiting for that is starting to become like waiting for Santa Claus. It is a pair of Frenchmen that intrigue me.

Monfils and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga have shown the ability to play well in front of their home crowds that love their flashy playing styles. They both are former semifinalists Even though Tsonga leads the tour in titles this year, I have a funny feeling about Monfils if he can get to (and past) Wawrinka in the round of 16.

Semifinal Prediction: Murray d. Monfils

Bottom half:

Not much to be said here. Most folks want to see a Nadal/Djokovic semifinal. Especially with the way the Serb looked as the runner up in Rome last week, that is exactly what I expect. If it does happen, the added element of the legendary Andre Agassi now coaching Djokovic adds another fascinating layer to this storied rivalry.

Austrian sixth Dominic Thiem is the only man to beat Nadal on clay this year. He and 11th seeded Grigor Dimitrov have a punchers chance at spoiling the potential titanic matchup.

Semifinal prediction: Nadal d. Djokovic

Championship match:  Nadal d. Murray


The French Open starts Sunday at 5 AM ET. Television coverage will be split between Tennis Channel and NBC throughout the event. You can view my complete men’s singles predictions below.

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