Friday, June 1, 2012

French Open Men- 2nd & 3rd Rounds

Okay, so I never did get to my preview of the Men’s Draw at the French (my apologies), and I haven’t had the opportunity to watch a full match, but things have progressed pretty much as expected thus far. Nine of the top 10 seeds on the men’s side are still in the draw, the only one to exit being Long John Isner, the 10th seed. No real surprise that no American men are left, is it?

Isner was bumped, but not before setting another Grand Slam record. Last year he and Nicolas Mahut set the Wimbledon record for the longest match ever played. This year, in his loss at the French to another Frenchman, Paul Henri Mathieu, Isner set the record for the longest fifth set, which went more than three hours and ended up 18-16. Wonder what record he’ll set at the Open.

Did you catch any of the No.4 Andy Murray-Jarko Nieminen match? I watched bits and pieces of it and I can’t believe that Nieminen let Murray of a hook that was so deeply imbedded! So typical of what I see at all levels of the game: many players who can hit the ball, but can’t think their way through a tennis match.

Murray was in obvious distress early with a back issue, was having trouble moving, hitting his forehand, and serving. Like so many players out there, Nieminen couldn’t assess the situation and play accordingly. He continued to play the way he always does, which allowed Murray the opportunity to recover and take over the match.

If Murray had been playing me, on every point where I could take the lead, Murray would have had to reach for low short backhand, then run wide to hit a forehand. He would get no deep balls that would allow him to swing relatively comfortably. He would be brought forward to the net, and then have to reach up to hit overheads. Just sayin’...

It takes more than athleticism and hitting the ball well to be a winner on court. Gotta give Murray credit for hanging in there and doing what it took to get himself back into the match and eventually win it though!

Those interesting matches aside, the only chance the rest of the field has against No.2 Rafael Nadal is the “Niles curse.” I’m picking him to win it, and that reduces his probability of winning by some very significant, even if undetermined, percentage. That said, Rafa hasn’t dropped more than two games in a set thus far. No.1 Novak Djokovic has been pushed to a tiebreak, and No.3 Roger Federer has dropped a set.

Up next for Da Djoker is Nicolas Devilder (Who?), who is ranked 286 in the world. I’m guessing Vegas odds are favoring Djokovic. Rafa has Eduardo Schwank, ranked 192, next on his itinerary. Rafa could get hurt, but other than that, I’ll take any odds you want to give me on Rafa.

Fed has Wimbledon record-setter World No.89 Nicolas Mahut on tap, and he has beaten Mahut in straight sets all three times they have played. However, the two haven’t played on clay, and if Fed has an off day, Mahut has enough game, and enough crowd support to make this interesting. I wouldn’t be too shocked at an upset here, even though it isn’t likely.

Murray, with his bad back, is the most vulnerable of the top three, but now that he has his injury established, maybe he can play without pressure and live up to his potential. Murray is facing Satiago Giraldo, whom he beat handily the only time they played, which was in Barcelona earlier this year. Giraldo is ranked 50 in the world and could give an injured Murray trouble if the back acts up. I wouldn’t bet on it though.

As I write, No.5 Jo Wilfried Tsonga is up two sets to love in Round 3, and should move past Fabio Fognini. However, but he is likely to have a tough go of it against either No.11 Giles Simon or No.18 Stan Wawrinka who is up one set as I write. No.6 David Ferrer will face No. 27 Mikhail Youzhny next, and should advance.

No.7 Tomas Berdych escaped a trying five-setter with No.31 Kevin Anderson today, after being down two sets to one. Chances are he’ll be matched up against the big Argentine, No.9 Juan Martin Del Potro, who takes on No.21 Marin Cillic today, in the Round of 16. Delpo dispatched Cilic in straight sets a few weeks ago in Madrid, and there’s no reason to think he won’t prevail today.

No.8 Janko Tipsarevic will play No.29 Julien Benneteau, whom he lost to the only time they’ve played (2006), tomorrow in Round 3. Tipsarevic is probably the least talked about of the top ten seeds, but is as dangerous as anyone outside the top three. He’s posted wins over Tomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic in the past few weeks, so is playing on form. Benneteau hasn’t played an event since he had to retire against Andy Murray in April, so odds are in Tipsarevic’s favor to move on.

As I said in my first post on the French, the chances of anyone not mentioned above winning this Grand Slam are the proverbial slim to none. There will be plenty of good, competitive matches, but when the Coupe des Mousquetaires is raised, look for someone amongst the top ten, most likely Nadal, to be holding it. Game, set, match…T. A.

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