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Will Rafael Nadal capture his sixth French Open crown joining Swede Bjorn Borg? Will Novak Djokovic extend his winning streak to 46 and capture the French Open in the process? Will Roger Federer earnest for redemption, pull one out of the bag in a reprisal of 2009? Or will a dark horseâ€“ Murray, Soderling, Del Potro, Ferrer â€“ come out of the shadows and find their place in the Paris sun?
Questions aplenty, which we attempt to answer as we delve headfirst into the men's draw.
When Rafael Nadal looked at the names in his draw he won't be quaking in his boots but will feel a healthy sense of wariness and a realisation that 1st gear wont be enough to negotiate this section. He opens against big John Isner who is always a tough opponent with the big serve and potentially faces Nikolay Davydenko in the third round. While the Russian has a good record against Nadal, he hasn't had a particularly good time recently as he recovered from injury. In the 4th round he is likely to be tested by fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, assuming he gets through his section that includes Querrey, Malisse and Kohlschreiber. In the bottom half of the quarter, Robin Soderling will attempt to navigate his way past Baghdatis, Fish & Simon to earn the right to face Nadal.
Quarterfinal: Nadal v Soderling
Andy Murray's best showing at Roland Garros was a quarter final in 2009, which he will look to improve on this year. He has as good a chance as any to atleast equal it with a reasonably clear road to the quarters. Murray opens against Frenchman Eric Prodon and in the third round could face up and coming Milos Raonic. Australian Open sensation Dolgopolov and Serbian Davis Cup hero Viktor Troicki will likely clash in the 3rd round with the winner facing Murray. The bottom section of this quarter features potential spoilers such as Almagro, Melzer and Florian Mayer. Also in this section is Bernard Tomic, Australia's great new hope.
Quarterfinal: Murray v Almagro
The last time Federer was in the third quarter of a slam it was way back in 2003 at the French Open. Federer then suffered a first round loss to Luis Horna which he since described as â€œthe most important loss of his careerâ€. In the first round this time he plays Feliciano Lopez who he had edged in a tight 3 setter in Madrid earlier. The big serving Spaniard has been in good form and could cause the upset if he serves at his best. If he gets past Lopez, Federer then needs to negotiate past Tipsarevic who stretched him to 5 sets in Australia in 2008 before facing either Wawrinka or Tsonga in the 4th round. In the other half of this section, David Ferrer and Gael Monfils should have untroubled runs through to the fourth round where they should clash.
Quarterfinal: Federer v Ferrer
If Novak Djokovic is to win the French Open and stretch his unbeaten run, he's certainly going to have to do it the hard way. He opens against Thiemo de Bakker a hard hitting Dutch opponent. Adjacent to him in the draw is the dreaded Del Potro, who should have an interesting couple of games against Ivo Karlovic and then classic headcase Ernests Gulbis. The potential third round clash between Del Potro and Djokovic will certainly be an explosive one and not to be missed. The survivor of this clash should cruise through to the quarters despite the presence of talented Richard Gasquet. Tomas Berdych heads the other half of the quarter. The Czech should navigate the section that includes Marin Cilic & Lleyton Hewitt as he defends his semifinal points from last year.
Quarterfinal: Djokovic v Berdych
Semifinal 1: Nadal v Murray â€“ Murray for a brief period dominated Nadal in Monte Carlo to take the second set. The key point there is â€˜brief period'. Over the course of a 5 setter on clay, few have shown the ability to match Nadal for a sustained period. Murray may take a set, but will eventually fall short.
Semifinal 2: Federer v Djokovic â€“ Djokovic has dominated Federer, like he has every one this year. Clay is not the right surface for Federer to get his revenge and Djokovic will come through in 4 sets.
Final: Nadal v Djokovic â€“ Tennis' defining rivalry will enter its 5th instalment on what so far has been Rafa's backyard. Djokovic has dominated Nadal on clay this year with superb ability to handle Rafa's vicious top spin on the surface. But this is Roland Garros. This is the place where Nadal has only been beaten once in his life. Djokovic will push him further than anyone has done before, but in the final where Rafa has not lost before, he will prevail once again to capture his 10th slam title.
File Photograph Copyright: Madrid Masters
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