The 8 Mousquetaires for Nadal; Bryans Stay in Running For Calendar Year Slam @RolandGarros

Nadal Roland Garros

The 8 Mousquetaires for Nadal; Bryans Stay in Running For Calendar Year Slam @RolandGarros

Rafael Nadal crushed David Ferrer again 6-3 6-2 6-3 to capture his eighth Roland Garros title and another Coupe des Mousquetaires. Nadal is also up to 12 career Grand Slam titles and 3rd on the all-time list. The match was not particularly notable or entertaining except for a couple of rowdy protestors including a streaker with a flare who ran on the court.

You could arguably say that Nadal took the title on Friday, when he beat Novak Djokovic in a slugfest five-setter, 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 9-7. Both men put everything on the line, but Nadal just had that extra amount of prowess that put him over the top. Nadal and Djokovic are simply the two best players in the game right now.

Ferrer made his first career slam final at 31 and finally got over the semifinal hump as he took out a listless Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 3 sets and previously beat Kevin Anderson and Tommy Robredo. Tsonga upset Roger Federer in 3 sets in the quarters, while Djokovic beat Phillip Kohlschreiber and Tommy Haas to make the semis. Nadal also beat Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka in straights in Week 2.

The Bryans continued to dominate doubles, winning another French over Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut. They are still in the running for a calendar year grand slam as they won the Aussie Open as well.

—Steen Kirby

Coming to SW19 Soon

Coming to SW19 Soon

Turns out the flared-up protester in Paris was none other than French Actor Lumiere, whose career took a tailspin after a long run as a candlestick in ‘Beauty and the Beast’. We hope he gets the help he needs. —Ed.

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Steen Kirby’s 2013 French Open Week 2 Men’s Preview & Predictions #RG13

2013 French Open Week 2 Men’s Preview
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com

Roland Garros 2013

(June 1, 2013)– Roland Garros has dodged around rain showers and managed to make it through to the final 16 on the men’s side as very upsets have made almost everything go as expected rankings-wise in Paris.

Now to break down the round of 16.

Novak Djokovic, 2012 ATP Cincinnati

Novak Djokovic vs. Phillip Kohlschreiber

Djokovic hasn’t had too rough of a time in advancing through his first three matches. He didn’t drop a set against David Goffin, Guido Pella and Grigor Dimitrov. Goffin gave him the toughest match of the three, forcing 3 tight sets including a tiebreak. Pella and Dimitrov just proved overmatched, while Kohlschreiber has once again worked his way to the R16 under the radar. He beat hard-hitting Czech youngster Jiri Vesely in 4 sets, getting a walkover against Yen-Hsun Lu and then dispatching veteran Victor Hanescu. Kohlschreiber is a good player, and as I mentioned in the Week 1 preview, has beaten Novak at RG before, but I honestly don’t see that happening this year.

Tommy Haas

Tommy Haas vs. Mikhail Youzhny

Tommy Haas finally has a good slam run to go with his excellent late career ATP results. He did so by beating Guillaume Rufin, Jack Sock, who upset Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in R1, and another American, John Isner 10-8. That was another tough luck 5-setter for big John, who previously beat Ryan Harrison in 5 sets. Youzhny is a bit more of a surprise, though he was formerly a solid name on tour. He has lost luster in recent years and really wasn’t on many radars, yet still he grinded away against Pablo Andujar, Federico Del Bonis and an exhausted Janko Tipsarevic, who had beaten Fernando Verdasco in 5 sets in round 2 to reach the round of 16. Youzhny actually holds the head-to-head edge 4-3 in this one, including a win just this year on clay in Rome. Haas may be tired, but he has proven the doubters wrong before, and I say he grabs the win here as well.

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

Rafael Nadal vs. Kei Nishikori

Nadal has spent the most time on court (8 hours+) of any of the top 3 seeds and he has already dropped 2 sets, one to Daniel Brands in round 1 and the other to Martin Klizan in round 2. He did improve over Fabio Fognini, dispatching him in straights. The thing is, at least in the case of the Brands match, his opponent played very well and would have beaten plenty of other capable players, but not Nadal, and not on clay, as Nadal has improved his record to an astounding 55-1 in Paris. Now he will run into the Hope of Japan, Nishikori, who beat Jesse Levine and Grega Zemlja, then followed that up with a win over the Frenchman Benoit Paire. This is their first meeting on clay, but Nishikori has never beaten Nadal in 4 tries, and once again you just can’t go against Rafa at RG.

Gasquet

Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Richard Gasquet

Wawrinka was probably the biggest question mark going into the tournament. He has had a wonderful year in general, and a fine clay court season, but his health was in question. He has assuaged away those fears as he survived a late comeback push from Thiemo De Bakker to win in 4 sets and then beat Horacio Zeballos and Jerzy Janowicz (who has to be more than just a bit disappointed). Gasquet has avoided tons of fanfare and beat ‘antics enjoyer’ Sergiy Stakhovsky, Michal Przysienzy and Nikolay Davydenko all without dropping a set. These 2 have only met once back in 2006, so I wouldn’t read anything into that as they are almost fresh slates right now. I expect 5 sets and a knock-down-drag-out, but I’ll give a razor thin edge to Gasquet here.

Robredo

Tommy Robredo vs. Nicolas Almagro

Another left for dead veteran who has found renewed success: Robredo, who used to be one of the top Spanish players, beat Jurgen Zopp, then won grueling 5 set matches with Igor Sijsling and everyone’s favorite showman Gael Monfils. Monfils, of course, once again produced tremendous excitement in wins over Tomas Berdych and Ernests Gulbis, with Monfils-Berdych being worthy of a semifinal and one of the best round 1 slam matches in recent memory. Nico Almagro beat Andreas Haider-Maurer in 4 sets, Edouard Roger-Vasselin in straights and Andreas Seppi, also in straights. Almagro has to be seen as the fresher player. Furthermore, Almagro has beaten Robredo in all 5 of their meetings, including this year in Acapulco, and as much as I appreciate what Robredo has done to get this far, I have to go with Almagro.

Kevin Anderson vs. David Ferrer

Big South African Anderson beat Ilya Marchenko and Evgeny Donskoy, then toppled Milos Raonic in straights while Ferrer beat Marinko Matosevic, Albert Montanes, and surprise 3rd rounder Feliciano Lopez. The pair have never met on clay but have split a pair of hardcourt meetings, with Anderson winning their match at Indian Wells this year. Anderson is in good form, but so is Ferrer, and he hasn’t shown me any reason why I should go against picking him again.

Tsonga

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Viktor Troicki

Tsonga is one of the three Frenchman left and the one most likely to advance. He beat Aljaz Bedene, then routined a zapped Jarkko Nieminen before dispatching fellow Tri-colore Jeremy Chardy to improve his record in Paris. As a side, the first round match between Nieminen and Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu was also one of the better round 1 slam matches in recent memory. It was 5 sets of pure tennis. Perhaps the most surprising name left in the draw, Troicki has had RG success before, but he is ridiculously unpredictable and he put his game together this week to beat James Blake, Dani Gimeno-Traver in 5 sets and Marin Cilic. The head to head is actually tied at 3 all in this one, but Tsonga has won both clay meetings and since he hasn’t dropped a set, I’ll pick him to keep up that pace.

Gilles Simon vs. Roger Federer

Simon avoid a memorable choke against Lleyton Hewitt in the first round.Hhe promptly went down 2 sets against the veteran Aussie and was playing horrendous tennis before kicking it into gear and going up 5-1 in the 5th set after Hewitt looked like he was down for the count. From there, it began to unravel as he dropped game after game, and eventually had to break Hewitt again and serve out the match 7-5 in the 5th. He beat Paolo Cuavas in 4 sets after that and then Sam Querrey in another long 5 setter. Federer is on an opposite path, and is taking care of business like a machine right now rolling over Pablo Carreno-Busta, Somdev Devvarman and Julian Benneteau to reach the 4th round. Fed managed all that without dropping a set and in fact, only dropping 22 games in 3 matches. The head to head is only 3-2, but Federer crushed Simon in Rome recently, and he should do so again.

Predictions:

QFs

Djokovic d. Haas
Nadal d. Gasquet
Ferrer d. Almagro
Federer d. Tsonga

Haas blistered Djokovic in Miami in one of the biggest upsets of the year, but like Dimitrov, I don’t think he can pull it off again, especially on clay. Nadal may struggle a little bit, but a 10-0 h2h vs. Gasquet speaks for itself. Likewise Ferrer has just dominated Almagro, beating him 13 times to none. Federer is also looking like a machine right now and should win. All these matches could in fact be straight sets.

SFs

Nadal d. Djokovic
Federer d. Ferrer

Sticking with the original picks and as confident as I was to start with both of them: Nadal being a machine at RG in what some will call the championship match, and Federer having a clear edge over Ferrer.

Final

Nadal d. Federer

Still going with Nadal to win, but if Federer plays like he is now, this could be much closer than most people thought Federer almost has to be the 2nd favorite for the title now.

American Women Surge in Paris. The Men, Not So Much #RG13

American Women Surge in Paris. The Men, Not So Much #RG13

usopen 2011 Jamie Hampton

Jamie Hampton capped off an amazing Saturday for the women of American tennis, beating former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in straight sets. Hampton is now poised to crack the top 50 for the first time in her career, and crack it hard. This will be her first ever Slam Sweet 16, which you call the 4th round.

Bethanie Mattek Sands, Copyright 2012 TennisEastCoast.com

Prior to that, Bethanie Mattek-Sands punched her ticket to only her second Slam Sweet 16 in a victory over qualifier Paula Ormaechea.

Earlier yet, Sloane Stephens outlasted Marina Erakovic to earn a second consecutive spot in the Roland Garros.

And of course Serena will be there, too.

A full quarter of the field in the hunt to win it all at Roland Garros are Americans, and Venus Williams isn’t even one of them.

Even better, they won’t have to face a fellow American in the 4th round.

Hampton and Mattek-Sands surprised. Sloane and Serena did not disappoint. Stephens will face Sharapova, Serena will take out on Roberta Vinci, Mattek-Sands will play Maria Kirilenko and Jamie Hampton gets Jelena Jankovic.

There’s nothing sweet about the 4th round for the American men’s field. Not a single one will be dirtballing in Paris next week. In the final American singles match of the day, John Isner played some mean overtime (2 tiebreaks and an extended fifth set) but lost to Tommy Haas in the end.

In Haas, the Germans have a 35-year-old man in the Sweet 16. That doesn’t sound clean. But it’s better than the alternative.

The success of the American women will help ease the pain of an underwhelming performance by their male counterparts. Cheers to them and God Bless the men.

—S. Fogleman

Update on Adam Neff at Longines Future Tennis Aces Tournament in Paris

Longines Future Aces Site

Update on Adam Neff  of Bradenton, Fla at Longines Tennis Aces Tournament in Paris

Neff was defeated on Thursday, May 30, falling to Germany’s Rudolf Molleker, 4-1, 4-1.

Adam Neff

“He was just older, better and stronger,” said Neff, the top-ranked USTA Boys’ 12-and-under player, of Molleker.

 

Neff said he learned a lot from his experience in Paris. “I learned this is the international competition, so I finally know what it is, what I’m up against,” he said.

 

To read the Wall Street Journal’s feature on Neff click here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324682204578513532678872880.html

 

Media:

  

You can follow day by day on the site: http://rolandgarros.longines.com/

All About Longines Future Tennis Ace Adam Neff, Part Deux

“Getting to Know Longines Future Tennis Ace Adam Neff of Bradenton, Florida”

Adam Neff

Adam Neff

USTA Boys’ 12s Spring National Champion to Compete in Paris, France,

May 30-June 1 Against Qualifiers from 15 Countries Around the World

Tennis East Coast readers already know plenty about phenom Adam Neff after I interviewed his coach last month. Now you can hear from Adam himself. The press release reads “Getting to Know Adam Neff”, but we love to keep you ahead of the ball. We went over this a month ago. You can read our interview here.

—Ed.

Neff at Boys' Nationals

Neff at Boys’ Nationals

WEEHAWKEN, N.J., (May 25, 2013) – Eleven-year-old Adam Neff’s ultimate tennis goal is not unlike any other top-ranked junior tennis player: He wants to be No. 1 in the world someday.

Considered the No. 1 12-and-under player in the United States, Neff has the top USTA 12s ranking and a recent United States Tennis Association gold ball to prove it, having captured the USTA Boys’ 12s National Spring Championships presented by Longines last month in Delray Beach, Fla.

By virtue of his victory, the Alpha Omega Academy fifth-grader Neff will represent the U.S. in the fourth annual Longines Future Tennis Aces May 30-June 1 in Paris during the first week of the French Open. For the first time this year, the Longines Future Tennis Aces 16-player competition will take place in the center of Paris in front of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall).

In addition to winning an all-expense-paid trip, Neff will compete for the chance to receive financing for his tennis equipment until his 16th birthday, courtesy of Longines. Neff will test his skills against and play against some of the best 12-and-under players in the world as countries such as Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom will all be sending their best for the chance to be named the 2013 Longines Future Tennis Aces champion.

Longines FutureTennis Aces 2013 Court!

Longines Future Tennis Aces 2013 Court!

“I want to turn pro and be No. 1,” Neff said before departing for Europe, where he will spend a week training on the red clay in Barcelona prior to the Future Tennis Aces tournament. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of commitment. But when I finally reach my goal it will all be worth it.”

Before leaving for his European adventure, Neff, who is coached full-time by Lance Luciani, took a few minutes to answer some questions.

Question: How did you and Lance meet?

Neff: “I met Lance when I lived in Cincinnati. I met him through a friend of my dad who recommended him. His daughter played tennis too. I lived with him for a summer and now I train with him full-time.”

Q: What are you looking forward to most about your trip to Paris?

Neff: “Well, there won’t be a lot of time for sight-seeing, but just being there for the French Open is going to be amazing. And seeing all the best kids from the other countries will be cool too; to see how strong they are.”

Q: You’ve been featured in Sports Illustrated “Faces in The Crowd” section, interviewed by newspapers and even appeared in-studio on a news-talk station in your hometown. Do you like all the attention you’ve received?

Neff: “It’s great. I love all the attention. It’s pretty cool to be interviewed and to have people ask you questions and see the story in the news.”

Q: What are some of your hobbies besides tennis?

Neff: “I like playing video games and jumping on a trampoline and when I have time I play laser tag.”

Q: How many hours a day to you spend training?

Neff: “I do two hours in the morning, two and a half hours in the afternoon and then an hour of fitness in the evening. So it’s about five and a half hours total.”

Q: Who is your favorite player? And why?

Neff: ”Rafael Nadal, of course. He’s got the most fight and he makes you want to go out and play!”

Q: What is your best shot? And what do you have to work on?

Neff: “My forehand is my weapon, but my backhand and serve are close behind.

Let’s say my drop shots are a work in progress.”

Q: How many words do you know in French?

Neff: “‘Bonjour’ is about it.

Q: Any last comments?

Neff: “I just want to thank Longines for all they’ve done and for putting on such a great event. I know Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf are the Longines spokespeople. I hope to meet them someday.”

May Challenger Recap, Focus on American Qualifiers in Paris #ATP #RG13

May Challenger Recap, Focus on American Qualifiers in Paris
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

An-Ning Challenger (April 29-May 5, 2013)

Marton Fucsovics improved to a career high ranking of 251 and took the title in this 50k Chinese challenger on clay over James Ward. Fucsovics beat Dino Marcan in the semis while Ward beat Tsung-Hua Yang. Yang had upset Tatsuma Ito in the quarterfinals.

Johannesburg Challenger (April 29-May 5, 2013)

Pospisil

Pospisil

In the Jo’burg 100k challenger, Vasek Pospisil worked his way to a win over Michal Przysienzy on hard courts. Pospisil beat Mate Pavcic in the semis, while Przysienzy  beat Lukas Lacko, the top seed.

Napoli Challenger (April 29-May 5, 2013)

Former top 30 player Potito Starace, who has seen his ranking collapse out of the top 200, pulled it together and beat fellow Italian Alessandro Giannessi on clay after beating David Guez in the semis. Giannessi  beat Filippo Volandri in the semis.

Ostrava Challenger (April 29-May 5, 2013)

In the Czech Republic, on clay, the teenage lefty Jiri Vesely won his 2nd challenger title of the year, this time over Steve Darcis after beating qualifier Miloslav Mecir in the semis. Darcis upset top seed Lukas Rosol in the semis, and had upset Jan Hajek before that.  Jaroslav Pospisil upset 2 seed Aljaz Bedene in the opening round.

Tunis Challenger (April 29-May 5, 2013)

In Tunis on clay, Adrian Ungur topped Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in 3 sets to take the title.  The veteran Ungur beat Florent Serra in the semis while Schwartzman took out Kenny De Schepper.  Top seed Marcel Granollers was upended by wildcard Lamine Ouahab, who was once a top 120 player, in Round 2.

Karshi Challenger (May 6-May 12, 2013)

On hard courts in Uzbekistan,top seed Teymuraz Gabashvili defeated Radu Albot for the title.  Gabashvili beat Ti Chen in the semis while Albot beat Prakash Amritraj.

Kun-Ming Challenger (May 6-May 12, 2013)

Bogomolov

Bogomolov

In another Chinese challenger on hard courts, Alex Bogomolov took his 2nd challenger title of the year over Rik De Voest, who is also having a good year. Bogo is back knocking on the door of the top 80 and beat JP Smith in the semis while De Voest beat Tsung-Hua Yang, who made yet another Challenger semi.

Rio Quente Challenger (May 6-May 12, 2013)

Ram

Ram

On hard courts in Brazil, top seed Rajeev Ram beat Brazilian Andre Ghem in 3 sets to take the title. Ram beat James Duckworth in the semis, while Ghem beat Fabio De Paula.

Rome-2 Challenger (May 6-May 12, 2013)

Aljaz Bedene beat Italian Flippo Volandri on clay to take the title. Bedene beat Federico Del Bonis in the semis, while Volandri beat Matthias Bachinger, who had upset top seed Albert Montanes in Round 2.

Bordeaux Challenger (May 13-May 19, 2013)

In Bordeaux on clay, Gael Monfils got his game in form and took out Michael Llodra for the title. Monfils beat David Goffin in the semis of a loaded field, while Llodra beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.  The field included four young Americans: Denis Kudla, Steve Johnson, Jack Sock and Rhyne Williams, but they all lost their opening round matches.

Busan Challenger (May 13-May 19, 2013)

On hard courts in Korea, Dudi Sela beat Alex Bogomolov, denying him of his 3rd Challenger title this year. Sela beat Jimmy Wang in the semis while Bogomolov beat James McGee.  A lot of seeds fell early in this event, as top seed Rendy Lu lost to Enrique Lopez-Perez (ranked 292, a career high), 2 seed Lukas Lacko lost to Ze Zhang and 5 seed Go Soeda lost to countryman Hiroki Moriya.

Samarkand Challenger (May 13-May 19, 2013)

In Uzbekistan on clay, Teymuraz Gabashvili won again, beating Oleksandr Nedovyesov after toppling Pere Riba in the semis. Nedovyesov beat Farrukh Dustov in the semis and it was a good showing for Dustov, who has otherwise endured a miserable year.  Filip Krajinovic upset top seed Jiri Vesely in the opening round.

French Open Qualifying (May 21-May 24, 2013)

Kudla

Kudla

The qualifiers are:

Andreas Beck over Antonio Veic
Steve Darcis over Simon Greul
Pere Riba over Andreas Haider-Maurer (LL recipient)
Julian Reister over Farrukh Dustov
Somdev Devvarman over Wayne Odesnik
James Duckworth over Dusan Lajovic
Daniel Munoz De La Nava over Illya Marchenko (LL recipient)
Vasek Pospisil over Frank Dancevic
Jan-Lennard Struff over Teymuraz Gabashvili
Pablo Carreno-Busta over Vincent Millot
Jiri Vesely over Stephane Robert
Maxime Teixeira over Pavol Cervenak
and the 3 Americans:

Steve Johnson over Adrian Ungur
Denis Kudla over Arthur De Greef
Jack Sock over Facundo Arguello
AND Rhyne Williams who lost to Michal Przysiezny but will play him again as a lucky loser.

Johnson

Johnson

USTA Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge=Success

That means of the 7 Americans entered in qualifying, only Tennys Sandgren, Tim Smyczek and Robby Ginepri failed to win a round, while Wayne Odesnik lost in the final round of qualifying.  Sock especially is a surprise, as he hasn’t had much success on clay before but routined promising clay courter Facundo Arguello in the final round.  I’m usually a harsh critic when it comes to USTA player development, but I must say, the switch to that 3 week set of Har-Tru Green Clay events, plus the match most of them played at the Bordeaux Challenger sure seemed to help the up and coming Americans get better on clay and get more experience.

2013 French Open Week 1 Men’s Preview #RG13

2013 French Open Week 1 Men’s Preview
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com

Roland Garros 2013

Roland Garros
Grand Slam
Paris, France
May 26-June 9, 2013
Prize Money: € 7,984,000

For some reason, this feels like one of the most low-key French Opens in recent years. It’s still a Grand Slam, but it has not ignited as much excitement and discussion as in years past. Regardless, the draw is now out and soon enough it will be time to tune into the famed Parisian red clay once again.

Top 8 seeds
1: Novak Djokovic
2: Roger Federer
3: Rafael Nadal
4: David Ferrer
5: Tomas Berdych
6: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
7: Richard Gasquet
8: Janko Tipsarevic

Nadal is the defending champ, Djokovic is the defending finalist, and Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Murray are the two notable absences this year. Murray is out with a back injury and Del Potro is battling a virus. While they will most certainly be missed, neither were favorites for the title so it isn’t that bad of a blow.

1st round matchups to watch:

(1)Novak Djokovic vs. David Goffin

A lot of eyes will be on Djokovic this time as he takes on Goffin in the opening round. He has not had the best of clay seasons and has been dragged down by a nagging ankle injury throughout. He may still not be 100%. Goffin, on the other hand, has dealt with a bit of a sophomore slump this year and is just 7-13 at the ATP level. He also comes off an opening round loss in Dusseldorf but few can forget his run to the Round of 16 at last year’s FO, and he will try to conjure that magic again. Djokovic should win, but Goffin might be able to take a set off him at least.

Ivan Dodig vs Guido Pella

Dodig seems to be perpetually under-noticed when it comes to top 50 ATP players. He has had a solid year thus far and this match with the rising Argentine Pella, who made his first career ATP semi this week in Dusseldorf is interesting and could go either way. Pella has talent on clay, but Dodig has more experience and consistency.

(16) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. (Q)Jiri Vesely

After dealing with vertigo in Rome, Peppo Kohlschreiber dropped his opening round match in Dusseldorf. Now he heads into a meeting with the only teen in the ATP top 200 (ranked 127 and climbing) Jiri Vesely, a 19-year-old Czech talent who blitzed through qualifying and has won 2 challengers and 3 futures titles this year. Kohli has been improving his form overall, but his health is still a question mark, giving Vesely a punchers chance at a big upset.

Andrey Kuznetsov vs. Ryan Harrison

Kuznetsov and Harrison both still have to be considered young talents and Kuznetsov has now moved past Harrison in the rankings. Neither have had breakthrough wins this year, but Kuznetsov has been a steady participant in ATP level events and Harrison has clawed his way back from an early season slump, though he did lose in the opening round of Nice. Because this is clay, Kuznetsov is a bit of a favorite but this one could also go either way.

(19) John Isner vs. Carlos Berlocq

Isner remains highly seeded but he keeps struggling and looking hapless on European clay. He has dropped 2 straight matches and will now take on the clay courter Berlocq, who he has never played before. Given the form of both players, Berlocq has to be a bit of a favorite.

(3)Rafael Nadal vs. Daniel Brands

As long as Nadal is healthy, as he appears to be, it is going to take a superhuman effort to beat him, but Brands, a continually improving German could at least make him work for a win. Brands comes off a bad 2nd round loss in Dusseldorf, but his consistently good year and solid game can’t be discounted.

(9)Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Thiemo De Bakker

Under normal circumstances, Wawrinka shouldn’t have an issue beating a player like De Bakker, who has talent but has struggled to put it all together. The problem is Wawrinka is dealing with a thigh injury and it was questionable he would even play the French. De Bakker has been better on the challenger circuit this year and Wawrinka will be a bit of a favorite, but in a best 5 sets match I don’t think Wawrinka’s fitness can be trusted right now even with his remarkable year. This is made even more disappointing by the fact that if Wawrinka was healthy he would have a great draw lined up.

(5)Tomas Berdych vs. Gael Monfils

If you only have time to watch one first round match, this is the one to watch. This match is good enough to be a 2nd week match, but instead one player will have to lose and the other will advance. Monfils is on a red-hot win streak, taking a challenger title and then making the finals in Nice (a tournament he may win). The French showman is utterly brilliant when he is in form in front of home fans, but is still ridiculously unpredictable. Berdych, on the other hand, has to hate his draw because after 2 straight clay masters semifinals (Madrid and Rome), he now faces the possibility of losing in round 1 of the French even though he is better than most of the other players in the field. Berdych has won all 3 H2H meetings, but 2 of those were last year and this is a much different Monfils right now. I still have to give an edge to Berdych here, but 5 sets is almost a given if Monfils isn’t out of gas.

Denis Kudla

Denis Kudla

Jan Hajek vs. (Q)Denis Kudla

Dusseldorf Quarterfinalist Hajek is best on clay but is a rather average player. Dynamite Denis Kudla has worked through qualifying and could break the top 100 with a couple of more wins in Paris. Given his form, I have to give Kudla a really good shot at winning this.

(18)Sam Querrey vs. Lukas Lacko

Querrey, like Isner, is struggling mightily on the red dirt and has lost 3 straight matches. Lacko, for his part, has also lost 3 straight and has continually dealt with the label of underachiever. Neither of these players are in form and this could go either way.

(2)Roger Federer vs. (Q)Pablo Carreno-Busta

Federer has a very easy draw up until the semifinals, excluding this match with Carreno-Busta who rolled through qualifying as everyone expected and continues to climb up the rankings. Carreno-Busta is making his Grand Slam debut in Paris. PCB of course had that tremendous winning streak on the futures circuit that led to 7 futures titles this year and he made the semis in ATP Estoril along with qualifying and making round 2 in Casablanca. He has tremendous talent and is playing like a top 60 player right now, but Federer, the Rome finalist, is still Federer, and though PCB should push him, I do not think he is quite at that level yet. Expect some great tennis.

Djokovic’s quarter:

After a meeting with Goffin, Djoker will take on Dodig/Pella before getting a rematch against Grigor Dimitrov, who upset him in Madrid in round 3. Dimitrov just needs to be Alejandro Falla and Alex Kuznetsov/Lucas Pouille. Excluding Dimitrov, Djokovic doesn’t have the most difficult of starts.

The Kohlschreiber/Vesely winner will play Rendy Lu or Simone Bolelli and then could meet Alex Dolgopolov, Dmitry Tursunov, Bernard Tomic or Victor Hanescu. Hanescu has had a career resurgence recently and just upset Albert Ramos in Nice. Tomic, of course, has been dealing with family issues and Tursunov is dangerous but inconsistent.

The slumping Janko Tisparevic has just been abysmal this year, losing once again in the opening round in Dusseldorf. He will try again against Nicolas Mahut, who hasn’t done very much for himself as well.The winner will play Fernando Verdasco or Marc Gicquel in the weakest part of the draw by far. One of those 4 has to make the 3rd round.

Joining them could be 29 seed Mikhail Youzhny, Federico Delbonis, qualifier Julian Reister or most likely Pablo Andujar. Andujar is coming off semis in Nice and has played surprisingly well this European clay season, setting him up to make the 3rd round or better in Paris.

12 seed Tommy Haas, who pulled out of Dusseldorf mid-tournament with a cold, will play Guillaume Rufin and then Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or surprise American qualifier Jack Sock. Few expected to make it this far. Haas could then play Kuznetsov/Harrison or Berlocq/Isner.

Nadal’s quarter:

The heavy favorite and man to beat once again in Paris is Rafa, who will play Brands before meeting Michael Russell or Martin Klizan followed by Fabio Fognini, qualifier Andreas Beck, qualifier Pere Riba, or a big rematch with Lukas Rosol, who has had a solid year of his own. Nadal was shocked by Rosol last year at Wimbledon. Given that this is on clay, none of those options should trouble Rafa much.

13 seed Kei Nishikori will play Jesse Levine followed by Grega Zemlja or Santiago Giraldo. He should thereafter meet the dangerous Benoit Paire, who is seeded 24th, and opens with the formerly good Marcos Baghdatis and then Lukasz Kubot or qualifier Maxime Teixeira. Paire/Nishikori would be a huge 3rd round match.

Richard Gasquet personally carries French hopes, and will open with Sergiy Stakhovsky, followed by qualifier Michal Przysiezny or lucky loser Rhyne Williams, who lost to Przysiezny in the final round of qualifying. They will play each other again. In the 3rd round, it will be one of Florian Mayer, Denis Istomin, Florent Serra and Nikolay Davydenko.

Above Gasquet, the Wawrinka/De Bakker winner will play Horacio Zeballos or qualifier Vasek Pospisil followed by 21 seed Jerzy Janowicz or Albert Ramos. Ramos or Janowicz should beat Robin Haase or Kenny De Schepper, their round 2 opponents.

Ferrer’s quarter:

Ferrer will take on Marinko Matosevic, followed by current Nice finalist Albert Montanes, or surprise American qualifier Steve Johnson. After that, either Montanes or Ferrer should play another Spaniard, Marcel Granollers, if Granollers can beat the struggling Feliciano Lopez and then Go Soeda or Joao Sousa. This really is a good section for Ferrer.

14 seed Milos Raonic, who has had an off and on clay season, will play slumping Xaiver Malisse, and then qualifier Steve Darcis of Frenchman Michael Llodra. After that, fellow big server Kevin Anderson should come calling if the 23 seed can beat qualifier Ilya Marchenko and Evgeny Donskoy or qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff.

Berdych/Monfils will have the tough task of Ernests Gulbis in the toughest section of the draw, as long as Gulbis avoids being upset by Rogerio Dutra Silva. The survivor of that section likely plays 32 seed Tommy Robredo, but the veteran Jurgen Melzer and the Dusseldorf semifinalist Igor Sijsling are also options. Melzer and Sijsling played a tough match in Memphis this year that was won by Sijsling.

Below that, 11 seed Nicolas Almagro, dealing with some injury issues, will play qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria. If he gets past that, he will play Nice semifinalist Edouard Roger-Vasselin, a Frenchmen who has had a solid year. That is, of course, if Roger-Vasselin beats Martin Alund in the opening round. Almagro, if not too hobbled, has a tailor-made draw, as in round 3 he would play the out of sorts Andreas Seppi, whose game has disappeared from him. Seppi will play Leo Mayer, then Blaz Kavcic or qualifier James Duckworth. Kavcic-Duckworth is a rematch of a grueling 5-setter at the Australian Open that left Kavcic in a stretcher after the match. Hopefully, that won’t happen again. Duckworth-Kavcic could also upset Seppi. Keep that in mind.

Kavcic

Kavcic

Federer’s quarter:

After a meeting with Carreno-Busta, Fed should have a bit of an easier go against a pair of qualifiers, either Somdev Devvarman or Daniel Munoz-De La Nava. Munoz-De La Nava is making his 2nd Grand Slam main draw appearance at the age of 31. After that, Fed should play Paolo Lorenzo, Ricardas Berankis, or Julian Bennteau (with whom Federer has some experience). Lorenzi plays Tobias Kamke in the opening round while Rycka and Benny will do battle.

Above him, 15 seed Gilles Simon, who lost early in the quarterfinals in Nice, will play Lleyton Hewitt. Simon should then see countryman Adrian Mannarino or blast-from-the-past Pablo Cuevas, a former top 50 player, who after injuries is ranked outside the top 700. After not playing all of last year, with his last match actually being at the 2011 French Open, he has played 2 challenger events in April of this year and that is it.

Simon could very well play Denis Kudla, if Kudla beats Hajek and then Lacko/Querrey, neither of whom are consistent at all on the dirt.

Top Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will play Aljaz Bedene and then Paul-Henri Mathieu, the fiery Frenchmen who has gotten slightly better in recent weeks, or current Dusseldorf finalist Jarkko Nieminen, who has also had a quality year. Assuming he gets past the flying Fin or the inspiring Frenchman, Tsonga could run into yet another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy the 25 seed. Chardy will have to beat Benjamin Becker and Roberto Bautista-Agut or Gilles Muller to make it happen. Agut just beat Muller in Dusseldorf but it went 3 sets. He shouldn’t be counted out as he has talent, but a wrist injury hamstringed him for a bit.

10 seed Marin Cilic opens with Philip Petzschner. He’ll follow that with a chaser of Radek Stepanek or young Aussie Nick Krygios, who is very talented but given this is clay and his slam debut, not much should be expected. Dusseldorf finalist and 17 seed Juan Monaco will play Daniel Gimeno-Traver and then Viktor Troicki or James Blake. After that, he should run into Cilic.

Week 1 predictions (round of 16 matchups and picks)

Djokovic d. Kohlschreiber
Andujar d. Haas
Nadal d. Paire
Janowicz d. Gasquet
Gulbis d. Roger-Vasselin
Ferrer d. Anderson
Tsonga d. Monaco
Federer d. Simon

Djokovic is still better than the competition he faces even though Kohli did shock him at the 09 French Open. Andujar has a really good chance to upset Haas. Nadal should beat Paire once again. Janowicz just beat Gasquet in Rome, and I have a feeling he will do it again. Gulbis beat Roger-Vasselin in Delray and since Roger-Vasselin is a 4th round surprise, should beat him again. Ferrer is better than Anderson on clay, a surface they have never played against each other on. Tsonga has beaten Monaco all 4 times they have met, including in 4 sets at the 09 French and in Davis Cup on clay this year, even with Monaco being in better form right now. Finally, Federer is superior to the inconsistent Simon who he just routined in Rome.

Picking the rest of the way,

Quarters:
Djokovic d. Andujar
Nadal d. Janowicz
Ferrer d. Gulbis
Federer d. Tsonga

Djokovic and Nadal shouldn’t have any trouble while Ferrer and Federer may struggle a bit against Gulbis and Tsonga, but eventually prevail. Federer is 9-3 career against Tsonga including a 5 set win over him at the AO this year.

Semis:
Nadal d. Djokovic
Federer d. Ferrer

A healthy clay king in the form of Nadal should beat a not 100% clay prince in the form of Djokovic. Although Djokovic did get his number in Monte Carlo, Rafa has won everything else since, and regardless it should be a barn burner. Nadal is 19-15 overall against Djokovic and has beaten him all 3 times they have played at the French Open. He simply owns court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Federer is dominant over Ferrer and has beaten him an amazing 14 times without Ferrer ever registering a win.

Final:
Nadal d. Federer

In a rematch of the Rome final and the 2011 French Open final, Nadal won both, and he should win this one as well. His H2H is now 20-10 against Federer, which is actually a pretty notable gap for one of the biggest rivalries in tennis history.

Nadal Conquers Federer to Capture Seventh Rome Title

Nadal Conquers Federer to Capture Seventh Rome Title

Nadal

Rafael Nadal was once again a cut above as he defeated Roger Federer 6-1 6-3 in Rome, continuing his domination of clay court tennis. It is his 24th Masters title overall and as previously mentioned, his 7th in Rome. Federer, for his part, gained ranking points for the first time this year and made his first final of the year, but dropped to 0-3 career in Rome finals.

Nadal has only lost twice this year and continued his win streak over Fabio Fognini, Ernests Gulbis in 3 topsy turvy sets, David Ferrer in 3 sets and Tomas Berdych in straights. Berdych defeated Novak Djokovic to make the semis.

Federer improved against Potito Starace, Gilles Simon, Jerzy Janowicz and Benoit Paire. Paire upset Juan Martin Del Potro en route to the semis, while Janowicz upset both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet to make the quarterfinals.

Like Nadal, the Bryans continued their own domination of clay and everything else, winning over Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna to take the doubles title.

—Steen Kirby

Nadal Rolls to 5th 2013 Title in Madrid

Nadal Rolls to 5th 2013 Title in Madrid

Nadal

Rafael Nadal continued cruising on clay this week in Madrid, finishing off Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-4 for his 5th ATP title of the year. Earlier in the week, Nadal took out Pablo Andujar, David Ferrer, Mikhail Youzhy and Benoit Paire. Andujar was a surprise semifinalist and beat Kei Nishikori in the quarters.

Wawrinka continued to have his own tremendous year, following up an Estoril title with wins against Marius Copil, Grigor Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych. His final 3 matches before making the final all went 3 sets, and he showed tremendous grit and fitness to win them all. For Berdych, meanwhile, he suffered another mental let down that let Wawrinka come back and win.

The Bryans won their 5th Madrid doubles crown over Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares.

—Steen Kirby

Shelby Rogers and Alex Kuznetsov Ready To Do Some Hurt In The Dirt At Roland Garros

Shelby Rogers and Alex Kuznetsov Headed to Roland Garros With USTA Wild Cards

Kuznetsov in Tally

Kuznetsov in Tally

Two East Coasters are headed to Roland Garros as USTA Wild Cards. Charleston’s Shelby Rogers won the Women’s Wild Card by winning the Charlottesvile Challenger and making the quarters in Dothan. Richboro, Pennsylvania native and current Tampa resident Alex Kuznetsov won in Sarasota and made the quarters in Tallahassee and Savannah. They spoke with members of the press (and with me as well) during a USTA Conference call this afternoon.

Roland Garros 2012

Neither player admitted to changing their game over the last month. For Kuznetsov, it’s his first trip to Roland Garros since being a junior finalist at the French Open all the way back in 2004, when he lost to Gaels Monfils. For Rogers, it’s her first trip to Paris…ever.

“Honestly, to think I guess it’s been  almost 10 years that this will be my first French Open main draw, I would have said I’d liked to have been in a couple before now.”, Kuznetsov said.

Kuznetsov is headed to Nice, while Rogers will play in St. Gaudens.

Shelby Rogers (Photo: NBC 29/Charlottesville)

Both players went on an April run to take the wild cards, as neither player had a won a match in months prior to the USTA Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge, which featured three separate tournaments for the men and the women.

‘I hadn’t won a round since November of last year’, said Rogers, who grew up on the green clay in Mount Pleasant, S.C., in the shadow of the Family Circle Cup Tennis Center.

Shelby Rogers (Photo: NBC29/Charlottesville)

Rogers first stop in Paris is the Eiffel Tower, “but hopefully to stay on the red clay as long as I can”.

Rogers has no regrets for turning pro instead of entering college.

It’s always been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I can always take classes, but I can’t always play on tour.

Both grew up on clay and were extensively trained on Har-Tru. Both would like to see more Har-Tru tournament opportunities in the U.S., especially Kuznetsov.

I would be for it, but I also think being that our main Grand Slam is on hard court, there also needs to be obviously an equal amount of hard court tournaments. Like Shelby, I also grew up playing on clay on the East Coast. I played at a club in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, which had indoor red clay. I think it’s a good surface to start younger kids on. I think they develop better on a clay court than they would a hard court. But, yeah, I’d also be for it if they had a few more events. But I’d like for them to keep some hard court tournaments, as well.

Do they like the round-robin format as opposed to a direct playoff?

Rogers was emphatic. “I think it’s a great way. It shows the players who can be consistent rather than over a weekend or a week. You have to bring your game throughout the whole three weeks.”

Kuznetsov Clinches

Kuznetsov Clinches

Kuznetsov clearly prefers the round-robin format as well, and implied that he may have been cut out of the Australian Open Wild Card field last December somewhat arbitrarily.

I think they chose the players they wanted in that one. I think this is an opportunity for the player who is playing the best tennis at the time. You’re also competing against players from different countries, so you’re not only competing against Americans. Obviously there’s players from South America and from Europe who grew up playing on clay, so they have a lot of experience. You deserve the wild card if you’re able to do that.

—Steve Fogleman