French Open Preview: Big 4

djokovic-nadal-federer-murray-big-four

This era of tennis, often referred to as the Golden Age of tennis, has been dominated by four players, who are often coined “the big four”. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray have won the last 13 majors, including an astounding 34 of the last 35. This years French Open will have the same contenders as in years past, other than Murray who has pulled out with a bad back. I will give my opinion on each of the big 4’s chances at this years tournament.

Novak Djokovic- The current World Number 1 has had an up and down clay season. He opened up with a bang. After dismissing ankle concerns, he strolled through the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters dropping only 2 sets(in his first two matches). In the final, he sent Rafael Nadal a message, by crushing him in straights sets 6-2 7-6(1). Novak continued his recent dominance over Nadal by once again taking the ball early with his backhand. He drilled his backhand cross-court to Nadal’s forehand, which opened up the court for his best shot, the backhand down-the-line.

However, after Monte-Carlo, things didn’t go so well for Novak. He lost in his opening round match to Grigor Dimitrov(atta boy baby fed!) in Madrid, and he didn’t look comfortable on the dirt. He vowed that Rome would end in a different result. His first two matches were dominant, but after going up 6-2 5-3 in the quarterfinals, the Djoker was broken and eventually lost to Tomas Berdych. He usually owns Berdych the tin man, having a 13-2 head to head record. What does this all mean for French Open campaign?

Well, it means two things. First, he is vulnerable. Last year Andreas Seppi and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga both had great opportunities to knock off Djokovic, but came up short in 5 sets. Djokovic has to be careful throughout the tournament, because his movement and comfort on the clay is not great. Don’t be shocked if Novak is gone became the semi’s. Second, he can beat the best. IF he does end up getting to play Rafa, you have to think he has a great chance. He has the mental edge over Rafa, but it all depends on his performance up to that match.

Rafael Nadal- The seven-time French Open champion is back as the heavy favorite. His clay court season was about average for his standards, which means it was pretty damn good. He won in Acapulco, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, while losing in the final on Monte Carlo. He looked untouchable at times, beating opponent ruthlessly.(Federer 6-1 6-3, Wawrinka 6-2 6-4) However, for the first time in years some players showed Nadal’s weakness on clay. David Ferrer, the second ranked Spaniard took Nadal to three sets two weeks in a row. He used Djokovic’s tactic. His backhand down the line gave Ferrer the offensive on many of the points, but in the end Rafa toughed him out. The real shock came from Ernests Gulbis. The talented young Latvian has Nadal worried sick for over two hours. He raked Nadal in the first, 6-1. His backhand opened up everything. He was beating Nadal for pace, but in the third set, his new and improved swim forehand let him down. Expect Gulbis to be a real threat at the French.

After dispatching long time rival Federer in the final, Rafa has been full of confidence. He’s definitely the player to beat once again. He’s only lost ONE MATCH at Rolland Garros. But it all depends on his draw, which comes out Friday. If Nadal ends up in Djokovic’s half of the draw, Rafa could go out in the Semi’s. If he’s in Fed’s half, common thought would be a nice easy rode to the final.

Roger Federer-I’m not going to hide it, I am pulling for Fed like always at this years French, but i’ll give an honest, unbiased preview for the Swiss Maestro.

After taking a two month hiatus from the tour, which included not attending Monte Carlo, Federer returned to action in Madrid. After a solid opening match against Stepanek, Roger looked very poor against the young Kei Nishikori. Special Kei’s heavy topspin definitely gave him trouble, but Fed was making uncharacteristic errors off of both the forehand and backhand. He showed flashed of brilliance, but his inconsistency eventually did him in.

He looked very motivated in Rome, breezing through his first two matches only dropping 6 games total. He then had two tough matchs against up and coming stars Jerzy Janowicz and Benoit Paire, but beat both in straight sets. His movement looked fluid, and his backhand looked especially solid. However, when he got to the final against Nadal, everything changed. He has a mental block against the king of clay, and Rafa broke him down. It was a poor performance by Fed, who made way too many unforced errors.

Looking ahead to Paris, Federer is flying slightly under the radar. This is probably exactly what he wants, with the attention on the other top guys. Clay is no doubt Fed’s worst surface, but he can beat anybody other than Nadal. Again, the draw is everything. If Ferrer is put in  his half, I would expect Roger to make the final. Not many people see it, but Roger is VERY hungry to get another French Open trophy.

Andy Murray-Pulled out. Another poor clay season for the Brit, who won only 3 matches on the dirt. He will now focus on recovering from his back injury, and preparing for the grass season,  where he has a lot to defend.

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