2014 Men’s French Open Tennis Preview

2014 Men’s French Open Tennis Championship
Roland Garros – Paris, France

Playing Surface: Red Clay
Sunday, May 25-Sunday, June 8, 2014, TV: ESPN2, NBC
Defending Champion: Rafael Nadal
All Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbooks

Rafael Nadal looks to win his unprecedented 9th French Open title.
Rafael Nadal looks to win his unprecedented 9th French Open title.

The French Open is always the most challenging of the four tennis majors because of the red clay. That is unless your name is Rafael Nadal, who has turned Roland Garros into his own personal playground in his career. He has won 8 titles in Paris, including 4 straight, and has only lost one match ever here back in 2009. No men’s player has ever won 9 grand slam titles at the same event. Margaret Court won 11 Australian Open titles and Martina Navratilova won 9 Wimbledon titles on the women’s side.

Here is a look at the contenders and their odds to win their section of the draw (make the semifinals) and win the tournament with odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbooks.

Novak Djokovic (-375 section, +153 tournament)

Surprisingly, Nadal is not the favorite. The #2 seed Novak Djokovic, 27 from Serbia, is a slight favorite. Djokovic who has six major titles, is looking for his first French Open title which would  complete the career grand slam. Djokovic has suffered heartbreaking losses to Nadal in the French the last two years, including in the semifinals last year.

He lost in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka. Djokovic had won the Australian Open 3 straight times before this year. It broke a string of 14 straight majors of at least making the semifinals for Djokovic.

Djokovic is 24-3 this season with titles at Rome, Miami, and Indian Wells. He missed a few weeks recently with a wrist injury but returned last week to beat Nadal in the finals at Rome on clay in three sets.

Seeded players in Djokovic’s section include #8 Milos Raonic, #29 Gilles Simon, #20 Alexandr Dolgopolov, #9 Kei Nishikori, #13 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, #22 Jerzy Janowicz, and #25 Marin Cilic. Tsonga, Raonic, or Nishikori could provide a challenge, but only Nishikori is strong on clay. He will likely face Roger Federer or Tomas Berdych in the semifinals.  Djokovic should make the final where another showdown with Nadal waits. It is one thing to beat Nadal on clay in a three set match but Djokovic has to beat Nadal in five sets here. The gap is closing but Nadal is still the world’s best clay player, especially at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal (-300 section, +174 tournament)

Nadal from Spain will turn 28 during the French Open. Nadal has 13 major titles, including the career grand slam. He lost in the the finals at the Australian Open to Wawrinka when Nadal was battling a bad back.

Nadal is 34-6 this season with titles in Madrid and Rio both on clay, plus a hard court title at Doha. Nadal also has runner-ups at Rome, Miami, and the Australian.

Nadal is the #1 seed at Roland Garros. Seeded players in Nadal’s section include #30 Vasek Pospisil, #21 Nicolas Almagro, #16 Tommy Haas, #11 Grigor Dimitrov, #19 Kevin Anderson, #32 Andreas Seppi, and #5 David Ferrer. He shouldn’t face too much of a challenge until the semifinals where he will likely face either Wawrinka or Andy Murray. Nadal is a good bet to win his ninth title at Roland Garros.

Stanislas Wawrinka (-125 section, +1700 tournament)

Wawrinka, 29 from Switzerland, won his first grand slam title in January at the Australian Open. He was only the second player not named Nadal, Federer, Djokovic or Murray to win a major since 2004. He lost in the quarters at the French last year, the first time he had ever made it  past the fourth round.

Wawrinka is 21-5 this season with additional titles at Monte Carlo on clay and Chennai.

Seeded players in #3 seed Wawrinka’s section include #26 Feliciano Lopez, #23 Gael Monfils, #14 Fabio Fognini, #12 Richard Gasquet, #24 Fernando Verdasco, #28 Phillip Kohlschreiber, and #7 Andy Murray. Of the top four seeds, Wawrinka faces the toughest road to the semifinals. I think he could be upset before the quarterfinals.

David Ferrer (+400 section, +2500 tournament)

Ferrer, 32 from Spain, has never won a major. He has advanced to at least the quarters of the last 9 majors, including a quarterfinal loss in the Australian Open this season. He lost to Nadal in the Final of the French Open last year, the first time he had ever advanced to the championship of a grand slam event. Ferrer is 27-10 this season with a title at Buenos Aires.

Ferrer might keep his quarterfinal streak alive, but unfortunately he is in the same section as Nadal. Barring injury, Nadal is simply much better on clay than his countryman.

Roger Federer (-110 section, +2600 tournament)

Federer, 32 from Switzerland, is in the twilight of a brilliant career that includes 17 major titles. He won his lone French title in 2009 when Nadal was upset in the fourth round. He has lost 4 times in the final to Nadal, but lost in the quarters last year at Roland Garros. He lost in the semifinals at the Australian Open this year.

Federer is 28-6 this year with a title at Dubai. He also has three runner ups at Monte Carlo, Indian Wells and Brisbane.

Federer is the #4 seed at Roland Garros. Other seeded players in his section include #6 Tomas Berdych, #21 Roberto Bautista Agut, #17 Tommy Robredo, #10 John Isner, #15 Mikhail Youzhny, #18 Ernests Gulbis, and#31 Dmitry Tursunov. Federer has a good shot of making the semifinals where Djokovic awaits.

Andy Murray (+300 section, +3000 tournament)

Murray, 27 from Scotland, has won two majors in his career, but has never made it past the semifinals at the French Open. He missed last year’s event with an injury. Murray was upset in the quarters at the Australian Open this season. Murray is 21-9 this season with no titles or runner-ups. He has dropped all the way to #8 in the world from a high of #3 last year.

Murray is in the same section as Wawrinka. If Murray does make it to the semifinals, then Nadal awaits. Murray’s game is better suited to the grass at Wimbledon next month.

Kei Nishikori (+725 section, +3800 tournament)

Nishikori, 24 from Japan, has only advanced to the quarterfinals of a major once, and has never made it past the fourth round at Roland Garros. It has been a breakout year for Nishikori with a 27-5 record and titles at Barcelona on clay and Memphis. He lost to Nadal in the finals at Madrid on clay.He lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open this year.

Nishikori is the #9 seed at Roland Garros. He is in the same section as Djokovic. He could be a dark horse contender to pull the upset.

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