The French Open 2015 starts today. Let’s get to the biggest story.
Rafael Nadal is seeded 6 in Paris. Read that again. The King of Clay is seeded 6. Need another stake through the heart? He is only at 6 because Milos Raonic withdrew. He suffered five losses on clay this year. That might not appear to be a lot, but for Nadal one loss is one too many. Granted, he did not enjoy a stellar clay season in 2014, but still defeated Novak Djokovic to win his fifth straight and ninth overall French Open.
Question is, who do you pick to win the French Open? Djokovic is on fire this year, even more so than usual. But Nadal is the King of Clay. Paris is his home. He last lost in Paris ten years ago.
To make the question more difficult, Nadal could face Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Last year they met in the Finals. The winner of that match will win the French Open. Do not be shocked if Nadal wins. Something in the clay changes Nadal into a super human.
Speaking of super humans, have you watched Djokovic this season? He boasts a record of 35-2, including perfection on clay this year. The French Open trophy remains the only Grand Slam missing from his trophy case. He needs it. Djokovic could fly through the tournament to grab it.
There is one more super human in the tournament: Andy Murray. He enjoys a 10-0 record on clay this year. He won his first clay title in Munich. He pulled out of Rome due to exhaustion, which was probably wise. Everyone plays better and smarter for the Grand slams, including the top players. Murray could face Djokovic or Nadal in the semifinals.
So three of the big four are on one side of the draw. Roger Federer, seeded second, is on his own in the bottom part of the draw. He has a pretty easy road to the quarterfinals, well, except the first one. He is 7-0 against Alejandro Falla, but raise your hand if you remember the first round of Wimbledon in 2010. Falla forced Federer to fight with everything to advance. The five set match was one of the scariest for Federer.
If he reaches the fourth round, his next opponents include Gael Monfils, Stan Wawrinka, and Kei Nishikori or Tomas Berdych. Federer has a great opportunity to reach the French Open Finals. Will he win it? Probably not. The slower courts expect too much out of him. If he faces anyone other than Djokovic and Nadal, a win is in his favor. If he does face them, no way.
Time for the women! Of course Serena Williams is the number one seed. Of course, she enters the tournament as the favorite. The only person who can defeat Serena is Serena. She graciously praises those who defeat her, but when she gets inside her own head or seriously injured, she will lose. Think Djokovic’s year is fantastic? Williams is 25-1! Granted, there are concerns for her health since she withdrew from Indian Wells and Rome.
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova could also add a French Open to her trophy case. She received a great draw without many obstacles to a semifinals match against Williams. She beat Williams in the semis at Madrid, but it is doubtful she will defeat her twice in the same year.
Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova provided the world with one of the best women Grand Slams in awhile. She will have no problem reaching the semifinals where it will more than likely be a rematch between her and Sharapova. If it is that pair in the semis, I choose Sharapova.
Speaking of the Russian, she does not have it easy to the Finals. His biggest test will be against Carla Suarez Navarro, another great clay court player. She lost to Sharapova in three sets in the Rome final, but it was a nail biter. Navarro has what it takes to defeat Sharapova. I honestly would not consider it an upset if she defeats Sharapova in the quarterfinals in Paris.
But more than likely it will be Sharapova and Williams in the Final, a rematch of the Australian Open. Williams will once again beat Sharapova, who only won two times against Williams and that was back in 2004.
The tournament kicks off at 5 a.m. on Sunday on ESPN2 and ends on June 7.