Roland Garros, Men's Draw 

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By Jane Voigt

May 24, 2017 -- Excitement's in the Parisienne air and around the world as tennis and sports' fans anticipate the second Grand Slam of the year … Roland Garros.

The most grueling of slams will be the test for Rafael Nadal, as he attempts an historic 9th title in ten years. His every slide will be scrutinized because he comes in vulnerable.  

He lost to Novak Djokovic in the Rome final, to Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals of Barcelona, and to David Ferrer in the quarterfinals of Monte Carlo. And, let's be frank, had Kei Nishikori been healthy in Madrid, Nadal would not have won his fourth title there. Uncle Toni, Nadal's uncle and coach, was very clear when he discounted the win. He knew his nephew was not playing a "high level." 

Top Quarter - Men's Singles
Nadal, as the No. 1 seed, will face two of the men who after years of failure broke through the conundrum that is Rafa on red clay. Almagro could face Nadal in the 3rd round; and, Ferrer could be waiting for his friend in quarterfinals. Grigor Dimitrov lurks, too. Nadal has been keen to keep the Bulgarian in his place, most recently in the Rome semifinals where he lost 62 62. But in Melbourne, the two fought four sets before Nadal finally triumphed. 

The best-of-five-set format favors Nadal and cannot be discounted. His game is a grind; and, he personally enjoys the satisfaction of the fight. Nadal likes to suffer. If he can find his 'calm,' as he puts it, Nadal will make the semifinal. 

Second Quarter -- Men's Singles
The most difficult quarter of the draw is stuffed with Stan Wawrinka, Fabio Fognini, Andy Murray, and Richard Gasquet. Fognini is talented but his explosive attitude yanks him off court. Until he lassoes his wild side, the Italian (No. 14) will lag behind the ones that can move from point to point. Keep tabs on Fognini's and Gael Monfils' progress. A third-round matchup between these two entertainers will thrill the French, et al. 

The biggest match of this section should be Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Although Murray has said he has a coach in mind, no official word has been released. The change could fire up the Scot. However, Wawrinka won the Australian Open and his first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo. Wawrinka should be your pick for a semifinal slug out with Nadal. 

Semifinal -- Wawrinka and Nadal

Finalist -- Wawrinka

Third Quarter -- Men's Singles
Tomas Berdych (No. 6) and Roger Federer (No. 4) are the stars here. It's no secret that Berdych is one player Federer would rather avoid, but the five-set grind is in Roger's favor even if he is a father of four. This is your quarterfinal match of import, and there is no reason we shouldn't expect Federer to make the semifinals. 

Ernests Gulbis could be a spoiler, if he faces Federer in the round of sixteen. Gulbis won his 2nd title of the year in Nice today, which makes for an impressive finals' record of 6-0. The Latvian's edgy attitude has dulled, too, but his forehand is vulnerable. However, if cool rainy conditions, which are expected, slow down play Gulbis will be challenged. Gulbis is a shot-maker. Slow conditions favor the grinder. 

Fourth Quarter -- Men's Singles
Novak Djokovic (No. 2) has a tough draw. Roland Garros is the only major he has not won; and, he's abundantly clear it's the one he wants. If he triumphs, a career Grand Slam will be his. His struggles are noteworthy: 2013 - lost to Nadal in the semis; 2012 - lost to Nadal in the final; 2011 - lost to Federer in the semis. 

Kei Nishikori, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Jerzy Jankowicz, and Milos Raonic are poised and ready for the challenge of this quarter. They are the young guns of the tour and would, or should, enjoy any challenge that comes their way over the next two weeks. 

Djokovic's first test should be Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (No. 13) in the fourth round. If Novak prevails, his next opponent could be either Nishikori (No. 9) or Raonic (No. 8). Nishikori is the threat. Yet, his health is the question. If, and it's a big if, Kei can manage his recovery with the sharpness of a tack, he will push Djokovic but not enough to oust him from the tournament. 

Semifinal -- Federer and Djokovic

Finalist -- Djokovic

Winner -- Djokovic defeats Wawrinka

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013