Roland Garros 2017 How The Australian Open Impacts The Favorites Chances
An Australian Open which featured two of the Big Four, top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, lose before the quarter-finals, while the two other members, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, seeded 17th and 9th, contest the final, as well as a feisty run from Stan Wawrinka, has set up an interesting few months of speculation heading into 2017’s second slam Roland Garros as to who will lift the trophy on Philippe Chartrier on June 11th.
Despite Federer’s recent Australian Open triumph, Djokovic is predicted to win the 2017 French Open, and, when you look at the case for the Serb, his status as favorite is easy to understand- Djokovic has been the man to beat in Paris where, since 2011, he has a record of SF-F-SF-F-F-W, and has lost only to Federer, Nadal (x3), and Wawrinka.
The defending champion and three time runner-up (2012, 2014, 2015) may have been suffering a slump since completing the career Grand Slam in Paris last season, but he is a clay court expert, the only player to have seriously challenged Rafa Nadal on the surface, and a multiple winner of all 3 ATP 1000 clay court titles, winning Monte Carlo and Madrid twice, and Rome four times.
Djokovic’s recent Australian Open loss may have alarmed on-lookers and fans but the defeat means little in the bigger picture and with regards to his French Open chances. The 12 time slam champion has come back from plenty of career lapses, (the most recent one being 2013 when he lost his world No.1 ranking to Rafa Nadal), stronger than before, and he has over three months to work out where his game is at post splitting with Boris Becker and achieving his career ambitions, and if Djokovic does the tennis maths and the percentages work out, Roland Garros 2017, taking the past few seasons into account, is more likely to turn out in Djokovic’s favor than it is for anyone else.
Andy Murray will most likely go into Roland Garros as the top seed, but he will not be the top favorite to win the title at a slam at which he has only once contested the final. Murray’s status might have been different had he won in Melbourne and held on to the momentum all the way to the Roland Garros final- he already has the confidence needed to challenge for the Paris title as the defending finalist-but that upset Melbourne loss to Mischa Zverev raises question marks as to whether Murray can handle the pressure of being favorite at a slam, a status he failed to live up to last month Down Under, not named Wimbledon. Murray, though, has always been more prone to upsets at slams than his other big four members, and so, as with Djokovic, his loss to Zverev, while disappointing, is only a blip in his career and should not have any severe consequences other than giving his rivals greater belief they can beat him. The Scot is likely to pick himself up and get going again for Miami, where he has been champion twice and then the clay season where since 2015 he has made great jumps progress wise and the only next step for him to take is the Roland Garros crown itself.
Rafa Nadal, meanwhile, managed to live up his billing as the favorite to reach the final from the bottom half of the Australian Open draw after Djokovic’s departure. The Never Say Die attitude so finely written into the Spaniard’s DNA helped Nadal punch his way through to his first slam final since 2014 and the tenacious and feisty way in which the ninth seed knocked out Milos Raonic and in-form Grigor Dimitrov on his way to the final where he led 3-1 in the fifth set suggests Nadal can do it all again in Paris in June, whatever the draw, and on Philippe Chatrier on the Second Sunday, the Spaniard is unlikely to slip up leading by a break in the fifth set.
Roger Federer proved in Melbourne he can win a slam again, but Roland Garros is the least likely site for slam No. 19 with the slower conditions exposing the Swiss’ weaknesses more than the other slams. Never say never, however, when it comes to Roger Federer. If the Australian Open shock results do prove to be an accurate foreshadowing for the rest of the season, Federer could take advantage of a nice draw and hot conditions which will make the balls fly faster through the Clay and write another fairy tale for men’s tennis 2017. A lot will have to go right for the Swiss if he is to win a second Roland Garros title, but he showed in Melbourne he has the desire to fight for another slam trophy and no obstacle, not even Rafa Nadal a break up in the fifth set in the final, is too big for Federer’s feathery feet to fly over.
Since the Australian Open 2014, tennis’ Big Four has been more of a Big Five with the addition of Stan Wawrinka to the slam winning circle (Post Melbourne ’14, Wawrinka has won the same number of slams as Nadal, Murray and Federer combined) and the fifth member, Stan Wawrinka will be as hard to predict going into Roland Garros as he always is, though his semi-final showing in Melbourne this season was the 2016 US Open champion‘s best post slam win result yet (he lost in the first round of Roland Garros ’14, the quarters of Wimbledon ’15) and he has been gradually showing more and more consistency with each passing season.
Wawrinka also showed a lot of heart in that five set loss to Federer Down Under, and with Roland Garros already once the triumphant scene of his all-conquering brutal aggression, the Swiss No.1 is likely be pumped and primed in June to deliver Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic that final champion’s killer blow to claim the Coupe des Mousquetaires and the Parisian $2.2 million first prize.
A lot of tennis is still to be played before the 2017 French Open, and we will have a much better idea of who might lift the trophy once the Clay gets underway, but the Australian Open has given us a sneak glimpse into the chances of some of the big favorites, showing us Federer and Nadal are in the slam winning mix again, Djokovic and Murray have work to do but few would bet against them putting in the hours, and Wawrinka is as much a big match player as ever, glimpses which suggest the tennis delivered at Roland Garros 2017 could be as thrilling, intriguing and inspiring as the tennis we got served Down Under.
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