Roland Garros The Favorites The Second Tier Wawrinka Thiem Djokovic Zverev
Rafa Nadal certainly looks like he is ready to bite into the Roland Garros 2017 trophy, but should the Spaniard’s teeth not be sharp enough, there are a few of his rivals hungry for success in Paris. The Tennis Review previews the chances of Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Andy Murray and Alexander Zverev.
If any player has the power and spark to defeat Nadal, it is probably Wawrinka, but as the 3rd seed, he would not meet the fourth seeded Spaniard until the final, and the big question is will he even get that far.
It all really depends on what side of the bed Stan gets out of on, but if he does get out of the wrong side, Fabio Fognini (28) might be the one, in the third round, to exploit any grumpiness on the part of the Swiss, the recent proud father always eager to trouble the top players as he did so convincingly in Rome versus Murray recently.
If Wawrinka can get past Fognini, he has a nice draw with both 15th seed Gael Monfils and 24th seed Richard Gasquet, one of whom he could meet in the last 16, both on the comeback from injury, but while seed wise the draw has been kind, the problem for Wawrinka is he could be beaten by anyone if he is not playing well, and his recent run to the Geneva final is no indication he will put in a good showing in Paris, and so the likes of Teymuraz Gasbashvili or Victor Estrella Burgos could find themselves into a Grand Slam Quarter final if Wawrinka has too much sleep in his eyes in the round of 16.
Once Wawrinka gets to the quarters, where he could face Marin Cilic (7), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12) or Nick Kyrgios (24), he becomes very dangerous, and with a struggling Murray his last four opponent, or perhaps Sascha Zverev, who would be in his first slam semi, an occasion fraught with nerves for most first-timers, Wawrinka will be pumped to put himself into contention for a fourth slam title, and once the Swiss is wide awake and pumped up at the business end of a slam, there is little anyone can do to sedate him.
Final day !!! 🇨🇭😁🤞🏻🎾💪🏻🙅🏻♂️😅😓😐🏆❓🤦🏻♂️🤷🏻♂️🏃🏻☀️🍫😘🐼🐻 pic.twitter.com/pHp4nA6oRn
— Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka) May 27, 2017
Thiem has stepped it up in 2017, reaching his first ATP 1000 final, and being the only player to defeat Rafa Nadal on clay, and the next step for him, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros ’16, is the final.
Thiem will need to be on his toes if he is going to get there. David Goffin, who knows how to move him side to side and prevent him setting up his shots, is scheduled for the fourth round and Novak Djokovic, who beat him for the loss of one game in Rome and leads him 5-0, is drawn to play him in the quarters.
But if big defeats are to be recovered from and head to head deficits to be cut down, Grand slams, are the places to do it, and after a little rest since Rome, and plenty of practice in which to apply the lessons learned over the last couple of months, Thiem has what it takes to reach another slam semi and take on, most likely, Nadal.
Beating the nine time champion might be a long shot considering the Spaniard’s form but Thiem has proven he has the shots to beat the fourth seed, now he has to show he has the mind to sustain that level of play over five sets and under immense pressure, the mind of the Grand slam champion, a status Thiem seems in line for, the question is how far down the line is he?
— Barbara Schett-Eagle (@Babsschett) May 26, 2017
A new coach in Andre Agassi and a new clothing label in Lacoste may all be part of Djokovic trying to put the past 11 and a half months behind him, but it may just be a little too late in a long clay season for the defending champ who has a decent enough draw but who has not been able to put together convincing win after convincing win on a consistent basis the past year and will need to do exactly that if he is to beat Monte Carlo finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas in round four, Dominic Thiem or David Goffin in the last eight, and Rafa Nadal in the semis.
2 vs 1 and I and I am still standing tall. Anyone want’s to try? 💪😜 pic.twitter.com/pYz1mGFqYK
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) May 26, 2017
Andy Murray will do well to defend his 2016 runner up points with a draw that could pit him against the very dangerous Martin Klizan in round two (if Klizan plays well and Murray is passive like he was in Madrid and Rome the Scot could have quite a while to prepare for Wimbledon), and Juan Martin del Potro in round three, (the Argentine may be short of match play and struggling on his backhand side, but has the big serve and forehand to demand the best of Murray’s return and defense).
If Murray is playing well and can exploit Klizan’s erratic game and del Potro’s backhand, he could face the recently resurgent Rome semi-finalist John Isner in the last sixteen, though by that time, Murray should be in decent clay court form to see him off.
Murray will need to be a little better than decent in the last eight with a potential clash versus Sascha Zverev, the giant’s giant-killer, and while Murray leads Zverev 1-0, they have not met since the Australian Open 2016, and the Scot will face a rather different player to the inexperienced and nervous teen he met back then.
20 year olds winning slams was hardly a headliner once upon a time in tennis- Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open ’08, Marat Safin won the US Open ’01, Lleyton Hewitt, US Open ’02, Rafa Nadal won his third Roland Garros aged 20, del Potro won the US Open ’09 aged 21- and while it is unlikely Zverev will win the title in today’s climate, tennis does have a habit of being turned on its head by raw talent and desire, and Zverev has been spilling out plenty of both this season, recently so in Rome where he defeated Novak Djokovic for the title.
It’s the kind of spirit and play which could see him upset Andy Murray in the last eight and Stan Wawrinka in the last four and become the 16th youngest player to contest a slam final in the open era, just behind Andre Agassi at Roland Garros 1990 (Agassi was 20 years 1 month and 12 days- Zverev would be 20 years 1 month and 22 days).
Agassi did not win his slam final debut, and against Nadal, Zverev would be unlikely to either, but if Zverev can channel the spirit of Kuerten, del Potro and Safin who all beat far more experienced former champs in their first finals, anything, as those young surprise slam winners showed, can happen, and when it does, be sure not to miss it.
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