French Open 2014: Experts' picks for the men's draw
The tennis experts of Sportskeeda look ahead at the 2014 French Open by making picks for the men’s draw in four categories: dark horse, early exit, dangerous floater, and champion.
1. Dark horse
Adnan Akhtar: Grigor Dimitrov, with two titles on clay this year along with a semifinal appearance in Rome, would be my choice for the dark horse. This could be the tournament where “Baby Fed” finally comes off age and adds a strong Slam run to his name.
Sumer Drall: The youngster Grigor Dimitrov has posted some consistent results this year, and it will not surprise me if he goes deep in the draw.
Roh: Kei Nishikori has been the man to watch out for this season. Though he pulled out of the Rome Masters after an injury that he aggravated in the Madrid final, the Japanese can be expected to be a force to reckon with at Roland Garros.
Musab Abid: Logic dictates that we should have given up on Ernests Gulbis a long time ago, but when has logic ever applied to the tempestuous Latvian? He is coming off a title run in Nice, and he seems a little more intent lately on keeping the ball in play longer than four shots. His five-set record is atrocious, and he may easily flame out in the first round, but if he doesn’t, he could be dangerous.
2. Early exit
Adnan Akhtar: Despite a strong performance in Rome, I think Andy Murray will find it difficult in a best-of-5 match on clay. The Brit has a tricky draw and will start his campaign against Andrey Golubev, who managed to beat Stanislas Wawrinka in the Davis Cup.
Sumer Drall: Frenchman Richard Gasquet simply lacks the match practice to have any impact this year, in my opinion.
Roh: American top seed John Isner is seeded 10th at the French Open. But his run-up leading to the tournament has been completely nondescript, which puts his chances of going deep in Paris under serious doubt.
Musab Abid: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is reeling. And that’s putting it mildly. Five months after he made a lot of Roger Federer fans happy about their player’s level of play by losing meekly in the Australian Open fourth round, he’s now made those fans a lot less happy with his string of bad results. He may be the local hero, but I don’t expect him to produce any kind of heroics this French Open.
3. Dangerous floater
Adnan Akhtar: The seeded players would want to avoid facing Santiago Giraldo in their French Open campaign. The Colombian made his maiden quarterfinal appearance in a Masters 1000 event in Madrid and has beaten top players like Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during the clay leg so far. He could very well add a few more names to that list at Roland Garros.
Sumer Drall: Backed by his home crowd, Benoit Paire can do some damage this year.
Roh: 20-year-old Dominic Thiem had made quite a few people sit up and take notice of him. He’s made good inroads in the tournaments leading up to the French Open and I expect him to continue his good run of form at Roland Garros as well.
Musab Abid: Dominic Thiem is supposedly the next big thing of men’s tennis, and the few times I’ve watched him play haven’t given me any reason to doubt that. He’s close to Rafael Nadal in the draw, but with Nadal not yet at his explosive claycourt self, the World No. 1 might have to face a jitter or two early on.
Adnan Akhtar: After capturing the Rome title, Novak Djokovic has dismissed all the injury fears that were plaguing him before the tournament. He looks in top form and would be my pick for the title. After having come close in the past two years, 2014 could be the year when Djokovic finally completes a Career Slam.
Sumer Drall: With Nadal not at his best, Novak Djokovic has a real opportunity to finally win the elusive French Open.
Roh: One name – Rafael Nadal. Irrespective of the recent inconsistencies in his otherwise impeccable clay-court game and his loss to Novak Djokovic at Rome, the Spaniard is still an eight-time champion at the French Open, and in my book, still the favourite to win it in 2014.
Musab Abid: Has Novak Djokovic paid his dues yet? Some would say he had paid them right back in 2011. He’s had his chances of completing the Career Slam since then; several of them, in fact. The years of near-misses, the recovery from injury, the struggles of Rafael Nadal, the impending birth of his first child – the stars seem to be aligning for a Djokovic victory at the 2014 French Open. Nadal might have a thing or two to say about that, but I’m betting the Serb gets the job done this year.