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Busted Racquet

2012 French Open men’s preview

Chris Chase
Busted Racquet

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Busted Racquet previews the men's draw at the 2012 French Open.

More big three in the semifinals? -- Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have all made the semifinals in five of the last 10 Grand Slams. (That number seems a little low, no?) The path to another joint appearance shouldn't be difficult for the world's No. 1 and No. 2 players. For the No. 3, it's a little bumpier.

Roger Federer's tough road -- On the bright side for Federer, he got placed on Novak Djokovic's side of the draw, which means he wouldn't see Rafael Nadal until the final. On the down side, he could see David Nalbandian in the second round, Feliciano Lopez in the fourth round and Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. Some have included Andy Roddick as a tough player in Federer's draw (they could meet in the third round). This ignores the fact that Roddick was 9-9 at Roland Garros when he was a top-10 player.

[Related: French Open odds favor Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams]

Easiest early draw: Jurgen Melzer -- The Austrian is surrounded by qualifiers: He'll play one to start and then get the winner of a qualifier/qualifier match in the second round. His reward, should he survive: Novak Djokovic in the third round.

Brian Baker watch -- The 27-year-old American's unbelievable comeback story will face a stiff, but winnable, first-round test in Xavier Malisse. The last time Baker was at Roland Garros, he advanced to the finals of the boys tournament. That was nine years ago.

This makes up for last year -- John Isner drew Rafael Nadal in the first round in 2011 and took the eventual champion to five sets. This year, he has an easier start. He plays a qualifier in the first round before a possible tricky matchup against Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.

Best first-round match: Baker vs. Malisse -- Donald Young and Grigor Dimitrov are playing in a match that's probably best described as a slow-speed train wreck. Sam Querrey tries to get back into the groove against No. 8 seed Janko Tipsarevic. But the story of the first week of the tournament could be Baker. If he walked down the Champs Elysees right now with a sign reading "I'm Brian Baker," nobody would look twice. With a single win next week, that could change.

Best possible quarterfinal: Roger Federer (3) vs. Tomas Berdych (7) -- This wins by default. Novak Djokovic would play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who probably doesn't expect to get that far. Andy Murray and David Ferrer? That'd be more fun to watch on hard courts. And it doesn't really matter who Nadal plays in the quarters, unless Robin Soderling has been hiding out in the bowels of Philippe Chatrier.

Semifinals predictions: Djokovic vs. Federer; Nadal vs. Isner -- If there are no surprises on the top half of the draw, we'll get a rematch of last year's classic semifinal between Djokovic and Federer. Who will advance to face Nadal in the other half? John Isner struggled in his two European clay tournaments, but was 3-0 on the surface in Davis Cup matches. His quarter is wide open.

Finals: Nadal d. Djokovic -- The only prediction here is picking which name to put second. Rafael Nadal continues to be the most dominant clay court player of his, or any, generation. He's 45-1 lifetime at the event. In order to make it 52 for 53, he'll have to hold off his recent nemesis. Nadal will win in straights and that 2011 clay court aberration will seem like a distant memory.

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