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Previewing and predicting the 2011 men’s French Open

Busted Racquet

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Busted Racquet analyzes the men's draw at the upcoming French Open.

First quarter

Poor John Isner. As of two weeks ago, he'd have been a seed at the French. A recent drop to No. 39 in the rankings left him out of that process and his reward is drawing five-time champion Rafael Nadal in the first round. Of the seven Americans in the draw, four are in Nadal's quarter, including both seeds, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey. Nadal has as rough a draw as he'll see in Paris. There's the possible third-rounder with Nikolay Davydenko, the fourth-rounder with Fernando Verdasco and then the big one, a rematch of last year's final against Robin Soderling in the quarters. Oh, Soderling is also the only man ever to beat Nadal at the French. No big deal.

Semifinalist: Nadal

Second quarter

Andy Murray's draw starts out pretty nicely:

murray draw

It doesn't get much more difficult from there as the three seeds in his half of the draw (Victor Troicki, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Milos Raonic) are a combined 10-12 in completed clay court matches this year. Get that draw at Wimbledon and it's an early-round murderer's row. In Paris it's a ticket to the quarters. Once there, Murray could see either Jurgen Melzer, a semifinalist last year, or Nicolas Almagro. Murray has never been past the quarters at Roland Garros. We say that streak stays alive this year.

Semifinalist: Almagro

Third quarter

If Roger Federer is going to get back to the semifinals he's going to have to do it against some of the hometown favorites. Of the 16 Frenchman in the draw (before qualifiers are added), a whopping nine are in Federer's quarter. One of them, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, would give Fed a match in the fourth round and another, Gael Monfils, could be a potential quarterfinal opponent if he can get by No. 7 seed David Ferrer. Federer's first-rounder could prove difficult though. He drew Spain's Feliciano Lopez, who nearly beat him earlier this month in Madrid.

Semifinalist: Federer

Fourth quarter

And the winner of the "who gets an unfair early-round match against Juan Martin Del Potro" is ... Novak Djokovic! Jeez, you'd think the guy would have earned some goodwill with his undefeated start to 2011. The second-seeded Djokovic could see the former Grand Slam champ in the third round, another piece of evidence in support of Busted Racquet's plan to change the way Grand Slam seedings are done. Djokovic will survive the early test. Then he could see either Richard Gasquet or Thomaz Bellucci, both on fire so far this clay season, in the fourth round. By the quarters, Tomas Berdych or Mikhail Youzhny might be a relief.

Semifinalist: Djokovic

Best first-round match:

Roger Federer (3) v. Feliciano Lopez

Best first-round upset possibility:

Juan Monaco d. Fernando Verdasco (16)

Best possible second-round match:

Marin Cilic (19) v. Lleyton Hewitt

Best possible third-round match:

Novak Djokovic (1) v. Juan Martin Del Potro (25)

Best possible quarterfinal:

Rafael Nadal (1) v. Robin Soderling (5)

Semifinal predictions:

Nadal d. Almagro

Djokovic d. Federer

Part of me wants to take Federer. Part of me thinks that he's lying in wait, perturbed about all the Djokovic-Nadal talk and ready to announce to the tennis world that it's still a three-man sport. But when it comes down to it, if I had to put my life savings on who would win that theoretical match, how could I go with anyone but the hottest player on the planet?

Finals predition:

Nadal d. Djokovic

Rafa has never lost this tournament while healthy, not even to a guy who would be on a 45-match winning streak.

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