COMMENTARY | The familiar "thwack" of Grand Slam tennis has overtaken Paris and with it captured the attention of fans around the world. No matter your current location, it's time to crack open a bottle of French wine and dig into a plate of escargot in homage to the city of love.
There are several important themes building in the early stages of the tournament.
Berdych Bounced, All-Clear Sounded for Federer
An upset was in the making in the first round of play when one of France's favored sons, Gael Monfils, overcame the number five seed Tomas Berdych in a tightly contested five-set match.
In wiping Berdych off the board, Monfils also wiped away any lingering doubt that Roger Federer will make the final this year in Paris. Federer already had a fairly easy draw to the final. Now it might best be described as a cake walk.
If you doubt this claim simply review Roger's head-to-head record against the only other legitimate contenders remaining on his side of the draw, namely David Ferrer and Jo Wilfried-Tsonga.
For starters, Federer has never lost to Ferrer in their 14 total previous meetings (five of which occurred on clay). Tsonga has had slightly more success against Federer, notching three wins in 12 chances. However, in their last six meetings, Tsonga only advanced past an encounter with Federer on one single occasion. And that was because Federer withdrew from their expected match due to a back injury in Doha.
In summary, Federer has a combined record of 23-3 against the strongest competition remaining on his side of the draw. For comparison's sake, Berdych holds a 3-2 edge against Federer in their last five matches. Which means the player that theoretically had the best shot at beating Federer prior to the final is now on a flight home.
Nadal Advances, Media Sensationalizes "Scare"
If you read any headlines after Nadal played his first round match at Roland Garros this year you might have thought that Daniel Brands had taken Nadal to five sets. Brands did take the first set from Nadal, but the rest of the match wasn't nearly as dramatic as many members of the media attempted to paint it.
Nadal won his first round match against the lanky German by a score of 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-3. Despite that relatively easy scoreline some headlines after the match suggested that Brands had somehow written a new chapter on how to take it to Nadal in Paris. The only problem with that hypothesis is that Brands lost the match.
One such headline of an article written by Toby Davis at Reuters read, "Unknown German Shows Everyone How to Beat Rafael Nadal." Given that Brands lost the match, I'll reiterate my assertion that Brands showed the world no such thing.
What Brands did show the world is that when a player comes out swinging as hard as he can on every shot then he might have a prayer. But that's only when the shots are going in. Brands managed to sustain such a level for about two sets and then he was history.
If anyone recently added to the blueprint for beating Nadal it was Lukas Rosol, whose racket was smoking like a gunslinger's after their second round match at Wimbledon last year. Rosol undoubtedly put together an amazing performance that day, but whether he's been able to sustain that level is another question altogether. Rosol is currently ranked only 36th in the world.
A player that could actually sustain such a level for an entire year would not only beat Rafael Nadal regularly, but also every other player in the world. Novak Djokovic proved this point rather clearly in 2011, en route to a 70-6 record and three Grand Slam titles.
Nadal may have gotten out of the gates a little slow at the French this year, but there's still no reason to believe he won't gain momentum and achieve his much anticipated semifinal appointment with Mr. Djokovic.
Weather Forecast in Paris, Resulting Implications
Approximately a month before the French Open kicked off I wrote an article suggesting that playing conditions at Roland Garros this year would play a critical role in deciding the outcome. Anyone that saw last year's final at Roland Garros knows damp conditions favor Djokovic, while dry and sunny conditions favor Nadal.
Along those lines comes the following sneak peek at the weather forecast for Paris this week and next. According to the extended forecast at wunderground.com the cool and damp conditions observed thus far in the first two rounds are expected to hang around Paris at least through the first weekend of the tournament. These conditions could make a potential rematch between Nadal and Rosol in the third round especially enticing.
Going into the second week, temperatures are expected to gradually warm up which could aid Nadal as he continues his quest for an eighth title. Looking toward to the semifinal round, which is planned for Friday, June 7th, one must reduce their expectations for a completely accurate forecast. However, Wunderground.com is currently calling for a clear, sunny day on Friday with a 40% chance of showers into the evening.
Shifts in winds, barometers, and any other weather-related patterns will need to be closely monitored as we march toward the finish line in Paris. However, early indications suggest there's a 60% chance that Mr. Nadal and Mr. Federer could potentially contest their fifth French Open final (and sixth overall match at the tournament) one week from Sunday.
Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a tennis buff by night. He is a frequent contributor at the Bleacher Report.
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- Tomas Berdych
- Daniel Brands