'Big Guys' Positioning Themselves for French Open Runs: A Fan's Look

Yahoo Contributor Network

The French Open is shaping up to be the most interesting major championship of 2012.

It's not just because we may get the chance to see a Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic or Nadal vs. Roger Federer final with some high quality tennis. It's because there are more and more players being talked about as factors coming into Roland Garros .

While you are always going to keep an eye on the clay court regulars each and every year, some players who don't fit the mold of the traditional clay court baseline players could make some impressive runs on the red dirt.

I'm talking about some giants in the sport, literally.

A number of players with listed heights of over 6'5" have been playing well on clay this spring and while they won't be favored against the likes of Nadal or Ferrer, the impressive victories they scored over the past few months have put them right into the conversation as the clay court season kicks into high gear come May.

John Isner

With wins on clay in 2012 over the likes of Roger Federer, Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Isner is now a factor on clay.

For years the 6'9" former University of Georgia player was feared for his serve and forehand on hard courts, but always was a competent clay court player. This year he is kicking it into another gear.

The good news for the American is he will be seeded highly this year in Paris so he will have a chance to work himself into the later rounds of the event.

That didn't happen last year when he drew Nadal in round one and lost in five sets.

Cracking the top-10 this year, sometimes Isner even seems amazed.

"It's something I never would have imagined," Isner said as he reached the finals of the clay court event in Houston earlier in April. Now many are imagining big things for Isner at the majors.

Milos Raonic

Not just because the Canadian defeated Andy Murray on Friday in the Barcelona ATP event, but because he took out a Spaniard in Nicolas Almagro in the prior round and because he's just a darn good player.

He's lanky, has a big serve and he knows how to play on clay. He has trained on clay and that was evident when he was crushing forehand winners and looking confident against the higher-ranked Murray.

Raonic not only holds his serve easily, he puts returns of serves in play and converts on break chances. He's a player to keep an eye on in May.

The 21-year-old Raonic, was named 2011 Newcomer of the Year on the ATP Tour and has already reached three ATP World Tour finals this season. Big clay court potential.

Berdych, Anderson and Querrey

I have to think Berdych leads this trio when it comes to expectations in Paris, but don't sleep on the big South African or the American when it comes to big guys playing on clay.

The 6'5" Berdych is a top-10 player who reached the semi-finals last week in Monte Carlo, defeating Andy Murray along the way. He has the game to beat any player on any surface.

Kevin Anderson has all the tools to surprise players on clay, but he hasn't done it yet.

Sam Querrey is back from an injury-filled 2011, but he's won ATP titles on clay in the past and just won a challenger tournament on clay in the United States. He's a dangerous floater.

Still a few weeks to go before the draws are made in Paris, a lot can happen and other players can still make some moves, but these tall players are sure fun to watch playing and sliding on clay.

Rick Limpert covers sports, technology and event in and around Atlanta. He's watching these tall players as they try to make their marks on clay. He can be followed on Twitter at @RickRoswell

View Comments