By Ros Satar

  • Defending champion: Stan Wawrinka
  • Top seeds: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal
  • With Roger Federer’s withdrawal is this Novak Djokovic’s best chance to grasp the Coupe des Mousquetaires?

PARIS, FRANCE – Roger Federer’s withdrawal could make the battle for the 2016 French Open title a straight fight between the rest of the Big Five.

Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules

Top Quarter – Novak Djokovic / Tomas Berdych

Despite his Madrid win, this possibly has not been the best of starts for Djokovic, bounced out of his opener in Monte Carlo, and then losing the Rome final to Andy Murray, but maybe that’s the spur that he needs to make another run in his bid to achieve a career slam.

His route to the quarter-finals should see him tackle Federico Delbonis in the third round, and the steady but ultimately beatable Roberto Bautista Agut before he meets most likely either David Ferrer or Tomas Berdych. However neither are having a particularly stellar time of things. Ferrer has been battling injury, skipping Monte Carlo and just picking a couple of wins in Madrid, Rome and Geneva but the former finalist could find his groove.

Berdych has ditched Dani Vallverdu as his coach, and no real surprise. He has won the matches one would expect him to win and lost the matches that he would probably be expected to lose, and has hardly upset the apple cart in between. What has been apparent is under Vallverdu. Berdych’s rigid following of the ‘game plan’ – Vallverdu’s scouting strength has probably cost him some solid wins. Is the time right for him to regain that intuition? It may be too late here, but he should progress to the quarter-finals if Ferrer is still trying to gain traction.

 

Second quarter – Rafael Nadal / Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Probably Federer’s withdrawal has benefited Nadal the most. The Spaniard moves up to fourth seed, and while he won Monte Carlo, he still seemed a little lost against Andy Murray in the Madrid semi-final, and while we saw one of the battles of the tournament in Rome, he still is coming up a little short.

Then again the terre battue of Paris could well be a battlefield – Nadal potentially has Fabio Fognini in the third round followed by Dominic Thiem, both of who can embarrass the former King of Clay.

With compatriot and natural born entertainer Gael Monfils also out of the French Open, then French hopes will largely rest on the shoulders of sixth seed Tsonga. The Frenchman had a good run in Monte Carlo, lost early in Madrid and had to pull out of Rome, but we see him coming out on top of a potential fourth round clash with David Goffin, but the Belgian has the potential to maybe bounce a high seed out of the tournament.

Third quarter – Milos Raonic / Stan Wawrinka

Defending champion Wawrinka was perhaps a little undercooked this time last year, and went on to win the whole shebang, so can he do it again? He should easily get past Jeremy Chardy in the third round and could face a more gruelling challenge against potentially Gilles Simon in the fourth round, but it would be a major shock if he did not get at least as far as the quarter-finals.

There is a thought that Federer’s exit actually may have helped Lost Boys Generation Raonic out more, as he comes in as eighth seed. He has up and coming Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the third round and potentially Jack Sock or Marin Cilic in the fourth round, but with Cilic really only just back, he should easily out-serve either of them. The question is can he stay in one piece through a gruelling Slam?

Bottom quarter – Andy Murray / Kei Nishikori

Rome champion Murray is coming into form rather nicely now that he has decided that clay seems to be his thing. He has been lucky avoiding bigger thrills and spills in the draw, but he has a couple of big servers in a row, with Ivo Karlovic possibly in the third round and John Isner a potential fourth round opponent.

Nishikori has another shot at going deep in a Slam and he has been successful on the clay, but can his body hold up? He has shown signs of wear already this season and while we could expect him to get past the mercurial Alexandr Dolgopolov and the pressure of the French crowd always makes Gasquet just a tiny bit more unpredictable, but a Murray and Nishikori quarter could be an extremely gruelling affair.

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