By Ros Satar
- Defending champion Novak Djokovic looks to Andre Agassi’s guidance as he attempts to defend his title
- Andy Murray seeks motivation from Ivan Lendl after a season blighted with illness, injury and a drop in form
- Kyle Edmund, Aljaz Bedene and Dan Evans join Murray in the draw
PARIS, FRANCE – Andy Murray leads the Slam field for the second time in a row, but faces a tough draw as Roland Garros begins in Sunday.
Top Quarter – Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori
Top seed Andy Murray will try and put the memory of a short-lived Australian Open campaign to one side as he gears up to protect a summer of points. He will start against Andrey Kuznetsov. He defeated the Russian in their first meeting at the 2014 US Open, and once more in Beijing last year, so by all accounts it should be a gentle start for the World No. 1
But his draw is by no means a simple one. He could face Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round and their bruising Olympic final encounter comes to mind. Should he get past the Argentine he could face Tomas Berdych. At the moment he is on a seven match winning spree against the Czech who has recently looked as though he has lost his way.
Alexander Zverev is the man of the moment with a great win in Rome, and his confidence is high – and he could deliver a quarter-final shocker.
At the other end of the bracket, Kei Nishikori needs to fight his frailties having struggled this clay court season with a wrist injury. He could face Sam Querrey who has hit a decent run of form in the dirt and we think will be Zverev’s fourth round victim.
Second Quarter – Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic
The clay court season has not been too great for Stan Wawrinka, until he returned back to home soil where at the time of writing he was into the semi-final in Geneva. Perhaps his burst of form is a good kick ahead of Roland Garros. His possible third rounder is newly minted dad Fabio Fognini, and in amongst chat about the best nappies, Wawrinka should have a more aggressive game to beat the languid Italian.
Next up could be French hope Gael Monfils. The flamboyant Frenchman has only made it as far as the semi-final once but injury has curtailed his clay court season and with a start against equally lively Dustin Brown, he may be usurped by Richard Gasquet if he reaches the third round.
Marin Cilic lurks quietly at the bottom of this half, but he is a danger. He won the final in Istanbul and crept through the draw in Rome to reach the quarter-final. Is he a winner – possibly not, but if he has a rare day in form, and given Wawrinka’s haphazard start to the clay court season – it could happen.
Third Quarter – Milos Raonic, Rafael Nadal
There surely can be just one name to prevail. Since the start of the clay court season Rafael Nadal has been almost unbeatable on the dirt. That was until he hit Rome, where he fell against Dominic Thiem who he beat in two finals in a row on the clay.
But with Murray struggling for form, Djokovic also looking for answers is Nadal on his way to even more Roland Garros history? He has a gruelling start against Gilles Simon potentially in the third round but if he comes through that he ought to handle Jack Sock as a possible fourth round. Fifth seed Milos Raonic has enjoyed some success post injury but has he got what it takes to get past the quarter-final where he would most likely have to defeat Nadal to do it? Unlikely.
Bottom Quarter – Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem
The interest will be how much impact the short amount of time with Andre Agassi will bring to Novak Djokovic’s game. It has been a struggle for Djokovic since the end of the last year, and the surprise move of sacking his entire team raised more than a few eyebrows. He could face Mischa Zverev – who surprised many with his defeat of Nishikori to reach the Geneva final. Next up could be a first time clash with fast moving Frenchman Lucas Pouille.
Standing in Djokovic’s way of what must surely be a de-facto final with Nadal is Dominic Thiem – two finals and beating Nadal will have a bit of confidence coming into the French Open.
If we wind up with a Nadal/Djokovic, the World No. 2 will need to be a lot less passive than their Madrid semi-final and with Nadal fired up to make history, Agassi’s Svengali-like presence would have to be in overdrive.
Play starts at Roland Garros on Sunday 28 May.
Featured Image Credit: Christopher Johnson
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