The 2012 French Open gets underway on Sunday, with Novak Djokovic looking to become the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Slams at the same time, Rafa Nadal gunning for an historic seventh Roland Garros title, and Roger Federer looking to find his way back to the top of the world rankings.
Over in the women’s draw, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka look set to be the major contenders, but the likes of Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Petra Kvitova will also want to have their say.
The draw was made on Friday afternoon in Paris and Rafa Nadal couldn’t really have picked a better path through to the final. The 2011 Champion and favourite to succeed here again, finds himself in the same half of the draw as Andy Murray, but with the Scot troubled by injury and a long way from his top form, it’s unlikely that Nadal will even have to face one of his nearest rivals in the semis.
Rafa will open up his defence against Italy’s Simone Bolleli, but his first real challenge shouldn’t arise until a possible fourth round meeting with up-and-coming Canadian Milos Raonic. The quarter-final is not going to throw up anyone more difficult than Nicolas Almagro or Janko Tipsarevic and whilst both those men would love the chance to have a go at the world no.2, they shouldn’t provide any major obstacle.
In many ways, it’s Andy Murray’s quarter of the draw which is most intriguing. Going on Murray’s form over the last few weeks and his struggle to overcome injury, it’s going to be tough for him to come out of this section of the draw. That means a real opportunity for a lower ranked player to make it through to the semi finals. Richard Gasquet defeated Murray in Rome last week and could become the first French player since Gael Monfils, back in 2008, to reach the semi-finals. Other hopefuls will be John Isner, who has caused his fair share of upsets already this year, David Ferrer and Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Either way, the man who does come through this quarter will most likely be taking on Rafa in the semis, meaning there’s real potential for the Spaniard to make it to the final with the minimum of effort.
The pressure is right on world no.1, Novak Djokovic, as he makes his bid to hold all four Grand Slams together. Italy’s Potito Starace will be the Serb’s opening challenge and an eye-catching game in the second round looks on the cards, between Novak and Lleyton Hewitt. A fourth round match-up with Fernando Verdasco could lay ahead also, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a likely quarter-final opponent.
Roger Federer seems to have been dealt the toughest draw here in Paris, with almost all of his matches looking like potential banana skins. The Swiss shouldn’t have too many problems in his opener against Tobias Kamke, but after that his likely list of opponents, if he’s going to win the event, are, Nalbandian, Roddick, Lopez, Berdych, Djokovic and Nadal. In truth, Roger should be able to get through to the quarters but Tomas Berdych is right on top of his game at the moment and will pose a real threat.
The bookmakers unsurprisingly have Rafa Nadal as the outright favourite at 4/6, whilst Novak Djokovic does look like excellent value at 5/2. There doesn’t seem a lot of point in looking beyond those two, but Federer comes in at 10/1, Murray 40/1, and Berdych, 50/1.
In the women’s draw, current world no.1, Victoria Azarenka is going to really have her work cut out if she’s to win her second Grand Slam in succession. Sabine Lisicki is a likely early opponent, with Sam Stosur and Marion Bartoli in wait further ahead.
Serena Williams is the tournament favourite at odds of around 5/2, but her section of the draw looks even tougher, with the likes of Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Li Na and Caroline Wozniacki all in contention.
In truth the women’s draw looks very open and there are probably up to 8 players who could potentially claim the crown.
Potential Week One Match-Ups
Round One: Janko Tipsarevic v Sam Querrey
Round Two: Novak Djokovic v Lleyton Hewitt
Round Two: Roger Federer v David Nalbandian
Round Three: Roger Federer v Andy Roddick
Round Three: Andy Murray v Bernard Tomic
Round One: Serena Williams v Virginie Razzano
Round Two: Petra Kvitova v Pauline Parmenter
Round Three: Maria Sharapova v Shuai Peng