1. It’s a tricky draw for Rafa (on paper)
Nadal could hardly have asked for a tougher opener and will face off against big-serving John Isner in the first round. The pair have met twice before and both were highly competitive matches. If the sun continues to shine and reports about the quick conditions prove to be correct then the top seed could have a tough time of it.
A potential third round opponent for the five-time champion is Nikolay Davydenko, the only man before Djokovic to beat the Spaniard four times in a row. However, the Russian has never beaten Nadal on clay and on current form it would be a surprise to see him get that far with Pablo Cuevas also lurking in that section.
Robin Soderling, of course the only man to beat Nadal in Roland Garros, is also in the same quarter and if he can play his way into some form then he’ll be dangerous.
So there you have it. It’s a section littered with potential threats. Like I said, on paper. In reality? We’ll have to wait and see.
2. Expect another American post-mortem
I think everyone is bored by “demise of American tennis” articles but there’s going to be another bunch of them in the next week. Looking at the draw, I’m guessing that Mardy Fish will be the only one of the eight Americans in the main draw to make it past the first round.
Fish plays veteran Brazilian lefty Ricardo Mello in the first round and really should prevail. Ryan Sweeting has a chance in a no-mark match-up against Andreas Haider-Maurer but outside that I don’t see a whole lot of success given the draws haven’t been kind to the leading players.
You never know, they might spring a few surprises but spare us the OTT reactions if they don’t.
3. The lucky loser rule is widely misunderstood
Unlike the ATP, the ITF does not automatically award lucky loser places to the highest ranked final round qualifying losers.
It goes back to an incident in 2005, where Justin Gimelstob retired after one game of his final round qualification match against George Bastl in Wimbledon, knowing his ranking would guarantee him a lucky loser spot.
Since then there has been a random draw of the four highest ranked final round losers. Unless there is more than two lucky loser spots available in which case the number of players in the draw will be (the number of spots available +2).
This year there were four spots available, hence a six man draw. Marsel Ilhan, Andi Beck, Alex Bogomolov Jr and Simone Bolelli got picked with Marc Gicquel and Ryan Harrison losing out.
While parts of the rule may seem arbitrary the idea behind it makes sense as it takes away the possibilities of tanks, fixes and bribes in the final round of qualies. How can that be a bad thing?
5. Spare a thought for Marcos Daniel
The veteran Brazilian journeyman has been plagued by injuries in recent years and has announced his retirement from tennis. He was hoping to play Roland Garros for one last farewell on the big stage.
He missed out by one place, needing one more withdrawal before the start of qualies to get in. Had Tommy Robredo, Ricardas Berankis, Juan-Carlos Ferrero or Andy Roddick withdrawn a couple of days sooner, Daniel would have made it in.
It’s unfortunate but then again it depends on your levels of sentimentality. Had Daniel made it, it’s almost impossible that he would have been competitive. In a sense it would have been a wasted place in the draw but, saying that, it would have been nice for a hard-working pro who spent the best part of 15 years grinding it out on the circuit with little tour level success getting the chance to say goodbye to the sport at one of its finest venues.
5. There is a distinct lack of interesting first round matches
But again, only on paper. The best thing about slams is that you are guaranteed to get sucked in by some five-set, early round, outside court epic between two players you don’t particularly care about.
The second round match between Taylor Dent and Ivan Navarro at the US Open in 2009 immediately springs to mind.
Looking at the draw, very little catches the eye. Feliciano Lopez could put it up to Federer again if he can continue his recent form while it will be interesting to see how Del Potro handles the Karlovic serve and Gasquet handles the massive expectation on top of a tricky opponent in Radek “Sexy” Stepanek.
Bring it on.