Friday May 22nd, 2009's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the French Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses to watch and his predicted winners.

1. Rafael Nadal: Sure, he could have done without the Madrid result. But let's be honest here: The four-time champ has never lost a match at Roland Garros. His record in sets: 82-8. Absurd. Until proven otherwise, he remains the overwhelming favorite. This may be the best clay-court practitioner ever. Sit back and enjoy.

2. Roger Federer: The plot got a bit more interesting after the unexpected -- and unexpectedly easy -- win over Nadal in Madrid. Still, an awful lot of stars have to align for Federer to take down Nadal in Paris. Plus, he'll get an early test against Alberto Martin.

3. Andy Murray: So hot after Key Biscayne in early April, Murray has, well, slid a bit on clay. Assuming he gets past Juan Ignacio Chela, an unpleasant first-round opponent, Murray ought to cruise for a few rounds. Still, it's unlikely his much-anticipated Slam breakthrough will occur here.

4. Novak Djokovic: The Djoker has played Nadal close, closer and closest on clay this spring. But he still was unable to get his first clay-court win over the Spaniard. Along with Federer, Djokovic is the "next-best pick" after Nadal. But where does that get you?

5. Juan Martin del Potro: A second-round loser last year, JMDP opens against French lefty Michael Llodra, a potentially tricky one. The Argentine is a former French Open junior champ and can play on clay. Certainly in the "if you had to pick someone other than Nadal" cluster.

6. Andy Roddick: Track record speaks for itself. Since 2002, he's won two matches at Roland Garros and none since 2005. On the other hand, he acquitted himself well in Madrid and sure can't complain about his draw. No threat to win, but don't be surprised to see him in the middle weekend.

7. Gilles Simon: Possesses the precise, patient, physically efficient game to do well on clay. Unfortunately, Simon looked like a journeyman in his tune-up events -- five losses in nine matches, none to a top-30 foe. Plus, as the highest-ranked Frenchman, he comes in with loads of pressure.

8. Fernando Verdasco: Powerful lefty is coming off a semifinal showing in the previous Grand Slam, the Australian Open. He's shown he's a capable top-10 player, able to reach the quarterfinal rounds. But does he believe he can compete for the biggest prizes? In this case, Nadal looms in the round of eight.

9. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: The body is always an issue and not much momentum coming in. A shame since the view here is that he's the best of the French brigade. We eagerly await a possible quarterfinal encounter with del Potro.

10. Nikolay Davydenko: Given his health issues in 2009, even if he makes it to his first match against veteran Stefan Koubek, you have to believe the Russian -- though a former semifinalist -- will be making only a cameo.

11. Gael Monfils: Still in the draw as of this writing, though bad knees + clay = disaster. A surprise semifinalist to crowd's delight in 2008. The best pure athlete in the game is a threat on physicality alone. But his frail state is cause for concern.

12. Fernando Gonzalez: Your guess is as good as his. (Though he might get to third round without having to face a top-100 foe.)

13. Marin Cilic: A bit of a sophomore slump for lanky Croat. But, particularly given his draw, he could make a run.

14. David Ferrer: Haven't heard much from most fit player in the game. Not a threat to win a major, but the type of grinder no one relishes facing. Too bad he's in Nadal's pocket of the draw.

15. James Blake: Has finally shown some life lately -- on clay, no less! -- and couldn't ask for a kinder and gentler early draw, with a qualifier and then the Andrei Pavel-Tommy Haas winner. But we all know the history here.

16. Tommy Robredo: Looks like another year of "win a few rounds and then bow out in the middle weekend."

17. Stanislas Wawrinka: Yes, the "other Swiss" beat Federer on the clay of Monte Carlo. And he is a former French Open junior champ. But he still needs to prove himself in a major.

18. Radek Stepanek: Usually plays well at majors -- a good big-match player in general.

19. Tomas Berdych: This generation's Marat Safin. He's as good as he wants to be.

20. Marat Safin: Just to be safe.

23. Robin Soderling: Sulking Swede posted fine results lately.

25. Igor Andreev: Like Safin, a Russian with Spanish ties and clay-court skills.

31. Nicolas Almagro: Haven't heard much from hefty Spaniard in 2009.

Albert Montanes: Little-known Spaniard comes in on hot streak.

Juan Monaco: "The Principality" (the sport's best nickname) is on his surface of choice.

Viktor Troicki: One of the better players you may never have seen. Unfortunately, del Potro looms in second round.

Ernests Gulbis: A thoroughly forgettable 2009 so far, but the slide has to end at some point. Doesn't it?

Ivo Karlovic vs. Lleyton Hewitt: It's Wimbledon 2003 all over again.

Gulbis vs. Sam Querrey: Cruel draw for both.

Wayne Odesnik vs. Simon: Odesnik the rare American who thrives on clay.

Juan Carlos Ferrero v. Ivan Ljubicic: Former champion against former semifinalist.

Blue-plate upset special: Bobby Reynolds over a hobbled Monfils.

Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic: Defending champs have been getting it done on clay.

Nadal vs. Total Surprise (Montanes?)

Djokovic vs. Federer

Nadal vs. Djokovic


To order a copy of Jon Wertheim's' new book, Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, click here.

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