Top 16 Seeds
1. Novak Djokovic: If the French is a two-man race, well, here's your challenger. Djokovic is trying to become the first male in more than two decades to back up an Australia Open title with a French Open title. He comes in with little momentum after a second-round loss at the Madrid Open and quarterfinal loss at the Italian Open. Provided his ankle doesn't let him down, though, he has the best shot of taking down The King. Belgian David Goffin could test the 26-year-old Djokovic right off the bat.
2. Roger Federer: As one would have predicted long ago, when Federer begins his inevitable decline, the clay results would be the first to go. The surface demands too much of him and, going by recent form, he'll be lucky to make his usual semifinal appearance. The good news is that a) he is set to face qualifiers in the first two rounds, and b) Wimbledon begins in a month.
3. Rafael Nadal: "King of Clay" is too benevolent a nickname. We need to call Nadal "Dictator of Dirt" or somesuch. Mere months ago, it appeared as though his career was imperiled. At the moment -- seeding be damned -- he is playing as well as ever, unleashing his brutish game on all who stand in his (dirt) path. Realistically, there's only one player in the draw who can threaten him. The likely semifinal against Djokovic could be the de facto final.
4. David Ferrer: All credit to Ferrer for maxing out his talent. Alas, said talents are not sufficient to win majors. The 31-year-old Spaniard is a good bet to live up to his seeding and reach the semifinals, maybe even the final. But then Nadal or Djokovic likely awaits.
5. Tomas Berdych: For almost a decade now, the rap on the Bird-man has been the same: He possesses the talent to beat anyone on a given day (even Djokovic on clay), but lacks the consistency to win seven straight matches at the Slams. Berdych meets Gael Monfils in the first round and could see Ernests Gulbis in the second.
6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: See above. Tsonga returns to the scene of the crime, having been unable to hold a 2-1 lead in sets or convert four match points in a quarterfinal loss to Djokovic last year. An awfully nice draw should help him.
7. Richard Gasquet: Speaking of talent, Gasquet has tons of it. Always has. Mental shakiness + home slam = a bad combo. Still, his draw suggests that there's no reason he can't play deep into the tournament.
8. Janko Tipsarevic: Can beat anyone below him (though he's been struggling this year). Can beat few above him. He opens against fan favorite Nicolas Mahut.
9. Stanislas Wawrinka: It's been a nice recent surge for "the other Swiss Mister," who has defeated Andy Murray, Ferrer, Berdych, Tsonga and Grigor Dimitrov on clay this spring. Still, he lacks that certain sumthin' sumthin' in the big matches. And he's in Nadal's quarter.
10. Marin Cilic: He's been largely in the same 10-15 rankings camp for years. Do you praise players like him for staking out territory and defiantly refusing to surrender ground, or do you chide them for not going forward?
11. Nicolas Almagro: The expressive, flamboyant Spaniard made the Barcelona Open final, but he failed to make the third round in his three other European clay tune-ups.
12. Tommy Haas: Let's pause a moment and acknowledge that a 35-year-old man is on the cusp of the top 10. This story will get exponentially more play with each win, not unlike Brian Baker's tale last year. Haas could play to the middle weekend. Then Djokovic looms.
13. Kei Nishikori: He's coming off a victory against Federer in Madrid. He's also coming off losses to Pablo (don't call me Joaquin) Andujar, Jeremy Chardy and Albert Ramos in recent weeks. The 23-year-old should play to his seeding and lose in the fourth round.
14. Milos Raonic: The 22-year-old's Slam breakthrough is eagerly anticipated. It's unlikely to come on clay, where his absence of defensive skills can present a problem. Raonic draws 32-year-old Xavier Malisse in the first round.
15. Gilles Simon: We've always loved the minimalism of simple Simon. But it also prevents him from playing deep into majors. Interesting first-rounder against Lleyton Hewitt.
16. Philipp Kohlschreiber: Though better on a fast court, the German veteran is deceptively powerful and always dangerous.
19. John Isner: We're singling him out here mostly on the basis of his five-set, first-round match against Nadal in 2011, the only time Nadal has gone the distance at Roland Garros. Isner has a tough first-rounder against Argentine Carlos Berloq.
21. Jerzy Janowicz: He had a good week in Rome, where he beat Tsonga and Gasquet.
24. Benoit Paire: Watch him play -- he's throwbacktacularly entertaining and he's fresh off a semifinal appearance in Rome.
26. Grigor Dimitrov: Cursed with the nickname "Baby Fed," he's finally starting to play like it. He could play Djokovic in the third round, in a rematch of a second-rounder in Madrid that Dimitrov won.
27. Fabio Fognini: One of those guys who knows his way around a clay court and no one will want to face early.
31.Marcel Granollers: Or as he's known colloquially: MARCEL GRANOLLERS!!
Dark Horse Stable
Horacio Zeballos: Anyone who beat Nadal on clay this year gets a mention.
Lukas Rosol: He's still best known for his Wimbledon defeat of Nadal last year -- and likely always will be. But he's climbed 64 spots in the rankings since then, to No. 36.
Ernests Gulbis: Just ask him.
Bernard Tomic: I suspect the kid -- and he is a kid, chronological age be damned -- could use some support this spring.
First-Round Matches To Watch
Gael Monfils vs. Tomas Berdych: Two up-and-down players. And then Gulbis lurks for the winner.
Novak Djokovic vs. David Goffin: Djokovic should advance, but the 22-year-oldGoffin pushed Federer in Paris last year.
Marcel Granollers vs. Feliciano Lopez: Battle of Spain.
First-Round Upset Special
None. Look for all 16 seeds to win their first match.
Over/Under On Brad Gilbert's Stephen Curry analogies
Bob and Mike Bryan: The brothers, who made the final last year, are looking for their first French Open title since 2003.
Semifinals: Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic; David Ferrer vs. Roger Federer
Finals: Rafael Nadal vs. David Ferrer
Winner: Rafael Nadal