French Open draw winners and losers: Nadal could face Djokovic in quarters
PARIS – Get ready for Drawmageddon! Here are the winners and losers from the 2015 French Open draw.
Rafael Nadal: The one thing he didn't want to happen happened. Nine-time champion and No. 6 seed Nadal landed in top-seed Novak Djokovic's quarter, meaning the two could face off in the quarterfinals. Should their 44th match happen, it would be the earliest the two have met since 2007. That No. 3 seed Andy Murray was also drawn into the top half adds yet another meaningful roadblock for both men. To defend his title, Nadal could have to go through Djokovic, Murray and then Roger Federer in the final.
Novak Djokovic: The consensus is that this is Djokovic's French Open to lose. But he's been given as tough a draw as he could get. His potential path: Jarkko Nieminen (1R), Gilles Muller (2R), either Thanasi Kokkinakis or Bernard Tomic (3R), Kevin Anderson or Richard Gasquet (4R), Nadal (QF), Murray (SF), and then Federer in the final. The first week should be fairly straight-forward for him but if he faces Nadal and Murray back-to-back he could arrive at the finals fatigued.
Andy Murray: The Brit has not lost a match on clay this season and beat Nadal in the Madrid Open final two weeks ago. All signs pointed to a potential opportunity for him in Paris, where he made the semifinals last year. But his draw is full of landmines. He has a potential third round match against Nick Kyrgios, a fourth round against John Isner and then the always tough David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. He would then play the likely winner of Djokovic-Nadal. No doubt he would have liked his chances to make the final more if he were drawn into the bottom half instead of No. 4 Tomas Berdych.
Serena Williams: All in all, the top seeds did not fare well in the draw sweepstakes. With Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniacki all drawn in the top half of the draw, Serena is no lock for the final. After what should be two fairly straight-forward opponents in the first two rounds, she could face Azarenka (3R), Venus or Stephens (4R), Wozniacki (QF) and Kvitova, who beat her three weeks ago in Madrid. Should she navigate that draw you have to be concerned about her energy levels after what could be a number of grinding matches.
Victoria Azarenka: The draw gods have been unkind to Azarenka all season and that continues in Paris. She's slated to face Serena in the third round, which offers a big opportunity for her after having match points to beat Serena a few weeks ago in Madrid. Win that match and she faces the same path Serena is stuck with. Not easy.
Maria Sharapova: The defending champion will need to be sharp from her first match after drawing one of the most dangerous unseeded women in the draw in No. 49 Kaia Kanepi. Sharapova could then face former finalist Sam Stosur in the third round with a potential rematch of the three-set Rome final against No. 8 Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarterfinals. Also looming as a potential quarterfinal opponent is No. 11 Angelique Kerber, who beat Sharapova early in the clay season in Stuttgart.
Roger Federer: We're not kidding about this. While Djokovic, Nadal and Murray battle it out in the top half of the draw, Federer has a far easier path to the final. He's been drawn with No. 4 Berdych, No. 5 Kei Nishikori and No. 8 Stan Wawrinka, two of whom—Wawrinka and Berdych—he routed just last week in Rome. The biggest danger in his half will probably be Nishikori or No. 12 Gael Monfils, who has two straight wins over him on clay. Monfils and Federer could play in the fourth round.
Simona Halep: Last year's finalist needed a draw that allowed her to play into form and that's precisely what she got. The Romanian failed to make a final in the clay-court lead-ups and has admitted that she needed match-play to find her confidence. Her path to the semifinals: Evgeniya Rodina (1R), Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (2R), Alize Cornet (3R), Agnieszka Radwanska or Elina Svitolina (4R) and then Ana Ivanovic or Ekaterina Makarova in the quarterfinals. Given the current slumps of Radwanska, Ivanovic and Makarova, Halep couldn't ask for better.
Kei Nishikori: His best result in Paris was a Round of 16 run in 2013. Look for him to better it this year. The No. 5 seed is in Berdych's quarter, which is the quarter everyone wants to be in. The highest seed he could face en route to the quarterfinals is No. 11 Feliciano Lopez and he would be the favorite to beat Berdych in the quarterfinals (Nishikori leads the H2H 3–1). A semifinal against Federer would be a massive opportunity for Nishikori. He's beaten Federer on clay before.
Petra Kvitova: You don't usually land on the "Draw Winners" list when you're drawn in Serena's half but Kvitova has a great chance to better her best-career result in Paris, which came in 2012 when she lost to Sharapova in the semifinals. When measuring a Kvitova draw it's not about rankings but about match-ups and this year she opens against a few players she should blast off the court. Kvitova starts off against Marina Erakovic (1R), Silvia Soler-Espinosa (2R), Irina-Camelia Begu (3R) and then the toughest match of her early draw, a potential fourth round against No. 23 Timea Bacsinszky. Get through that and she'll likely face one of either Eugenie Bouchard, Karolina Pliskova, Svetlana Kuznetsova or Zarina Diyas in the quarterfinals.
Fans: If you're a tennis fan this is one of the most action-packed pair of draws we've seen in some time. My prediction: We're going to be on upset-watch on a daily basis. It's going to be fun.
Notable first round men's matches: Jack Sock vs. Grigor Dimitrov, Sam Querrey vs. Borna Coric, Donald Young vs. Santiago Giraldo, John Isner vs. Andreas Seppi, Steve Johnson vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Frances Tiafoe vs. Martin Klizan, Ivo Karlovic vs. Marcos Baghdatis.
Notable first round women's matches: Sloane Stephens vs. Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova vs. Kaia Kanepi, Madison Brengle vs. Sam Stosur, CoCo Vandeweghe vs. Julia Goerges, Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Irina Camelia Begu, Taylor Townsend vs. Tereza Smitkova, Belinda Bencic vs. Daniela Hantuchova, Madison Keys vs. Varvara Lepchenko, Kristina Mladenovic vs. Eugenie Bouchard, Aleksandra Krunic vs. Yulia Putintseva, Lucie Safarova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Play begins on Sunday.