Breaking down the French Open 2017 men's draw, including matches to watch, dark horses and more.
1 Andy Murray (GBR)
With Novak Djokovic showing signs of life again, Murray’s deeply lackluster 2017 will now receive more attention. A runner-up in 2016, he would be thrilled with that result this year. A top seed in name only.
2 Novak Djokovic (SRB)
After a generally dismal 11 months, the defending champ suddenly comes to Paris with, well, some spring in his step. New duds. A new super-coach. His Rome run included a not-so-fast-kid win over Thiem. Lots will be revealed and questions requiring answers remain. But say this: a defense is looking more promising today than a month ago.
3 Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
It’s been an uneven year for Wawrinka but that’s become redundant. The 2015 champ has proven his bona fides on clay in the past. And he’s become a reliable “second weeker.” But, man, has 2017 been quiet in Stanistan.
4 Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Like rose pedals strewn ahead of royalty, Nadal comes to Paris preceded by hype and expectation. Nadal has been “clay-GOATing” as one of you put it, this spring. Even after his hiccup in Rome—his lone clay defeat in four events—there’s little reason to think he won’t continue. Benoit Paire will present a potential round one adventure. But all in all: looking like he will win French Open X in two weeks.
5 Milos Raonic (CAN)
The hard-serving Canadian deserves credit for much, not least his professionalism. But he’s been a cipher since last year’s Wimbledon. And he’s unlikely to emerge on clay.
6 Dominic Thiem (AUT)
Let's start on the plus side: he made a deep run at Roland Garros in 2016, he plays well on clay in general and his campaign this year included a win over Nadal in Rome. Less auspicious: he mustered one game against Djokovic in his previous match, not exactly a confidence builder heading to a major. Probably your third pick after Nadal/Djokovic.
7 Marin Cilic (CRO)
The 2014 U.S. Open champ is dangerous in theory, but he hits too flat a ball and with too little margin to succeed for seven rounds on clay. Last year he fell in round one.
8 Kei Nishikori (JPN)
Different as their games and physiques are, he and Raonic share much overlap in their venn diagrams. Professionals, clinicians, the best players their countries have produced…. and physical risks, especially in best-of-five formats.
9 Alexander Zverev (GER)
Justified hype. Fresh off his Rome title, now squarely embedded in the top 10, where he’s likely to reside for the
year decade. Be interested to see how he deals with heightened expectations, but the future begins now. Early test against Verdasco.
10 David Goffin (BEL)
Fast becoming a favorite among the cognoscenti, an efficient, slick moving player who doesn't bring much power to bear but generally wins the matches he should and competes well in the ones he shouldn’t. Look for him in the second week, but early, not late.
11 Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
Deserves credit for reviving his game and his ranking. And, remember, he came within a few points of reaching the finals in the previous Slam. But he has been very mediocre on clay—including losses in his last SIX three-setters. More bad news: his last French Open win came in 2013.
12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
Even at full health—which is seldom the case—there’s an unmistakable sense that, sadly, pre Tsonga is deep into the back nine of his career. A former semifinalist, he will be a sentimental favorite. But how many rounds that buys him is another matter.
13 Tomas Berdych (CZE)
A quarterfinalist last year. But at age 31, are his best days behind him? Like Cilic, clay punished his risk-reward-high-reward flat slugging.
14 Jack Sock (USA)
Behold the forehand. And his clay court skills are solid. A middle weekend appearance would be an achievement. Strong, steady ascent for Sock, but the real breakthrough remains elusive.
15 Gael Monfils (FRA)
LeMonf missed last year’s event—and then had a terrific second half of 2016. A quiet 2017 so far.
16 Lucas Pouille (FRA)
Third highest-seeded Frenchman but might have the best chance of a deep run. Outside the top 50 a year ago, let’s see how he does as a seed at his home Slam.
17 Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
A vexing opponent, who annoys more than he wounds.
18 Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
A few lapses notwithstanding, his tennis has overshadowed his antics this year. But the combination of clay and nagging injury gives pause. Expect little here and more on grass.
19 Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
A quarterfinalist last year.
20 Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
Star this pony in your racing form.
21 John Isner (USA)
A better clay courter than you might think. Always a danger with that serve. And behold the Rome results.
22 Pablo Cuevas (URU)
A real shot at the quarters for a workhorse at his best on clay.
24 Richard Gasquet (FRA)
His prime is past his meridian, but always capable of 90 minutes of magical tennis.
25 Steve Johnson (USA)
Rough spring for the American. Wish him well.
29 Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
The “29” is deceiving. A top five player, provided he’s healthy. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.
30 David Ferrer (ESP)
Former finalist gets a mention, if only for old-times’ sake.
Dark horse nation
Fernando Verdasco: Spanish vet is getting on in years (he’s 33) but he’s an opponent no one wants to face early.
Benoit Paire: A wild card who didn’t need one. Capable of breathtaking tennis, and breathtakingly bad tennis.
Borna Coric: Top 10 talent that has been coming to the fore, lately. For all the whispers about stagnation, he’s still only 20.
Nico Almagro: Always a question of whether his fragility or talent will win out.
Hyeon Chung: Best Korean ever (?) is starting to make his move.
First round matches to watch
Dustin Brown vs. Gael Monfils: An exo with ranking points and prize money.
Nishikori vs. Thanassi Kokkinakis: Nishikori will win but nice to see the young Aussie back.
Zverev vs. Verdasco: A Madrid repeat.
Fabio Fognini vs. Frances Tiafoe: Two of the more fun-to-watch players.
Verdasco will push Zverev. Zverev will survive and play deep into week two.
Nicolas Mahut and Hughes Herbert: The Rome winners will try and reprise at their home Slam.
Zverev d. Wawrinka
Nadal d. Djokovic
Nadal d. Zverev