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With only 4 rounds to go and 15 matches remaining to decide the winner of the Coupe des Mousquetaires, the tennis is just going to get better at Roland Garros 2015. All the top 9 seeds have made it to the last 16 with effortlessness but this is where things start to get a little complicated.
The Big Four have looked solid but can they step it up? How will Nishikori, Berdych, Ferrer, Wawrinka fare in the 2nd week? Can Cilic repeat what he did at the 2014 US Open? How will the 5 Frenchmen perform (last time 5 Frenchmen made the last 16 was back in 2008)? Will Sock be the surprise package (Sock is the youngest American to make the 4R since Pete Sampras in 1993)?
The Tennis World is waiting to see the elite players’ battle it out and would relish the opportunity to witness the following matches:
1. (2) ROGER FEDERER (SUI) vs. (13) GAEL MONFILS (FRA) – 4th ROUND
When Roger Federer steps out on to any Tennis Court, he often receives a Gladiator’s welcome. But his time around, it could all be different as he could possibly be the antagonist for the expressive and boisterous Parisian Crowd in Sunday’s blockbuster 4th round encounter against showman Gael Monfils. Federer couldn’t have made a better draw if he placed the names himself. He avoided Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray on his side of the draw and, Monfils in the fourth round notwithstanding, the path is clear for Federer to make his first French final since 2011. Fellow countryman Stan Wawrinka could await in the quarterfinals and either Kei Nishikori or Tomas Berdych in the semis. This is a repeat of last year’s Davis Cup Final tie, played in Lille, when a world record crowd of close to 27000 saw “La Monf” demolish the Swiss Legend. A packed Philippe Chatrier on Sunday is ready to witness the match-up between the NATIVE SON against the ADOPTED SON.
HEAD to HEAD – Federer leads Monfils 8-4 in the overall count and is ahead 4-2 on clay. But he has lost the last 2 matches played the red dirt (DC Final 2014 and Monte Carlo 2015). Federer leads 3-0 at Roland Garros (2008 SF, 2010 QF and 2011 QF).
PREDICTION – Federer to win in 5 sets (could very well be the match of the tournament).
2. (4) TOMAS BERDYCH (CZE) vs. (5) KEI NISHIKORI (JPN) – QF
When the draw was made, both Tomas and Kei would have been more than relieved of not having to face Novak, Rafa and Andy before the final. Instead they might have to battle it out against each other before a possible SF showdown with Federer. Both players have been extremely consistent this season and have reached the business end of all major events. Tomas has been playing solid tennis this season with Dani Vallverdu, reaching the QFs of all the 9 events he has entered. He has compiled a 33-0 record against players outside the top 10 but has struggled against the Top 10 with a 2-9 win-loss ratio (only beaten Rafa at AO; Raonic retired in Monte Carlo). Meanwhile Nishikori has been listed as the dark-horse for this event. With 1989 FO champion Michael Chang and Dante Bottini coaching him, he has turned into an excellent clay court with back-to-back titles in Barcelona and a 22-4 record on clay in 2014 & 2015 combined. This could be one big opportunity for either of the two to make it to their 2nd Grand Slam Final next Sunday and perhaps be another Wawrinka/Cilic moment in the making.
HEAD to HEAD – Nishikori leads 3-1 overall; but Berdych has won their only meeting on clay.
PREDICTION – Nishikori to win in 5 sets (Tomas has a woeful 6-14 record against Top 5 in Grand Slam events).
3. (1) NOVAK DJOKOVIC (SRB) vs. (6) RAFAEL NADAL (ESP) – QF
French do understand what DEJA VU means. Last Time Nadal and Djokovic clashed in the QFs of a major was 9 years ago in 2006 in their first ever meeting. 43 meetings later they could again collide on Wednesday in what could conceivably sketch their path to the Musketeers Cup. This rivalry has shaped modern day tennis as a war of skill, endurance and physical brutality. Nadal has struggled this season on clay but when it comes down to the French Open, he is definitely the man to beat. BBC Sport considerers Nadal’s French Open winning streak as the “greatest sporting record ever”. Meanwhile Novak’s on a tear this year, winning the Aus Open for a record 5th time and picking up 4 Masters Titles before arriving in the French capital. Thus their meeting on 3rd June could be the final and the most important chapter of their historic rivalry. Tennis fans have witnessed a special brand of living history and perhaps temperatures could just go up when Nadal & Djokovic will warm the Philippe Chatrier crowd on Wednesday.
HEAD to HEAD – Nadal leads 23-20 overall with a 14-5 win-loss ratio on clay. They are tied 5-5 on clay since 2011. Novak is 3-9 in GS matches including 0-6 in Paris. Also he is on a 4 match losing streak in grand slams against the Spaniard (last win AO 2012). Novak is 75-10 on clay since 2011 (7 titles) as compared to Nadal who is 135-13 in the same period (17 titles, 4 RG).
PREDICTION – Novak to win in 5 sets (Tough Match to Predict; Rafa’s looked good against Halys, Almagro & Kuznetsov).
4. (1) NOVAK DJOKOVIC (SRB) vs. (2) ROGER FEDERER (SUI) – FINAL
On 7th of June 2015, the entire world could be waiting for Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to arrive at Stade Roland Garros, in what could perhaps be another iconic moment in sports history. Federer- match-up provides plenty of intangible pleasure for neutral fans. Each can defend but prefers to play the aggressor, making for quick reversals and for many unpredictable points. Federer has one of the sport’s most effective serves ever. It has a mighty foil in Djokovic’s possibly best-ever return. Federer’s rekindling of his love for the serve-and-volley raises the tension. Another interesting feature of this rivalry is the battle between former champions and now coaches Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg. Federer-Djokovic rarely leave any tennis unplayed and have contested 77.6 percent of possible sets in their matches. Djokovic is on a 22 match unbeaten streak entering Roland Garros but Federer is known for ending winning streaks on clay; he ended Nadal’s record 81 match win streak on clay in Hamburg 2007 and also slayed Djokovic in the 2011 Roland Garros SF to end Djokovic’s 43 match unbeaten run. Novak’s definitely the man to beat this season and he could possibly be gunning to complete his Career Grand Slam this coming Sunday. But Federer could be there to impede him.
HEAD to HEAD – Federer leads 20-19 overall with 4-4 on clay; they are tied 6-6 in Grand Slam matches; 1-1 in Finals and 1-1 in Roland Garros. Also they are tied 4-4 in the last 2 seasons. This is arguably the closest match-up in Tennis History.
PREDICTION – Novak to win in 5 sets (Novak’s been playing supreme tennis and will not be stopped coming Sunday)
1. Novak is currently on a 40 match win streak in major events (Grand Slams, World Tour Finals, ATP 1000s). If he reaches the final, the number will go up to 43 (assuming no walkovers). Roger could again be trying to end Novak’s 43-match unbeaten streak – a repeat of 2011).
2. Djokovic is 35-2 this season coming into the French Open. Interestingly, the history books show that Ivan Lendl also had a 35-2 mark going into Paris in 1985. Lendl went on to finish runner-up to Mats Wilander.
3. Djokovic is aiming to achieve for the first time this year, on his 11th appearance. Andres Gomez (1990), Andre Agassi (1999) and Federer (2009) all clinched the Roland Garros title on their 11th attempt.
Shyam Sundar is a passionate and ardent tennis writer. An expert in Men's and Women's tennis, covering all events in the ATP and WTA tour. Contributing stats and expert opinions on Tennis.