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When Maria Sharapova did the honour for the men’s draw on Friday, she could possibly have not put up an easier route to the finals for 2009 French Open Champion Roger Federer.
With 5-time defending champion Rafa Nadal and the year’s 2 best clay courters Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray drawn together in the top half of the draw, the 17-time Grand Slam Champion could not have dreamt for a smoother path to his 6th final in Paris. Here is a look at Roger Federer’s section:
1st ROUND vs Alejandro Falla (COL) – Lucky Loser in Qualifying
Federer opens his account for a second French Open title against Colombian Alejandro Falla. Federer leads the head-to-head 7-0 against the left-hander. Falla almost caused a sensation in the first round of Wimbledon in 2010, winning the first two sets against defending champion Roger Federer and serving for the match at 5–4 in the fourth set (he was three points away from winning), before Federer eventualy won 5–7, 4–6, 6–4, 7–6, 6–0. Federer has had the better of Falla in his previous two meetings in Paris in 2006 & 2010 winning comfortably in straight sets.
2nd ROUND vs Marcel Granollers (ESP) / Matthias Bachinger (GER)
Federer could come up against Spaniard Marcel Granollers or qualifier Matthias Bachinger of Germany in the second round. Bachinger has qualified for the first time at the French open and will be trying to get past Granollers who has made it to the 4R twice in Paris (2012 & 2014). The 125th ranked German has never faced the Swiss Legend and will be relishing the opportunity to face the great if he makes it the second round. Meanwhile Granollers has never beaten Roger and holds a 0-3 record against him. He did make a bright start against Roger in the 3R at the US Open last year winning the first set 6-4 before losing the next 3 sets 1-6.
3rd ROUND vs (25) Ivo Karlovic (CRO) / Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) / Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
Federer holds a healthy win-loss ratios against all his potential 3rd round opponents. He leads 6’11” Croat Karlovic 12-1 with a 3-0 record on clay but have never faced each other in Paris. 25th seed Karlovic’s best result came last year when he made to the 3R last year before retiring against Kevin Anderson.
Federer leads Baghdatis 7-1 but again have never faced each other on clay. Their meeting in Melbourne 9 years back in the finals of the Aus Open in 2006 was a fascinating battle with Baghdatis in the form of his life and Federer playing arguably the best tennis one has ever seen. Baghdatis has been struggling with injuries this season and should struggle against Ivo Karlovic in the 1R. Baghdatis’s best result in Paris came in 2007 when he made it to 4R before he lost to Igor Andreev.
Mikhail Youzhny has never beaten Federer and holds a 0-16 record against the Swiss. They have met once in Paris in 2007 with Federer beating the Russian in straight sets. Youzhny has dropped to 70th in the rankings and is struggling this season. His best result came in 2010 when he reached the QF before losing to Czech Tomas Berdych.
4th ROUND vs (13) Gael Monfils (FRA) / (21) Pablo Cuevas (URG) / Dominic Thiem (AUT)
Federer could face a tricky encounter against French Gael Monfils in the 4R whom he has faced 12 times and leads 8-4 in the overall head-to-head. Federer has lost the last 2 meetings on clay, at last year’s Davis Cup Final when Monfils demolished him (Federer was injured coming into the match) and in Monte Carlo this year. But Federer has never lost against the flamboyant Frenchman in Paris winning all the 3 matches they have played (SF in 2008, QF in 2009 & QF in 2011). Monfils’ best Grand Slam result came in Paris in 2008 when he reached the SF and became the first Frenchman since Sébastien Grosjean in 2001 to reach the SF.
Federer could also face 21st seed Pablo Cuevas in the 4R. He has already beaten the Uruguayan twice this season on clay; beating him in the finals in Istanbul and also in Rome. Cuevas has never progressed beyond the 2R at any Grand Slam event. One surprise element in this section of the draw is the young Austrian Dominic Theim who won his first ATP title in Nice yesterday. Federer has never faced Thiem and this could be a classic with both players having a similar style of play and Thiem will be desparate to make an impression against the greatest of all time. Thiem lost to Rafa Nadal last year in the 2R.
Ouarter Finals vs (8) Stan Wawrinka (SUI) / (12) Gilles Simon (FRA)
Federer could face an all Swiss-QF against 2014 Aus Open Champion Stan
Wawrinka. Federer leads their head-to-head 16-2 but both of Stan’s victories against his Davis Cup team-mate have come on clay (2014 Monte Carlo Finals and 2009 Monte Carlo). Federer also leads their clay court encounters 4-2 winning both their matches in Paris in straight sets (4R in 2010 & 2011). 8th seeded Wawrinka’s best performance came in 2013 when he made it to the OFs before losing to Rafa Nadal. 26th Seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is in Wawrinka’s section of the draw and could meet the Swiss No.2 in the 3R. This could be a repeat of last year’s 1R match when the Spaniard upset Wawrinka. Garcia-Lopez made it to the 4R last year losing the Gael Monfils.
Another player whom Federer could face in the QF is the 12th seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon. Simon has made it to the 4R on 2 separate ocassions once in 2011 and 2013, when he lost to Roger Federer in 5 sets (Simon was leading 2-1). Federer leads the head-to-head 5-2 and has won both their encounters on clay. Federer could also face 24th seed Ernests Gulbis who reached the SF last year after shocking Federer in 4R. But this season he has struggled with a 2-12 record in ATP matches. Interestingly Federer is 2-2 against the Latvian but has lost 2 of the 3 matches they have contested on clay.
Semi Finals vs (4) Tomas Berdych (CZE) / (5) Kei Nishikori (JPN)
This could be Federer’s toughest test in his quest to reach a 6th final in Paris. Kei Nishikori has been playing solid tennis on clay under the guidance of former French Open Champion Michael Chang. He comes into Paris on the back of a solid clay court season. He defended his title in Barcelona and reached the SF in Madrid (l. to Murray) and QF in Rome (l. to Djokovic). Federer leads their head-to-head 3-2 but has lost the only match they played on clay (Madrid 2013). Kei’s best result in Paris came in 2013 when he reached the 4R before losing to Rafa Nadal in straight sets.
Tomas Berdych has made a bright start to the season under Dani Vallverdu. He has reached the QFs of all the 9 events he has entered but is yet to win a title this season. Also he is 30-0 against players outside the top 10 but only 2-9 against the top 10. Federer leads their head-to-head 14-6 including 4-0 on clay. Federer leads Berdych 4-2 in Grand Slam Matches but has lost their last 2 meetings in majors. They have met once in Paris in 2006 in the 4R with Federer winning in straight sets. Berdych’s best result came in 2010 when he reached the SF before losing to Robin Soderling.
Thus the road to the finals for Federer could not have been easier as he enjoys a winning record against all his potential opponents. Only time will tell whether he can step it up and reach the final on 7th June where he could possibly be facing World No.1 Novak Djokovic or 3rd seed Andy Murray or 9-time Champion Rafa Nadal.
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.