The main warm up tournaments for the French Open have now been played. Certainly Nadal found some form in Madrid but really the Andy Murray match in Rome in the quarter-finals was where he truly came alive. This match was a revelation from Andy Murray. I have never seen him so consistently flatten out his forehand and hit the line forehand so well. Rafa seems to bring out the best in Andy. He was simply outstanding in his ability to take the ball early and play up the court for the vast majority of that match. Rafa is mentally so relentless in his ability to play point by point, he somehow found a way to get back into the match, overhaul a break in the third set and win the match with very good tennis. Although he lost the final to Novak I think he is certainly more confident going into the French after that match against Andy then he otherwise would have been. Likewise Andy will realise from that match that his abilities on clay are substantial and that the French is not beyond his reach. I think it is a year too early physically for him to go the full distance but then again you can never count out a champion.
My pick for the French is still Djokovic. However I’m not as confident as I was a few weeks ago that Novak and Rafa will both be getting to the final. If Andy can get through to play Rafa that is an extremely dangerous match and Roger also plays very well against Novak. Dimitrov, Raonic and Ferrer are all dangerous and I think they all realise that Rafa is not untouchable this year. These are the guys that I expect to highly entertain and provide some real thrills and spills and possibly emerge as a finalist and maybe a new winner. The fact that Novak lost such a tough match last year against Rafa in the semifinals I think will relax him somewhat this year and he will be able to convert his dominance into a first French Open title. This is the beauty of sport because as we get close to the tournament and truly think about who will win, we realise how extremely difficult it is to win a grand slam. If someone beats Rafa and Roger is totally relaxed as he will be given the birth of the twins you cannot count him out, if he gets through the first week. I believe he will be very vulnerable in the first few matches. The French players, Gasquet, Tsonga and Monfils can always provide an upset and some real entertainment at Roland Garros, and I expect no less this year although I highly doubt any of them will make the final. Berdych has had a poor buildup to the French and unless he can find some confidence from practice, he will go early.
The women’s tournament is basically a two horse race between Maria and Serena. I think Ivanovic is a previous champion who has found form and is a very dangerous third option. If she stays healthy I really cannot look beyond Serena who is a level above the rest when she is on form. She won Rome convincingly and seems to be peaking at the right time. I cannot see anybody else featuring. The excitement of sport is that someone will emerge and be in the semi-final or final that is unexpected. Na Li is the only other player who has the pedigree to possibly challenge Serena and Maria, although her tennis has been a little patchy in the build up. On the British front I expect Heather Watson to qualify and hopefully have a good tournament and win a match or two in the main draw. The two players with maximum Locker Room Power are Novak and Serena. Rafa has enormous power given his record at Roland Garros but Novak is the alpha male going into the tournament.