Tuesday, June 05, 2012

FRENCH OPEN 2012: Men's Quarterfinals Preview

I have also previewed the 2012 Roland Garros women's quarterfinals. Last year I predicted 2 of 3 men's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly. Below is my preview of the 2012 Roland Garros men's quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic SRB (1) vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (5)The World #1 demonstrated that he is not perfect after all by playing his worst tennis of the fortnight against efficient, effective and unemotional Andreas Seppi of Italy but stil came through his test in 5-sets and 4 1/2 hours. Tsonga is one of the few players who is not intimidated by the 5-time major champion, sporting an even 5-5 career head-to-head record. After losing to him in their first meeting in the 2008 Australian Open final, the Frenchman went on to win their next 4 matches. The two met for the first time on clay last month in Rome (while I was in town) and Djokovic won easily. In their grand slam matches, the two have always matched up very well, including their incredibly entertaining semifinal at Wimbledon last year. On home turf, in front of an amped up Parisian crowd, this will almost certainly be the best match to watch of all 8 quarterfinals, and almost certainly one of the best matches of the entire tournament. Djokovic is playing for history, trying to reach his 4th consecutive major final (and 8th consecutive major semifinal) in order to continue his quest for tennis immortality and the improbable "Nole Slam." Mad Professah's Pick: Djokovic in 4 or 5 sets.

Juan Martin Del Potro ARG (9) vs Roger Federer SUI (3). After Roger Federer completed his 4th round match on Sunday to reach his record 32nd consecutive major quarterfinal he said that he hoped that Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro would be able to finish their 4th round match before the end of the day or otherwise he would have an advantage. They didn't finish on Sunday and Federer does have an advantage. He is 11-2 head-to-head against the tall Argentinian and ever since losing to him in the 2009 U.S. Open final in 5 sets and 3 months later at the 2009 ATP World Tour Finals, the 16-time major champion has not even lost a set to del Potro in their last 5 meetings, 4 of which have come this year. I actually doubt that that streak will remain intact on Tuesday. Del Potro should play like a man with nothing to lose, and when someone can hit second serves at 130 mph and forehands (and backhands) at 100 mph good things can happen. But can Del Potro do that for 5 sets, in heavy conditions? Very doubtful. Then again, the last few times Federer has lost in the quarterfinals it has been to a player in the mold of Del Potro (Tsonga at Wimbledon 2011, Berdych at Wimbledon 2010 and Robin Soderling at 2010 Roland Garros). That being said, Federer will almost certainly match another of Jimmy Connors records by reaching his 31st major semifinal. Mad Professah's pick: Federer in 4 sets.

David Ferrer ESP (6)
 vs Richard Gasquet FRA (17) Andy Murray GBR (4). This match is a rematch of  the 2011 Australian Open semifinal,  which was won by Murray in 4 sets. This is the only time the two have played a best-of-5 set match and although the Scotsman leads the Spaniard 5-4 in their career head-to-head, Ferrer has won their two clay court meetings. With his now-famous back spasms, I'm surprised that Murray was able to get past Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the previous round. I find it difficult to believe that Murray is going to really want to go through the amount of pain it will take to beat Ferrer, only to face Nadal in the semifinals, less than 3 weeks before he needs to be ready for the most important month of his life in the 2012 Wimbledon and the 2012 London Olympics. Ferrer is what Brad Gilbert calls "a rough customer." I call him "the Valencian Terminator." The Valencian has not dropped a set in the tournament, and I honestly do not expect him to until he faces hit countryman in the semifinals. Mad Professah's pick: Ferrer in 3 sets.

Nicolas Almagro ESP (12) vs Rafael Nadal ESP (2) The King of Clay gets a sadistic delight over showing other clay court pretenders to the throne that they do not have what it takes to grab the mantle from him, especially if they are from Spain (or speak Spanish). All you have to do is look at Nadal's 6-2 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Argentina's Juan Monaco if you doubt that. Monaco is a decent clay court player, having won a clay court title this year and is starting to develop into a threat on other surfaces as well. Almagro has already won two clay court titles in 2012 but has never even won a set on clay against Nadal in 5 meetings on the surface, including the last time the two met, which was at this stage of the 2010 French Open. I don't expect the streak of Nadal's 7 victories in as many matches in their career head-to-head to change, but I suspect there may possibly be a few close sets. Mad Professah's pick: Nadal in 3 sets.

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