French Open 2012: Will Any Outsider Disturb the Top 4 at Roland Garros?
The ATP Tour seems to be top-heavy at this time. The top four are enjoying their position without any threat from the other players on their tour.
The last two Grand Slams (2012 Australian Open and 2011 US Open) have seen the four occupying the available positions on the men's draw.
It was the same situation during the 2011 French Open as well. As the clay court season starts, the question on everyone's mind is whether we will see anyone different spoil the party of the top four at Roland Garros 2012?
The question is who might it be, based on the last three years' performance? Looking at the party-poopers in the earlier Grand Slam tournaments, names that come up are quite interesting to note.
Conspicuous by his absence in this list is Robin Soderling, who has spoilt the record of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros (2009). Out of action due to mononucleosis, Soderling withdrew from the 2012 Australian Open, and it is not likely that he will play at Roland Garros.
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Tsonga has been regularly consistent on the tour in recent months. He has shown that he has the right game to trouble the Fab Four.
Other than the two semifinal appearances thanks to the upset wins, Tsonga has not progressed beyond the last eight in the Grand Slams.
His form on the red clay has not been great, but one cannot leave Tsonga from the list of contenders.
Juan Martin Del Potro
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Juan Martin Del Potro is ranked 11th in the world as of the latest standings—another player who has the potential to go higher in the rankings.
Del Potro had his Grand Slam high at the 2009 US Open when he defeated Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer back-to-back to win the tournament.
But his performances after the success have been marred by injuries and inconsistent form, resulting in a not-so-great ranking.
A semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2009, Del Potro has the game and form to repeat it this year.
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David Ferrer has been consistent in the ATP rankings, and the clay soil will give him enough hopes to upset the top four.
Ferrer upset Nadal in the 2011 Australian Open, but other than this he has been only as far as the round of 16 in Grand Slams.
Ferrer has already won two clay-court titles in 2012 and has shown enough indications that he will make a big dent to the lineup that is expected by the pundits.
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Ranked seventh, Tomas Berdych has grown in stature over the last 12 months.
Having defeated Andy Murray in 2010 at the French Open, Berdych will be eager to repeat this trick once again.
Reaching the 2010 Wimbledon finals was a high for Berdych but he will be the first to admit that he has not been able to scale similar success again.
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Jurgen Melzer is ranked No. 21 as of the latest ATP rankings.
The Austrian reached the semifinals in 2010 at Roland Garros by beating Novak Djokovic before being defeated by eventual winner Rafael Nadal.
Melzer has the potential to make the impact on red clay that will take his game to the next level.
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Wawrinka might be ranked No. 28 in the current rankings, but he has shown enough spark in recent years to pose difficult questions to the top players.
If he has a lucky draw on his side, he has the game to create an upset or two—like he did when he defeated Andy Murray in 2010 at the US Open quarterfinals.
He has reached the semifinals of the two clay-court tournaments in 2012, while he has consistently done well on the red clay of Roland Garros (round of 16 in the last two years).
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John Isner has reached the top 10 rankings for the first time in March 2012. Isner is currently very hot on the circuit, thanks to his performances on the court.
Defeating No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells, Isner has shown glimpses of his potential that can take him to the top five.
Watch out for Isner!