The draw for the 2009 edition of the French Open, that oh-so-elusive major for many a Grand Slam champion of the past, was announced Friday in Paris.
As expected, and quite rightly so, much of the attention on the men's side circles around the Big Four - Nadal, Federer, Murray, and Djokovic.
Here's a look at how the draw looks:
Rafa opens his campaign for a fifth consecutive title against qualifier Marcos Daniel of Brazil.
Nadal does have a tricky third round proposition in Hewitt or Karlovic possibly, but the Spaniard should not face any issues at all until at least the fourth round, where, if the seedings are justified, he will meet fellow Spaniard and clay courter, David Ferrer.
Ferrer does have some wins against Nadal (3-7 record), but only one of his three wins were on clay and that came way back in 2004 when Nadal was barely beginning to become Nadal.
Should Nadal navigate through that, and he should, he would likely meet another Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, Russian Nikolay Davydenko, or Stanislas Wawrinka. The only one of the three that could pose any kind of threat to Nadal is Verdasco in present form.
Pick for the top quarter: I'd be crazy to go against the world's no. 1! Rafa over Verdasco in four sets!
The second quarter of the draw is the most open, and features Andy Murray and Gilles Simon. There are several dangerous players in this group, including Murray's first round opponent, clay courter Juan Ignacio Chela (Chela though is not who he once was and is in the declining stages of his career). Also in this group are Feliciano Lopez, Marin Cilic, Fernando Gonzalez, and Mikhail Youzhny.
Pick for this quarter of the draw: This is a hard one, but I am going against seeding here and picking home-court favorite Gilles Simon, over Radek Stepanek in five sets!
Although this quarter of the draw has some not-so-unfamiliar names such as Marcos Baghdatis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Tommy Robredo, given the results of the clay court tournaments this year, it would be hard to see anybody else besides Djokovic and Del Potro emerge from this quarter.
Pick from this quarter: Djokovic over Del Potro in four!
Roger Federer does have a tricky draw here - clay courters Alberto Martin and Jose Acasuso in the first and second rounds, respectively. Should he clear these hurdles, he could face Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in the third round and James Blake or Tomas Berdych in the fourth round.
His quarterful opponent is seeded to be Andy Roddick or Gael Monfils, but it is hard to see either the American or the Frenchman make it that far, the former for obvious reasons and the latter due to a painful left knee. In fact, Monfils may even pull out at the last minute, according to recent reports.
Pick from this quarter: Federer over Jurgen Melzer (though I would give Roddick a slight chance to be the opponent here given a favorable draw) in straight sets!
Nadal over Simon - No contest - straight sets!
Federer over Djokovic - A slug fest - five sets!
Go to the official website of the French Open, and just in case you weren't aware, look up the results for the last three finals - Nadal in a slightly better contested four sets!