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French Open 2014 Draw: Bracket and Predictions for Clay Grand Slam

Defending champion Spain's Rafael Nadal smiles during a training session for the French Open tennis tournament, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Friday, May 23, 2014. The French Open tennis championship will start Sunday. (AP Photo/Bertrand Combaldieu)
Bertrand Combaldieu/Associated Press
Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIMay 23, 2014

Rafael Nadal will head into the 2014 French Open as the defending champion, and given his past successes at Roland Garros, one would think that he'll enjoy similar success again this time around.

But, not so fast.

The deep field of competitors makes it almost certain that we'll see a few upsets along the way. Nadal, the top seed, might find it difficult to get past some of the lower-seeded players—even if he is clearly the better player. As we've seen in the past, a player can perform fantastically against the best competition before falling back to earth later on.

Nadal, who has won eight of the last nine tournaments, will need to step it up if he wants to make it nine out of 10.

The Spaniard will have all eyes on him while he's on the red clay at Roland Garros in his quest for his fifth straight French Open title. But what else should we watch for? Here are a few predictions for the tournament. You'll want to tune in to see if they're accurate.

 

Seedings 

French Open 2014: Men's Seeds
SeedPlayerNationality
1.Rafael NadalESP
2.Novak DjokovicSRB
3.Stanislas WawrinkaSUI
4.Roger FedererSUI
5.David FerrerESP
6.Tomas BerdychCZE
7.Andy MurrayGBR
8.Milos RaonicCAN
9.Kei NishikoriJPN
10.John IsnerUSA
11.Grigor DimitrovBUL
12.Richard GasquetFRA
13.Jo-Wilfried TsongaFRA
14.Fabio FogniniITA
15.Mikhail YouzhnyRUS
16.Tommy HaasGER
17.Tommy RobredoESP
18.Ernests GulbisLAT
19.Kevin AndersonRSA
20.Alexandr DolgopolovUKR
21.Nicolas AlmagroESP
22.Jerzy JanowiczPOL
23.Gael MonfilsFRA
24.Fernando VerdascoESP
25.Marin CilicCRO
26.Feliciano LopezESP
27.Roberto Bautista AgutESP
28.Philipp KohlschreiberGER
29.Gilles SimonFRA
30.Vasek PospisilCAN
31.Dmitry TursunovRUS
32.Andreas SeppiITA
RolandGarros.com

 

Full Bracket

A full bracket is available at RolandGarros.com

 

Predictions

Kei Nishikori to the Quarterfinals

Michel Euler/Associated Press

Kei Nishikori will turn some heads at Roland Garros. The Japanese star has shown the ability to play on clay in the past, and he should be considered a dark-horse threat to the top seeds in the tournament.

The Madrid Open earlier this month showed just how strong he plays against top opponents. He competed against Nadal in the final, and before he was forced to retire in the third set with a back injury, Nishikori was on the verge of defeating the odds-on favorite.

Christopher Clarey of The New York Times tweeted that Nishikori's back injury should be a thing of the past when the French Open starts:

This is just one example of how well Nishikori was able to counter the fast deliveries of Nadal in the match.

Nadal is nearly unbeatable on clay, but Nishikori showed at the Madrid Open that it's possible to defeat the best player on clay in men's tennis history. In fact, Nishikori has proved quite a bit this season, via Chuin-Wei Yap of The Wall Street Journal:

It’s been a season of firsts for Nishikori. As the tennis tour swung into its European leg in April, the Florida resident – native to Japan’s southwestern Shimane prefecture – took his first ATP World Tour clay-court title at Barcelona. Then there was his first Masters final against Nadal at Madrid on May 11. The following day, Nishikori became the first Japanese man to enter the tour’s Top 10. Bleacher pundits are adding Nishikori’s name to a squadron of young guns, including Dimitrov and the Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, who are laying siege to a decade-long hegemony in men’s tennis ruled by Messrs. Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Federer and Murray.

Given his recent successes, I like Nishikori to advance past the early competition and earn a spot in the quarterfinals. His best performance at Roland Garros came last season when he made it to Round 4. I wouldn't be surprised if he improves on that finish this year.

 

Stanislas Wawrinka Will be Defeated Early

Bertrand Combaldieu/Associated Press

Stanislas Wawrinka is one of the better up-and-coming stars in men's tennis, but several flaws in his game won't do him any favors at Roland Garros.

For one, the Swiss is notorious for making an uncanny amount of unforced errors. He made 40 of them on May 15 against Tommy Haas. Wawrinka told the Agence France-Presse in Rome that the loss was because of a lack of intensity on his part, via the South China Morning Post:

It was difficult to give the intensity. I know my back, I just need some rest – maybe two days is enough – but I’m not worried about it.

I played because I wanted to try. It was not easy to put all energy onto my game. I won the first set even if I was not playing my best.

Even though, I still thought I had a chance to win it. He was more aggressive in the second set and was doing more things on the court.

Haas' aggressive strategy had Wawrinka on his toes the entire match, and that's something that the Swiss' competition in the French Open should have taken note of.

When he's on, Wawrinka can compete with the best tennis players in the world. But he's often hit or miss. He'll have days like he had against Haas, but he'll also have days like he had against Nadal in the Australian Open.

Wawrinka's most recent experience on clay against Haas was not a reassuring one. I don't think he'll advance past Round 3.

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