As soon as the draws for major tournaments are released, fans look ahead to which players will be competing in quarterfinals and semifinals. However, this year's French Open will feature quite a few surprises early on.
Before skipping to the final few rounds of the Grand Slam, it is important to remember that the sport is as deep as ever with talented players capable of making a run even if they are unseeded.
A year ago, No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych was defeated in the first round by Gael Monfils. Even Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer each went down in the first two rounds of Wimbledon in 2013, showing that no one is invincible.
While Nadal has been almost flawless at Roland Garros in his career, there are other seeded players who should be wary of an exit in the first two rounds. Here are the biggest stars likely to go down before Round 3.
No. 16 Tommy Haas
At 36 years old, Tommy Haas continues to get it done while going deep in difficult tournaments. He enters the French Open as the No. 16 seed after going all the way to the quarterfinals last year.
The problem is that he has been a bit inconsistent this year. For every time he is able to pull off an upset over someone like Stanislas Wawrinka, he loses a match he shouldn't. This season alone, Haas has four losses to players ranked 100 or lower in the world at the time of the match.
Additionally, injuries continue to be a problem as Haas has been forced to retire from three tournaments this season. Christopher Clarey of The New York Times joked about this problem after the latest tournament in Rome:
Tommy Haas must truly love #tennis because his body keeps giving him reasons to put an end to the relationship— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 16, 2014
In the opening rounds at Roland Garros, Haas will face some tough competition, including 23-year-old Federico Delbonis. The Argentine star is going for his second clay title of the year in Nice and has plenty of momentum heading into this Grand Slam.
If he makes it to the second round, he has what it takes to defeat the aging Haas.
No. 12 Richard Gasquet
Like Haas, Richard Gasquet has dealt with various injuries recently. However, the French star will also have to deal with a difficult draw right out of the gate.
The Roland Garros Twitter account noted his first-round matchup against Bernard Tomic is one of the more interesting battles in the tournament:
Plenty of must-watch 1R matches being pulled out now: Gasquet vs. Tomic, Dimitrov vs. Karlovic and Tsonga vs. Roger-Vasselin #RG14— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) May 23, 2014
Meanwhile, things do not get any easier with two top-50 players waiting in the next round as Lleyton Hewitt takes on Carlos Berlocq. Analyst Matt Zemek notes that either player is capable of advancing out of this grouping:
A huge chance for the Hewitt-Berlocq winner (being opposite Gasquet-Tomic) to collect a round-of-16 paycheck.— Matt Zemek (@mzemek) May 23, 2014
Even if Gasquet were completely healthy, it would still be extremely difficult to make it out of this draw. With back issues, things get even tougher.
The home crowd will help the popular player early on, but making it through to Round 3 might be a stretch.
No. 10 John Isner
John Isner continues to improve his game, moving into the top 10 heading into this tournament. Unfortunately, he has never been comfortable playing on clay.
According to ATPWorldTour.com, the American only has a 49.3 winning percentage on clay compared to 63.9 percent on other surfaces. This season he is just 3-4 on the surface, with the latest loss coming in Nice, France. As Erik Gudris of Adjusting the Net pointed out, this was not a good sign going forward:
Delbonis defeats Isner 64 57 76(6) in Nice. Not so encouraging clay court swing for top American entering Paris. @OpenNCA— Erik Gudris (@ATNtennis) May 22, 2014
Still, Isner remains confident about his play as long as the weather is good. During his run in Madrid, he explained to Kate Flory of ATPWorldTour.com:
Clay does suit my game very well. I’ve had some very good results on clay and I’ve had some results that haven’t been so good. Sometimes it’s a bit of a slower surface. I think more than that, it bounces up high, which I like because I’m so big. When it’s warm and sunny, like it is today, it actually plays pretty fast and the ball bounces up high. That was the case today and I took advantage of it.
The problem is he has had more poor results than good ones. Heading into Roland Garros, it is easy to be skeptical about the veteran's ability to make shots when he needs to make them.
Isner should have a relatively easy opening match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, but the winner of Nicolas Mahut vs. Mikhail Kukushkin could create some serious problems in Round 2.
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