The announcing of the draw for a Grand Slam tennis tournament is one of the best parts of the whole experience. Everything and everyone is at 0-0. It's untouched, no scores, no numbers. Just history waiting to be written.
Yesterday morning the draws for the 2011 French Open were announced, and as is the case every year, no one really has any idea what to expect.
Rafael Nadal has always been the clear favorite at Roland Garros, and it is well deserved. He has won five of the last six times. That being said, one could argue that the best player coming in is scorching hot Novak Djokovic, who is 37-0 this year and 4-0 against Nadal.
In addition, Nadal has a very difficult first round opponent in American, John Isner. However, Isner is more of a hard-court or grass-court player and Nadal should be able to win that first-round match.
The now seemingly forgotten man is third-seeded Roger Federer, who has not been too successful in the latter stages of grand slams recently. Federer starts off against Feliciano Lopez, who is a pretty good clay-court player, and has really played good tennis in the last year. It wouldn't be too shocking to see a first-round exit for the 29-year-old Federer.
The top-seeded American player for the tournament isn't Andy Roddick or John Isner. It is 10th-seeded Mardy Fish, who really got onto the scene in the summer of 2010, but has kept up his high level of tennis. Fish will play Ricardo Mello in the first round and should be the favorite to get up to the round of 16.
American tennis fans shouldn't bank on Fish to make a splash (pun intended) in Roland Garros, which is primarily a tournament dominated by French and Spanish athletes, and less so by their United States counterparts.
Even though there isn't a great chance for an American victory, local fans can still root for the underdog. If you're one of those fans that likes to pick an upset to have a good run, your best bet would be 26th-ranked Canadian, Milos Raonic, who recently went to the round of 16 in Australia.
Other decent players in the draw that are up and coming include Lukas Rosol from the Czech Republic. Also, Somdev Devvarman from India has stepped up his game in the past year and is poised for a good run. Devvarman is one of those players that takes you out of your game by simply hitting the ball back to you. The opposite of this is the hard-hitting Australian youngster, Bernard Tomic, who many consider to be a top prospect once he can settle some of his behavioral issues.
Overall there should be some great matches even in just the first round. Here is just a short list of five matches that you can't miss during this opening weekend.
Kevin Anderson (32) vs. Nicolas Mahut
Kevin Anderson has really worked his way up the rankings to get to No. 32, and this suggests he is widening his game from just being the big lanky server that couldn't keep up with some of the faster players.
Mahut will be back at the French Open for the first time since his epic match with John Isner. This match could be interesting since Anderson has a similar game to Isner, and when these two collide, who knows how many hours we might be watching this?
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. John Isner
John Isner is a tough first-round opponent for Nadal. Even though we all fully expect Nadal to be able to counter the tough serve of Isner, it should still be a highly entertaining first-round affair.
Ivo Karlovic vs. Juan Martin Del Potro (25)
Del Potro has suffered a ton of injuries since winning the U.S. Open in 2009; however, he is back but has a tough first-round match with Dr. Ivo. These are two huge servers; the more athletic player should win.
Dustin Brown vs. Leonardo Mayer
Although both are unseeded, they possess great speed and agility. Although Mayer has already made a splash when he made it to the third round last year, many tennis fans believe that it is only a matter of time before Dustin Brown becomes relevant.
Kei Nishikori vs. Yen-Hsun Lu
Kei Nishikori will one day be a top five player. Past injuries have sidelined him, but there is little in the way of Nishikori becoming one of the best players in the planet with his speed and strength. He will face off against Lu, who made it to the quarters of Wimbledon last year.
Overall, this tournament should really give tennis the answer to the many questions regarding the hierarchy of the top tennis players. Is Federer really fading into irrelevance? Is this 37-0 streak by Novak just a fluke so to speak? Does Nadal have the ability to continue his dominance of the clay courts?
All we can do is speculate right now. We can look at the draw and see 128 names; no one is winning, and no one is losing...yet.