French Open 2011 Draw: 10 Underrated Players Seeded Way Too Low
The French Open draw has been announced, and like every year, players promise us fans they are only looking at the first round, even though they have played out a million different possibilities for how the bracket might unfold in their head.
While players size up their draw, we debate which players were seeded too high or too low and even why some players weren't seeded at all.
The Grand Slam tournaments are not decided on like the NCAA. There is no selection committee to vote on the 32 best at large teams or a computer program to calculate the BCS. There is however, a little bit of wiggle room that is awarded to the competition committee at their discretion.
Here are the 10 players who either should have been seeded higher or are players to keep an eye on as the tournament gets underway.
Dmitry Tursunov: Ranked 75th
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From the early spring of 2006 to the late fall of 2009, Dimitry Tursunov was consistently ranked between a high of 20 and low of 39. Never higher, never lower.
An electric shot maker from the baseline, Tursunov scared higher seeds because of his potential to pull the upset, although rarely did he advance past his pegged ranking. Tursunov only made it through to the third round at the Grand Slams, except at Wimbledon, where he reached the fourth round.
Still, Tursunov had the game and fitness to knock off any major contender. During the fall of 2009, his fortune began to change. Plagued with an ankle injury, Tursunov's play suffered.
Unable to move with ease, a major staple of Tursunov's game, the Russian began to slide down the rankings. In early 2010, Tursunov attempted to correct his injury through surgery, further causing his ranking to drop during his absence from the courts.
Attempting a comeback before he was ready, Tursunov continued to labor through the season. His ranking plummeted, bottoming out at 718 late last fall. Since then however, Tursunov has made a steady rise in the world rankings.
Helped by winning two challengers which has boosted his confidence, Tursunov has climbed back into the top 100.
While he has a long ways to go before he regains the form that made him a regular in the Grand Slam seeding list, no one wants to draw the tenacious Tursunov in the early rounds.
A good showing here, and his ranking will only continue its upward trend.
Lleyton Hewitt: Ranked 64
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Hewitt's traditionally grueling schedule has slowed to a crawl with Hewitt playing only in four tournaments, going 4-4 and reaching the quarterfinals in two.
Without a notable victory to judge him by, the jury is still out on Hewitt as to whether he has anything (including desire) left.
However, if past experiences are any indication, Hewitt is still a dangerous unseeded player and given his favorable draw, the Aussie could advance to the third, possibly fourth round.
Potito Starace: Ranked 42nd
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Potito Starace is having himself a career year. One of Italy's best players, Starace is a clay court specialist to keep your eye on.
Already he has beaten five top 50 players, including three in the top 25: Viktor Troicki (15th), Alexandr Dolgopolov (20th) and Gilles Simon (23rd).
Just two weeks ago, Starace posted one of his best showings at a Master's Series Event, making the round of 16 before bowing out to Andy Murray.
Exuding confidence and playing on his favorite surface, Potito should be a handful in the opening rounds.
With a qualifier to start and a weak seed, Florian Mayer, in the second round, a third-round matchup with Nicolas Almagro is not out of the question.
Anything beyond that is unlikely, but beating a seed would be another strong outing for Starace and show he is ready to be moved up the rankings.
Tommy Haas: Unranked
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Look out, Roland Garros. After 14 months off to recuperate from right hip and right shoulder surgeries, Tommy Haas is back!
Given a medical exemption to compete in the French Open, if Haas is fully recovered and fit, he could be a dangerous wildcard in the tournament. In doubles action just over a month ago, Haas looked active and relatively sharp.
If he can play with the same energy and produce the same shot making he is known for, the French Open could be a springboard for Haas to relaunch his "third ATP tour career" as he is calling it.
One player who will not be happy about the return of Haas is Thomas Berdych, who is the sixth seed in Haas' draw.
The last two matches between them have gone five grueling sets each, and although Berdych owns the head-to-head series 2-1, you can bet that he hopes Haas loses before a potential third-round matchup.
Either way, however Haas fares at Roland Garros, he can only climb in the rankings from here.
John Isner: Ranked 39th
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The big American with the bigger serve wasn't able to catch even the smallest of breaks. As the 39th-ranked player in the world, Isner missed getting a seed by only seven spots.
Had he won one of two third-set tie breaks against either Sergiy Stakhovsky at the Madrid Masters series or Ivo Karlovic in Houston (he lost the tiebreak 11-9), Isner probably would have secured enough points to earn a seed. Instead, Isner gets Rafael Nadal in the first round.
At least he will have plenty of tape on Nadal to prepare with. Unfortunately Isner will almost certainly be one and done in Paris, however this doesn't mean he isn't worthy of a higher ranking.
As the summer wears on and the season moves to grass and hard courts, look out for Isner who should be knocking on the door to the top 20 in no time.
Nikolay Davydenko: Seeded 28th
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Nikolay Davydenko started the year in his traditional strong and consistent form reaching the finals of the tournament in Doha before losing to Roger Federer. Suddenly though, after Doha, everything fell apart.
The steady Davydenko was surprisingly bounced in the first round of the Australian Open and five of the next seven tournaments he played in. Such poor results were unusual for Davydenko and had many questioning whether he had finally run out of gas.
After a strong showing in Barcelona and winning the tournament in Munich, it looks like Davydenko might have something left in the tank and is on his way back to top form after all.
The win secured his seeding for the French Open but if Davydenko has returned to his usual high level of play then the 28th seed is far too low.
A two-time semifinalist in Paris, Davydenko is as comfortable on clay as any surface. In fact his results at Roland Garros are his best of any Grand Slam.
Unfortunately for Davydenko, his early-season stumbles cost him a chance to avoid one of the top players.
If he hopes to make a return to the final four, he must go through Nadal in the third round, a highly unlikely prospect even for the talented Daydenko.
Feliciano Lopez: Ranked 41st
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The theme of this series seems to be that if you don't get one of those top 32 seeds you wind up royally screwed. Welcome to Feliciano Lopez's world; his first-round matchup? A date with Roger Federer, a guy he is 0-7 against.
Of course, Lopez has already been robbed by not receiving a top 32 ranking. Leaving the Spaniard off the seeding list is one of the worst oversights in recent memory.
Lopez has only beaten 11 top 50 players (it's only May) and five of his last six losses have come at the hands of Djokovic (no one has beaten him this year...seriously), Nadal twice (I'd say an excusable loss), Roger Federer (only the best ever to play the game) and David Ferrer (again not a bad sign).
Sure, Lopez is being punished for his slow start to the season, but recently he has turned it on going gangbusters through the field.
Lopez was a finalist at Belgrade a quarterfinalist in Barcelona and reached the round of 16 at the Master's Series Madrid.
None of that matters now, but Lopez should take solace. With great challenge comes great opportunity. If Lopez were to defeat Federer and roll through the draw, do you think he'll be left off the seeding list next year?
No doubt a tall order, let's see what the Spaniard is made of.
Juan Monaco: Ranked 38th
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Juan Monaco is currently ranked 38th in the world, six ranking spots from being awarded a seed.
So far this year, he's already beaten four top 50 players, including Sergiy Stakhovsky (36th), Andrey Golubev (44th), Gael Monfils (10th) and Andreas Seppi (50th). All of them were victims to Monaco's masterly clay court game.
His reward? A first round matchup with 16th-seed Fernando Verdasco. Certainly a daunting task, Monaco should feel more than up for the challenge given his 6-2 head-to-head record with Verdasco (including 6-1 on clay).
So why is the Argentine not the ranked player heading into their first-round clash? Well, Verdasco has beaten five top 50 opponents and reached two finals. Not bad, but it seems like Monaco may be just as deserving.
Should Monaco dispatch Verdasco yet again, his rankings will surely climb and maybe he and Verdasco's fortunes will be reversed.
Juan Martin Del Potro: Seeded 25th
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Del Potro is a top five player in the world. Easy. The only players that are hotter than him this year are Nadal and Djokovic, the world's reigning No. 1 and a guy who has yet to lose a match all season.
Think about that. Del Potro is off to a better start than Federer. At 27-6, the only reason he isn't seeded higher (and presumably seeded in the top 10) is because there haven't been enough tournaments for him to rip through. Del Potro already won in Delray Beach and then later on clay in Estoril Portugal.
He's got the all court game to beat anyone on any surface the only question now is with his horrendous draw, can he prove his mettle? Can he show the world that he is for real? Can he beat Novak Djokovic?
Because of the low seed, Del Potro and Djokovic are on a collision course for maybe the most highly anticipated third-round matchup of all time.
A win and Del Potro cements his legacy as one of the game's best (and keeps Djokovic from breaking McEnroe's record for the best start to a season).
If Delpo can't top Djokovic on the red clay in Paris, he won't need much longer to crack back into the top five.
Novak Djokovic: Seeded Second
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At what point does the No. 2 seed no longer do Djokovic justice? Nadal is clearly deserving of the No. 1 seed at this point. No doubt about that. He's won the event five of the six times he's entered.
Nobody is challenging that Nadal is not worthy of the one seed... at least not yet. If Djokovic does unseat Nadal in Paris (an almost unfathomable event six weeks ago), for how much longer can we agree Nadal is the world's best player.
If Djokovic wins, the French he will surpass John McEnroe for the longest consecutive win streak, which currently sits at 42 straight matches.
As McEnroe himself has said, given today's depth and talent of men's tennis (notably Nadal and Federer), Djokovic's streak might already be more impressive. He's already beat Nadal four times and Federer three on route to seven titles.
Nadal is still the defending champion and No. 1 player in the world. But after losing four straight to Djokovic this year, are his days numbered at the top spot?