French Open: Outlook for the American Men at Roland Garros
The luck of the draw did not smile on the American men at the 2011 French Open.
Andy Roddick’s withdrawal with a shoulder injury left only No. 11 Mardy Fish and No. 24 Sam Querrey as the seeded Americans in the draw.
Michael Russell, John Isner, Ryan Sweeting, Tim Smyszek, Robert Kendrick and Alex Bogomolov Jr. are the other Americans in the draw.
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Isner has the worst draw of all. The 39th-ranked player in the world has advanced to at least the third round in five of his last six Grand Slams, but the 6’9" former Georgia Bulldog will play defending champion Rafael Nadal in the opening round.
Many would argue that draws like this scream for complete seeding and not just the top 32. Maybe 64 seeds or split the difference and at least go up to 40 or 48 seeded players.
Isner has played Nadal twice, taking only one set. This will be their first meeting at a Grand Slam.
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As the 10th-seeded player, Mardy Fish should reach the fourth round. He opens the second Slam of the year against Ricardo Mello of Brazil. Fish won 6-2, 6-1 in their earlier meeting this year in Delray Beach. Their only other meeting was a Mello victory in 2004.
Fish is having the best year of his career. He has risen to No. 10 in the ATP rankings and is the highest ranked American. Should Fish advance, he would likely matchup with rising Dutch star Robin Haase in the second round. A third-round match could bring 18th seed Giles Simon of France, another Frenchmen in veteran Jeremy Chardy or American Michael Russell.
If Fish lives up to his seed and unless their is a major upset, Robin Soderling should be waiting. Rafael Nadal is the top overall seed and in Fish’s quarter of the draw.
Fish has a very modest 35-32 career Grand Slam record. His run to the fourth round at last year’s US Open was his deepest ever in a Slam.
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With Roddick out, the American’s three best hopes are Fish, Isner and Querrey. As seems to be the luck of American men’s tennis these days, all three are on Rafa’s part of the draw. Querrey opens his Roland Garros fortnight against tough German veteran Philip Kohlschreiber. They have split two matches, but have not played since 2009.
Waiting for Querrey in the second round would be fiery Croatian Ivan Ljubicic. Ljubicic is best known to American tennis fans for complaining about losing to Roddick in the 2003 US Open. After the match, Ljubicic said that no one in the locker room likes Roddick and that if the match had been anywhere else, he would have won.
Should Querrey advance to the third round and reach his seed, he is likely to see Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the third round. Verdasco is the 16th seed and has advanced to the fourth round in his last four French Opens. The lefty also has a string of winning at least two Grand Slam matches in 11 of his last 12 Slam appearances.
Querrey advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, but is still looking for his first win at Roland Garros.
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Russell has a tough first-round draw. He will face off against 18th-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon. Simon has won at least two matches in eight of his last nine Grand Slam appearances. He also has nine straight Grand Slam first-round wins. The red clay will mark the first meeting between Russell and Simon.
If Russell pulls the upset, Jeremy Chardy would likely be waiting in the second round. A second straight upset would put Russell into the third round to face compatriot Fish.
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Sweeting has what seems like a favorable draw. The world’s 70th-ranked player will play the Andreas Haider-Maurer from Austria in the first round. It will be their first meeting. If Sweeting advances to the second round, it will tie his career best at a Grand Slam after doing so at the Australian Open this year.
A first-round win will give Sweeting a matchup against Ukrainian star Alexandr Dolgopolov or former Australian Open finalist Rainier Schuttler. Sweeting has a favorable draw to make an unexpected run. A second-round upset would place Sweeting into the third round to likely play Viktor Troici of Serbia. Andy Murray would likely end the Cinderella run in the fourth round.
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Tim Smyczek will be playing in his first Grand Slam after defeating fellow American enigma Donald Young in a qualifying tournament for the wild card from the United States.
Any win for Smyczek would have to be considered a success. He will face Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina in the first round. Chela has advanced to the third round of a Grand Slam eight times. A first-round upset would mean a likely second-round meeting with the No. 32 seed, Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
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Kendrick is another American with a tough draw. The 32-year-old Kendrick has never advanced past the second round in a Slam.
His first-round match is against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, the 30th seed. This will be their first meeting. A first-round upset would likely mean a second-round meeting with tough German veteran Tommy Haas.
If he somehow has an unprecedented run in him, expect that run to end at the best in the third round against the sixth seed, Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
Alex Bogomolov Jr.
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Bogomolov has a very winnable first-round match against Marcel Granollers of Spain. With only one career Grand Slam victory in over 10 years on the ATP Tour, any run would likely end in the second round.
The No. 13 seed, Richard Gasquet, would be his likely opponent. Gasquet is coming off wins against Berdych and Federer in the Italian Open before losing to Nadal in the semifinals.