With upsets dominating the women’s side in 2011, it has been the men generating the star power. The top four men’s seeds advanced the to semifinals. With Rafael Nadal,Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray arriving at semifinal Friday, the 2011 French Open will be memorable. Those four were also the top seeds in 2010. Only Nadal advanced past the quarterfinals. Federer and Djokovic were eliminated in the quarterfinals and Murray was ousted in the fourth round.
This is the most anticipated semifinals in Paris since Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Gael Monfils advanced to the Final Four on the Red Clay in 2008. The last time the four top seeds advanced to the semifinals of a Grand Slam was also in Paris, in 2006. That foursome was Federer, Nadal, Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian. This year definitely has more cache than the 2006 semis.
Nadal, Murray, Djokovic and Federer have combined for 27 grand slam titles and 13 slam runners-up. It has arguably two of the four best players ever.
There are four distinct story lines to watch.
Rafael Nadal is attempting to win his sixth French Open title in the last seven years. A title in 2011 will tie Bjorn Borg for the most French titles in the Open era. Nadal and Djokovic are also fighting for the top of the ATP tour. At this point in his career, Nadal is chasing more than an attempt to hold on to the No. 1 ranking. With nine career grand slam titles at only 25 years old, Nadal has a chance to make a run at Federer’s record of 16 career grand slam titles.
Andy Murray is still looking for his first career grand slam title. He has been the runner-up at three of the last 10 Grand Slams. This is a good opportunity for him to sneak up and win a major. With Wimbledon looming in a few weeks, the pressure for Murray to win will be much greater in London.
Nadal owns a 10-4 career record against Murray, including a 3-2 edge head to head at the Slams.
Novak Djokovic has started the season 41-0 and has 43 consecutive wins dating back to the end of the 2010 season. Three more victories will tie Guillermo Vilas’ record set in 1977. If he defeats Federer in the semifinals he will ascend to the ATP's number one ranking.
Roger Federer is regarded as the greatest player ever. His 16 grand slam titles and 23 consecutive grand slam quarterfinal appearances and too many other ATP records to count are a testament to his dominance. He has at current streak of eight consecutive years with a Grand Slam Title (2003-2010). That streak appears to be in serious jeopardy this year.
Many are doubting if he can return to greatness, even if just for one tournament. Fed has gone five consecutive Grand Slam tournaments without even a finals appearance since winning the 2010 Australian Open.
Federer and Djokovic have faced off 22 times. Federer has won 13 of those meetings, but Djokovic has won the last three. Federer has a 4-3 advantage in grand slam meetings, but Djokovic has also won their last two grand slam meetings. He knocked Federer out of the the last two Grand Slams in the semifinals. The 2011 Australian Open and the 2010 US Open.
These semifinal match-ups will be cherished by tennis fans everywhere. The top four seeds surviving to the semis has happened only twice in a slam in the last 20 years. Neither of those occasions had the star power that the 2011 French Open has. History will likely say this was the greatest collection of players to make it this far in a Grand Slam ever.