2017 Men’s French Open Tennis: Can Anyone Prevent “La Decima”?

La Decima – The meaning of “Tenth” in Spanish. Soccer fans, especially Real Madrid fans, are familiar with these two words as their club recently won a 10th Champions League Title (the biggest title in European soccer).

However, Rafael Nadal may bring new meaning to these words to the tennis world. Ironically, Rafael Nadal is an honorary member of Real Madrid. He looks to make “La Decima” his own by winning his 10th French Open. While he has not won the French Open since 2014, let’s take a look at his recent results and the other contenders.

This year, Rafael Nadal is 13-1 on clay (Lost to Dominic Thiem in Italy). He has won Monte Carlo and Barcelona. While this may not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed tennis since 2004, the only startling statistic is that he only beat one top 10 player on clay so far. He bested #9 Dominic Theim of Austria 6-1 6-4 on the 30th of April. Nadal is 4-3 against playing a Top 10 player in the world. Gael Monfils (Was #7, now #16) and Milos Raonic. His early rounds will be “boring” if you aren’t a Nadal fan because of how quintessential his game is. However, with his recent injury problems, later rounds going best 3 out of 5 sets may give the other players in the draw some hope.

While Nadal seems to be the favorite to win. There are several players that may get the way of his coveted tenth French Open title. Here are the most likely candidates looking to prevent history from being made.

The Top Class

Andy Murray, World #1. While that ranking may mean he is the “best in the World”, he is only 16-7 this year and has only won one title (Dubai). Since his loss to #2 Novak Djokovic in Qatar in January, he is 11-4 with no wins against any Top 10 player. In fact, the highest ranked player he has beaten this season since Qatar is #15 Lucas Pouille. We know Andy can produce positive results, as he has won 3 Grand Slams and made the French Open final last year. However, with his nagging injury problems, it would be a surprise to see him in the final. Look for a great match-up in the third round with Juan Martin Del Potro!

Novak Djokovic, World #2 and defending French Open Champion. Since his only title this season in Qatar, he is 20-6 and has yet to beat a top 15 player since. With new injury problems forcing him out of recent tournaments, grinding it out on the clay may be tough to do for several rounds. Now that he’s wearing Lacoste, perhaps the crocodile will give him some French inspiration to defend his title! The Fourth round will be his first real test against Lucas Pouille, a  young Frenchmen on the rise!

Stan Wawrinka, World #3 and 2015 French Open Champion. While his record of 20-8 is almost parallel with Murray, he has 1 title this season in Geneva on clay. Tennis fans know that for some reason, Stan can never play his 100% best until it’s a Grand Slam. It’s why people think Murray is worlds better than him but their par in Grand Slam titles, with Wawrinka actually having won a French. We look for him to have a very successful tournament. Would love to see 3rd round against Fabio Fognini!

The Other Guys

#5 Milos Raonic. Injury problems have kept him from reaching his full potential so far this season, until recently. He heads into Roland Garros with a 19-6 record. He has reached two finals this year, withdrawing against #15 Jack Sock in Delray Beach and losing a close two set match on clay to #7 Marin Cilic in Istanbul. His serve, forehand, and great movement for a big guy will keep him in most matches. If he can make it, a fourth round battle vs Dimitrov could be an exciting match.

#6 Dominic Thiem. The youngest top 10 player and most active. He is 29-12 with a lone title this season that he won in Rio. He made it to the Semifinals last year at Roland Garros, and is on pace for a similar result this season if he continues to grow as a player. He is Rafael Nadal’s lone loss on clay this year so look for him to make an impact in the draw. A semifinal appearance could be in the cards.

#7 Marin Cilic. He has a clay court championship this year which puts him above most of the playing field. Similar to Raonic, his forehand, flat backhand and big serve will keep him in a lot of matches. However, it’s tougher for him against a top five opponent to keep his movement and point construction fluid.

#8 Kei Nishikori. Since Brisbane in January, he has no wins over any top 25 players. Injury problems, which seems to be a big thing for these top 8 players, has taken a toll on Nishikori’s season. Maybe he can piece it all together and stay healthy for a deep run at Roland Garros. His best result at the French is the Quarterfinals in 2015. His backhand is something that any tennis player wishes they could hit just for a set, along with his “Brick Wall” mentality.

#9 Alexander “Sasha” Zverev of Germany who is the youngest player in the top 25 (20 years old) and won Munich this year on clay. His down the line backhand and big inside out forehand, accompanied with his 140mph serve, will always make for a difficult match for his opponent. Some experts thought Zverev would be a legitimate threat to win the title. However, he went out in the first round to former top ten player Fernando Verdasco.

Impact Players

#10 David Goffin. He made it to last year’s Quarterfinals and has had mixed results on clay this season. He beat Thiem and Djokovic in Monte Carlo but lost to #42 Karen Khachanov (20 years old) of Russia in Barcelona in the Round of 16. His touch game, paired with his ability to place the ball and slice will make him formidable against a top 10 player on clay.

#11 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria who made the Semifinals of the Australian Open this year. The next “Federer” to some of the media because of his backhand and mirror image on other strokes, he has failed to make a Grand Slam final at the age of 25.

#12 Jo Wilfried Tsonga of France who has made two French Open Semifinal appearances in 2013 and 2015. So far he has not lived up to the “Next Great French Hero” as he has only made one Grand Slam Final (Australian Open 2009). However, he’s always a fun player to watch as his movement is quick and his strokes are strong.

#18 Nick  Kyrgios of Australia is the second player in history to beat Djokovic, Nadal and Federer in their initial meetings. His mentality can push him to the heights of a Grand Slam champion but it can also hold him back from beating a top 50 player.

#29 Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina who won the Silver Medal at last years Olympics in Rio looks to make a splash. His big hitting game is something that no player wants to face early on in the tournament.

Bouncy House Candidates

These players can produce wonderful results against big time players but could also drop out within the first three rounds of any Grand Slam. Regardless, they always provide a match to see as their game or personality is intriguing.

#21 John Isner of America. “Mr. Serve” should be his nickname. He and #23 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia serve their way into some great matches and out of some pressure situations. If you want to see a masterclass serving display, look no further than these two players. On the other hand, don’t expect much else of a match unless these two completely revitalize their backhands to compete against the top five in a best of five sets.

#24 Richard Gasquet of France. Had his deepest French Open run last year into the Quarterfinals. His one-hander dazzles all viewers of his game but not having a win over a top 50 player on clay so far provides some concern for his fans.

#28 Fabio Fognini of Italy. He has the power and game to win against Tsonga, Nishikori and oust Andy Murray in straight sets on Clay this year. However, he is also capable of losing against non top 150 players. He went a full 3 sets in Madrid vs Nadal.

At this year’s French Open, look for several players to make some noise and potentially even beat out the top players. Check out the Vegas odds below and enjoy the tournament!

Nadal 4:5
Djokovic 3:1
Wawrinka 10:1
Murray 11:1
Alex Zverev 11:1
Thiem 11:1
Nishikori 33:1
Del Potro 40:1
Goffin 50:1
Tsonga 50:1
Kyrgios 50:1
Cilic 66:1
Monfils 66:1
Raonic 66:1
Dimitrov 66:1
Steve Johnson 750:1

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