Thursday, June 6, 2013

Roland Garros Semifinals; What's at stake?

Ever since the draw came out almost two weeks ago, everybody in the tennis world has been looking forward to what's going to happen on Friday. Now, with the way that the quarterfinals went, each player is going to be fully charged for what will be the most important day of men's tennis of the 2013 season. Normally, this day comes on a final Sunday, but this year, there is so much at stake at the Roland Garros semifinals that this is the most important day. So here is a look at what is at stake for each player.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: It has been 30 years since France has had a winner at their slam, when Yannick Noah defeated Mats Wilander in 1983. Just for Tsonga to reach the final would mean so much to tennis in France, and he most likely will never get a better chance. Tsonga is around the same age as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, so they are going to be dominating the game for as long as he is still competing at a top level. It seems impossible that Tsonga will ever have a scenario again where Djokovic and Nadal are on the same half of the draw, and he is on the opposite. Ever since the beginning of the big four's dominance of the sport, the criteria for anyone else to reach a slam final has been to defeat two of the Big Four. Tomas Berdych had to defeat Roger Federer and Djokovic to reach the Wimbledon final, and no other player outside of the Big Four have reached a grand slam final since. Now, Tsonga has an opportunity to reach the final at Roland Garros with only one win over a player in the big four. If he were to lose on Friday, it would be a huge missed opportunity.

David Ferrer: For Ferrer, it would be an even bigger missed opportunity. He hasn't had to face anyone in the Big Four yet, and he gets to play someone he has a winning record against to reach the final. This is Ferrer's sixth appearance in a grand slam semifinal, and his fourth in the last five slams. In each of the previous semifinal matches, he has lost to Djokovic, Nadal, and Andy Murray. This is not only the first semifinal he has played against a lower ranked opponent, but it also comes on his most successful surface. Ferrer couldn't have asked for an easier draw, and with Tsonga taking out Federer for him, this will be his best opportunity so far to reach a major final for the first time in his career.

Rafael Nadal: In Nadal's case, there are no career firsts to be accomplished in Paris. He has done it all, winning the title seven times at Roland Garros. He has never come back from down two sets to love at Roland Garros, so maybe he will lose a couple sets to Djokovic to give himself a challenge and an opportunity to do something different. However, as far as ranking goes, there is plenty at stake for Nadal. Even though the Spaniard can only possibly go down in ranking even if he wins the tournament, there is a lot to gain. Currently, Nadal is the No. 1 ranked player in the Race Rankings, which means he has been the best player since the start of 2013 and is leading the race to finish No. 1 at the end of the year. Winning Friday is the only way to guarantee that he will remain atop the Race Rankings. If Nadal falls behind Djokovic in Race Rankings at the end of the week, it will be almost impossible for Nadal to regain No. 1 this year, since there are no big clay tournaments left in 2013. If Nadal returns to world No. 1, he will only have to hold onto the ranking for eight weeks to pass Bjorn Borg and move into sixth place for most weeks spent as world No. 1.

Novak Djokovic: Friday will be Djokovic's biggest test in his path for the Roland Garros 2013 title, which would be his seventh and complete the career grand slam. With the passing of his first coach Jelena Gencic, this title will mean even more to him. If Djokovic can win his next two matches, he will cement his spot as one of the all-time greats in tennis. However, if Djokovic does lose on Friday, he will have other chances to win the title. What is immediately at stake for Djokovic is ranking. After Roland Garros, Nadal will be like a charging bull in terms of rankings as he challenges Djokovic for the top ranking. Djokovic has a good head start against Nadal of 5415 points, but he has four titles to defend before the end of the year. However, even if Djokovic holds onto the No. 1 ranking at the end of 2013, he is almost guarenteed to be passed by Nadal in Melbourne, if he doesn't have a considerable lead at the start of the tournament. Friday, is Djokovic's last real chance to gain a significant amount of points in his lead over Nadal before the bull is let loose.

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