I have Novak Djokovic beating Rafael Nadal in the final, and Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro will be the other semifinalists. I have all 16 seeds reaching the round of 16, but this is Paris, so I'm already wrong. I have two qualifiers reaching the round of 32 and Tsonga beating Gasquet.
If we were putting together the worst possible draw for Djokovic, what would it look like? For his first round opponent, it could be anyone ranked lower than 17. You would probably have to go with Kei Nishikori or Grigor Dimitrov. His second round opponent would be anyone ranked lower than nine. For Djokovic, the worst of those is John Isner. His quarterfinal opponent could be anyone ranked lower than five. This one is a close call between either of the top two Swiss men. In the semifinals, he could face anyone except Nadal. The toughest of that group is definitely Del Potro. Then for the final, the worst possible opponent would obviously be Nadal.
That worst possible draw that we made for Djokovic isn't far from what he will have to face. In the first round he gets Benoit Paire most likely, who is ranked 26 and playing in front of a home crowd. Second will almost definitely be Isner, who has beaten Djokovic twice in the last 20 months. In the quarterfinals, his next opponent will likely be Stanislas Wawrinka, who hasn't had much success against Djokovic in his career, but was able to take him to five sets twice this year. Then in the semifinals, there is a myriad of tough opponents waiting for Djokovic, if he can get that far. It could be Roger Federer, which almost seems like a best-case scenario at this point. Federer leads the head-to-head against Djokovic 16-13. He could face Tommy Haas, who beat him earlier this year in Miami. However, the most likely opponent will be Del Potro. The Tower of Tandil beat Nole in Indian Wells, took him to five sets in Wimbledon, and sent the Shanghai final between the pair to a third-set tiebreaker before Djokovic squeaked past him for the win. Then if Djokovic somehow gets through all of that, he gets Nadal, who skipped Basel last week just to make sure he was ready for Paris.
Battle for No. 1
This week represents a lot of opportunities for both Djokovic and Nadal as far as the No. 1 ranking is concerned. Nadal enters the match as the world No. 1
-Nadal is guaranteed to finish No. 1 in the world if he wins the tournament. If he just reaches the finals, he is guaranteed to remain No. 1 in the world.
-Djokovic has to reach the final just to have a chance to return to world No. 1 this week.
-If Djokovic reaches the final and Nadal fails to reach the semifinals, then Djokovic will be the world No. 1.
-If Djokovic wins the tournament and Nadal fails to reach the final, then Djokovic will be the world No. 1.
-If Djokovic beats Nadal in the final, Nadal will hold onto the No. 1 ranking by just 10 points.
Federer has always dominated the indoor hard court tournaments and this week he has a chance to play several of his most historic rivals that are still active if he gets all the way through to the final.
His first round opponent will be the winner of Mikhail Youzhny and Kevin Anderson. Federer has played Youzhny 15 times in his career, including the final in Halle. Federer has never lost to Youzhny. His second round opponent could be his good friend and doubles partner earlier this year in Halle Tommy Haas. Federer and Haas have also played 15 times with Haas only having a little more success than Youzhny with three career wins. Haas beat Federer 8-6 in the fifth set of the fourth round in the 2002 Australian Open. After that, Federer defeated Haas nine consecutive times before Haas won the 2012 Halle final.
After that, Federer could face his newest and youngest rival in Del Potro. The pair has played 17 times and Del Potro has won four. In 2009, Federer and Del Potro played in three of the slams. Federer only dropped three games when he beat Del Potro in Melbourne. Then in Paris, Federer needed five sets to defeat the Argentine. In the US Open final, Del Potro finally got his first win against Federer in five sets for his only grand slam title in his career so far. In 2012, the rivalry came back to life as they met nine times. Federer won in straight sets in the Australian Open, Rotterdam, Dubai, and Indian Wells. Then at Roland Garros, Del Potro led a two-set lead slip against Federer in the quarterfinals, which helped Federer return to world No. 1 a month later. In the London Olympics, Federer beat Del Potro for a 13th time 19-17 in the deciding set of the first of the gold medal rounds. Del Potro got a measure of revenge by beating Federer in a third set tiebreaker in the final of Federer's home town tournament before adding a win at the year-end final.
If Federer gets past Del Potro, he will have both of his two biggest rivals waiting for him. Djokovic has beaten Federer 13 times and stolen a pair of victories from the Swiss man in back-to-back US Open semifinals. In each match, Federer had two match points before Djokovic won 7-5 in the fifth set. In the final, Federer could meet Nadal. The rivalry between the two is widely considered the best rivalry in tennis history. It would be the 32nd meeting of the historic rivalry.
Philipp Kohlschreiber and Tommy Haas are the top two German tennis players and they have been following each other around for the last month. Each player has played tennis for five consecutive weeks. The Germans avoided each other in Beijing and Shanghai. When the pair went to Vienna, they were set to meet in the semifinals. Kohlschreiber was upset in the second round however by Ruben Bemelmans in a third-set tiebreaker. Haas went on to win the tournament. In Valencia this week, there was no room for upsets. As the No. 2 seed, Haas had to take on Kohlschreiber in the first round. Kohlschreiber defeated his countryman in three sets before losing to Youzhny. In Paris next week, the pair is set to meet in the second round if Kohlschreiber can get past Andreas Seppi. It would be the seventh career meeting with the series history tied at three.
Players with a one-handed backhand may be on the decline, but all of the one-handed players congregated in the same sections of the draw in Paris. The first section is Federer's eighth of the draw. Four of the six players in the section have one-handed backhands with Federer and Youzhny on top and Haas and Kohlschreiber on bottom. The other section is Wawrinka's eighth of the draw, where three of the five players have one-handed backhands. Wawrinka and Feliciano Lopez are on the top half of the section and Nicolas Almagro is on the bottom half. Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov are the other main players with one-handed backhands in the tournament. So if you ever wondered who would win a tournament where only one-handed backhands are allowed, follow the action in Wawrinka's and Federer's sections.
This pair met earlier this year in Paris to deliver quite a bit of drama and could meet for a second time in Paris if Monfils can win in the first round. Monfils won the match 7-5 in the final set after having a two-set lead disappear, when he lost both the third and fourth set in tiebreakers.
No rest for BabyFed
This will be Dimitrov's fifth consecutive week playing in a tournament. After disappointing first round losses in Beijing and Shanghai, the 22-year old won his first career title in Stockholm. Earlier in his career, success has been a precursor for failure for the Bulgarian, who struggled after reaching his first career semifinal in Queen's Club and after his first career final in Brisbane. However, Dimitrov backed up his win in Stockholm with a quarterfinal appearance at Basel, which was the second time this year he has reached a quarterfinal in a 500 event. Dimitrov will play home-favorite Michael Llodra in his first round match with Fabio Fognini waiting in the second round.
Janowicz under pressure
Poland's Jerzy Janowicz really announced himself to the tennis world when he reached the final in Paris last year. However, the issue with having a success at a tournament is that you have to defend it the points twelve months later. Janowicz is currently ranked 15 in the world, but has 600 points to defend this week and Rafael Nadal as his likely opponent for the round of 16. If Janowicz can't get passed Nadal drop as much as seven spots to exit the top 20 for the first time since he broke through at Wimbledon this year.
Federer and Nadal's streaks
Almost every top player in tennis history has had that one guy, who they beat over and over and over. For Federer and Nadal, they get to look forward to another chance to beat up on their victims. Federer has a 15-match win streak against Youzhny, who will be his second round opponent. For Nadal, it's Berdych. Since the Czech's infamous win over Nadal in Madrid, Nadal has beaten Berdych 15 times in a row. The two could meet in the semifinals, where with a win, Nadal would maintain the No. 1 ranking.
Does anyone really know where Marin Cilic has been. There was some talk that he failed a drug test, but does anybody really know? What drug did he test positive for? Was he actually just injured? I don't know of a sport that is worse about keeping track of inactive players than tennis. Who knows what's going on with Robin Soderling? In major team sports, you know exactly how long players will be gone when they get injured, you know what the injury is, and you sometimes even know what kind of training they are doing to recover. In tennis, you might notice that a player dropped out of a tournament. That's all you get to know. Anyways, Cilic is back. He will play a qualifier in the first round and Del Potro in the second round if he wins.
Frenchmen clash in battle for London
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet are set to meet in their home country in the round of 16. The series history is tied at four between the Frenchman and they are battling it out for the final spot in the year-end final. The winner of the match will go to London. If Tsonga loses, he will not go to London, but if Gasquet loses, he still has a chance depending on how Stanislas Wawrinka does.