French Open: Life's easy for Roger Federer but Rafael Nadal faces toughest test
Most players will insist that they rarely look beyond their next opponent, but if Roger Federer has studied the draw for the French Open, which starts here tomorrow, he is sure to like what he sees.
In the absence of the injured Andy Murray, one of the remaining top four players was always going to have the easier potential route to the final – and Federer is the one who has benefited. While Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are seeded to meet in the semi-finals in the top half of the draw, Federer is on course for a last-four showdown with David Ferrer, the No 4 seed.
The 31-year-old Swiss will also play against qualifiers in his first two rounds and is seeded to meet Frenchmen (Julien Benneteau, Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) in the next three at a tournament where the home players rarely do well.
Predictably enough, Federer said he would have to wait and see who comes through qualifying before assessing his first opponents. As for his potential route thereafter, the world No 3 said only that he would be facing “big players”. He added: “I don’t want to think about it. I want to focus on my game.”
Nadal, who is the outstanding favourite after winning six of the eight tournaments he has played since returning from injury, faces Germany’s Daniel Brands in the first round. Stanislas Wawrinka, Richard Gasquet, Jerzy Janowicz and Kei Nishikori are all potential threats in the Spaniard’s quarter of the draw, but his biggest problem could be the weather. Nadal thrives on heat, when the balls are flying through the air and his heavy topspin is particularly effective, but cool and wet weather is forecast for the next 10 days.
The seven-times French Open champion also has to prove that he can manage seven matches over the best of five sets in a fortnight. This is his first Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon last summer. Although he has come through a punishing schedule – his win over Federer in last Sunday’s Rome final was his 10th victory in 12 days – it remains to be seen how his knees would cope if he got drawn into some longer matches.
For the moment, though, Nadal says: “What makes me really happy is to be healthy and be competitive everywhere, every week. Roland Garros is my favourite. But I don’t play with more passion here than I did in Rome last week. I always try my best.”
French Open 2013: Best of the draw
N Djokovic (seed 1) v D Goffin
Qualifier v R Federer (2)
R Nadal (3) v D Brands
M Matosevic v D Ferrer (4)
T Berdych (5) v G Monfils
J-W Tsonga (6) v A Bedene
S Stakhovsky v R Gasquet (7)
N Mahut v J Tipsarevic (8)
S Williams (1) v A Tatishvili
S-W Hsieh v M Sharapova (2)
E Vesnina v V Azarenka (3)
A Radwanska (4) v S Peer
A Rus v S Errani (5)
L Na (6) v A Medina-Garrigues
P Kvitova (7) v A Rezai
S Voegele v H Watson
M Erakovic v E Baltacha
C Wozniacki (10) v L Robson
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