French Open 2012: Taking Stock Of The Men's Draw After 2.5 Rounds

How has the men's draw taken shape as the first week of the 2012 French Open comes to a close?

A few times throughout their coverage of the first week of the French Open, ESPN has put up a helpful graphic showing you the top remaining seeds in each quadrant of the men's and women's draw. To summarize the first week of action, I thought I would use the same approach.

We'll look at the men Saturday, the women Sunday. As has become rather customary on the men's side of the draw, with such big names at the top, we did not see many huge upsets in the first week. The top nine seeds are still alive in the draw, as are 11 of the top 13. As we see in March Madness and every other tournament, early-round upsets are exciting, but the lack of upsets typically makes for more heavyweight slugfests in the later rounds. I never root against underdogs, but there is certainly a benefit to most of them falling as expected.

Men's Group 1 (Through Three Rounds)

Top Four Remaining Players:
No. 1 Novak Djokovic
No. 5 Jo-Wilifried Tsonga
No. 18 Stanislas Wawrinka
No. 22 Andreas Seppi

The top halves of both the men's and women's draws have finished three rounds to date, while the bottom halves will finish up this weekend. The four names you see here are the only four remaining in Group 1. Novak Djokovic was challenged at least a little bit, extended to a tie-breaker in his first set of the tournament and winning two 6-4 sets in the second round, but he has still mostly cruised. France's own Jo-Willie Tsonga, however, has struggled at times; he dropped a set in both of his first two matches, but he has continued to advance. He will play Switzerland's second-best player (behind some guy named Federer) in the fourth round; the two have met just once on clay: Wawrinka upset Tsonga in the second round last year at Roland Garros. Tsonga is clearly vulnerable, but the 27-year-old has played quite well in 2012. Meanwhile, Djokovic and Seppi have played three times on clay; Djokovic did drop a set to Seppi in Belgrade in 2009, but he has still dominated the series.

Men's Group 2 (Through Three Rounds)

Top Four Remaining Players:
No. 3 Roger Federer
No. 7 Tomas Berdych
No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro
David Goffin

As a whole, clay most likely qualifies as Roger Federer's worst surface, though he has certainly had the misfortune of peaking at the same time as perhaps the best clay-court player of all-time, Rafael Nadal. Still, Federer had to do some extra work in the tournament's first week, dropping a set in both the second (to Adrian Ungur) and third (Nicolas Mahut) rounds. In theory, he shouldn't struggle much with David Goffin, a 21-year-old from Belgium who currently weighs in at No. 109 in the world. Should he advance, he will face a ferocious hitter in the quarterfinals. Tomas Berdych beat South Africa's Kevin Anderson in five sets in what the announcers repeatedly called "big man tennis" on Friday. His slugfest versus Juan Martin del Potro should feature the "big" adjective quite a bit as well. The two might be the biggest hitters on the tour and should produce some grueling rallies. Since the draw was revealed, people have been saying that Federer's quadrant was the toughest of the tournament, and this is why.

Men's Group 3 (Through Two Rounds)

Top Four Remaining Players:
No. 4 Andy Murray
No. 6 David Ferrer
No. 17 Richard Gasquet
No. 20 Marcel Granoliers

About an hour into his second-round match versus Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, it looked like Andy Murray was dead in the water. The back injury about which he tamped down concerns before the tournament had him walking around the court like a 70-year-old former rugby player. He pulled himself together and advanced, and he was perhaps done a favor by the fact that No. 25 Bernard Tomic, a heavy hitter, was upset by Santiago Giraldo. If Murray does get by Giraldo in the third round, however, he could face any one of a number of marathon men: David Ferrer is as fit as almost anybody on the tour, and players like Tommy Haas and Richard Gasquet can go into Grind Mode, as well. Federer's quadrant may be the toughest, but with his physical issues, one has to assume Murray is the least likely of the top four seeds to advance to the semifinals.

Men's Group 4 (Through Two Rounds)

Top Four Remaining Players:
No. 2 Rafael Nadal
No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic
No. 12 Nicolas Almagro
No. 13 Juan Monaco

It would be unfair to say that Rafael Nadal has an easy road to the semifinals. Assuming he advances past Argentina's Eduardo Schwank in the third round, he would face either Argentina's Juan Monaco (owner of two clay court titles in 2012) or up-and-comer Milos Raonic, who hasn't dropped a set in two matches. And in the fourth round, he could face countryman Nicolas Almagro, who has fared as well as almost anybody against Nadal on clay; in their last two matches, Almagro has won one set and taken two others to tie-breakers. Still, it bears mentioning that a) any road for Nadal at the French Open is pretty easy, and b) considering his complete domination of the second highest-ranked player in his quadrant (in seven full sets against Janko Tipsarevic, Nadal has lost a total of 12 games), one has to figure he has the easiest of the four roads. Generally speaking, the top seven men's players are a level above everybody else, and Nadal drew No. 8.

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Matches To Watch On Saturday:

  • Men's 3rd Round: No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. Eduardo Schwank. Because sometimes watching complete domination is as fun as watching a close match.
  • Women's 3rd Round: No. 2 Maria Sharapova vs. No. 28 Shuai Peng. Because Sharapova has looked completely and totally untouchable through two matches.
  • Men's 3rd Round: No. 17 Richard Gasquet vs. Tommy Haas. Because the 34-year old Haas still sometimes has some juice in his legs.
  • Women's 3rd Round: No. 7 Na Li vs. Christina McHale. Because McHale will be attempting to give the U.S. another interesting, young player to watch in the tournament's second week. (And all she has to do is defeat the defending champion!)
  • Men's 3rd Round: No. 13 Juan Monaco vs. No. 19 Milos Raonic. Because it's fun watching the 21-year old Raonic grow from colt into full-grown horse.
  • Women's 3rd Round: No. 14 Francesca Schiavone vs. Varvara Lepchenko. Because Lepchenko has looked as good as any American this week.
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