Posted: Friday May 20, 2011 3:32PM ; Updated: Friday May 20, 2011 9:56PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>INSIDE TENNIS

French Open men's seed report

Story Highlights

The French Open is Rafael Nadal's territory, but Novak Djokovic is a co-favorite

When Juan Martin del Potro's fitness complies, he's a top-five players in the draw

Look for defending champ Nadal to defeat Djokovic in the final everyone wants

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Bedeviled by Novak Djokovic all season, Rafael Nadal (above) hopes to reaffirm his No. 1 ranking with another win in Paris.
Bedeviled by Novak Djokovic all season, Rafael Nadal (above) hopes to reaffirm his No. 1 ranking with another win in Paris.
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SI.com's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the French Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses and predictions.

Top 16 seeds

1. Rafael Nadal: He may have a "1" next to his name. He may have won this event five times since 2005. But his reign as the King of Clay is imperiled after so many losses -- including a pair on clay -- to Novak Djokovic. The great subplot of this event of course: Can Nadal defend his territory or will Djokovic complete his invasion by beating Nadal in Paris? Here's hoping we get the final we're all expecting. As for a prediction, I'm zigging where others are zagging and going with Nadal. There's the best-of-five format. There's the slower surface (relative to Rome and Madrid). There's the built-in-vacillations of a rivalry. There's 38-1 career record at Roland Garros. Win five titles and you're the favorite until proven otherwise.

2. Novak Djokovic: He's been playing rather well of late -- perhaps you've heard. And he might have been more impressive on clay than he was on hard courts, having taking down The Beast (Nadal) on multiple occasions. It would surprise no one if Djokovic won, even with a draw that likely has him playing Juan Martin del Potro in round three. Doing so would consecrate a thoroughly dominant first half of the year.

3. Roger Federer: First, the good news. He's still Roger Federer. Just two years ago, he won this event. The bad news, of course, is that he really isn't still Roger Federer, at least not the world-beater who won with the consistency of tides. Given Djokovic's current form and Nadal's track record in Paris, Federer is a distant third. If that.

4. Andy Murray: For the second straight year, he struggled woefully after reaching the Aussie Open final. Fortunately, his form is returning. In Rome he came within a few points of upending the Djokovic Express. And he sure can't complain about his draw, unlikely as he is to play a top-100 opponent until round three.

5. Robin Soderling: The Butler Bulldogs of the French Open, the Sod has reached the final two years running. Recent Paris track record speaks for itself. But otherwise not a lot of momentum heading in.

6. Tomas Berdych: Czech in and Czech out. We still don't trust him, not over the course of seven matches. A big ballstriker with tons of talent, but his progress is too often sabotaged by his shaky mental performances.

7. David Ferrer: Enfants beware! Coming off a fine performance in his previous Slam, indefatigable Spaniard is precisely the kind of opponent no one wants to face, especially not on clay. But, as ever, he lacks the serve to win. And a reminder to fans: investigate on-site childcare before attending one of his matches.

8. Jurgen Melzer: A quiet eighth seed if ever there were one. But Austrian lefty can be a tricky player, especially on clay. Plus, like Murray, he won't face a top opponent until round three.

9. Gael Monfils: A fan favorite who is always fun to watch. (And now he might be playing in Maui Jim eyewear!) Monfils can beat anyone on a given day. But he lacks the consistency, the fitness and mental fortitude to win majors.

10. Mardy Fish: First, props to Fish for a top 10 status, especially at this stage of the game. Has yet to have to a real breakthrough at a major and it's unlikely to come on clay and in such proximity to Nadal.

11. Nicolas Almagro: Have to admire anyone with the body of a middle reliever who competes at this level. Fun, expressive player -- watch him if you can. But he's not a threat to win a major.

12. Mikhail Youzhny: Always dangerous, never quite seems to get it done. Nice draw and the quarters are a possibility. But it's hard to see him winning the Djokovic-Delpo quadrant.

13. Richard Gasquet: His curve of a career is now trending up. Tons of talent -- as always -- and he's coming off a win over Federer. As always there's a question about how well he will handle the pressure of competing in front of his people. Plus a potentially tough first rounder against veteran Radek Stepanek.

14. Stan Wawrinka: Not unlike Youzhny, a dangerous lurker -- though he seems to have plateaued as 10-16 guy.

15. Viktor Troicki: Streaky Serb capable of exceptional and exceptionally lousy tennis -- sometimes within the same match. Catch him on a hot day and look out. Catch him on the wrong day and he could go out in straight sets.

16. Fernando Verdasco: Lots of false starts for a player with top-five talent. Tough first rounder against Juan Monaco.

French Open Preview
Source: SI
SI.com's Jon Wertheim sizes up the contenders and makes his picks to win at Roland Garros.

Seeds 17-32

17. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Sadly, he's become the Tracy McGrady of tennis. Tons of talent but unable to avoid the injury bug. Maybe hometown fans will give him a boost.

21. Alex Dolgopolov: Hasn't built much on Aussie Open success but future top tenner who moves well and plays the kind of efficient, no-nonsense tennis that ought to translate well to clay.

23. Thomaz Bellucci: Here's a player no one wants near him. After the Big Three, he might be the next contender.

25. Juan Martin del Potro: Assuming his body cooperates, he's among the top five players in the draw.

26. Milos Roanic: Just riding the wave.

27. Marcos Baghdatis: If everything is clicking, he's dangerous. If not, he may not survive Frederico (don't cal me Turner) Gil in round one.

Dark-horse nation

Juan Ignacio Chela: Strong chance of reaching the middle weekend.

Ernests Gulbis: On talent alone.

Albert Montanes: Lost in the Spanish Armada.

Philipp Petzschner: Like fellow German Kohlschreiber, dangerous in any given match.

First-round matches to watch

Nadal v. Isner: Between this match and the Roddick withdrawal, American tennis fans better fly their flag early.

Federer v. Feliciano Lopez: Has F-Lo recovered from their last match in Madrid?

Sam Querrey v. Philipp Kohlschreiber: A great match if this were hard courts.

Kevin Anderson v. Nicolas Mahut: Pack a lunch.

Del Potro v. Karlovic: NBA scouts take note.

Del Potro v. Djokovic: A third-rounder but worth advance advertising.

Blue-plate upset special

Juan Monaco def. Fernando Verdasco

Doubles winners

Bob and Mike Bryan: The twins are due for a Slam win, especially since they won't run into any top singles players in the dubs draw.

Semifinals

Nadal def. Total Surprise (Dolgopolov?)
Djokovic def. Federer

Champion

Nadal

Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim is co-author of the forthcoming book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games Are Won now available for pre-order.

 
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