French Open men's seed report
With a near-perfect record at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal is favored to win
Gilles Simon opens against Ryan Harrison in a classic youth vs. experience match
U.S.'s Brian Baker, who upset Gael Monfils at a tuneup in Nice, could be a factor
SI.com's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's seeds at the 2012 French Open. Read on for the top first-round matchups, dark horses and winners predictions. Click here for the women's report.
1. Novak Djokovic: A French Open title would seal the under-discussed and underappreciated Novak Slam -- or the Non-Calendar Year Slam™ (and yes, it's a trademarked term) of four straight majors, a feat neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal ever achieved. But Djokovic has cooled off a bit in 2012 and the burden is now on him to prove he can beat Nadal on red clay. Would hardly be a surprise if he won, but Nadal is your favorite.
2. Rafael Nadal: Forget the seeding. How do you pick against a player whose career record at Roland Garros is 45-1; who brought his usual spring trench warfare to bear this year; and, most significant, who has beaten Djokovic in two tuneups? Magic Eight-Ball says: "I envision trophy biting."
3. Roger Federer: We've said that a lot has to go right for Federer to win another major. But a lot CAN go right. His play on Madrid's smurf turf suggests there's still magic in the wand. Remember the last time Djokovic lost at a major? It was to Federer in Paris. Djokovic and Nadal are the alpha dogs. Federer -- again positioned in Djokovic's half -- is the beta dog. Everyone else is considerably further down the alphabet.
4. Andy Murray: The good news is that he's still at No. 4 and has beaten Djokovic in 2012. The bad news is that his results have slipped since Australia, the addition of coach Ivan Lendl paying only modest dividends thus far. Murray still lacks offensive punch at times, and is still prone to the I-just-ate-rancid-sushi expressions and body language. Though we're still squarely in the "Murray will win a Slam one day" camp, it's unlikely to come here.
5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Like so many players, his worst results at any major have come in Paris, his home Slam. Such a fun, charming player, his breakthrough is eagerly awaited. But we're getting impatient. And speaking of impatience, too often that characterizes Tsonga's game -- a death knell, especially on clay.
6. David Ferrer: The hardest-working man in show biz deserves more admiration and acclaim. He can bring his peerless stamina to bear at this event. He benefits from five sets. He benefits from extreme conditions. But his record at the French is surprisingly modest. Will he tire himself out in early rounds?
7. Tomas Berdych: It's a frustrating hobby, Berd-watching. Lots of talent, but simply too often he Czechs out mentally. Has become a potent player in rounds 1-4; then lacks the self-belief.
8. Janko Tipsarevic: Credit Tipsy for this later-career surge, an inspiration for other veterans who feel stuck in middle management. But he's not a threat to win majors.
9. Juan Martin del Potro: Perhaps the best bet after the Big Four (and the only active male outside the Big Three to win a major since 2005). Delpo can beat anyone, especially on clay, especially with that sawed-off forehand of his. But lately, like a less abrasive version of Berdych, he tends to vanish in big matches, never having quite recovered the self-belief he betrayed in 2009. The location of his head/confidence will determine a lot.
10. John Isner: America's best hope. The rare Yank who doesn't regard clay as quicksand, Isner has already beaten Federer and Gilles Simon on the granules this year. (Plus he is the last man to take two sets off Nadal in Paris.) Alas, he comes in with middling results in the tuneups.
11. Gilles Simon: This is Occam's razor applied to tennis, the simplest game possible, no wasted movement or emotions. Fun to watch. Alas, all that defense does not lend itself to deep runs in majors.
12. Nicolas Almagro: One of those industrious types who could have settled into journeyman status but decided that wouldn't be sufficient. A beguiling mix of flash -- especially off the backhand -- and a grinder, especially on clay. If you're looking for a surprise semifinalist, you could do worse.
13. Juan Monaco: If we were to account for surface strength and recent form, The Principality would be a top 10 seed. Won't win, but a player to watch. If a No. 14 seed can be a dark horse, here's your guy.
14. Fernando Verdasco: Scored a big win over Nadal in Madrid, which ought to fire him with confidence. But Verdasco's recent track record at Slams is cause for concern.
15. Feliciano Lopez: The rare Spaniard who's better on grass than clay. His career record in Paris? 5-11. Next ...
16. Alexandr Dolgopolov: The Dog (see: Gilbert, Brad) hasn't done much barking lately. But this generation's Miloslav Mecir is an economical player who makes you work to beat him.
17. Richard Gasquet: The fragile psyche + home Slam = underwhelming results. But he's always worth watching.
19. Milos Raonic: Can he channel his Isner and make clay work for him? And he can't complain about this draw.
20. Marcel Granollers: Perhaps the best player you've never heard of. Granollers on the granules? Could make a nice run.
21. Marin Cilic: Sadly, the former junior champ has been underachieving for years. He can play spoiler.
22. Andreas Seppi: The Jack McBrayer look-alike is quietly moving up the charts.
Brian Baker: After Baker beat Monfils, this has morphed from a pleasant, feel-good comeback story to "Sacre blue, this guy could actually be a factor."
Pablo Andujar: Casablanca winner is the kind of player seeds want to avoid.
David Nalbandian: Respect to a veteran. Speaking of ...
Tommy Haas: Respect to a veteran. Speaking of ...
Juan Carlos Ferrero: Has it really been nine years since he won the title?
Grigor Dimitrov: Lot of growing pains for "baby Fed" (a cursed nickname) but he is in the top 75 now.
Andy Roddick: If only to assess the state of his game/body/motivation.
Leonardo Mayer: Big-game Argentine.
Brian Baker vs. Xavier Malisse: Winnable match for American comeback kid.
Gilles Simon vs. Ryan Harrison: Classic youth-vs.-experience matchup.
Andy Roddick vs. Nicolas Mahut: Good chance for Frenchman to exact some revenge on U.S. player at a Slam.
Donald Young vs. Grigor Dimitrov: Battle of yet-to-be-fulfilled potential -- for the right, fittingly, to play Gasquet.
None. Hard to see any top 16 seed failing to advance to Round 2.
Bob and Mike Bryan
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic v. Roger Federer; David Ferrer v. Rafael Nadal
Finals: Djokovic v. Nadal