Half a week into the 2016 French Open, and it’s quite possible to be clear about who the eight male quarter-finalists could be. However, Roland Garros this year made news even before it began. For the first time in 17 years, since 1999, Roger Federer pulled out of a Grand Slam event. Perhaps it was poetic that it had to be in Paris – the Slam he has only conquered once, and fallen to Rafael Nadalso many times. It’s the one that almost eluded him, but in 2009, Federer too became one of Paris’ own.
Without Federer at a Slam, of course, it is never the same. He has the record of appearing in most consecutive slams in the Open Era, one which is likely to not be broken for decades, unless machines start playing the game.
But the show must go on. And on, it is. With the second round already underway, there have been no major upsets as yet, with Andy Murray – who began as one of the favorites after conquering Rome – stretched to five sets twice by journeymen. One doesn’t know what the matter is with Murray, who only recently split with coach Amelie Mauresmo, went on a hot streak on clay, only to be jolted down to earth in the first few days in Paris. Importantly, he’s still around. He will face giant Ivo Karlovic in the third round, who himself is coming off a marathon match.
Here’s a look at the four quarters, and the possible final-8 line-up:
Topic is over at Novak Djokovic in the first half of this quarter. He could face Borna Coric or Bernard Tomic in the fourth round, but it shouldn’t be a problem for him. He could face either Spaniard David Ferrer – who is almost always around in the quarterfinal of every event – or the equally consistent Tomas Berdych. Their fourth-round match will likely give Djokovic his opponent.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic v/s David Ferrer
Rafael Nadal is on the path to immortality again. He will avoid Djokovic till the semifinal, and only faces perhaps the hurdle of Dominic Theim till his fourth round. He has an easy draw, and Federer’s exit bumped Nadal up to being seeded four, which seems to have cleared his path to the last four. However, in his path, is the mercurial Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga, who almost always hits his best stride in these two weeks. He has defeated Federer here in the years prior, and when he is on “Tsong”, there is nobody who can get past him on any surface. Tsonga may have to defeat the talented Ernest Gulbus on the way to his quarterfinal with Nadal.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal v/s Tsonga
Canadian Milos Raonic has already reached the third round, and he looks good to even get past Jack Sock in the fourth round. His rival in the bottom half will be defending champion Stan Wawrinka, who almost crashed out in the first round, but now seems to be merrily on his way to perhaps cause yet another heartbreak for Djokovic or Murray or Nadal. Many will never forget his back-hand masterclass in the 2015 final, where he destroyed Djokovic’s dream of winning the Golden Slam. Raonic won’t be an easy one to overcome, but he will fancy his chances on the slow clay of Paris.
Prediction: Wawrinka v/s Raonic
This is the quarter of death. Almost every second-hand contender is in it. Kei Nishikori could face either Nick Kyrgios or Richard Gasquet in the fourth round. Andy Murray could face John Isner in his fourth round, and once he stabilizes after a torrid start to his tournament, he will not look forward to Nishikori or Kyrgios, both of who are the only people who can break into the top four and cause an upset at a major.
Prediction: Nishikori v/s Murray