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The Big W's seed report
French Open men's seed report
Expect big things from first-timer Rafael Nadal
Posted: Monday May 23, 2005 2:13PM; Updated: Monday May 23, 2005 2:26PM
Rafael Nadal will win the 2005 French Open, predicts SI.com's Jon Wertheim.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim peers into his crystal ball to predict how the men's and women's seeds will fare at this year's French Open. Scroll down to see the can't-miss first-round matches, some dark-horse candidates and his final predictions.
Top 16 seeds
1. Roger Federer: Looking for career Grand Slam and certainly appears ready after strong performance. It would have been nice if Rafael Nadal was on the opposite half of the draw, but their likely semifinal will determine the champion. Feels almost blasphemous to pick against Federer, but we'll put our Euros on the lefty. (See below.)
2. Andy Roddick: An argument for subjective seedings. If Roddick -- winner of one match at Roland Garros since 2001 -- survives the first week it will be an achievement. The draw gods treated him well, but this tournament is peppered with dozens of superior clay-court players.
3. Marat Safin: Doesn't exactly come in on a roll. But the defending Grand Slam champ can gather his mojo as quickly as he can lose it. He could well lose to Juan Carlos Ferrero in their Hamburg grudge match redux. He could also play lights-out tennis, drop his drawers and advance to the final. As always, stay tuned. It's never boring.
4. Rafael Nadal: Your '05 French Open champion. If the Kid can come within two points of beating Federer on hard courts, you have to like his odds on clay. Clay-court play has been so stellar this year, it's too hard to pick against him.
5. Gaston Gaudio: Can the defending champ catch lightning in a bottle again? Doubtful. We see him falling by the middle weekend.
6. Andre Agassi: Say this about the sentimental favorite: He sure can't be disappointed about his draw. Some tricky opponents -- Nicolas Kiefer, Guillermo Canas, even Igor Andreev in round two -- lurk, but Agassi could make a serious run.
7. Tim Henman: A surprise semifinalist in '04, Henman has some ability on clay. But against, say Juan Ignacio Chela in round three? It will be on to Wimbledon.
8. Guillermo Coria: Last year's disappointed runner-up, ought to win six matches again this year. Hasn't shown the ballast to beat either Federer or Nadal on the big stage, but perhaps he got his stage fright out of his system last year.
9. Guillermo "Willie" Canas: Argentine has tons of ability, especially on clay. But he went down early last year and is allegedly suffering from a cold. If he gets down early to Gael Monfils in round one, it will feel like an away Davis Cup tie.
10. David Nalbandian: Hasn't been 100 percent physically since reaching the semis in Paris last year. The game is there, the body perhaps isn't. Interesting first rounder against Marcos Baghdatis.
11. Joachim Johansson: Withdrew -- not that he was going to be factor on clay, anyway.
12. Nikolay Davydenko: The best seed you've never seen play. Russian has a smooth game and, though he's played a lot of tennis leading up, he ought to make some noise. Alas, he has the misfortune of meeting Coria in round four.
13. Ivan Ljubicic: He has cooled down considerably after an early hard-court run. Not nearly as dangerous on clay, and he has a tough first rounder against resurgent Mariano Puerta.
14. Carlos Moya: Yes, Moya is a former champion, but is there any doubt his best years are behind him? It wouldn't be terribly surprising if he loses to Alberto Martin off the bat. If he survives that, though, his draws opens for a few round before Federer looms.
15. Tommy Robredo: Star him on your draw sheet. Talented, fluid player who excels on clay and is due for a star turn. It's hard to see him taking down Coria but easy to see him advancing to the quarters.
16. Radek Stepanek: The new Jiri Novak. A steady unspectacular Czech, who can beat a lot of good players but isn't really a threat to exceed his seeding.
Seeds No. 17 to 32
17. Dominik Hrbaty: Former semifinalist is capable of terrific tennis, albeit in spurts.
20. David Ferrer: He has looked like a top-10 player for the past few months.
24. Feliciano Lopez: The talented, stylish lefty is due for a breakthrough.
25. Fernando Gonzalez: He is always dangerous, always fun to watch and never a threat to win the whole ball of wax.
30. Richard Gasquet: The French teenager has been gangbusters of late but has the profound misfortune of (likely) meeting Nadal in round three. A better draw, and he'd be around deep in the second week.
32. Juan Carlos Ferrero: The '03 champ has found his game -- and some confidence -- again. Look out.
Dark horse nation
Mariano Puerta: Shaved nearly 100 slots off his ranking already this year.
Juan Monaco: Monaco is our Giacomo. He hasn't paid off yet, but we'll continue to tip him.
Olivier Rochus: As always.
Fernando Verdasco: Roddick-buster is easily among top-20 clay-court players in draw.
Gustavo Kuerten: He comes in playing lousily, still recuperating from surgery and adjusting to a new coach. But any three-time champ (who beat Federer a year ago) has to make this list. Them's the rules.
First-round matches to watch
Alberto Martin vs. Moya
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Roddick
Gael Monfils vs. Canas
Ljubicic vs. Puerta
Todd Martin vs. ... oh no, wait ...
Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra
Federer vs. Nadal
Coria vs. Total Surprise (say, Feliciano Lopez)
Nadal vs. Coria