Excerpt from Bud Collins commentary:
No storybook ending for Nadal
Nadal's bid to be the last man standing in Paris for the second year in a row is certainly a serious one, but I just don't see a repeat for the Spanish sensation.
I can’t see anyone in Nadal's half of the draw knocking him out en route to the final, but in my gut, I feel it will be Federer waiting for him on championship Sunday. And I see the Basel Dazzle putting an end to Nadal's lengthy and super impressive clay-court winning streak.
Even though I think Lleyton Hewitt will go over every wall in Philippe Chatrier Stadium to trouble Nadal in their round-of-16 encounter, the Aussie doesn’t have enough pop from the backcourt on clay to hit through him.
I like French teen Gael Monfils' enthusiasm, and Serb teen Novak Djokovic’s weapons, but Nadal is too steady for either of them in the quarterfinals. And I view Nadal a solid bet to take his semifinal as no player in his half of the draw has the legs to run with him on clay, including fourth-seed Ivan Ljubicic, who’s really a fast-court player.
Nadal is tireless, and he was heroic in stopping Paul Henri Mathieu in nearly five hours in the third round, but there are ways to attack him.
If Federer serves well and approaches the net with the ferocity that Mathieu did, I think he’ll finally punch holes in the Spaniard’s armor.
Expecting Federer's best
The Swiss No. 1 has struggled in two of his matches this fortnight, but he almost always finds a path to weave his way to victory. His all-court game is effective everywhere, and he impressed me during the first week in Paris with how he was mentally willing to face up to every challenge.
In the quarterfinals, Federer should be able to race past Mario Ancic, who is exhausted after throwing up during his five-set win over Tommy Robredo in their round-of-16 match on Sunday.
But I expect Federer to be seriously tested in the semifinals, either by his other nemesis besides Nadal, David Nalbandian, or the Russian backboard Nicolay Davydenko.
Federer will have to show a lot of guile and patience to get through against either of those opponents, but I believe his desire to win the only Grand-Slam title that has eluded him will carry him through.
In the final, I expect Federer to play the best clay-court match of his life, combining net rushing with inventive play from the backcourt. Unlike in Rome where he let go of two match points against Nadal, this time he’ll take care of business at the closing bell.