Big names going down before French starts

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
10:22
AM ET


5. What impact will the withdrawals have?



The chances of a Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer final in Paris increased fivefold when Juan Martin del Potro and Nikolay Davydenko officially withdrew Friday due to wrist injuries. We knew del Potro was out following surgery, but Davydenko's status was less known.

What a shame.

Del Potro is no fluke and figured to be a major contender, if healthy, at Roland Garros this season. Recall that the soft-spoken Argentine led Federer two sets to one in their semifinal in 2009. The Swiss was a tad fortunate to prevail, although, yes, one could say the same about del Potro at Flushing Meadows. His big serve and ground strokes translate on any surface, with bigger guys having more and more success on dirt.





Is an in-form Davydenko a serious threat? Given his mental fragility in important Grand Slam matches, probably not. (He should have won both his French Open semifinals, and two Aussie Open quarterfinals versus Federer). However, the Russian might have stretched Federer or Nadal, possibly wearing one out. "Mr. Personality," a media darling in Melbourne, will be much missed by the press corps.

And don't forget, two dark horses won't be competing -- Tommy Haas (hip) and Igor Andreev (ankle). Haas will forever be tied to Federer following the latter's escape that paved the way to glory in 2009, while Andreev, as streaky as he is, is a handful for anyone, including Federer, on his day. Andreev reached the quarterfinals in 2007 and downed a young Nadal on clay five years ago.

Kim Clijsters' withdrawal, thanks to a foot injury, means even fewer contenders in the women's draw and probably rules out an all-Belgian final. (Yanina Wickmayer is questionable with an elbow injury, and clay isn't her best surface.) The fans in Paris can give the comeback love to Justine Henin.

German slugger Sabine Lisicki -- the Charleston winner in 2009 -- can't stay healthy enough to crack the top 10, an ankle injury (another one) her undoing this time.

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