Obstacles aplenty for Nadal in Paris

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
10:51
AM ET
Here are a few things to look out for as the week progresses at the French Open:

A tired Nadal


Rafael Nadal has never lost at the French Open, but this is his toughest draw to date. He could meet a struggling but experienced former No. 1 (Lleyton Hewitt) in the third round, an excellent clay-court player and former world No. 4 in the fourth round (David Ferrer), either Fernando Verdasco (who is having a breakthrough season) or Nikolay Davydenko (a former semifinalist) in the quarterfinals, and then Andy Murray, one of the game's most talented and resourceful players, in the semifinals. Last year, Nadal didn't lose a set and stomped Roger Federer in the final. This year, he is less rested after a taxing week in Madrid and must face stiffer competition. Will we finally see Nadal struggle in Paris?

Untested Federer


Unlike Nadal, Federer is looking at one of the best French Open draws of his career, at least until the semifinals. Andy Roddick, who has never reached the second week in Paris, is the highest-ranked player in Federer's quarter. Gael Monfils, another possible quarterfinal opponent, has an injured knee. Federer fans shouldn't be concerned about an early upset. Rather, the question is, will Federer be ready for Djokovic when the time comes? He won't face many challenges until then.

An upset?


Lucie Safarova has struggled in the past year, but the Czech lefty is a dangerous player. Look for her to give Venus Williams some trouble.

Clay queen


Since Justine Henin retired, the women's game has not had a dominant clay-courter. With a little time and luck, Carla Suarez Navarro, who reached the third round Wednesday, could become that player. The 20-year-old Spaniard has incredible speed and the prettiest one-handed backhand in the game now that Henin is gone.

WTA's future


Michelle Larcher De Brito, the shrieking 16-year-old from Portugal, is through to the third round in her first major tournament and could meet top seed Dinara Safina in the fourth round. For the struggling WTA, the future can't come soon enough.

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