Tennis Expert Picks - French Open
The closest thing to a sure thing in major tennis: Rafael Nadal on the red clay at Roland Garros. He's a magnificent 38-1 for his career on that leafy campus and is looking for his sixth title in seven years.
But, swifter than most folks saw it coming, Novak Djokovic has closed the gap. He had lost each of his nine of his clay-court encounters with Rafa, but in the finals of Madrid and Rome, Djokovic dispatched Nadal in straight sets.
Whose game will reign supreme in Paris? Our ESPN and ESPN.com professional pundits are genuinely torn.
"Djoker is playing with incredible confidence," said the irrepressible Brad Gilbert. "Hard to pick against him."
Gilbert, as his all-black attire suggests, is a man to be taken seriously. In fact, the former coach of Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray is sitting in a tie for second place after the Australian Open. Gilbert misfired with his choice of Nadal to win, but correctly tabbed Fernando Verdasco as the early exit and Stanislas Wawrinka as the sleeper.
Gilbert has reversed his field and is picking Djokovic to win in Paris, joined by Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver. Five experts, nonetheless, back Rafa as the title winner. Our intrepid Kamakshi Tandon made the retro choice of Roger Federer.
The standings at the one-quarter pole: McEnroe (4), Gilbert and Greg Garber (3), Shriver, Tandon, Ravi Ubha, Matt Wilansky (2), Darren Cahill and Mary Joe Fernandez (1).
All of the above had Kim Clijsters as the winner Down Under, but there is no great consensus for this year's women's champion. While the underplayed Clijsters is still the general consensus, despite missing more than a month with an ankle injury, there are no fewer than four different choices to win it all.