This week’s submission deadline is Sunday morning, May 25, 4am (EST) in the U.S./10am (CET) in Europe. Pay attention because the French Open starts on Sunday this year so pick your team before you go to bed Saturday night.
This is the first of three slams in the Fantasy Tennis Season and since each slam pays more than twice as much as Masters Series events, slams are by far the most important events of the season. We need eight singles players for our team so let’s pick the quarterfinalists, two players from each quarter.
French Open draw (clay, first prize: $1,384,615)
Poor Sam Querrey, he’s been showing real promise in the clay court season and now he has to play Federer in the first round. Is there anyone who can prevent Federer from getting to the quarterfinals? Mario Ancic reached the quarterfinals here two years ago but he’s 1-5 against Federer and he hasn’t gone past the third round on clay this year. Juan Monaco looks the most promising and he did take Federer to three sets in Monte Carlo on clay last year, but he hasn’t gone past the third round of a clay Masters events this year and he hasn’t beaten any highly ranked players. Thus, Federer is my first pick.
Richard Gasquet is in the bottom half of Federer’s draw but he’s been talking about needing a break from tennis so I’m not using a pick on him. Fernando Gonzalez did win two minor clay court tournaments this year but he hasn’t been past the third round here since 2003 and he withdrew from Rome with a hamstring injury.
Igor Andreev is 8-9 on clay this year but he does have victories over Mikhail Youzhny, Nicolas Almagro, and Monaco so he could well meet Stanislaw Wawrinka in the fourth round. Wawrinka is having a breakout year. He reached the final in Rome and the semifinals in Barcelona. This match is a tossup because Wawrinka is playing better this year while Andreev has a better record at the French Open. Wawrinka has never gone past the third round while Andreev has never done worse than the third round. Andreev reached the quarterfinals last year so he gets my second pick.
Nikolay Davydenko has reached the semifinals or quarterfinals here the past three years and his path to the quarterfinals looks pretty good. Juan Carlos Ferrero hasn’t gone past the third round since 2004. Gael Monfils is always dangerous but he hasn’t been past the third round of an ATP tournament this year. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his first ATP match on clay exactly two weeks ago. Davydenko is my third pick.
It might be tough to come up with a pick from the bottom half of Davydenko’s quarter. David Ferrer reached the quarterfinals three years ago but hasn’t gone past the third round since. He is 12-4 on clay this year but only 3-3 in clay Masters events. Tommy Robredo has been solid this year. He reached two quarterfinals at the clay Masters events and he’s reached the quarterfinals here the past three years. Can he get past Radek Stepanek? He’s 3-0 on clay against him so I’m guessing he can. Robredo is my fourth pick.
Novak Djokovic is the obvious choice in the bottom half of his quarter but the top half is the toughest to pick because no player sticks out. Tomas Berdych has never made it past the fourth round here and he went out in the first round last year. And he just missed five weeks due to injury. Who else is there? Marcos Baghdatis has been injured and hasn’t played a match on clay yet. Janko Tipsarevic is 4-4 on clay. Both Baghdatis and Tipsarevic beat James Blake on clay this year. See what I mean? It’ll probably come down to Baghdatis and Berdych, who can both beat Tipsarevic on clay, and since Berdych has played four clay court matches in the past two weeks, I’m going to cover my eyes, hope for the best, and make him my sixth pick.
Rafael Nadal is also the obvious choice in the bottom half of his quarter. The upper half has two very strong players in Nicolas Almagro and David Nalbandian. Almagro has beaten Nalbandian on clay twice this year but Nalbandian is the better slam player. Almagro has never made it past the second round here while Nalbandian has reached two semifinals in the past four years. I dropped out of the top 100 in the Fantasy Tennis Season standings last year because I didn’t believe in Nalbandian in the Paris Masters event, but here I am again and I still don’t believe in him. Almagro is my eight pick.
One last thing: two years ago four seeded players reached the quarterfinals and last year it was five. It’s likely to be five this year again since the top three ranked players are so strong on clay, so if you like an unseeded player, remember that at least three of them are likely to make it to the quarterfinals.
Here are my French Open picks: Federer, Andreev, Davydenko, Robredo, Berdych, Djokovic, Almagro, Nadal.