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(The good thing about sporting events -- tennis tournaments included -- is that someone has to win. We bring this up because we can't remember the last time a big event was this wide open. Literally any of 30 men, most from Argentina or Spain, could win this thing. We just want to acknowledge this up front.)

1. Lleyton Hewitt: As always, his outsized heart and foot speed make him a threat. But the world No. 1 hasn't played a lot of clay matches this spring, which means his third-rounder against Tommy Robredo could be a redux of his match last year with Guillermo Cañas. Hewitt ought to be tremendous on clay (he has consistent strokes, superb stamina, blinding speed and is generally patient), but his record at Roland Garros is pretty mediocre.

2. Andre Agassi: On one side of the ledger -- Agassi has won here before, he rolled through the field in the last major, he won't be distracted by the mixed-doubles tomfoolery, he has a new source of motivation, and stamina is never an issue. On the other side -- he's played even fewer clay-court matches this year than Hewitt, he has not been particularly successful in Paris since 1999, and he looked his age in his most recent outing.

3. Juan Carlos Ferrero: Assuming his arm is healthy, he has an excellent chance to win his first major. Our choice, if only by process of elimination.

4. Carlos Moya: Since an impressive run to win Barcelona, he has turned in mediocre results, dropping four matches on clay in May. Granted, the last two were in World Team Cup competition, but still.

5. Roger Federer: After several solid wins in recent weeks, berths on the Federer Express are filling up again. The Fed was a first-round loser here last year and still hasn't had a good showing at a major, but his game has been sharp of late and his draw is softer than Dirk Nowitzki's defense.

6. Andy Roddick: Has made improvements but is still finding his way on clay. A lot of tricky players in his portion of the draw (including veteran Sargis Sargsian right off the bat), but he is capable of beating all comers until he meets Ferrero.

7. Guillermo Coria: Has quietly played exceptional tennis since his suspension ended. Even if he didn't have a mockery of a draw he would be a strong contender.

8. David Nalbandian: The fear that Nalbandian the Andean was this decade's answer to Chris Lewis has abated. Too bad he is in the nastiest quarter of the draw.

9. Albert Costa: Defending champ is, de facto, a contender. But he hasn't been particularly effective this year and his draw is brutal.

10. Paradorn Srichaphan: Don't be surprised if his wildly uneven results continue in Paris. Thai stick hits a big ball but is still too impatient, a sin that is amplified on clay.

11. Rainer Schuettler: Has kept a low profile since his run to the Australian final, but his "poor man's Hewitt" game would appear well-suited to clay.

12. Sjeng Schalken: Hard, flat game is ill-suited for clay, and his unremarkable history at Roland Garros confirms as much.

13. Jiri Novak: Tends to live up to his seeding -- nothing more, nothing less.

14. Sebastien Grosjean: Fleet-footed Frenchman has a good shot at fourth round, but we have a hard time seeing him beating Ferrero.

15. Gustavo Kuerten: Recent clay results have been exceedingly disappointing, but his history here speaks for itself.

16. Alex Corretja: Best days are behind him, even if he is on his favorite surface.

LOWER SEEDS WORTH WATCHING
(i.e., all of them -- this being men's tennis, which, for better or worse, is to parity what boxing is to corruption)

17. Yevgeny Kafelnikov: Resurgent Y-Man isn't a threat to repeat his feat of 1996. But he's a guy no higher seed wants to face (provided he feels like trying that day).

18. Agustin Calleri: Serious sleeper potential. Circle and asterisk this Argentine pony on your daily racing form.

19. Fernando Gonzalez: Fun to watch, which is code for: He's as likely to make a deep run as he is to implode in his first match against Jan-Michael Gambill. Like Srichaphan, he could stand to develop some offspeed pitches to leaven all that heat.

20. Felix Mantilla: Hadn't done much for a while, but suddenly he has to be considered a real sleeper after running the table in Rome.

21. Gaston Gaudio: We'd label him a sleeper, except that his quadrant includes Hewitt, Tommy Robredo, Kuerten, Costa, Calleri and Nalbandian.

22. Wayne Ferreira: His role as tennis' Norma Rae hasn't adversely impacted his tennis. Still, it's hard to see him playing past his seeding.

23. Younes El Aynaoui: You wonder if the loss to Roddick in Australia and the gag against Hewitt in the desert hasn't sapped his confidence a bit. Might be due for a nice showing.

24. James Blake: Big Game James is easy to root for, but he experiences major surface tension on clay.

25. Tim Henman: Their Tim hasn't played much this year and is no one's clay-court impresario. But he sure can't complain about his draw.

26. Xavier Malisse: First-team all-headcase has the talent and ability to give Agassi fits in Round 3. So, too, does he have the ability to flame out to the qualifier he faces in his opener.

27. Mikhail Youzhny: So we lied. Here's one guy who has struggled mightily the last two months and could drop his opener to Spaniard David Sanchez.

28. Tommy Robredo: Former junior champ can rally with the best of them, and his deficit of power doesn't hurt him as much on clay.

29. Vince Spadea: One of the few Americans who knows his way around a clay court. Plus, let's acknowledge Vince for reclaiming his game. That he is seeded at a Grand Slam event after a stay outside the top 100 is commendable.

30. Jarkko Nieminen: Still looking for a breakthrough at a Slam. But he unquestionably is talented.

31. Juan Ignacio Chela: Yet another South American worth watching.

32. Arnaud Clément: Speedy Frenchman is always dangerous, though we wish he were better at closing big matches.

DARKHORSE NATION

David Sanchez
David Ferrer
Olivier Rochus
Fabrice Santoro
Feliciano Lopez

FIRST-ROUND MATCHES TO WATCH

Richard Gasquet vs. Nicolas Lapentti: Next grand thing against dirtballing veteran.

Michael Chang vs. Fabrice Santoro: See the 1989 champ for the last time in Paris.

Nieminen vs. Nicolas Escudé: Pretty evenly matched players. Two shotmakers with a nice contrast in styles.

Dominik Hrbaty vs. Srichaphan: The Dominator's best days are behind him, but he is a former semifinalist here.

Taylor Dent vs. Blake: Oh, wait. The match is on clay. Never mind.

PREDICTIONS

Semifinals: Calleri vs. Ferrero, Federer vs. Coria
Final: Ferrero vs. Coria
Champion: Ferrero



Well I for one am expecting to see those faces in the SF as well. Just Calleri I don't know well enough.
I think Wertheim made some quite valid points this time. What's your take?
 

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WOW, he actually predicted Agustin to reach the semis.:eek:

I'm surprised he even knew about the talented Argentine and it's about time everyone else did.:)
I'm still predicting Roger to win this.
 

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I always think journalists overplay the huge number of potential contenders for Roland Garros. True, it's probably more open than all the other Slams, but I'd say there are still less than a dozen players who actually have a shot at winning it. Even in clay-court tennis there is a clear hierarchy, and the likes of Ferrero, Costa and Moya are still heavily favoured over, for instance, Calleri, Gaudio and Chela, to take three of their Argentinian counterparts.

As for his semi-final predictions, I reckon Calleri's big-hitting game is too erratic for him to reach the semis, and as well as he is playing I just don't see Coria having enough weapons to take care of Agassi if they meet in the quarters. Barring the upset of the decade Ferrero is a shoe-in for the semis, and the bottom line: yes, he'll probably emerge the winner.
 
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