ESPN: 2020 French Open experts' picks: Can anyone stop Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep?

clayqueen

Talk Tennis Guru
Who will win the men's singles title?
Jerry Bembry: Djokovic. He has only won the French Open once, in 2016, but he should be inspired and focused after he was defaulted at the US Open.

Pete Bodo: I think the fates have really worked against Nadal this year, which is the big picture explanation for why Djokovic will win.

Cliff Drysdale: Daniil Medvedev is a clay-court artist and ready to pick up the pieces if Nadal implodes.

Chris Evert: Djokovic will be the winner because Nadal is a little vulnerable at this time. Djokovic is hungry for titles especially after the US Open fiasco.

Brad Gilbert: Tough call call between co-favorites Nadal and Djokovic. Slower, heavy fall conditions mean I am slightly leaning toward Djokovic -- who comes in after a victory in Rome -- to win his second French Open.

Tom Hamilton: Beware the wounded Djokovic. After his disastrous US Open, Djokovic will bounce back at Roland Garros in the uncharacteristic autumnal chill. With a favorable draw, Djokovic will knock over Nadal in the final.

D'Arcy Maine: Djokovic has won the French Open just once during his storied career, but this might just be his best chance for a second major title on clay. The world No. 1 won last week's Italian Open in convincing fashion -- dropping just one set en route to the trophy -- and he will undoubtedly be looking for redemption in Paris after his controversial exit in the fourth round in New York. With Nadal -- the 12-time Roland Garros champion -- out of form in his one tournament (in Rome) since the restart, it feels like things are aligning for Djokovic to win Grand Slam No. 18.

Patrick Mouratoglou: Djokovic, because he did not lose a match this year (I do not count his disqualification at the US Open as a loss). He is a great clay-court player, beat Nadal many times on clay, and the conditions this year are extremely difficult for Rafa -- plus he lacks competition.

Pam Shriver: Djokovic is your men's winner because his motivation following his US Open default is sky-high, and he won Rome. Nadal is not his usual Roland Garros-ready self, and no one is playing better than Djokovic right now.

Alexandra Stevenson: Everyone thinks Djokovic. I'm going with Nadal. This will tie him with Roger for 20 Grand Slams. I like his mental edge more than Djokovic. Nadal is my forever clay champion. I like the look of Dominic Thiem. It would be amazing for a double Slam.

Rennae Stubbs: Nadal, because until he's not functioning as a tennis player, he will be the favorite.


 

clayqueen

Talk Tennis Guru
They all just say what suits their agenda getting facts totally wrong regularly. I listen to football commentators and they seem to know what they are talking about.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
ESPN, feel free to give me a call. I am looking for a job.

Many of these experts are missing the slow aspect of the FO conditions and focusing only on the low bounce. The low bounce is a disadvantage to Nadal as his topspin stays in the hitting zone of his opponents instead of jumping to head-level quickly. But, the heavy, slow conditions are making it impossible to hit through his defenses which favors him. He was always the best defender on clay even in hot conditions and now, he is even better.

One of the main reasons that Nadal is dominant on clay is because he takes away the will of his opponents to keep fighting because he grinds so well and plays fantastic defense on every rally - they stop wanting to fight after a while subconsciously. I think this aspect of his game is helped by his conditions and we saw what happened to a heavy hitter like Sinner in the third set (breadstick!) after a couple of closely contested sets.

I think Djokovic will try to hit through Nadal if they play in the final as he has never had the patience to outlast Nadal on clay. Djokovic always plays more offensively than usual against Nadal on all surfaces because he knows that Nadal is a better counter-puncher than he is and so, he has to take the initiative. His serve is usually a big part of why he wins against Nadal on other surfaces. In this tournament, serves are neutralized and this favors Nadal even more. In addition, there are more longer points than usual even for clay and Nadal is winning 65% of rallies that are more than 4 shots. Even if you win 55% of all points in a match, you usually have an easy win and so, the high number of longer points being played favors Nadal also.

Based on all that, I disagree with McEnroe and Goran that the conditions favor Djokovic.
There always has been two versions of prime Djokovic particularly in Bestof5 Slams

Aggressive Baseliner who hits way more winners than opponent -2011-2012AO, 2015-1H2016
Counterpuncher who is relentless and waits for opponent‘s errors - 2012-2014, 2H2018-2020

I‘ve always believed that when Djokovic plays aggressively, he is virtually unbeatable as witnessed by him winning 4/5 Slams in his 13-month 2011 streak and 5/6 Slams in 2015-2016. It seems that now that he is older, he can’t play like that on a daily basis and he picks and chooses his spots to do so - like in the 2019AO final against Nadal. Otherwise, he played fairly passively by his own standards to win the finals of 2018W, 2018USO, 2019W and 2020 USO while losing in 6 Slam finals in similar fashion in 2012-2015 to Nadal, Murray and Wawrinka.

Today against Tsitsipas, Djokovic played conservatively again as Tsitsipas was the aggressor during baseline rallies. When Tsitsipas made errors on break points in Sets 1, 2 and 5, Novak won - he lost sets 3 and 4 when Stefanos outhit him without making errors on the big points. Tsitsipas also ran out of steam in the fifth set just like Novak outlasted Thiem in the 2020AO final. Djokovic was great with drop shots today and that is the only risk he took to end points consistently as otherwise he was content to wait for Tsitsipas to make errors.

Novak usually knows that he has to outhit Nadal to beat him and he can do that on hard/grass and sometimes in BestOf3 on clay. He also beat him with that style against an out-of-form Nadal at RG in 2015 while losing to him prior to that many times in SFs and Finals. The question is which version of Novak has a better chance to beat Nadal on Sunday in the FO final? Usually, I would say that the more aggressive version of Djokovic is the better version (BOAT?) of him and he should try that to beat Nadal. On the other hand, these conditions are so slow and heavy that I don’t see him outhitting Nadal so easily from the baseline and big-serving is not effective either this year - Sinner hit huge for two sets and couldn’t finish the job playing that style. Also, I don’t see dropshots working as well to end points against Nadal as he moves great on clay and has very good touch and finesse close to the net unlike Tsitsipas.

Should Djokovic play defensively as a counterpuncher and try to outlast Nadal on Sunday? If they both play defensively, Nadal can’t outhit him either and we might have a 6-hour knockdown-dragout final like the 2012AO. Does Djokovic trust his fitness to play like that and beat a 12-time RG winner? Novak has found an extra gear in the latter stages of every match so far this year and can he trust himself to do that in the final? Is Nadal fit enough to outlast Djokovic in a defensive struggle with a lot of long points? I don’t know the answer, but am eagerly awaiting what will play out in less than 48 hours.
How can anyone have a mental edge against a 12-time champion who has never lost a final and who has not lost a set in this tournament. He has lost something like three sets while winning the last three years and has in addition beaten Djokovic the last three times on clay.

Djokovic was a much better player in 2015 than this year and Nadal was in the middle of a terrible clay season when Djokovic beat him at RG. I don’t think he will be thinking too much about that match as a foreshadowing of what tomorrow will be like. But, I don’t think Djokovic is going to feel like an underdog either - he will probably go in thinking that if he plays well, he will win. Nadal will likely feel that he will need to play well too, but probably will have more self-belief that he can triumph in the end on this court.
 

Jack the Hack

Hall of Fame
Maybe Drysdale is right about Medvedev being a "clay court artist."

Has anyone seen Daniil's drawings of European tennis courts? They might be beautiful paintings. ;)

Seriously, every once and awhile, I have had the chance to meet and have a conversation with a famous tennis player or someone deeply connected at the professional level. The thing that has always struck me is that they are just people. Even those that have been at the top of the game don't have any particular insight that is much different than a well informed fan. Everybody is just speculating and guessing as to who will win. Most of these pundits are just making the safe choice. And there is nothing crazy about choosing the current #1 ranked player in the world as the potential champion.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
They all just say what suits their agenda getting facts totally wrong regularly. I listen to football commentators and they seem to know what they are talking about.
Everyone makes wrong predictions, there's nobody getting it right 100% of the time. To your credit, Clay, you stay away from predictions and away from match threads, so your record is clean. If you don't venture a guess, you can never be wrong, maybe a good strategy on TTW!
 

clout

Hall of Fame
I LOL'd when I saw that. Has Sheet ever even won a match at RG??!?!? If this was the USO, sure, he's turning into a stud there, but at RG? Lol no chance in hell

Honestly, can I get hired please? Not even being a jerk but I probably know more than a lot of these so called experts
 

movies99

New User
Cliff Drysdale
Who will win the men's singles title?
Jerry Bembry: Djokovic. He has only won the French Open once, in 2016, but he should be inspired and focused after he was defaulted at the US Open.

Pete Bodo: I think the fates have really worked against Nadal this year, which is the big picture explanation for why Djokovic will win.

Cliff Drysdale: Daniil Medvedev is a clay-court artist and ready to pick up the pieces if Nadal implodes.

Chris Evert: Djokovic will be the winner because Nadal is a little vulnerable at this time. Djokovic is hungry for titles especially after the US Open fiasco.

Brad Gilbert: Tough call call between co-favorites Nadal and Djokovic. Slower, heavy fall conditions mean I am slightly leaning toward Djokovic -- who comes in after a victory in Rome -- to win his second French Open.

Tom Hamilton: Beware the wounded Djokovic. After his disastrous US Open, Djokovic will bounce back at Roland Garros in the uncharacteristic autumnal chill. With a favorable draw, Djokovic will knock over Nadal in the final.

D'Arcy Maine: Djokovic has won the French Open just once during his storied career, but this might just be his best chance for a second major title on clay. The world No. 1 won last week's Italian Open in convincing fashion -- dropping just one set en route to the trophy -- and he will undoubtedly be looking for redemption in Paris after his controversial exit in the fourth round in New York. With Nadal -- the 12-time Roland Garros champion -- out of form in his one tournament (in Rome) since the restart, it feels like things are aligning for Djokovic to win Grand Slam No. 18.

Patrick Mouratoglou: Djokovic, because he did not lose a match this year (I do not count his disqualification at the US Open as a loss). He is a great clay-court player, beat Nadal many times on clay, and the conditions this year are extremely difficult for Rafa -- plus he lacks competition.

Pam Shriver: Djokovic is your men's winner because his motivation following his US Open default is sky-high, and he won Rome. Nadal is not his usual Roland Garros-ready self, and no one is playing better than Djokovic right now.

Alexandra Stevenson: Everyone thinks Djokovic. I'm going with Nadal. This will tie him with Roger for 20 Grand Slams. I like his mental edge more than Djokovic. Nadal is my forever clay champion. I like the look of Dominic Thiem. It would be amazing for a double Slam.

Rennae Stubbs: Nadal, because until he's not functioning as a tennis player, he will be the favorite.


Cliff Drysdale :-D
 

Tennis_Freak99

Hall of Fame
Novak really feasted on the very worst version of Nadal on clay and it causes people to overrate his chances. His success against a good to great version of Nadal on the dirt while much better than the field is still very one sided in favor of Rafa.
Can't say that about 2011 and 2013 victories
 

clayqueen

Talk Tennis Guru
Novak really feasted on the very worst version of Nadal on clay and it causes people to overrate his chances. His success against a good to great version of Nadal on the dirt while much better than the field is still very one sided in favor of Rafa.
The experts were so hell bent on making Djokovic the favourite that the scenario they focussed on was AO 2019, RG 2015, Madrid 2011, MC 2013 and Rome 2014!

Rafa's 12 RG titles, 99-2 W/L RG record, 6:1 against Djokovic at RG, giving Djokovic a bagel and a breadstick in Rome 2019, making the 2020 final without dropping a set........, didn't seem to cut it with them at all. Just proves how biased they are not letting the facts get in their way.
 

clayqueen

Talk Tennis Guru
Everyone makes wrong predictions, there's nobody getting it right 100% of the time. To your credit, Clay, you stay away from predictions and away from match threads, so your record is clean. If you don't venture a guess, you can never be wrong, maybe a good strategy on TTW!
I don't make predictions because there is no exact science for predicting winners in sport. There are so many layers to winning a tennis match that it's impossible to predict. No sane person would have picked Diego against Rafa in Rome, yet Rafa lost to him in straight sets even though Rafa had just brushed aside Lajovic and PCB in the first 2 rounds. If outcomes were so easy to predict, betting companies would be paying out non stop they probably wouldn't even have a business.

I have to admit that the last thing I wanted was Rafa playing Djokovic in the final; not because I didn't think Rafa would win, but I couldn't be sure he would and I thought it would make life easier for Rafa. I wished for Djokovic to lose in every round and was disappointed that Tsits didn't get it done. In the end, it worked out perfectly that Rafa not only played Djokovic in the final but beat him comprehensively. Had Djokovic not made it to the final, this forum would have had gazillion threads saying Rafa was lucky that he didn't have to play Djokovic - if only this or that hadn't happened, Djokovic would have won the title.
 

roysid

Hall of Fame
I don't make predictions because there is no exact science for predicting winners in sport. There are so many layers to winning a tennis match that it's impossible to predict. No sane person would have picked Diego against Rafa in Rome, yet Rafa lost to him in straight sets even though Rafa had just brushed aside Lajovic and PCB in the first 2 rounds. If outcomes were so easy to predict, betting companies would be paying out non stop they probably wouldn't even have a business.

I have to admit that the last thing I wanted was Rafa playing Djokovic in the final; not because I didn't think Rafa would win, but I couldn't be sure he would and I thought it would make life easier for Rafa. I wished for Djokovic to lose in every round and was disappointed that Tsits didn't get it done. In the end, it worked out perfectly that Rafa not only played Djokovic in the final but beat him comprehensively. Had Djokovic not made it to the final, this forum would have had gazillion threads saying Rafa was lucky that he didn't have to play Djokovic - if only this or that hadn't happened, Djokovic would have won the title.
Same thoughts here. Would have been happy if Djokovic lost earlier. Happier that Nadal beat Djokovic
It was not crazy to pick Djokovic as favourite based on recent tournament and the conditions.
Oy cryssdale make a crazy comment.
 

clayqueen

Talk Tennis Guru
Same thoughts here. Would have been happy if Djokovic lost earlier. Happier that Nadal beat Djokovic
It was not crazy to pick Djokovic as favourite based on recent tournament and the conditions.
Oy cryssdale make a crazy comment.
But it's a myth that Rafa can only win RG is the conditions are perfect for him, for the ball to bounce high etc. Surely, the conditions couldn't have been exactly right for 99 out of 102 matches. Also, the fact that they were not the ideal conditions for Rafa doesn't automatically make them the best conditions for Novak.
 
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