Giving tennis more than a shot

Eight Men, One Woman, Same Fate: Tough Draw


Juan Martín del Potro played umpire at the Kids' Day today, while Roger Federer, who could be his opponent for the 5th time this season if both reach the quarter-finals, was one of the on-court protagonists (Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP/GettyImages)


The French Open is starting tomorrow, and with the draw coming out yesterday, the first thing I noticed was how bad the draw was for the Argentinean players. Well, the same can be said about the Colombians, as there are two in the main draw (Santiago Giraldo and Alejandro Falla) and the draw made that they will have to knock each other out in the first round. Quite a bummer.


As for the Argentines in the main draw, it’s very easy. With Horacio Zeballos and Eduardo Schwank qualifying for the main draw, there are now eight man in the singles event. Five of them ended up in Rafael Nadal’s quarter. The last three? All in Roger Federer’s quarter. Draw fate wasn’t on their side, that’s the least that can be said.


Short look back on the qualifications

There were 10 men from Argentina in the qualifications for the French Open. At the end of the first day, only four of them had made it to the second round. To be fair, the draw was very unkind for Guido Pella (Tommy Haas), Marco Trungelliti (Robert Farah), Facundo Bagnis (in a knockout against Eduardo Schwank), and for the 2010 Junior champion Agustín Velotti (Andreas Haider-Maurer). To this is added defeats of Diego Junqueira to Igor Sijsling, and of Máximo González to talented Lituanian Laurynas Grigelis, both after winning the first set, and we had the panorama after the first day.


Without a day to recover from his over three-hour fight against Tim Smyczek, Federico Delbonis couldn’t do himself justice against an inspired Grigelis (although he did put up a good fight), but Zeballos, Schwank and Martín Alund made it to the final qualifications day.


Although he had his chances, it was not to be for Tincho Alund against Florent Serra. Although he was up a break in the first and second sets (serving twice for the second and ending up winning it in the breaker), he lost the third quite quickly. However, at 27 and taking part in his first Roland Garros, the journeyman from Mendoza made quite an impression.


As for Zeballos and Schwank, they both qualified, although Zeballos had to come back from a bagel in the first set to do so against German Peter Gojowczyk. Schwank defeated Matthias Bachinger in straights. Where they landed isn’t as fun, I must say.


In the main draw

As I mentioned, the draw made the eight Argentine men land in two quarters: five with Nadal and three with Federer. If, for most, their first-round match is very winnable, the same cannot be said for Juan Ignacio Chela, who’s been suffering from Achilles issues for a few months and needs to reach the semi-finals if he wants to go to the Olympics, an almost impossible task for the funny man of Ciudad Evita. Chela, in Nadal’s quarter, has been drawn to play Marcos Baghdatis in the first round. If he defeats the Cypriot, he may very well face Nice champion Nicolás Almagro in round 2.


Qualifier Eduardo Schwank is about as unlucky, as he will be facing Ivo Karlovic to start his main draw appearance. Although Karlovic has been suffering from shoulder issues lately, which sidelined him in Düsseldorf last week, he remains a very difficult player to face. If he wins, then Schwank may face Florian Mayer, with a third-round match against Rafa Nadal as a prize for the winner.


Leonardo Mayer has a difficult but winnable match against Olivier Rochus, with a possible second-rounder against Philipp Kohlschreiber. In fact, of the five players in Rafa’s quarter, he is the one with the best chances to reach third round, although this third round could very well be against 12th seed Almagro.


Finally in that quarter, if both 13th seed Juan Mónaco (Guillaume Rufin) and Carlos Berlocq (Lukas Rosol) should reach round 2, it will only be to face each other, with the winner to possibly meet Canadian Cannon Man Milos Raonic in the third, and then Rafael Nadal for the winner. Mónaco showed in Rome that he almost took it back where he left off after spraining his ankle in Monte Carlo, even taking a set off World no 1 Novak Djokovic, while Berlocq has also been playing great lately, taking a set off Tomas Berdych in Düsseldorf a couple of days ago. Berlocq is also looking to secure his Olympics spot.


Of the three players in Roger Federer’s quarter, David Nalbandian is the unluckiest. Drawn to play Adrian Ungur in the first round, of which he should come out the victor, the man from Unquillo would then face the 16-time Grand Slam champion. Willing to confirm his place in the Olympic squad, only a miracle would make him win that one, even though I know he will put up a good fight, as usual.


Horacio Zeballos had a better fate in with the draw than Schwank as far as the qualifiers were concerned. With a winnable first round against Éric Prodon, he would likely then face Kevin Anderson, which would be tough but can be won. If he reaches the third round, he would then face with World no 7 Tomas Berdych.


As for Argentine no 1 Juan Martín del Potro, he will face Albert Montañés tomorrow, Montañés whom he defeated comfortably in Estoril a few weeks ago, before taking the winner of Édouard Roger-Vasselin and Vasek Pospisil in the second round. We could then have yet another face-off between him and Marin Cilic in the third, or with Juan Carlos Ferrero, both really tricky matches, and it may only be to face Tomas Berdych in what would be a nice Davis Cup semi-final preview. In quarters would await another meeting with Roger Federer, which would, if it happens, already be their fifth this season (all four meetings won by the Swiss).


How many Argentines will make it to the second week? I would say two, the two men from Tandil.


One woman and her dream

On the women’s side, only one Argentine is into the main draw, country’s no 1 player Paula Ormaechea. Into the main draw due to withdrawals, she did not know the fate of Gisela Dulko and Florencia Molinero, who were both in the qualifications and who both lost their first match. This will hurt Dulko’s singles ranking more than Molinero’s, as the Rafaela native was only playing her first French Open, whereas Dulko was defending a round-of-16 appearance, which should make her fall outside the top 200 at the end of the tournament.


If the draw wasn’t the nicest to the Sunchales native, it will at least enable her to realize a dream. Fan of the Williams sisters, she has been drawn to play Venus in the first round tomorrow.


How did she react? With confidence. As she told my colleague Marcos Zugsti in Paris: “Look at there having 127 other players [in the draw] and I’m drawn against a Williams. This is fate. (Laugh) I will come out to win.”


I will probably be a rare discordant note coming from outside Argentina regarding this match, but knowing how well Paula has been playing lately, and how determined she is, I think she has a fair chance of doing just that. She’s a fighter and a very gritty one at that. Of course, there might be a little nerves coming into the match, especially since it will be played on the Court Philippe-Chatrier on top of facing one of her idols, but something tells me she should not be overlooked.


The winner of this match will likely face Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round.


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