Erwin is based in Los Angeles and has been following tennis since 1995.....he has been gracious enough to serve as one of our tennis experts.....today he writes about the upcoming French Open.....
Q1. Rafael Nadal had a 70 plus winning streak on clay until he lost yesterday to Roger Federer. Do you think he is "ripe to get picked off" in the French Open? If so, who are some of the players who can beat him on clay?
The only thing that will get picked off is Nadal's underwear. Someone needs to get him better chonies for his capri pants. But seroiusly, I think Nadal was "ripe to get picked off" when he passed GuillermoVilas' 53 straight wins on clay last year. And he just broke John McEnroe's record with the longest streak on any one surface. I don't think anyone's doubting that the French is pretty much his. Up until yesterday, the only person who has taken a set from him on clay this year is Nikolay Davydenko (and we all know that Davydenko just lives up to his seeding). Perhaps someone can have a great day and a lucky draw, but they'll likely be playing for the runner-up spot.
Q2. As great as Roger Federer is, Nadal owns him when they play on clay. If these two should meet up, what does Federer have to do in order to beat Nadal on the red clay at Roland Garros?
The clay blunts the speed of Roger's balls, and Rafa can get to everything. Nadal hits plenty of heavy topspin to Roger's one-handed backhand. Rafa is the best retriever on the tour, so what Roger would normally considers a winner comes back to him. And now there's this mental factor that Rafa has a winning record. Roger is usually a pretty dynamic player -- we've seen him change histactics mid-match to accomodate his opponent's style. He can attack, come to net, play defense. He's good at everything -- but on clay, Nadal is just better.
Q3. How do you see Andy Roddick doing this year at the French Open? Do you see any other American men who could break through and possibly win this event?
No one's expecting the Americans to make a dent. They don't know how to slide on the clay. As for Andy, he has never made it past the first week at Roland Garros, so I won't expect him to do any better this year. Whatever improvements he has made to his game working with Jimmy Connors has not translated to clay.
Q4. On the women's side, who's game does the red clay favor the most?
Currently, it's less about whose game favors clay and more about who's healthy. Sharapova, Vaidisova, Ivanovic aren't in Rome this week because of injury. Hingis has confirmed pulling out of the French because of her hip. Mauresmo has rebounded from her back problems, but is still rusty. So I'm putting my money on Serena to take it all. Kuznetsova will probably make it deep into the second week, too.
Q5. Final question, who do you predict to win the men's and women's titles this year and why? And who are the darkhorses who we should keep an eye on?
For the men, Rafa Nadal will win. With Davydenko, Federer, Gonzalez, Djokovic, Canas, and maybe Berdych hanging around in Week 2. Gasquet, the #1 Frenchman, will do well if he doesn't get too distracted from all the offcourt buzz around him (being romantically involved with a gentleman). For the women, Serena. Kuznetsova, Jankovic, and Henin will be around for Week 2. Frenchwoman Tatiana Golovin (photo) will likely get a boost from the home crowd......
I want to thank Erwin for his time and we will hear back from him during the second week of the French Open as he will provide an update....