Tennis Freaks

“1821: Nadal, I’ve noticed, has a problem with his shorts, in that they keep on getting stuck up his jacksie and he has to pull them out before every point. Not sure why he doesn’t just get a size up, he’s probably loaded.”

Archive for davydenko

Federer v Davydenko as it happened

US Open, Flushing Meadows Semi-final result:

R FEDERER (Swi) bt N DAVYDENKO (Rus)

7-5 6-1 7-5

* denotes server

By Piers Newbery

Third set:

2234: Do not, under any circumstances, go to bed. I’ll be back at 0100 BST for the women’s final after a couple of hours in a BBC sleep pod.

Federer 7-5 Davydenko
Quick as a flash, Federer wraps it up with a love game and he’s back in the final to face Novak Djokovic. The crowd waves goodbye to Davydenko as he leaves the stadium to be reunited with Irina. Every cloud….

Federer 6-5 Davydenko
We haven’t seen too much Federer magic today, at least not consistently, but he finds the moment to produce a wonderful backhand pass and an even better forehand to set up break point. Davydenko duly double faults.

Federer 5-5 Davydenko
Finally we get some real drama. Davydenko gets a couple of set points and misses by a whisker with a return on the first before an epic rally. Both players give it everything until N-Dav puts a forehand just wide and drops to his knees in frustration. Federer comes through with a big forehand to hold serve – haven’t written that for a while.

2219: “Please tell me Piers. Why aren’t the bbc channel showing the two finals?!”
From Faris via text (It’s all to do with rights and we don’t have them for the US Open, although we do show the other three Grand Slam events)

Federer 4-5 Davydenko
Zero, in answer to my previous question. Davydenko sticks a smash into the bottom of the net to trail 0-30 and puts a forehand wide soon after to go 15-40 behind. Federer scrambles brilliantly to set up the forehand, which he thumps away.

Federer 3-5 Davydenko
Another game, another break, another shot of Irina – for that is her name – Davydenko. Her husband does the business with more heavy groundstrokes as Federer continues to be very erratic. What are the chances of him serving out to love?

Federer 3-4 Davydenko
Guess what? That’s right. Federer breaks back, dictating the second point with some fierce forehands and taking his second break point in a magnificent rally, finished off with a forehand down the line. I officially retract my earlier Kuznetsova v Chakvetadze comment.

Federer 2-4 Davydenko
Federer spoons a forehand long to go to 30-30 and Davydenko wins a spectacular next point with a stunning lob. Federer double faults and is broken again. This is turning into Kuznetsova v Chakvetadze.

Federer 2-3 Davydenko
You’ve got to laugh. Unless you’re Nikolay Davydenko. He double faults to slip to 0-40 and misses with a backhand on the second. That could be the last time we get to see N-Dav’s wife this year.

Federer 1-3 Davydenko
Davydenko gets a chance to take the initiative in this set as two superb backhands get him to break point, but he then misses with a return. A second break point chance arrives for Davydenko and he converts when Federer misses with a forehand. This prompts another camera shot of N-Dav’s wife, which cheers me right up. And there’s Ilie Nastase for the ladies.

Federer 1-2 Davydenko
Davydenko fends off another couple of break points and he’s being typically gritty. The crowd enjoys Van Morrison’s karaoke classic ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ during the changeover. Can’t see the relevance myself.

Federer 1-1 Davydenko
A double fault gets Federer off on the wrong foot and he falls 15-30 behind but recovers. Apparently Rick Moranis and Brazilian model Gisele are in the crowd today. Not together, as far as I know.

2143: “I think this is Djokovic’s shout – he’s not only up for for challenge but up to it – so go all the way and let’s see a few tables turn in men’s tennis.”
From anon via text on 81111

Federer 0-1 Davydenko
Davydenko keeps the match alive, just, by battling back from 0-40 to hold serve. It’s deathly quiet on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the moment. What happened to Huey Lewis and the News?

Second set:

Federer 6-1 Davydenko
N-Dav rediscovers his best form to earn four break points, but unfortunately at 5-1 down. Federer saves the first with a service winner and the second with some sharp volleying. Davydenko earns a third with a blistering forehand winner, Federer sticks an ace down the middle. A mighty forehand sees off the danger for a fourth time and finally Federer gets a set point, which he converts. Some decent tennis but not much sign of an upset.

2127: “There’s usually plenty of police in Newquay on a saturday night mopping up the stag & hen parties. you don’t need a ticket.”
From LC via text

Federer 5-1 Davydenko
It all goes a bit Mansour Bahrami on the first point, Federer hitting three successive backhand drive volleys at Davydenko, the third clipping the net and hopping over the Russian’s racquet. Federer gets to break point three times but cannot convert. On the fourth he hits the most incredible, deep, swerving forehand for a winner. Pretty special that.

Federer 4-1 Davydenko
Davydenko catches Federer snoozing with one return taken early but from 30-30 the champ smacks a big serve and a winner to hold.

2117: “Hi Piers. It’s awful quiet. do you think everyone else has gone out?”
From LC, Newquay, Cornwall, via text (I certainly hope so, it is Saturday after all. I had a ticket to see The Police tonight, not sure if I’m missing out or not)

Federer 3-1 Davydenko
Davydenko stops Federer’s run of five games despite being hauled back from 40-0 to deuce. Catherine Zeta-Jones looks on from the stands. Perfick.

Federer 3-0 Davydenko
It’s all slipping away very quickly now as Federer thumps down an ace to consolidate his service break.

Federer 2-0 Davydenko
Davydenko double faults on break point and it’s looking all but over already.

2108: “He’s wearing a white hat, white shirt, white shorts and has a white towel – he’s a White Russian. What’s in a White Russian? Vodka, Kahlua and cream?”
Jonathan Overend on 5live Sports Extra

Federer 1-0 Davydenko
Federer plays an air shot on the second point, giving hope to park players everywhere, before Davydenko misses a half-chance with a pass at 30-30 and the Swiss holds from deuce.

First set:

Federer 7-5 Davydenko
A wild double fault sees Davydenko slip to 15-30 but Federer makes a poor error on the backhand. Davydenko then thumps a forehand long and it’s set point for the champion. Federer attacks the net and Davydenko fails with an attempted pass. The Russian drops his first set of the tournament. It may not be the last.

Federer 6-5 Davydenko
Another running Federer forehand down the line draws a few gasps from the crowd and he follows up with an ace to take the game. The stadium PA kicks in with ‘Born to be Wild’ – possibly in honour of Davydenko.

Federer 5-5 Davydenko
Davydenko gets back on level terms with a love game and we get a shot of his wife in the stands. Hmmmm.

Federer 5-4 Davydenko
Who would have thought it? Davydenko gets a couple of break points but Federer plays a blistering backhand approach and slides away the backhand volley on the first. The Russian takes the initiative on the second, though, and slams a forehand into the corner.

Federer 5-3 Davydenko
Federer has now got the measure of Davydenko’s serve, which is not one of the bigger weapons in the men’s game. The Russian saves another two break points but double faults on a third. Oh dear.

Federer 4-3 Davydenko
The Federer serve is working better, the forehand is firing and the power is starting to be a little much for Davydenko.

Federer 3-3 Davydenko
Yep, there we go. Davydenko misses a break point and Federer immediately makes him pay. The Russian recovers from 0-40 to deuce, then saves a fourth break point with a big forehand, but Federer takes his fifth chance with a beautiful off-forehand winner.

Federer 2-3 Davydenko
Yikes. Davydenko is in great form, smacking a forehand winner on the first point and then taking command of the net and punching away a volley for 0-30. He is pegged back to 30-30 but then finds an outrageous backhand winner down the line for break point. The mini-crisis finally awakens Federer and he wins a great rally with a running backhand. Two decent serves and the Swiss holds – a half-chance for Davydenko but he might regret not taking it.

Federer 1-3 Davydenko
Federer has a chance at 15-30 but makes two errors off the ground and he looks as flat as a pancake at the moment.

Federer 1-2 Davydenko
Federer gets off the mark with a sortie to the net followed by an ace.

Federer 0-2 Davydenko
And Davydenko wraps up a love game with a heavy forehand winner down the line that sends Federer sprawling. Interesting.

Federer 0-1 Davydenko
A huge upset is looming here after Federer is broken in the first game. OK, that might be overplaying it a touch but a few unforced errors hand Davydenko the opener.

2006: It’s hard to see past the world number one here as he goes into the match with a rather convincing 9-0 record against Davydenko, including a victory in last year’s US semi.

Federer has lost six matches this season and had the odd worrying moment in New York, notably against John Isner and Feliciano Lopez.

But as usual the Swiss found a way to win and he then produced a ruthless display to see off Andy Roddick in the much-hyped quarter-final.

As for Davydenko, he may not be Mr Glamour but Federer describes him as a “fabulous” player and he is deservedly number four in the world.

However, it’s a long way from number four to number one.

Story from BBC SPORT

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Federer v Davydenko as it happened

French Open Semi-final result:

R FEDERER (Swi) bt N DAVYDENKO (Rus)

7-5 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (9-7)

* denotes server

GAME-BY-GAME UPDATES:

By Piers Newbery

Third set

Federer 7-6 (9-7) Davydenko
Federer gets to the changeover at 4-2 but is pegged back to 5-5, at which point he produces an outrageous second-serve ace. Davydenko battles on and saves the match point before earning a set point of his own, but Federer comes up with two great serves. On the second match point Davydenko puts a backhand long and Federer is through to the final again – but he’ll need to sharpen up considerably for Nadal or Djokovic.

Federer 6-6 Davydenko
A love service game for the world number one suggests an ominous flash of form. Anybody fancy Davydenko for the tie-break?

“When it really matters I sense Davydenko doesn’t really believe he can win this, and who can blame him?”
BBC Sport analyst Sam Smith

Federer 5-6 Davydenko
Well done big Davy Denko – after the horrors of his previous service game a complete collapse would have been understandable but he serves out well to force at least a tie-break.

Federer 5-5 Davydenko
Three aces and one double-fault take Federer to 40-15 and he bullies Davydenko in the final point to level the score.

Federer 4-5 Davydenko
Yep, definitely seen this match before. Davydenko serves for the set and is tight as a drum, throwing in errors and wild double-faults with abandon. Federer earns five break points, missing by an inch on the second, Davydenko gets two set points – cue two wild forehands. Finally, Federer gets break point number six and the Russian duly wallops a backhand into the net. Not the highest quality you’ve ever seen but pretty gripping stuff.

Federer 3-5 Davydenko
Some heartwarming shots of the ball boys and ball girls and thankfully none of them are smoking – unusual for a group of French teenagers in my experience. Federer is in trouble at 0-30 but finds a wonderful backhand down the line on his way to saving the game.

Federer 2-5 Davydenko
Oh dear. I rarely see anything on a Grand Slam court that equates to my efforts at the local park but Davydenko lets a volley go and turns around to see it drop three feet inside the baseline. Unlike me, he is able to save two break points with a succession of world-class forehands.

Federer 2-4 Davydenko
Federer stays in touch with a love-service game. The stadium is all but full now, but very quiet.

Federer 1-4 Davydenko
A couple of break points slip away for Federer and he is clearly frustrated, giving a loud yelp in one of the many languages he speaks. It looks like it’s heading for a fourth set but you wouldn’t count Federer out yet.

Federer 1-3 Davydenko
The scoreline may suggest the usual straightforward afternoon for Federer so far but he’s making heavy weather of it. Davydenko wins a brilliant second point after retrieving a smash and goes on to break to love. Odd.

Federer 1-2 Davydenko
The first love-service game of the match goes to Davydenko on an almost silent Court Philippe Chatrier.

Federer 1-1 Davydenko
It’s lucky Davydenko doesn’t have the same temperament as fellow Russian Marat Safin or we’d have seen some serious racket abuse by now. Three break points go begging and Federer wraps up the game with a forehand winner.

Federer 0-1 Davydenko
I would think the odds for Davydenko coming back from two sets down against Federer are marginally longer than those for Don Johnson and Ilie Nastase announcing that they’re seeing each other, but the Russian gets off to a decent start in set three. And he’s changed to a vivid orange shirt, maybe trying to blend in with the court.

Second set

Federer 7-6 (7-5) Davydenko
After a cagey start that sees the first five points go with serve, Davydenko cracks first and an error leaves him 4-2 down at the changeover. Federer moves smoothly to 6-3 and three set points, and takes the third of them with a service winner.

Federer 6-6 Davydenko
Yes, he can. A good effort from Davydenko, who holds serve to 15, but you feel he has to win the tie-break or it’s goodnight.

Federer 6-5 Davydenko
It’s a hard one to call at the moment – Davydenko gets to break point with a drive volley but fearless Fed saves it with a backhand cross-court winner that goes a little closer to the line than he might have planned. The big man hangs on and, as in the first set, Davydenko must hold serve to force a tie-break. Can he manage it this time?

Federer 5-5 Davydenko
Finally we get a real stroke of Federer genius as he sweeps a backhand down the line for a clean winner. At 30-30 the pressure is back on Davydenko and in a lengthy rally he cracks first to give Federer a break-back point. The Russian snatches at a backhand and it’s Federer’s game – a disaster for the man from Volgograd.

Federer 4-5 Davydenko
It came from out of nowhere…. Davydenko gets his first break point of the second set when Federer nets a forehand and the Russian converts with a backhand winner.

Federer 4-4 Davydenko
Federer lets out an anguished cry when he sticks a routine forehand into the net and Davydenko completes a love game. Justine Henin is having a sneaky look from a corner of the stands – she doesn’t look too impressed at the moment.

“This set feels like it’s trickling away to an inevitable Federer break of serve.”
BBC Sport analyst Sam Smith

Federer 4-3 Davydenko
One blockbusting winner from Davydenko fails to derails Federer, who holds easily.

Federer 3-3 Davydenko
Davydenko holds serve confidently and it’s all gone a bit flat for the moment, although that’s no bad thing as it means Federer isn’t running away with it.

Federer 3-2 Davydenko
Federer gets his groove on – in terms of his serve at least – and holds to 15. Hello – Ilie Nastase has just turned up with a cheeky grin on his face and he’s headed straight for Don Johnson. Look out ladies.

Federer 2-2 Davydenko
We’re treated to a bit of old-skool bish-bosh net chicanery to start the game – delightful! Federer brings us right up to date on the second point as he whacks a forehand return for a winner, and a killer drop shot follows. He’s not in top gear yet but Federer is looking better and better and Davydenko does well to level.

Federer 2-1 Davydenko
Davydenko has a sniff of a break as he goes 0-30 up but he cannot convert the half-chance, going for too much with a forehand over the high part of the net. Federer comes through to hold.

Federer 1-1 Davydenko
If this match runs to the usual script, Federer will reel off nine of the next 10 games to put the result beyond doubt and then have a slight wobble at the end of the third set. A cracking forehand into the corner helps Federer to break point but Davydenko clings on.

Federer 1-0 Davydenko
Great news! Don Johnson is in the crowd, and for my money that outdoes Antonio Banderas from the other day. I wore espadrilles to a school disco in 1987 because of Don Johnson, and I wasn’t alone. Federer would have been about five years old so he’s unlikely to be put off by the sight of Sonny Crockett in the stands. The Swiss star holds serve comfortably.

“Davydenko threw everything at Federer in the first set and he ended up losing it – very demoralising for the Russian.”
Five Live’s Jonathan Overend

First set

“I’m going to call the gendarmes because that’s daylight robbery by Federer.”
BBC Sport analyst David Mercer

Federer 7-5 Davydenko
A net-cord drags a Davydenko backhand into the tramlines and he’s 15-30 down. The Russian then puts a backhand long and the Fed has two set points, having done very little to earn them. Davydenko obliges with another error and somehow Federer has won the set.

Federer 6-5 Davydenko
A sloppy Federer backhand takes the score to 30-30 and what feels like a key moment, at which point the world number one thumps an ace down the middle and goes on to hold.

Federer 5-5 Davydenko
Davydenko does well to get back on level terms as Federer looks threatening at 30-30.

Federer 5-4 Davydenko
Wallop. I’ve barely finished updating the previous game when Federer holds serve and suddenly it’s Davydenko under pressure.

Federer 4-4 Davydenko
I think I’ve seen this match before. Davydenko misses 10 of 11 break points and Federer immediately hits back by getting to 0-40 and converting his first of the match. Davydenko’s brother looks suitably miserable in the stands.

Federer 3-4 Davydenko
Things are looking serious for Federer at 0-40 but he serves his way out of trouble as though we were in the halcyon days of Pete Sampras. Davydenko misses another chance and he may live to regret these wasted opportunities. He’s made one of 11 break points – ouch.

Federer 2-4 Davydenko
It’s probably half full on Court Philippe Chatrier now. Davydenko’s wife Irina is in the stands – she doesn’t look like Jeremy Clarkson thankfully. Anyway, on court the Russian shows the first sign of a few nerves with two unforced errors taking him 15-30 down, but he responds with an ace and goes on to hold.

Federer 2-3 Davydenko
Davydenko is in top form now, winning a lengthy first rally with a deft backhand slice and following up with a return winner. It seems to wake Federer up and he hits back with a forehand winner and an ace, but he needs two deuces to hold serve.

Federer 1-3 Davydenko
The crowd are now streaming onto Court Philippe Chatrier, which is nice for them. Davydenko’s new coach, who looks a bit like Jeremy Clarkson at first glance, looks on as his man recovers from 0-30 to hold serve.

Federer 1-2 Davydenko
A beautiful Davydenko forehand down the line earns him another break point and he goes close to converting when Federer shanks a forehand just inside the line. Another chance comes but Federer holds off the Russian with a big forehand and a similar backhand. Hardly convincing stuff from the top seed so far though.

Federer 0-2 Davydenko
A very solid hold to 15 from Davydenko and Federer continues to struggle with his rhythm from the baseline. It would be nice to say you could cut the atmossphere with a knife, but you’d have to find it first.

Federer 0-1 Davydenko
Davydenko wins the toss and elects to receive, and it works. A rusty Federer makes numerous errors but Davydenko fails to convert four break points, before the Swiss puts another forehand wide on the fifth. Surprising, but not an unusual start for the world number one.

1205 BST: Federer and Davydenko enter the now traditionally empty arena, although those already in their seats manage a decent cheer for the world number one. You get the feeling Davydenko might get lynched if he pulls off a huge upset today.

1155 BST: We’re all set for the men’s semi-finals and let’s hope they’re better than yesterday’s women’s matches, which were a bit of a let-down. On the face of it today’s two matches should also be pretty one-sided, particularly the first.

Federer is… well, he’s just Federer. He wins a lot and he’s very, very good but prone to the odd lapse in concentration. Davydenko takes low-key to new levels but is a superb player and his movement and consistency from the baseline should make him a real contender today. However, he has a 0-8 record against the Fed so don’t put your house on an upset.

Story from BBC SPORT:

French Open – Roland Garros – Men to watch

 

EurosportTue, 22 May 00:52:00 2007

French Open – Believe it or not, a Rafael Nadal versus Roger Federer French Open final is not necessarily ordained from above. Jeremy Stahl runs through the list of contenders who stand a chance on the red-hot clay at this year’s Roland Garros.

TENNIS 2007 Battle of the Surfaces Roger Federer Rafael Nadal - 0

Rafael Nadal – The odds-on bet

We would be loathe not to mention the two-time defending champion as the easy favourite to defend his crown. The world number two is coming off of the heels of his first defeat on the slow dirt in more than two years, but his loss to Roger Federer in the Hamburg final takes nothing away from the Spaniard’s record-breaking 81-match win streak on clay. In addition to having a perfect record in his two years at Roland Garros, Rafa has yet to have even been pushed to a fifth set at Paris. Three titles in four claycourt tournaments in 2007 bode well for the 20-year-old man-child from Majorca.

Roger Federer – To be the greatest…..

From John McEnroe to Andre Agassi, the general consensus among tennis’ now wise (once wild) men is that Roger Federer needs to win the French Open and become the sixth man to achieve the Slam in order to challenge for the mantle of “greatest-of-all-time.” After a previously disappointing claycourt season, Fed-ex won his first clay title of the spring in Hamburg. More importantly, the Swiss Slam machine overcame one of his biggest goblins of the past two years and beat Rafael Nadal on clay for the first time in six tries. Though Federer had been coy about his Roland Garros hopes, the world number one is clearly anxious to get over the final hurdle of a brilliant career on the burning red dirt of Paris.

Fernando Gonzalez – Gonzo-mania strikes again?

The fifth ranked Chilean starts the French Open as the most credible challenger to the world number one and the two-time defending champion, having already reached the final of one Grand Slam and a claycourt Masters series this year. The man whose red-hot Oz Open run was only ended by an unstoppable Federer in the final, also reached the final of the Rome Masters before being trounced by Nadal. If he can somehow avoid the top-two in the draw, another Gonzo Grand Slam final is a distinct possibility in Paris.

Novak Djokovic – The other young gun

The Serbian starlet, who turned 20-years-old a week before the start of this year’s French Open, has not quite rivalled Rafa Nadal as the best young player on the ATP Tour this year, but he has come close. Djokovic, third in the 2007 ATP Points Race behind only Federer and Nadal, won titles in Adelaide and Estoril, and beat Rafa on his way to a Miami Masters crown in a brilliant first-half of the season. He reached the quarter-finals of last year’s Roland Garros before retiring hurt down to sets to eventual winner Nadal, but after gaining more experience against Rafa at the Rome, Miami, and Indian Wells Masters, is in the best-possible position to challenge his top-ten 20-year-old peer.

Nikolay Davydenko – Looks good on paper

A perennial Grand Slam quarter-finalist, the Russian had his best-ever finish at Roland Garros in 2005 losing to Mariano Puerta in the semi-finals. Despite his third consecutive quarter-finals appearance at the Australian Open this January, Davydenko’s 2007 had been anything but impressive with several first and second round exits. But then the world number four nearly showed what he is nearly capable of by nearly beating Rafael Nadal at the Rome Masters in a semi-final epic. Nearly will not be good enough at Roland Garros, however.

Guillermo Canas – The upset specialist

Returning to the ATP circuit from a 15-month doping suspension last fall, the Argentine gained a more positive notoriety this spring by beating world number one Roger Federer in two consecutive tournaments. Canas has the quickness and defensive agility to challenge the world’s best on the slow surface, as he proved in his encore victory over Federer in a thrilling 7-6(2) 2-6 7-6(5) victory at the Miami Masters. Having already beaten former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero on clay to win the Brazil Open, Canas went onto reach the finals in Barcelona before succumbing to Nadal. But only one victory in his last three tournaments means “El Gigantico Killero” has cooled heading into Paris.

Lleyton Hewitt and Carlos Moya – The old school

Though both the Australian and the Spaniard have faded significantly since their respective runs at the top of the world rankings, back in November 2001 and March 1999 respectively, both Hewitt and Moya have surged into this year’s French Open. The former US Open and Wimbledon champion Hewitt struggled after winning the Las Vegas Open in February, but demonstrated shades of his former attacking greatness against Nadal in the semi-finals at Hamburg before losing 6-2 3-6 5-7 to the Spaniard. Moya, the 1998 French Open champion, also started the season strong with a title on clay in Acapulco in February, before struggling up until an impressive Hamburg run, which was ended by eventual champion Roger Federer in a thrilling 6-4 4-6 2-6 semi-final. Between the 30-year-old Moya and the 26-year-old Hewitt, you have to give the edge to the Australian.

David Nalbandian – The long-shot

Another really strong contender on paper, Nalbandian reached his second Roland Garros semi-finals appearance in 2006 before retiring against world number one Roger Federer. The big-hitting 25-year-old has disappointed this season with only one quarter-finals appearance at Barcelona, but is capable of beating anybody in the world as he showed at the Masters Cup final against Federer in 2005. Prone to unforced errors and on-court nervous break-downs the hot-blooded Argentine has all the potential to win the French Open, but probably lacks the mental toughness to go all the way.

Philipp Kohlschreiber – The really, really long-shot

The 23-year-old German could turn a few heads and cause a couple of upsets at Paris, if he continues the form that has seen him to a career-best ranking of 32nd in the world. Kohlschreiber, a natural dirt-baller, won his first-career title on the clay at Munich last month. He pushed Rafa Nadal to four sets before losing to the Spaniard in the second round of the Australian Open, and reached the quarter-finals at Monte Carlo before falling to the eventual champion Nadal yet again. The added experience against the world number two could very well work to his advantage.

And the rest….

Andy Roddick, James Blake, Ivan Ljubicic, Tommy Robredo, Tomas Berdych, and Tommy Haas are threats in any major tournament, while claycourt specialists Juan Ignacio Chela, Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer could also do some damage.

Nadal’s king, but these 5 can usurp the throne

Matthew Cronin / FOXSports.com

Breaking news! Rafael Nadal can be beat on clay — at least once every two years.

But despite his three-set loss to top-ranked Roger Federer in the Hamburg final, the Spaniard is still the favorite to win his third consecutive French Open title and become the first man since all-time great Bjorn Borg to pull off a triple. Here are the five best bets to take his title:

  • Roger Federer: Muddled in his longest slump since he became No. 1, Federer scraped and clawed his way to his third Hamburg title, needing three sets to overcome Juan Monaco, David Ferrer and Carlos Moya. Then in the final against Nadal, whom he had never beaten in five attempts on clay, he rediscovered his ferocious backhand, stepped further inside the court with his backhand to pick up the Spaniard’s high bouncing balls earlier and hit straight through his exhausted foe.Even though it was clear that Nadal had finally lost his legs after an amazing 81-match win streak on clay, the victory was a much-needed boost of confidence for Federer, who now believes that if he finds the zone, continues to hit out, serves huge and returns intelligently, that his chase of the calendar year Grand Slam is no quixotic quest. But if Federer is to win his first Roland Garros crown, he must play cleanly through his first five matches because he doesn’t want to enter the final weekend with tread-worn wheels.
  • Novak Djokovic: The hottest young player on tour has found his feet on clay and is looking all the part of a top five player this year. John McEnroe loves this guy’s composure and how he goes after the ball. He’s beaten Nadal on hardcourts, and he won Warsaw on clay.Interestingly, even though he’s a Serbian who has slid on plenty of clay courts in his life, Djokovic prefers faster surfaces. But he’s a good mover who can launch his forehand and rarely backs off the ball against elite players. He just turned 20 and is still a little immature, but unlike some of the veterans, he doesn’t fear Rafa or Roger. He’ll get after it, which is a sure sign of a future Slam champ.
  • Nikolay Davydenko: Hurt much of the year, the Russian rebounded in Rome with a semifinal appearance and a near win over Nadal. If he can find motivation — and find some heart — he’s a decent threat to reach the French Open semis (and maybe the final if Fed fizzles). He’s the tour’s most unknown top-5 player, but is a true backboard with pop and savvy.
  • Fernando Gonzalez: The Chilean slumped after the Australian Open final, overplaying and frequently losing his composure. The 26-year-old has huge weapons and a much-improved backhand, but he can be impatient and lose his focus. On clay, that’s a death sentence.Gonzo did revive himself at the Italian Open, reaching the final, but Nadal ran circles around him there and in Hamburg. If he can avoid the Spaniard until late in the tournament and catches fire, he can upset anyone on a great day. But he needs to show the same spunk he did Down Under.
  • Guillermo Canas: After a lengthy doping suspension, the veteran Argentine has run an incredible race back into top 25, grinding nearly every week since last fall and taking Federer down twice at Indian Wells and Miami.In his six appearances at Roland Garros, he’s played nine monstrous five-setters, winning five of them. Even though he can stay on court for eons, Canas has to be more of a risk-taker this year if he’s to pass the quarterfinals. Playing possum isn’t going to cut it as the tournament wears on.While the ATP Tour isn’t deep at the top level of the game, it’s near fathomless with men who have quarterfinal possibilities. Here are 10 other men who can reach the French Open final eight:
  • Graceful Spaniard Tommy Robredo
  • The talented yet erratic French hopeful Richard Gasquet
  • Czech powerballer Tomas Berdych
  • Argentine veteran David Nalbandian
  • Tireless Spaniard David Ferrer
  • The improving Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela
  • 2003 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero
  • The up-and-down Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis
  • Argentine teen Juan Martin Del Potro
  • And two-time Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia.Unless they receive a very sweet draw, don’t expect American top 10ers Andy Roddick and James Blake to reach the second week. They are bedeviled by the dirt.