Success at the French Open has never come easy, if at all, for grand slam record-holder and Switzerland superstar Roger Federer. Despite his domination of the Wimbledon grass and the U.S. and Australian hardcourts, the 33-year-old owns a singular title on the Roland Garros clay and has made the finals there only four other times in his storied career.
Federer also isn’t shy about giving credit to rival and nine-time French winner Rafael Nadal, who’s trudged through the early part of the season with injuries and poor form.
“Regardless of what anyone says to me he's the favorite,” Federer said of Nadal to Tennis.com. “The guy’s only lost once in 10 years.”
But following the release of this year’s French draw on Friday, it’s more than reasonable to believe No. 2 ranked Federer can make a deep and possibly championship run at Roland Garros, and perhaps challenge some of the prohibitive favorites: Novak Djokovic, Nadal and Andy Murray.
With qualifying rounds still taking place, Federer’s first round opponent is presently unknown. But his overall competition in the first four rounds could ensure Federer at least makes a return to the quarterfinals. Since 2011, when he fell to Nadal in the final, Federer’s lost in the semis, quarters and then the fourth round over the last four Paris tournaments.
Assuming he makes quick work of his first round opponent, Federer will likely next face Spain’s Marcel Granollers, the No. 56 ranked player in the world whose gone 9-11 this season and hasn’t reached the later stages of any tournament since the semis in Croatia in February. Federer also owns 3-0 record against Granollers, though when they last met in the round of 32 at the U.S. last year he dropped the first set 4-6 before winning three straight at 6-1 apiece.
In the third round a matchup with No. 26 Ivo Karlovic could be next. The 36-year-old Croat has defeated Federer once in their 13 career matchups, and that came way back in 2008 at the Cincinnati Masters on hardcourt. Three of Federer’s wins were on clay, and he only dropped a set at Gstaad in 2004.
No. 22 ranked and Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas could be the last opponent of Federer’s minor gauntlet into the late rounds. The pair have already dueled twice this year, both on clay, with Federer winning all four sets between Rome and Istanbul, though he did need a tiebreaker in two of the sets.
Perhaps inevitably, Federer is likely to face No. 9 and fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Federer has dominated his compatriot throughout their matches, taking 16 of 18, including a straight-set victory on clay in the Rome semis. However, Wawrinka’s last win came on Monte Carlo clay last year and he surged on Australia’s stage to make the semis earlier this year before running into Djokovic, who dominates the major.
Wawrinka could even fall to France’s Gael Monfils, who Federer would likely hope to avoid. Monfils has won his last two meetings with Federer, both on clay, and at the U.S. Open quarters last year Federer needed five sets to beat the 28-year-old who will likely have a boisterous crowd on his side.