Tennis: Matt Brown's French Open picks

Andy Murray. Photo / Getty Images
Andy Murray. Photo / Getty Images

Radio Sport's tennis commentator Matt Brown is at the French Tennis Open starting Sunday night in Paris.

It's got to be Novak Djokovic, surely? No surprises here that I'm picking the world number one to finally get the monkey off his back and lift the Coupe des Musketeers for the first time.

He was an overwhelming favourite last year, even more so than now before being stunned by Stan Wawrinka in the final.

Djokovic's form on the red clay has been solid by his lofty standards, but not compelling. An early defeat at the Monte Carlo Masters was followed by a tough win over Andy Murray in Madrid, before Murray turned the tables on the world number one in Rome.

Djokovic faced stern tests from a rejuvenated Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori who along with Murray and Wawrinka are the only realistic title winners for me.

The draw sees Djokovic open against former Auckland finalist Yen Tsun Lu with a semi-final clash against nine times champion Rafael Nadal a strong possibility.

The Spaniard has been getting better and better this season and appears fit and hungry.

Djokovic has won their last 7 matches since Nadal's win in the 2014 Roland Garros semi-finals. But their most recent meeting on clay in Rome this month suggested the 'King of Clay' will be a handful should they square off in the last four. Djokovic was pushed to the limit in winning 7-5, 7-6 and had little in the tank left for the following day's final against Murray.

The world number two ranked Scot has a potentially difficult draw but has been the most impressive player this clay court season. In beating Djokovic with ease 6-3, 6-3 in Rome, Murray announced himself as a serious threat for the title.

His draw looks good through to the quarter finals where he could face the dangerous Nishikori before defending champ Wawrinka in the semis. The Swiss has been in ordinary form, but has the ability to change that in an instant. In best of five set matches I expect Wawrinka to go deep into the second week.

But in the absence of an ailing Roger Federer from a Grand Slam for the first time since 1999, no Gael Monfils, the incredibly talented Frenchman, the signs point to the most dominant player for the last four years, finally completing his Grand Slam.

It's Serena Williams versus the field for the women's title. The three times champion won her only clay court build up tournament in Rome without losing a set. I feel if she comes through the first couple of rounds she'll be hard to stop. It's her third attempt to equal Steffi Graf's record of 22 grand slams. But we've seen at the US and Australian Open, nothing's for certain.

Roberta Vinci in New York and Angelique Kerber in Melbourne supposedly never stood a chance, but such is sport. Williams has a tricky draw with former champ Ana Ivanovic, Kerber and Victoria Azarenka all in her section. So I'm going to take a punt and pick Simona Halep, the winner in Madrid a few weeks ago. That triumph aside, the Romanian's form has been patchy this year.

She is the 6th seed but she's at her best on clay and made the final a couple of years ago.

Second seed Agnieska Radwanska has never been past the quarter finals in Paris, while Angelique Kerber could feel the pressure of being Australian Open champion. Victoria Azarenka has never been at her best on clay and is struggling for form with young Spaniard Garbine Muguruza another big threat.

Matt Brown in Paris thanks to Emirates Airline

- NZ Herald

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