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Shark Bites: Roland Garros Preview

Paris, France

Rafael Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal has a 31-1 record at Roland Garros.

ATP stats and information guru Greg Sharko previews ROLAND GARROS, the second Grand Slam championship of the year in Paris.

* NADAL ROLLS INTO PARIS  – World No. 2 and four-time ROLAND GARROS champion Rafael Nadal comes into Paris undefeated on clay this spring, becoming the first player to win three consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay court titles in a year. In addition, Nadal will attempt to become the first player to win a “Clay Slam” in Paris, capturing the four biggest clay court titles during the season on the ATP World Tour. During Nadal’s lead-up into Paris, he did not play back-to-back weeks and he won 30 of 32 sets played during his trio of titles. It also marks the sixth straight year Nadal has won three European ATP World Tour clay court titles in leading into ROLAND GARROS. If Nadal wins his fifth title in Paris and current No. 1 Roger Federer does not reach the semi-finals, the Spaniard will regain No. 1 on June 7.   
* CLAY COURT DOMINATOR –  Here's a year-by-year look at Nadal's clay court dominance since 2005, compiling a 169-6 match record and 27-2 mark in clay court finals on the ATP World Tour. There is also a breakdown of his clay court preparation leading into Paris. For six straight years he's won three European clay court titles coming into ROLAND GARROS:

      On Clay
           W-L    Clay Finals      Going into ROLAND GARROS (April-May)
2010 - 15-0         3-0                    15-0         3 Titles    (30-2 in sets)
2009 - 23-2         3-1                    17-1        3 Titles    (34-4)
2008 - 24-1         4-0                    15-1        3 Titles    (30-5)
2007 - 31-1         5-1                    19-1        3 Titles    (39-4)
2006 - 26-0         4-0                    17-0        3 Titles    (37-6)
2005 - 50-2         8-0                    19-1        3 Titles    (39-8)

+ Overall he is 196-16 (.925) in his career on clay, the best winning pct. on clay in the Open Era       

* THREE-WAY BATTLE FOR NO. 1 – The top three players in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings will be battling for the second Grand Slam title of the season at ROLAND GARROS. In addition, the trio will have their eyes on the No. 1 ranking, which defending champion Roger Federer currently holds. Federer will have to hold off No. 2 and four-time ROLAND GARROS champion Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Novak Djokovic, who also has a chance to take over the top spot for the first time.  In order for Federer to hold on to the top ranking and tie Pete Sampras' all-time record of 286 weeks at No. 1, the Swiss native must at least reach the semi-finals even if Nadal wins the title.

Here are the scenarios based on the points table below:
-  Federer will remain No. 1 if he reaches the SFs but anything less and Nadal wins the title, then the Spaniard regains No. 1.
- Nadal must win the title and have Federer lose before the semi-finals to take over No. 1.
- Djokovic must win the title and have Federer lose before the quarter-finals


* THE NO. 1 LIST – Federer is guaranteed to hold No. 1 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings for 285 weeks, leaving him one week short of tying the all-time record set by Pete Sampras. Here are the all-time leaders (since 1973):

Weeks at No. 1
Pete Sampras  286
Roger Federer  284 (entering ROLAND GARROS May 24 Ranking)
Ivan Lendl  270
Jimmy Connors  268
John McEnroe  170

* THE DEFENDING CHAMPION/TOP SEED – Federer enters Paris with a 19-6 match record  (6-3 on clay) on the season and he’s coming off a runner-up effort at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid last Sunday (l. to Nadal). The 28-year-old defending champion has reached the final at ROLAND GARROS the past four years and the last time he didn’t reach the final was in 2005 when he lost to Nadal in the semi-finals. He has reached the final in 18 of the past 19 Grand Slam events going back to '05 Wimbledon. The only time he didn’t reach the final was at the '08 Aust. Open in 2008 when he lost in the semi-finals (l. to Djokovic). Overall he is 16-6 in Grand Slam title matches, having reached the last eight finals. He is also 130-1 against players ranked outside the Top 5 in Grand Slam play since 2004 Wimbledon when he started his streak of 23 Grand Slam semi-finals or better. His only loss during that span came to No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro in last year’s US Open final.  He's the only player in men's tennis to win at least 50 matches in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments (he has 39 wins at RG).    If he reaches the semi-finals he will become the fifth player with 200 career Grand Slam match wins, joining Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras. He is also three match wins away from becoming the 10th player in the Open Era with 700.

* ALL-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPIONS – Federer is the all-time leader on the Grand Slam champions list:

1) Roger Federer 16-6
2) Pete Sampras 14-4
3) Roy Emerson 12-3
4) Bjorn Borg  11-5
    Rod Laver  11-5

* THE GRAND SLAM CLUB – Last year Federer became the sixth man to join the elite list of players who have won all four Grand Slam titles during their career: Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, and Andre Agassi. He was the first player to do it since Agassi, who captured ROLAND GARROS in 1999. The last player to win four straight Grand Slam titles was Laver in 1969.

* JOINING THE GRAND SLAM TITLE CLUB – History indicates a player is likely to capture his first career Grand Slam title at ROLAND GARROS. In the Open Era, 21 players have notched their first Grand Slam crown in Paris, more than any other Grand Slam tournament. Of the past 21 winners since 1989 when Michael Chang captured his first and only Slam title, 12 claimed their first Slam crown in Paris, including Rafael Nadal in 2005. In addition, since ’89, only five players (Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Nadal, and Federer) have won another different Slam title other than ROLAND GARROS
* FOUR-TIME WINNERS – Nadal is attempting to join six-time winner Bjorn Borg as the second man (since 1925) to win at least five titles at ROLAND GARROS.

Here are the players with three titles or more:
No. (Years)
Bjorn Borg   6 (1974-75, ’78-81)
Henri Cochet  4 (1926, ’28, ’30, ’32)
Rafael Nadal  4 (2005-08)
Gustavo Kuerten 3 (1997, 2000-01)
Mats Wilander  3 (1982, ’85, ’88)
Ivan Lendl  3 (1984, ’86-87)
Rene Lacoste  3 (1925, ’27, ’29)

* TOUGH TO BEAT IN FIVE – Nadal enters ROLAND GARROS with a 49-1 career record in best of five set matches on clay. His only loss came to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in four sets last year. In fact, he’s been extended to five sets only twice, defeating Guillermo Coria in the 2005 Rome final and Roger Federer in the 2006 Rome final (both 7-6 in the fifth).

* FIELD  UPDATE – As of Wednesday, 43 of the Top 50 players were expected in the main draw, including 17 of the Top 20. The top players withdrawals were No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro (wrist), No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko (wrist) and No. 20 Radek Stepanek (mononucleosis).

* GRAND SLAM CHAMPIONS IN FIELD – All-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer (16) and four-time ROLAND GARROS winner Rafael Nadal are two of five Grand Slam champions (accounting for 26 Grand Slam singles titles) in this year's main draw.

Here are the active Grand Slam champions:
Age No. Titles
Roger Federer      28 16 2003-07, ‘09 Wimbledon; 2009 ROLAND GARROS; 2004, ’06-07, ‘10 Aus.Op.; 2004-08 US Open
Rafael Nadal      23 6 2005-08 ROLAND GARROS, 2009 Australian Open, 2008 Wimbledon
Lleyton Hewitt      29 2 2001 US Open, 2002 Wimbledon
Novak Djokovic      23 1 2008 Australian Open
Andy Roddick         27 1 2003 US Open
Juan Carlos Ferrero 30  1 2003 ROLAND GARROS

* CLAY COURT PREPARATION – Thirteen of the past 17 ROLAND GARROS champions won at least 15 clay court matches coming into Paris (except Kuerten in 1997, Agassi in 1999, Gaudio in 2004 and Federer last year).

Here is a look at the champions with clay court records and clay titles won (finals reached) since 1994:

 1994 Sergi Bruguera (18-5)   No clay titles (Finalist in M.C.,Madrid)
 1995 Thomas Muster (28-0)   Won Mexico City, Estoril, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Rome
 1996 Yevgeny Kafelnikov (15-5) Won Prague
 1997 Gustavo Kuerten (2-7)   No clay titles
 1998 Carlos Moya (16-7)   Won Monte Carlo
 1999 Andre Agassi (2-2)   No clay titles
 2000 Gustavo Kuerten (21-6)   Won Santiago, Hamburg
 2001 Gustavo Kuerten (24-3)   Won Buenos Aires, Acapulco, Monte Carlo
 2002 Albert Costa (15-5)   No clay titles (Finalist in Barcelona)
 2003 Juan Carlos Ferrero (21-2) Won Monte Carlo, Valencia
 2004 Gaston Gaudio (12-9)   No clay titles (Finalist in Barcelona)
 2005 Rafael Nadal (31-2)   Won Costa do Sauipe, Acapulco, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome
 2006 Rafael Nadal (17-0)   Won Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome
 2007 Rafael Nadal (19-1)   Won Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome
 2008 Rafael Nadal (15-1)   Won Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Hamburg 
 2009 Roger Federer (9-2)   Won Madrid 
As of Monday, May 17: This year’s 15-match winners are: David Ferrer (27-5), Juan Carlos Ferrero (18-4), Thomaz Bellucci (16-6), Rafael Nadal (15-0) and Fernando Verdasco (15-4).  Verdasco is playing in Nice this week.

* A LOOK AT THE SEEDS – There are 17 of the Top 20 players (except No. 5 del Potro, No. 6 Davydenko, No. 20 Stepanek) in this year’s ROLAND GARROS main draw:

Seed               W-L (Best Finish - Yr.)  2009 Result 
1) Roger Federer (SUI)     39-10 (Winner – 2009)  Winner – d. Soderling
2) Rafael Nadal (ESP)      31-1 (Winner – 2005-08) Fourth Rd. – l. to Soderling 
3) Novak Djokovic (SRB)            17-5 (SF – 2007-08)  Third Rd. – l. to Kohlschreiber
4) Andy Murray (GBR)    6-3 (QF – 2009)  QF – l. to Gonzalez
5) Robin Soderling (SWE)   9-6 (Runner-up – 2009) Runner-up – l. to Federer
6) Andy Roddick (USA)    7-8 (4th Rd. – 2009)  Fourth Rd. – l. to Monfils
7) Fernando Verdasco (ESP)  11-6 (4th Rd. – 2007-08-09) Fourth Rd. – l. to Davydenko
8) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)          3-2 (4th Rd. – 2009)  Fourth Rd. – l. to del Potro
9) David Ferrer (ESP)   16-7 (QF – 2005, ’08)  Third Rd. – l. to Soderling
10) Marin Cilic (CRO)     4-3 (4th Rd. – 2009)  Fourth Rd. – l. to Murray
11) Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)   11-9 (4th Rd. – 2007)  Second Rd. – l. to Hanescu
12) Fernando Gonzalez (CHI)   19-9 (SF- 2009)  SF – l. to Soderling
13) Gael Monfils (FRA)    14-5 (SF – 2008)  QF – l. to Federer
14) Ivan Ljubicic (CRO)    13-10 (SF – 2006)  1st Rd. – l. to Ferrero
15) Tomas Berdych (CZE)     5-6 (4th Rd. – 2006)  1st Rd. – l. to Bolelli
16) Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP)    31-9 (Winner – 2003)   2nd Rd. – l. to Kohlschreiber

* BRYANS LOOK FOR HISTORIC TITLE – The No. 1 duo in the ATP Doubles Team Rankings Bob and Mike Bryan, have won back-to-back titles at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome and Madrid. They are 5-0 in finals this season and have tied the Open Era doubles team titles record (61) of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. They captured their first Grand Slam title together at ROLAND GARROS in 2003 and were finalists in 2005-06. They have an 8-8 career mark in Slam finals.

- Five years ago (in 2005)…Rafael Nadal of Spain (at age 19) captures his first Grand Slam title by defeating unseeded Argentine Mariano Puerta 67(6) 63 61 75 in the final.
- Ten years ago (in 2000)...Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil defeats Swede and current Robin Soderling coach Magnus Norman   62 63 26 76 to win his second of three titles in Paris.
- Twenty years ago (in 1990)…Andres Gomez of Ecuador, at age 30, defeats Andre Agassi in the American’s first Grand Slam final, 63 26 64 64.
- Twenty-five years ago (in 1985)…Mats Wilander captures his second of three ROLAND GARROS titles by rallying to beat defending champ Ivan Lendl 36 64 62 62.
- Fifty years ago (in 1960) Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy defends his title by beating Luis Ayala 36 63 64 46 63.

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