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Strengths and weaknesses of the top male contenders

Latest update : 2009-05-25

Roland Garros favourite Rafael Nadal seems well on his way to sweeping a record fifth successive French Open title, although he may come across a few impressive contenders along the way.

REUTERS - A brief look at the strengths and weaknesses of the leading contenders for the men's title at the French Open which begins on Sunday (prefix number denotes ranking):

1-Rafael Nadal (Spain): The four-times champion has the ability to flatten opponents with his fearsome forehand groundstrokes. A supreme athlete, he employs speed and an aggressive approach to win through. As for weaknesses, he does not understand the meaning of the word.

2-Roger Federer (Switzerland): An exquisite squash-style shot he conjured up at the 2006 French Open sums up the talent of the man. Might have overcome a mental block against Nadal by beating the Spaniard in Madrid last Sunday -- snapping a five-match losing streak. But memories of his 2008 final mauling may come back to haunt him.

3-Andy Murray (Britain): As well as being a supreme tactician, he trips up many opponents with his excellent court coverage. Despite honing his skills on clay at the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona during his teenage years, red dirt remains his weakest surface and he would do well to reach the second week for the first time.

4-Novak Djokovic (Serbia): Boasts an attractive all-court game with his backhand being his strongest weapon. His fitness, though, has been called into question time and again as he has quit mid-match four times in 17 grand slam tournaments.

5-Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina): Can adapt to playing on many different surfaces as he proved by winning back-to-back titles on clay and hardcourt in 2008. His swift coverage around the court helps him to run opponents ragged.

6-Andy Roddick (U.S.): His thunderbolt serve is no longer the weapon it once was and on clay it fails to do much damage. With four opening-round losses, two second-round showings and a solitary visit to the third round, Roddick has probably already booked his flight out of Paris.

7-Gilles Simon (France): After a consistent start to the season on hard courts, his double-handed backhand has failed to pay dividends on the energy-sapping clay. As the highest ranked home player, he will be under the spotlight as France looks for its first men's champion since Yannick Noah in 1983.

8-Fernando Verdasco (Spain): Spain's Davis Cup hero has an ominous forehand and has proved to be a supreme athlete after keeping Nadal on court for more than five hours in a battle of wills and stamina in the Australian Open semi-finals. The gifted left-hander has the game to reach the second week for the first time.

Date created : 2009-05-22