On Wednesday, Andy Murray dropped out of his match against Marcel Granollers with back pain on his 26th birthday after splitting the first two sets 3-6. 7-6(5), dropping his record on the season to 3-3 on clay courts.
After the match, Murray shocked the tennis world saying, “I’d be very surprised if I were playing in Paris. I need to make a plan as to what I do. I’ll chat with the guys tonight and make a plan for the next few days then make a decision on Paris after the next five days. I want to make sure it goes away. It’s been a problem since the end of 2011 but it got bad during last year’s clay season.”
Not many expected a title out of Murray at Roland Garros , considering his disappointing clay court record over the last 14 months. However, his potential absence at the second slam of the year will have a considerable impact on the fortnight. So here is a look at the overall impact of a slam without Murray is and how it affects each player in the top 10.
Overall: Without Murray in the draw everyone besides Novak Djokovic and possibly Roger Federer will be seeded one spot higher than they would have been. That means Rafael Nadal slides right back in to the top four, and Richard Gasquet will likely move into the top eight. Murray only reached the quarterfinals, so that doesn’t leave a huge amount of ranking points available for the taking, but 360 points would be a great result for a player outside the top 10 potentially. Finally, this means Murray will be fresh and ready when he arrives for Wimbledon, giving odds makers another reason to make him the favorite in his home county’s slam.
Stanislas Wawrinka: The Swiss No. 2 just had a big result on the clay in Madrid and Roland Garros is a big opportunity for him to back up that result and prove he belongs in the top 10. Wawrinka reached the round of 16 last year and without Murray, he has a good chance to go one round farther.
Richard Gasquet: The switch from being the No. 9 seed and the No. 8 seed may not seem like a big change, but it will drastically change the way Gasquet’s draw looks in Paris. Gasquet is now guaranteed not to face any higher-ranked player until the quarterfinals instead of the round of 16. The Frenchman has now reached the round of 16 at five grand slam tournaments in a row, but has failed to reach the quarterfinals each time. In four of those five matches, Gasquet faced a higher-ranked player. In fact, Gasquet has reached the round of 16 on 15 different occasions in a grand slam and has lost 14 of those; 11 to higher-ranked players. So now that he is guaranteed not to face a higher-ranked player until the quarterfinals, his chances improve significantly to reach the quarterfinals of a slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2007.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro: All three players will be attempting to erase bad memories from Paris last year when they return in 2013. Tsonga squandered four match points in his quarterfinal against Djokovic. Del Potro let a two-set lead over Roger Federer slip away. Berdych lost a four-set match against Del Potro in the round of 16. The possibility of Murray skipping the French Open is actually bad news for the players currently ranked between six and eight. If the seeds go through, each player seeded five through eight plays against a player in the top four at the quarterfinals. Since Murray’s spot in the top four will be taken by Nadal, the opportunity to the Scot will be substituted with a much tougher task in Nadal. All three of these players are more than capable of defeating Murray on clay, but facing Nadal on clay is a proposition that gives most tennis players nightmares.
Rafael Nadal: As mentioned before, this means Nadal will be the No. 4 seed. He could even be the No. 3 seed with a win in Rome. In the short-term, this is great news for Nadal, but there is one slight downside. The upside is obvious. He won’t face any of the players in the top four until the semifinals, which will improve his chances to win the title for a fourth consecutive time. However, there is a very slight downside for Nadal in terms of ranking. At Wimbledon last year, Federer defeated Djokovic in the semifinals, which allowed him to become the world No. 1 for a third time. If Federer defeated Djokovic in the final, Djokovic would have remained the world No. 1. Even thought the No. 1 ranking isn’t immediately at stake in Paris, Nadal has the same scenario. The sooner he faces Djokovic in the event, the more points he can prevent Djokovic from accumulating. Now Nadal can’t face Djokovic any sooner than the semifinals.
David Ferrer: It is impossible to know what the draw would look like if Murray does compete, but if Murray does skip Roland Garros, that will get rid of one possibility that would make Ferrer a favorite to reach the finals. If Murray does not withdraw, there is a possibility that Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic could all be on the top half of the draw, leaving just Ferrer and Murray on the bottom half. On clay, Ferrer is undefeated against Murray, which would make Ferrer the favorite on the bottom half in that scenario. Without Murray, that scenario is no longer possibility. There is still plenty of good news for Ferrer. He would be guaranteed that Nadal won’t be in his quarter and he could avoid both Djokovic and Nadal until the final.
Roger Federer: Federer might be the biggest winner if Murray skips out on Roland Garros. Federer would be the No. 2 seed, meaning he doesn’t have to worry about facing Djokovic in the semifinals for a third consecutive year. Also, if Nadal is on the top half of the draw that would obviously improve Federer’s chances to reach another final in Paris.
Novak Djokovic: For the Serb, the news about Murray will not have much of an effect on him. His focus is clearly on achieving the career slam and anything short of that would be a disappointment. At this point it seems unavoidable that Djokovic will have to go through Nadal if he wants to win Roland Garros, so which round he faces Nadal in doesn’t matter. However, Djokovic is undefeated in semifinals and finals so far this year. With no Murray, Djokovic won’t have to face Nadal until one of the final two rounds. Hopefully for the fans, they will be meeting on final Sunday.
Even if Murray isn’t a favorite to win in Paris, whether the world No. 2 decides to play or not will have an effect on the matches throughout the second week of play at the French Open.