Roger Federer, at first glance, has new life. The only two players who would definitely be favored to beat him, Djokovic and Nadal, are far away, and he’s guaranteed only to have to see one of them. On second glance, though, he’s not guaranteed of anything. Two years ago, Rafa and Nole faced off in the semifinals, but it was Ferrer who was awaiting the winner two days later; Federer had gone out in the quarterfinals to Tsonga.
It’s possible that something similar could happen again. The second seed in Federer’s half is Gael Monfils. Federer is 8-4 in their career head to head and 3-0 against him at Roland Garros, but Monfils has won their last two meetings, on clay, in straight sets, and he pushed him to the brink in their U.S. Open quarterfinal last fall. Of course, La Monf remains La Monf: He has had knee trouble, and he could have a tough third-rounder with dirt-baller Pablo Cuevas. But Monfils always gets up for the French.
The top seed on the other side is Stan Wawrinka, who remains as unpredictable as ever. After a mostly dismal spring, he belted his way past Nadal last week in Rome, before losing to Federico Delbonis in Geneva. The upside is that Wawrinka likes clay and has reached at least the round of 16 at Roland Garros four times. The downside is that he lost in the first round last year, to the man he could play in the third round this year, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Also here: Ernests Gulbis. Was he really a semifinalist in 2014? He’s 2-12 in 2015.
Sleepers: Dominic Thiem and Gilles Simon. The 21-year-old Austrian is into the semis in Nice, and his game has started to round back into form. The Frenchman has been placed, happily, near two vulnerable seeds, Gulbis and Wawrinka.
Player to Watch, If Only Briefly: Frances Tiafoe. The highly-toued U.S. teen makes his Roland Garros debut against Martin Klizan