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Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Updated: May 13, 9:33 AM ET
Djoker properly fortified for French grind?


7. Is Novak a legit contender?

Novak Djokovic is almost there. A retirement at the U.S. Open and he completes his Grand Slam collection. One for the record books.

He came close two years ago at Flushing Meadows, prompting Andy Roddick's barbs, and for that matter, against Gael Monfils in 2005.

Djokovic pulled out mid-match against Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals four years ago, memorably suggesting afterward he was controlling the encounter (down two sets to love). This year alone, a stomach illness knocked him out at the Australian Open, when he had a great draw, and allergies forced the fragile 22-year-old to call it quits at the family tournament in Belgrade. In what turned out to be great comedy, the ATP defended Djokovic, reporting on its website there was "a lot of pollen in the air." Must have been.

Djokovic to win the French Open? More reason to laugh.

If his peers in the top 10 were healthy, he'd have no chance. Djokovic has made hard work of matches he should be winning in straight sets, and a day after downing a determined David Nalbandian in Monte Carlo in one of his best matches of 2010, he was crushed by Fernando Verdasco. In Rome, Verdasco -- the same Verdasco who lost 13 straight to top-10 foes at one stretch in 2009 -- outlasted him. Djokovic skipped Madrid.

Despite excelling last year during the clay-court season -- he was rightfully considered second favorite at the French behind Nadal -- Djokovic isn't a player who can slump, then turn it around quickly, especially now, given his body and the serving troubles. He needs a comfortable draw to the semifinals and someone else to oust Nadal and Roger Federer. Djokovic, to remind you, hasn't won a big match at a Slam since Melbourne in 2008.

If he confronts a dangerous floater early, such as his 2009 conqueror, Philipp Kohlschreiber, then it's adieu in the first week.