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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis


Day seven of the 2019 men’s third round at the French Open at Roland Garros was completed yesterday including the two matches carried over from Friday between Tsitsipas and Krajinovic and Wawrinka and Dimitrov which Tsitsipas and Wawrinka both won against Dimitrov and Krajinovic in four and three sets respectively.

The crème de la crème of the draw continues to improve and rise to the top, justifying their seeding and world rankings. There was only one upset on Saturday which was thirteenth seed Coric, who lost a gruelling, nail-biting five set battle against the in-form unseeded German Struff. Struff just scraped over the line 11-9 in the fifth set to reach the fourth round of a Slam for the first time and he now leads the head-to-head over Coric 3-2.

However, Struff’s is due to face the unenviable task of trying to beat top seed and tournament second favourite Djokovic tomorrow for a place in the quarter finals on Monday, which is unlikely to occur judging by the Serbian number one’s performances so far this fortnight.

Fourth seed Thiem (advised 17/2 correction) was not surprisingly made to work hard for his fourth-round place against veteran clay court specialist Cuevas yesterday. The Uruguayan fought hard to keep the game close and competitive to the end, but it was 2018 finalist and Austrian number one Thiem who prevailed in four sets. This sets up a potential mouth-watering clash tomorrow against fourteenth seed Monfils, but history is on Thiem’s side, as he leads the head-to-head 5-0, which includes both wins on clay in 2015 and 2018.

Fifth Seed Zverev reached the fourth round for the second time but he continues to be unpredictable and blow hot and cold at Grand Slams. He raced to a 2-0 sets lead against thirtieth seed Lajovic yesterday and looked on to win back-to-back matches in straight sets, but the young German went walk about mentally again which let Lajovic back in to the match and he knocked off the next two sets for the loss of only five games in impressive fashion. However, Zverev is now used to being in these types of situations, which in this case was almost a mirror image of their five-set thriller here last year, and like then Zverev had enough left in reserve to win the deciding fifth set 6-2.

Zverev’s job won’t get an easier as his next match on Monday is against the enigmatic Italian and ninth seed Fognini, who knocked out eighteenth seed Bautista Agut in four sets yesterday in impressive fashion. Zverev leads the head-to-head 2-1 with both his wins coming in straight sets back in 2017 on hard courts and clay at the Rome Masters 1000 series, however, he lost to Fognini for the first time 7-6 6-1 at this year’s Monte Carlo Masters 1000 Series back in April and on current form this is potentially a close one to call as it’s dependant on which Zverev and Fognini turns up mentally, but whatever happens we should be in for a real ding dong battle between the two tomorrow.

Eighth seed Del Potro showed no signs of the physical struggles he experienced in his gruelling five set win on Thursday against Aussie Thompson yesterday winning 6-4 6-4 6-0. Tenth seed Khachanov reached the fourth round for the fourth time yesterday, knocking out the unseeded Klizan in straights with plenty to spare, which sets up another potential classic against Del Potro tomorrow. History is on two-time semi-finalist (2009 and 2018) Del Potro’s side as he leads the head-to-head 3-0, which all came on hard courts in 2018, and a repeat of them of that form should see the Tower of Tandil through to the quarter finals for the third time.

The 2019 men’s French Open continues today with the first of the fourth-round matches from the bottom half of the draw. The matches include second seed Nadal and the unseeded Londero from Argentina, who has burst on to the clay court scene this year winning his first ATP 250 title at Cordoba, Argentina back in February. He’s impressed so far this fortnight knocking out talented players like Basilashvili and Gasquet, but he struggled to beat the impressive French surprise package Wild Card Moutet in five sets and it’s safe to say he’ll do well to even take a set off Nadal, but it’s not impossible as the out of for Goffin managed to do it this week.

Third Seed Federer faces the unseeded Mayer from Argentina today for a place in the fourth round and this will be their fourth meeting on the tour. Federer leads the head-to-head 3-0 with all matches coming on Federer’ favourite surface hard courts between 2014 and 2018. It’s hard to oppose Federer on current form, however, I think I’ve found a betting angle that should come close to landing a profit. Their three previous encounters produced two tie breaks and with plenty of breakers coming so far this week, especially since the weather turned hotter producing quicker conditions there’s a good chance another could feature today. Mayer’s three matches this week produced three breakers and four of Feders’ last eight matches on the surface also produced a breaker and with this being Mayer’s strongest surface it could level the playing field enough and the match could be closer than the odds suggest, especially if Federer starts to fatigue from the third set onwards due to the blisteringly hot energy sapping conditions.

The other two Super Sunday matches have the potential to be the games of the day between sixth seed Tsitsipas and veteran twenty fourth seed and 2015 winner Wawrinka and the only remaining French player in the draw Paire against seventh seed Nishikori. This will be the first meeting on tour between Tsitsipas and Wawrinka and assessing their results so far this week’s there’s not much between them and Tsitsipas has been marked up by the layers as marginal favourites.

It’s a tough one to call as there’s plenty of strong arguments to support both players winning, but the one disadvantage Tsitsipas has compared to Wawrinka is that he’s still hasn’t won a Slam, he has little winning experience come the latter stages in Slams against the game’s elite, compared to Stan who has won three Slams at the 2014 Aussie Open beating Nadal in the final, Roland Garros beating Djokovic in the 2015 final, and the 2016 US Open beating Djokovic in the final and at all three he came in to each event under the radar like this year and this experience could be the telling difference today.

Finally, while Paire has been in red hot form during the clay court swing, winning two ATP 250 events at Marrakech and Lyon and he’s now on an eight-match winning streak on clay. However, he’s not faced any top ten stars during this run and he’s not had much success against Nishikori who leads the head-to-head 6-2 between 2012 1nd 2019 including losing all three on clay and both encounters at the French open losing in four and five sets the latest being their five set thriller last year.


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