Three rounds down at the 2012 French Open and our final 16 is set. After a week of play really all the big names are through with minimal surprises and drama to date – with the 32 seeding it’s been a rather uneventful week one for the men.
Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Andy Murray all eased into the fourth round without losing a set today. Nadal ran his French Open win streak to 17 after pounding burly Argentine Eduardo Schwank. Rafa, who hasn’t even come close to facing a set point, said afterward he didn’t play his best on his last day as a 25-year-old. And that won’t sit well with Uncle Toni and the camp!
Ferrer blew out Mikhail Youzhny while Murray shook off any of those back concerns by taking care of a game Santiago Giraldo rather routinely.
Murray now gets a hot-handed Richard Gasquet who won the last 14 games to beat vet Tommy Haas in four sets. Ferrer will meet grunting countryman Marcel Granollers, a 5-set winner over marathon man Paul-Henri Mathieu. And Nadal had a post birthday date with another Argentine, buddy Juan Monaco.
Monaco scored the win of the day upending Milos Raonic in five sets. The dangerous Canadian led 2-1 in sets but surprisingly never was able to break Monaco’s serve. And to beat a player in five sets at the French you have to break serve.
Still only 21, Raonic will have time to learn his game on the clay. Today, I think experience and guile got the better of him. With his game and tutelage, I think someday he’ll make the last four at Paris.
Also, another Spaniard – one of four to make the Sweet 16 – Nicolas Almagro hasn’t dropped a set, and he’ll now meet Janko Tipsarevic who’s won 9 straight sets. That winner will likely get Nadal on Wednesday.
As for tomorrow, in a new format here are my top-half fourth round capsules.
Novak Djokovic v. Andreas Seppi
The quiet comer this spring has been Andreas Seppi. The veteran Italian is in the midst of one of his best runs winning Djokovic’s home Belgrade title and then reaching the quarterfinals in Rome. But that all ends Sunday. Seppi has never beaten Djokovic winning just two sets in seven meetings, and in large part it’s because Novak, one of the game’s premier returners, can feast on Seppi’s weak second offering. Seppi is sturdy enough off the ground, but Djokovic, who is better in every department, should cruise.
The pick: Djokovic in three
Roger Federer v. David Goffin
Federer hasn’t looked great thus far but his competition hasn’t required his best. And that won’t change this round either. Federer’s opponent is little-known David Goffin. A 21-year-old who looks like he’s going on 12, Goffin is that rare “lucky loser” who’s been the story of the men’s event in his Slam debut. The Belgian even idolizes Federer – he has posters of the Swiss on his walls! And that’s about all you need to know in this one (players rarely beat their idols in their first try!). Goffin will be a great player one day – Top 20 I think – but with what danger lurks in week two, I expect Federer to step his game up right here and put on his best performance of the fortnight.
The pick: Federer in three
Stan Wawrinka v. JW Tsonga
This is a tough one to call. Both 27-year-olds have put up similar numbers in their careers and they’ve split two prior meetings, notably Wawrinka beating Tsonga in five a year ago at the French. Stan’s the better clay court player while Tsonga will have the home crowd, the mojo and he’s the better big match guy. For me, though, the key is Stan’s played 14 of a maximum 15 sets en route and even though he’s one of the fitter guys on the circuit, I think his legs might be a tad heavy. Tsonga enjoyed a straight set win over Fabio Fognini on Friday and and he appears to be in good rhythm. So without a lot of confidence I’ll take a flyer and go with the streaky Frenchman here.
The pick: Tsonga in four
Juan Martin Del Potro v. Tomas Berdych
In the best match of the day it’s the fourth round clash we all wanted to see between two of the biggest bashers on the tour, Berdych and Del Potro. Aside from Del Potro’s knee issues, both guys are in form and playing good tennis. In this series, Del Potro leads 3-2 but Berdych won their most recent meeting in a odd result at Madrid where the Argentine got rattled by two line calls and lost in two tiebreaks. Otherwise, Del Potro had won 7 straight sets over the Czech. And that’s why I’ll take him again here. If the knee holds up, which somehow it has thus far, I just think Delpo has a smidge more firepower and moxie than Berdych.
The pick: Del Potro in five
As for the women, with Serena out, the tournament looks like it’s going to come down to the Sharapova-Li Na semifinal winner, and I think that’ll be Maria. With the upsets, both girls now have little in their way to get to that semifinal collision. In the top half, I think 2010 finalist Sam Stosur and Sara Errani get out to that semifinal. Former champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and Victoria Azarenka are in the mix, but I don’t think they’re at the level to win two more matches.
But with the draw so wide open, it’ll be fun to watch the nerves takeover week two. We saw some of that today in Kanepi’s upset win over Wozniacki. That should just be a precursor of what’s to come.
Tennis Channel will have coverage at 5am ET for you earlybirds. NBC comes on at 1pm ET. All singles matches are now split on two courts.
SUNDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe Chatrier 11:00 AM Start Time
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v. Sara Errani (ITA)
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v. Andreas Seppi (ITA)
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
Sloane Stephens (USA) v. Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Court Suzanne Lenglen 11:00 AM Start Time
Angelique Kerber (GER) v. Petra Martic (CRO)
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
Roger Federer (SUI) v. David Goffin (BEL)
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) v. Tomas Berdych (CZE)
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