After a super Sunday things settled back down today at the French Open. Five of the six matches finished with the favorite – my favorite – winning going away.
In two matches heldover from yesterday due to darkness, JW Tsonga thrilled the home crowd by securing the two games he needed to finish off a disheartened Stan Wawrinka 6-4 in the fifth. Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro had to put in a full set of work to turn away Tomas Berdych 7-5 in the fourth. Delpo grabbed an early break, gave it back but managed one more to close out the Czech.
Meanwhile, the scheduled matches went according to form despite the rotten weather. The Spanish trio of Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro pitched a shutout going 9-0. Nadal especially look good hammering buddy Juan Monaco 6-2, 6-0, 6-0. Thus far Nadal’s lost a total of 19 games en route to another French Open quarterfinal. By comparison, rival Roger Federer lost 18 games alone to Belgian lucky loser David Goffin on Sunday!
In the women’s field, qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova pulled the win of the day ousting defending champion Li Na in three sets. The upset leaves no former French Open winners remaining in the draw, and that makes Maria Sharapova, who’s bidding to complete her career Slam, the heavy favorite. But Sharapova nearly stumbled herself needing three sets to advance in a forgettable performance against Klara Zakapalova.
As for tomorrow, we finally get down to some serious tennis. With just nine sets to go for the winner, the prize is now within reach and with the final eight stacked, the easy draws that many have enjoyed are officially over. Let the tournament (and fun) really begin.
Novak Djokovic v JW Tsonga
The Serb is only three wins from an historic “Djoker Slam”, but to get it he’s going to have to beat three very tough players. That road begins Tuesday against the streaky, frenetic Tsonga. JW is going to have the crowd, the emotion and the energy. And if Djokovic comes out flat like he did against Seppi he’ll get steamrolled. But Novak won’t do that again, would he? He may not be playing as well as he did last year, but he’s better on clay than Tsonga and after losing four straight in this series, he’s beaten the Frenchman in four of their last five meetings, losing only at the 2010 Australian quarterfinal when the Serb was having stomach issues.
Still, based on the way Djokovic has been playing part of me thinks Tsonga pulls the upset. But as we saw today with Gasquet and have seen in the past, French players just don’t handle the big moments that well. And for Tsonga this could very be the biggest match of his career to date. Bigger than that Australian Open final he lost to Djokovic. This is Tsonga playing his first French Open quarterfinal against a World No. 1 on his home turf, Chatrier, with his country watching. But, somehow, Tsonga is thinking otherwise.
“For him it’s tougher, because he need to win,” Tsonga said of the pressure. “Me, for the moment, you know, I did my best results for the moment, so for me, it’s everything’s gonna be positive now. Of course, I will be free on the court because I have nothing to lose against this player who is No. 1 in the world. And anyway, the pressure will be on him.”
Sorry, JW, you also got the pressure! And you won’t talk yourself out of it no matter how hard you try.
Tsonga is certainly a high adrenaline big match player, but depsite his claim this stage is going to be just too big. As much as I’ll be rooting for Tsonga – I’m a fan – I think the teetering Djokovic finds his form, fixes his footwork and forges onward.
The pick: Djokovic in four
Roger Federer v Juan Martin Del Potro
The potential quarterfinal many of us forecasted when the draw was released is upon us. It’s big, bold power against Swiss timing for a 10th time. Federer has dominated the series
7-2 11-2 scoring four straight-set wins this season including a drubbing in this very round at the Australian Open.
But Del Potro did push Federer in five in a 2009 French Open cliffhanger before beating him in that US Open stunner. However, since coming back from that wrist injury Juan Martin is 0-11 against the Swiss in sets. That’s just not good.
That said, I give Del Potro a real chance Tuesday. Federer has been getting by against lesser competition playing his “B” game, and at times he’s looked vulnerable. That B game simply isn’t going to hold against Delpo who’s got the guns to exploit it.
“I play an unbelievable match,” Del Potro said assessing his chances against Federer. “Try to take my opportunities, serve 100%, trying to play winners with my forehand, with my backhand, and put him to raise his game. I don’t like to run too much, so I will try to be more aggressive than his game and looking at unbelievable shots.”
Today, Del Potro collected what possibly could have been the best victory in his comeback winning three of four sets against a very in-form and dangerous Berdych. That’s got to send the Argentine’s confidence sky high and it finally gives him the much-needed signature win.
But there are injury concerns in this one. Del Potro has a bad left knee which he says is still not 100%, however he doesn’t seem to care. He’s here to win. And thus far he’s looked pretty good in Paris.
At the start I picked Del Potro to beat Federer here in large part because I wasn’t convinced of Roger’s form. And he’s done little to sway my opinion. Like I said, if you’re losing sets to the Goffins, Mahuts and Ungurs, how are you going to fare against a formidible foe like Del Potro? It doesn’t bode well unless Roger raises his game like he’s done in the past.
And fortunately for the Swiss, that should be easier since he does have that huge head-to-head edge against Delpo and he’s got those four wins over him this year. But if the conditions remain cool, wet and heavy as they are suppose to be, I give the advantage to Delpo because he’s got the bigger game and the monster serve you need to hit through the slow slop. And he’s beaten Roger before.
The pick: Del Potro in four
As for the women’s I still like a Errani-Stosur semifinal so why change now?
Tennis Channel has coverage starting at 8am ET.
TUESDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe Chatrier 2:00 PM Start Time
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) v. Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi (PAK) v. Michael Llodra (FRA)
Jean-Julien Rojer (NED) Nenad Zimonjic (SRB)
Court Suzanne Lenglen 2:00 PM Start Time
Sara Errani (ITA) v. Angelique Kerber (GER)
Roger Federer (SUI) v. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) v. Kveta Peschke (CZE)
Lucie Hradecka (CZE) Katarina Srebotnik (SLO)
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