Nine days in on the men’s side at the French Open and things have gone pretty much according to form. Seven of Top 8 seeds remain with only No. 5 Milos Raonic missing the QF party, and that to no one’s surprise really.
And really, there’s weren’t many surprises over the first four rounds. There was, what I think, a poor performance from the French. JW Tsonga losing in the first to …What was his name? Renzo Olivo?
Richard Gasquet had no fight in him yesterday against Gael Monfils, and today Monfils had little to offer Stan Wawrinka – there was never a feeling Gael could win it. Lucas Pouille also fell a little flat up 2-sets-to-1 on Albert Ramos-Vinolas. And if you blinked you missed Gilles Simon.
Alexander Zverev was also a big disappointment getting dismissed by vet Fernando Verdasco. It was a tough draw, yes, but guess what, Zverev is going to face a lot of tough draws in Slams with the expectation that he now gets through. And he’s going to have to start winning those. And I’m sure he will like Karen Khachanov did. The big 6-foot-6 21-year-old from Russia powered his way into the fourth round proving he’s going to be a force for many years.
It was tough to see Juan Martin Del Potro limping around again, though he did have some good moments against Murray. Bad luck for David Goffin turning his ankle and it was tough to watch Nicolas Almagro breaking down after hurting his knee again. Steve Johnson was everyone’s sentimental favorite – how could you not feel for him.
And what in the world has happened to Grigor Dimitrov?
As for the top guys, other than Rafael Nadal, it’s been a little patchy. Novak Djokovic’s looked good at times, then bad. Andy Murray is playing better, but not exceptional. Wawrinka’s been winning in straights, but not in dominating fashion. But Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem look razor sharp.
So with just six days left, the quarterfinals begin tomorrow. To the matches.
Rafael Nadal v Pablo Carreno Busta
Rafa’s got his game in gear and thus far he’s lost only 20 games in 12 sets. Granted, he’s had a nice draw up to Robert Bautista Agut but even he got destroyed. So what’s going to happen to first time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Pablo Carreno Busta when he meets the King of Clay? Well, he’s going to get busted up, also.
PCB has a big game for a Spaniard. Big serve, good of the backhand and moves well. And unlike RBA, he’s a better fit on the clay. The problem is, this is his first quarter, he’s never beaten Rafa before and he comes off a 5-set win over Milos Raonic, his first Top 10 win in 17 tries.
And he’s in awe of Rafa. He’s friends with him. He’s happy. He’s got to be satisfied. Meanwhile, Nadal is starving. PCB will get at least nine games but nine isn’t enough if my math is right.
The Pick: Nadal in three
Novak Djokovic v Dominic Thiem
Thanks to the funky French scheduling (do you really need to schedule Novak and Rafa at the same time?), the match of the day and maybe the best quarter of the bunch is over on Suzanne Lenglen. And that of course if not Wozniacki-Ostapenko but instead Djokovic-Thiem.
Djokovic has won all five from Thiem dropping just one set. He whipped him at the French last year in the semifinals and whipped him even worse in Rome a few weeks ago. I’ll give Thiem a pass for the French semi – it was his first big stage match – and a small one for Rome – ok, he was tired and he came off an emotional with over Rafa.
But, it’s still 5-0 Djokovic and 12-1 in sets.
Thiem’s played better than Novak this week but like last year, who’s Dominic played of worth? Zeballos? Bolelli? Tomic? Johnson? Not exactly top tier threats on clay. But to his credit he took care of business and as he should have, he didn’t lose a set.
Djokovic has lost a couple sets during a head-scratching performance against Diego Schwartzman. And he’s been so-so in his other matches, though turned it on late against Ramos-Vinolas yesterday.
On form this year Thiem should win this. With his power off the ground, his angles he can create. But I just get a sneaky feeling Djokovic is going to summon that winning formula, channel some Andre Agassi, and take it. And that head-to-head is too much to ignore. Mentally, if Thiem goes down early it could turn into another blowout.
The Pick: Djokovic in four
The forecast I’ve heard calls for some rain, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference. Both Rafa and Novak have the experience in all conditions. And I think they get through to our dream Friday semifinal! Though maybe Thiem really ignores that 0-5 deficit, treats it as a new opponent and figures out a better approach. We’ll see.
Tennis Channel has live coverage of the quarters starting with the women at 8an ET.
TUESDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Philippe-Chatrier Court 2:00 PM
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)  vs. Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) 
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)  vs. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 
Suzanne-Lenglen Court 2:00 PM
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 
Dominic Thiem (AUT)  vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 
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