By Matthew Marolf
What today’s schedule lacks in top names, it makes up for in gripping stories. There’s the three-time Major champion fighting to get back to the top of the sport. A two-time Major champion looking to get her career back on track after a bitter custody battle with her child’s father.
Both year-end champions from last year, who are yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals of a Major, and currently struggling to win matches at all. And two Italians with strong clay court credentials playing on their nation’s biggest tennis stadium.
Stan Wawrinka vs. David Goffin
Here are two former top 10 players fighting to return to that level. Coming off knee surgery the year before, Wawrinka never got back to 100% in 2018, going just 17-17 on the year. He’s improved on that this season, already almost matching his number of wins from last year. But despite two impressive victories this season over Kei Nishikori, Stan is yet to achieve any significant results. And last week in Madrid, he was demolished by Rafael Nadal, taking just three games.
Goffin ended his 2017 on a high, by defeating both Nadal and Federer at the ATP Finals. But he was slowed down by multiple injuries last year, and has more losses than wins in 2019. Wawrinka leads their head-to-head 3-1, though Goffin won their most recent clash. All four matches have been close, with half the sets they’ve played decided by a tiebreak. Stan is the more in-form player of the two, and he won’t mind the cold, heavy conditions in Rome giving him extra time to set up his big groundstrokes.
Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Victoria Azarenka (WC)
It’s rare to consider a player ranked outside the top 50 a favourite over the No.6 player in the world. But that’s the case here, with a two-time Major champion against a player on a three-match losing streak. Svitolina has been battling a knee injury for the past few months.
She was forced to withdraw from Stuttgart a few weeks ago, and hasn’t won a match since Indian Wells. And this is a tough draw for her first match in Rome, in a champion who seems just one or two big wins away from recapturing her mojo. Azarenka dropped just three games yesterday against Shuai Zheng of China, and I like her chances of advancing here as well.
Other Notable Matches on Tuesday in Rome:
Sascha Zverev (4), who is just 6-7 since March, vs. Italian Wild Card Matteo Berrettini. Berrettini is in line to be seeded at Roland Garros coming off a nine-match win streak on clay between Budapest and Munich. This will be a dangerous opening match for the fourth seed in front of a partisan crowd.
Anastasija Sevastova (12) vs. Belinda Bencic, who is now back in the top 15, and made the semis in Madrid last week.
In another encounter between two top 20 players, Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut. RBA is 3-1 against Khachanov, though the Russian took their only match on clay.
In a battle between two countrywomen and former doubles champions who no longer get along, Caroline Garcia vs. Kristina Mladenovic.
Italian No.2 Marco Cecchinato, in his first tournament back home since last year’s shocking run to the French Open semi-finals, vs. perennial tough out Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Roland Garros: Novak Djokovic Dealt Thiem Challenge As Nadal Starts Against Qualifier
Novak Djokovic has been set a trickier draw than Rafael Nadal as they look to meet each other in this year’s final.
Novak Djokovic could face last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals at Roland Garros as Rafael Nadal begins against a couple of qualifiers.
This year’s draw is set to be the most competitive in a while on the men’s side as there has been a lack of dominance from Rafael Nadal in the lead up, having only won Rome.
Despite this, the Spaniard is will still be favourite to win his 12th title in Paris after what looks to be a fairly routine draw.
Meanwhile Novak Djokovic will be looking to hold all four grand slams at the same time for the second time in his career as he looks for a second Roland Garros title.
However standing in his way will be the likes of Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev and more notably last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem.
So with that being said, lets look at the men’s draw in closer detail:
1st Quarter – Djokovic’s Section
World number one Novak Djokovic will start his bid for a second Roland Garros title against Polish rising star Hubert Hurkacz. The Pole made his first Masters 100 quarter-final in Indian Wells and made his breakthrough in Paris last year, so this will be no easy for the Serb.
A match against Sam Querrey could then await in round two, with Gilles Simon being the projected round three. There is also the likelihood of playing Borna Coric in the second week, who will begin against Aljaz Bedene.
In the bottom half of this quarter, out-of-form Alexander Zverev will face John Millman in the first round, with Monte-Carlo runner-up Dusan Lajovic in round three. However a major roadblock could await the German in the last 16 as Fabio Fognini is in his section of the draw. The Italian will play compatriot Andreas Seppi in round one.
Shapovalov v Struff
Fognini v Seppi
Johnson v Bautista Agut
Second Quarter – Thiem’s Section.
Last year’s finalist, Dominic Thiem starts his bid for a first grand slam title against American wildcard Tommy Paul, with a potential round three meeting against Kyle Edmund.
The Brit will begin his campaign against Jeremy Chardy in a tough first match. Thiem’s potential quarter-final is Juan Martin Del Potro, who begins against powerful Chilean Nicolas Jarry. Talented Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime also appears in this quarter and is a potential third round for the powerful Argentinian.
Other potential seeds for Del Potro include Karen Khachanov and Lucas Pouille, while Gael Monfils is a dangerous floater in Thiem’s section.
Chardy v Edmund
Verdasco v Evans
Jarry v Del Potro
Third Quarter – Federer’s Section
Roger Federer’s return to Roland Garros will begin against natural clay-courter Lorenzo Sonego. A third round match against in-form Matteo Berrettini could also await the 20 time grand slam champion, while Marco Cecchinato and Diego Schwartzman also lurk in Federer’s part of this quarter.
The Swiss’ potential quarter-final is Stefanos Tsitsipas, who starts against Maximillian Marterer. There is also a potential fourth round match against Stan Wawrinka or Marin Cilic for the Madrid finalist.
Opelka v Garin
Tipsarevic v Dimitrov
Fucsovics v Schwartzman
Fourth Quarter – Nadal’s Section
Defending champion Rafael Nadal is looking for a remarkable 12th title in Paris and will begin against two qualifiers. A great draw gets better for the Spaniard, who will play David Goffin in his third round and also has Nikoloz Basilashvili in the last 16, a man he beat in Rome last week.
In the other section of this draw, Daniil Medvedev will look to take charge when he plays Pierre-Hughes Herbert in the first round. While Kei Nishikori is a potential fourth round match as he starts against French wildcard Quentin Halys.
Tsonga v Gojowczyk
Humbert v Popyrin
Herbert v Medvedev
Here is the full draw, with play starting on Sunday:
Roland Garros Men’s full draw pic.twitter.com/W4bd5rMnEk
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) May 23, 2019
Albert Ramos-Vinolas Reveals Best Moment Of Career Ahead Of Geneva Quarters
Albert Ramos-Vinolas reveals the best moment of his career ahead of his Quarter-Final at the Geneva Open.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas has revealed the best moment of his career ahead of his Geneva quarter-final with Federico Delbonis.
The Spaniard seems to have overcome a poor run of form lately after qualifying for Rome last week, he has now won back-to-back matches in Geneva.
A 6-0 6-3 win over Joao Sousa means he is into the last eight in Geneva to play Federico Delbonis as he looks to build momentum towards Roland Garros.
However before his quarter-final match, Ramos-Vinolas told atptour.com in a recent interview what the best moment of his career was, “The first time I won an ATP match in Barcelona in 2010,” The Spaniard said.
“It’s my home tournament… I passed the qualies and I won my first match and then I beat Fernando Gonzalez, who was No. 12 in the world. I was No. 161. It was maybe one of the best moments of my career. It was on Court 1, which is not the centre court, but it’s quite big.
“I still remember the feeling: I was really happy. Everybody was thinking that it was not possible. So they were supporting me like crazy, like when a big football team is playing against maybe one from the second division, and the second division team wins. Everyone was supporting me like crazy. It was a great atmosphere.”
It is no surprise that the moment came in front of his home fans as it is a moment that he will never forget. Since then the Spaniard’s biggest achievement came in 2017 when he reached his first masters 1000 final in Monte-Carlo.
The 31 year-old will look to recreate his form in Monte-Carlo a couple of years ago to Geneva this week as he looks to win his second career title.
However it won’t be easy for Ramos-Vinolas as top seed Alexander Zverev still remains the draw as players look to gain some momentum heading into Roland Garros, which starts on Sunday.
Tomas Berdych to Miss French Open For The First Time Since 2003
It will be the third grand slam the former top 10 player has missed within the past 12 months.
Former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych will not play any clay court tournaments in 2019 after withdrawing from the upcoming French Open.
The 33-year-old has been absent from the tour since his first round loss to Feliciano Lopez in Indian Wells. Berdych has been hampered by issues within his back in recent weeks. He has been hoping to be fit in time for Roland Garros, but made a decision to withdraw from the event on Wednesday.
“I am not 100% ready to play the way I want and need to be competitive on the courts I love so much,” Berdych wrote on social media.
“I came to Paris and I had to take a tough decision and want another few days to fully recover and be ready for the grass season.”
“I love this tournament so much but I have to make sure not to further injure myself,” he added.
The Czech had played at the tournament every year since making his debut back in 2004. However, the French Open is his worst performing grand slam in terms of wins. So far in his career, Berdych has won 25 out of 40 matches played at the French Open. His stand out performance occurred in 2010 when he reached the semi-finals before losing to Sweden’s Robin Soderling.
It is not the first time back issues have forced Berdych out of action. In 2017 he was advised by doctors to end his season early due to persistent ‘back pain.’ He was also forced to skip both Wimbledon and the US Open due to the same problem.
Berdych, who last won a title at the 2016 Shenzhen Open, has played six tournaments so far this year. His best result occurred in January with a run to the final of the Qatar Open. He also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and was a semi-finalist in Montpellier.
As a result of his absence, Berdych is currently ranked 100th in the world rankings. He will be replaced in the French Open draw by a lucky loser.
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