Steve Flink’s Overview Of The 2022 Men's French Open Tournament - UBITENNIS
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Steve Flink’s Overview Of The 2022 Men’s French Open Tournament



Erudite followers of Rafael Nadal have long appreciated that the eminent Spaniard has understood— perhaps better than anyone else— that ruling in the kingdom of tennis and becoming a champion of the highest order is entirely up to the individual. Nadal came upon us toward the end of his teens with a brand of exuberance and unbridled energy that was unlike anyone or anything the sport had yet seen. He matured during his twenties into a sublime match player, a dynamic physical force and a supreme competitor refusing to sell himself short, yet simultaneously displaying immense respect for his rivals and taking absolutely nothing for granted.


Over the course of his thirties, Nadal has widened his arsenal of aggression, wisened his ways of moving through matches more economically and efficiently, and lengthened his career well beyond what either he or his longtime legion of admirers ever thought would be possible. Time and again, often against almost insurmountable odds, sometimes staring straight into the cold face of reality, Nadal has confronted his ever present inner doubts as well as growing skepticism among the public, fellow players and the media who have continuously questioned his capacity to keep taking the highest honors in the game with a body that seems to be breaking down too often.

And yet, here he is again, victorious once more in the clay court capital of the world after a harrowing couple of weeks suffering from an ailing foot, quietly defiant about who he is and what he could accomplish, and above all an unassailable professional realizing another dream on the Parisian clay. He did all of this despite needing injections prior to every Roland Garros match to kill the considerable pain and numb his burdensome foot as he battles Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, a rare degenerative bone condition. When all was said and done over the past fortnight, it was Nadal who was the last man standing, Nadal who collected a 14th French Open crown and a 22nd Grand Slam title, Nadal who raised his sparkling Roland Garros career match record to 112-3.

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He was once one of the youngest player to succeed in Paris but now the redoubtable Spaniard is the oldest French Open men’s champion at the age of 36. To put his towering accomplishment more fully into perspective, consider this: Nadal collected his first title at 19 in 2005. He captured eight more championships at that hallowed venue across his twenties, and now he has taken five more in his thirties. They call that enduring excellence. Some might even say that kind of success over such a long stretch is unimaginable.

Making his latest triumph all the more remarkable is that Nadal had come into Indian Wells unbeaten in 2022. He had played only one match in 2021 after losing to Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros semifinals before his foot condition caused Nadal to shut his season down in August. Few were taking his chances seriously at the 2022 Australian Open, even after he won an ATP 250 warmup tournament in Melbourne. But, astonishingly, Nadal rallied from two sets down and 2-3, 0-40 in the third set against Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final, coming through strikingly in five exhilarating sets.

He then won Acapulco for his third title in a row before losing in the final at Indian Wells to Taylor Fritz. But he had cracked a rib in his semifinal against Carlos Alcaraz. That kept him out for about a month and severely disrupted his clay court schedule leading up to Roland Garros. He played only two tournaments and they did not go well. Beaten by Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of Madrid, he went to Rome and bowed out in the round of 16 against Denis Shapovalov in three sets. In the final set, Nadal was barely moving as his foot acted up flagrantly.

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He then announced that his Spanish doctor would come to Paris but no one knew if the inimitable left-hander would be able to perform anywhere near the peak of his powers. Fortunately for this practical individual, his draw was initially kind. He cast aside the Australian Jordan Thompson, French wildcard Corentin Moutet and No 26 seed Botic Van De Zandschulp of the Netherlands without the loss of a set. He was not letter perfect in those three matches, yet his court mobility was surprisingly good.

But Nadal was stretched close to his limits in the round of 16 by No. 9 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in an absorbing confrontation. The Canadian is, of course, coached by Rafa’s “Uncle Toni” Nadal, the man who essentially raised Rafa as a player and coached him for so long on the tour. Nadal and Auger-Aliassime had not met since Toni Nadal started coaching the Canadian. Uncle Toni chose to sit in a neutral location behind the court rather than with the Auger-Aliassime inner circle. He was glued to that seat through a long and gut-wrenching afternoon.

Nadal started inauspiciously, falling behind 5-1 in the first set, although he made it closer before conceding it. The next couple of sets were controlled completely by Nadal, who started finding openings to break the big server and found his range from the back of the court. But Nadal inexplicably lost his serve after being ahead 40-0 in the second game of the fourth set. Although he broke back, he still lost that set as the Canadian reestablished his attacking rhythm.

The match went to 3-3 in the fifth set. But at that propitious moment, Nadal summoned his finest tennis, taking 12 of 15 points and three consecutive games with a flourish, prevailing 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in four hours and twenty one minutes. He was most sprightly in that contest at the very end. Nevertheless, Nadal fans were surely feeling consternation as he approached a quarterfinal confrontation with top seeded Novak Djokovic.

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The Serbian is the only player to topple Nadal twice on the sacred grounds of Roland Garros, including a come from behind, four set semifinal victory a year ago on his way to a second French Open crown. He had gradually found his game and recovered his self conviction in recent weeks, losing narrowly to Alcaraz in a dandy of an encounter at Madrid in the penultimate round, then winning Rome without the loss of a set.

Confident after securing his sixth Italian Open title, Djokovic rolled through the first four rounds at Roland Garros without the loss of a set, and was particularly impressive in taking apart No. 15 seed Diego Schwatzman 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in the round of 16. It seemed entirely possible that Djokovic could repeat his 2021 win over Nadal considering that he was so fresh and seemingly self assured, while Nadal had labored long and hard against Auger-Aliassime in their five set skirmish.

Nadal and Djokovic met in the evening, giving the Serbian an advantage according to some authorities because Nadal’s topspin artillery is more effective under a hot sun in daytime. But that theory ignored the fundamental fact that Nadal these days can flatten out the forehand and drive it up the line at blazing speeds with uncanny accuracy. Moreover, Djokovic’s serve was clearly diminished in the evening air.

Nadal came out of the blocks firing rockets off the forehand while Djokovic seemed willing to rely too much on defense—even on his own serve. The passivity of Djokovic at the outset was very costly as Nadal, scintillating and unrelenting off the forehand, took the first set convincingly 6-2 and built a 3-0, two service break lead in the second. The Spaniard had won 9 of 11 games and Djokovic looked dazed, subdued and out of sorts.

Be that at it may, the top seed found the inner spark he needed and at long last started hitting out freely and combating the No. 5 seed Nadal with thundering shots off both sides, blasting winners  and taking the initiative away from Nadal. Although he had to fight through a few exceedingly long games, Djokovic secured the second set 6-4 with his much needed aggression off the ground, showing more animation in the process.

And yet, Djokovic’s did not maintain his controlled aggression and Nadal typically was not devastated by his second set defeat. The third set strongly resembled the first with Nadal holding the upper hand from the baseline and Djokovic playing reactive tennis.

But once again Djokovic asserted himself in the fourth set, opening up a 5-2 lead, serving for the set at 5-3. He had two set points in that critical ninth game but atypically sent an angled backhand into the net on the first and then was far too cautious with a backhand approach down the line on the second. Nadal passed Djokovic easily and eventually broke back before closing out a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) triumph over the defending champion.

Would Djokovic have prevailed in five sets had he been able to get there? On that particular night, I have my doubts that he would have succeeded. His coach, Goran Ivanisevic, later lamented that Djokovic’s body language was not up to his usual standard while Nadal carried himself more commandingly. I agree with that. Somehow, although this match had lasting implications for both players, it was Nadal who seemed to want it more. Djokovic wandered in and out of sets unpredictably, with his form fluctuating wildly. Nadal, even when the second set slipped from his grasp, maintained a high level throughout.

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Perhaps Djokovic and Nadal realized that their quarterfinal was essentially a final. No one on the other half was going to beat either one of them, and although Sascha Zverev was a looming semifinal threat, he was unlikely to eclipse Djokovic or Nadal over best of five on that court.

The No. 3 seed Zverev had upended No. 6 Alcaraz in what many regarded as a significant upset. Alcaraz had beaten Zverev soundly in the final of Madrid. The 19-year-old Spaniard was viewed as the tournament favorite in the minds of many experts. He had survived a match point in the second round against his left-handed countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas as the 34-year-old meekly netted a routine forehand. Alcaraz survived that strenuous test in five sets and then marched past Sebastian Korda (avenging a loss to the American in Monte Carlo), and Karen Khachanov in straight sets.

Zverev, too, had survived a match point against him in a second round, five set escape against Sebastian Baez. In his appointment against Alcaraz, Zverev set the tempo almost entirely in the first two sets, tightened up in the third, but came through 6-4 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7), saving a set point in the tie-break at the end and winning the match with a devastatingly potent backhand down the line return winner.

That was a much needed victory for Zverev, his first ever against a top-ten ranked opponent at a major. It carried him into his meeting against Nadal in the semifinals with a restored belief in his game. They fought through a marathon first set under the roof. Zverev saved three set points at 4-5 on his serve. In the tie-break, the 6’6” German surged to 6-2, with four set points at his disposal. But Nadal aced him before Zverev serve-volleyed but missed the backhand first volley long. Then Nadal made a spectacular forehand passing shot winner on the full stretch before coaxing another backhand volley error from Zverev.

Somehow, Nadal, calling it “a miracle” later, took that tie-break 10-8. In the second set, with Nadal’s perspiration profuse and the humidity severe indoors, there were an astounding eight service breaks in the first nine games. Zverev served for the set at 5-3 but double faulted three times to squander that opportunity. Nadal was serving at 5-6 with a game point when Zverev rolled his ankle, screaming in anguish as he hit the ground. He would return to the court about ten minutes later on crutches to concede the match to Nadal ( 7–6 (8), 6–6, ret.).

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They had played for over three hours without even completing two sets. Nadal would likely have needed to stay on court at least another hour and perhaps much longer if Zverev had won the second set. He was very fortunate to spare himself the extra wear and tear. He was able to save that energy for the final.

He then took advantage of a very good matchup against No. 8 seed Casper Ruud in the final. There was never much doubt about the outcome. Ruud’s forehand is a weapon against most opponents, but the left handed Nadal broke it down with his razor sharp crosscourt backhand, and pummeled away with his whirlwind topspin forehand to exploit Ruud’s weaker backhand wing. It was a nightmare for the Norwegian to face Nadal for the first time in an official match after playing many practice sets with the Spaniard at Rafa’s academy.

Nadal rolled to 2-0 in the first set, played a poor game on his serve in the third game with two double faults and a game closing forehand unforced error, but then broke back for 3-1. He closed out that set 6-3 before falling behind 3-1 in the second. From there he was unstoppable and Ruud looked beleaguered and outclassed. Nadal regally swept eleven games in a row to close out the account. 

The Spaniard has now widened his lead over Djokovic and Roger Federer by virtue of securing his 22nd major. The Serbian and the Swiss both have amassed 20 Grand Slam titles apiece. Although Federer plans a return in the autumn, he is almost surely not going to win another major. Djokovic, of course, is another story altogether. After his somewhat perplexing performance against Nadal in Paris, he will be immensely eager to hold onto his crown at Wimbledon.

Djokovic has been victorious on his last three visits to the All England Club (2018, 2019 and 2021), and has won Wimbledon six times altogether. He will be the favorite this year. With Zverev dealing with torn lateral ligaments in his right foot, he could well miss Wimbledon. Medvedev is barred from competing there as a Russian player, as is Andrey Rublev. But Nadal surprised a lot of people who speculated that he would skip Wimbledon by saying he has a plan that maybe, just maybe, might allow him to pursue a third title on the British lawns and his first since 2010.

He will start a new treatment and do radio frequency ablation to the nerve in his foot. If the treatment works, Nadal will indeed be back at Wimbledon; if not, he would consider having surgery, which might lead him toward retirement.

Never before in his sterling career has Nadal been halfway to a calendar Grand Slam because he had not won the Australian and French Opens in the same year. So his motivation to play Wimbledon has been heightened by his stunning title run in Paris. If he does come to Wimbledon healthy, it would still be a tall order for the Spaniard to win there. No doubt he would be a strong contender, but would he beat Djokovic on the grass?

I doubt it, although to rule it out would be foolish. In their two Wimbledon clashes, Djokovic stopped Nadal in a four set 2011 final and then narrowly ousted his old rival in a five set semifinal four years ago. If they do meet, Nadal would have the opportunity to even his riveting career head to head series with Djokovic at 30-30. But Nadal has not defeated Djokovic on a surface other than clay since the 2013 U.S. Open.

The pursuit of historical supremacy may not be over for these two icons—as long as Nadal can overcome the severity of his foot ailment. But even in the worst case scenario if the Spaniard is forced to retire later this year, he now has put himself in an enviable position. He has won 22 of 30 major finals across his career. Both Djokovic and Federer are 20-11. Critics would point out that Nadal is 14-0 in French Open finals but only 8-8 combined at the three other majors. That is a valid point, but the Spaniard’s clay court genius can’t be held over him either. Meanwhile, Djokovic is 9-0 in Australian Open finals on his favorite hard courts but only 3-6 in U.S. Open finals. Go figure.

To be sure, Nadal has claimed 63 of his 92 overall career titles on the clay, but the fact remains that he has matched Djokovic and surpassed Federer by winning all four majors at least twice. Djokovic has spent much longer as the No. 1 ranked player in the world than either of his chief rivals, finishing seven years at the top and 373 weeks compared to five years for Nadal and 209 weeks.

The debate will linger. But on this point there can be no dispute: Nadal has mastered the clay the way no one else in modern tennis history has ruled on any surface. His career match record on the dirt is an astounding 474-45.

The feeling grows that someday Nadal will reflect on his 2022 Roland Garros win and cherish it more than any of his other Paris victories. This one was about the size of his heart, his incomparable discipline and the depth of his determination rather than forehands and backhands. 


Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Second Week Begins on Sunday



Carlos Alcaraz on Friday night in Paris (

The round of 16 begins on Sunday in Paris.


The highest-ranked players in the world named Lorenzo, Italians Lorenzo Musetti and Lorenzo Sonego, face tall tasks in the fourth round.  Musetti plays World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, while Sonego plays Karen Khachanov, who has advanced to the semifinals at the last two Majors.  Plus the finalists at the last Slam, Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas, both play their fourth round matches on Sunday.

On the women’s side, Elina Svitolina faces the toughest test yet in her impressive return from child birth, in ninth-seeded Daria Kasatkina, a semifinalist here a year ago.  And the FTT have finally scheduled a WTA match for the night session, where Major champs Aryna Sabalenka and Sloane Stephens will collide. 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Sunday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.

Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – 11:00am on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

While Khachanov’s recent Slam success has come at hard court Majors, this remains his best Major.  Karen is now 20-6 at Roland Garros, and has reached the second week in six of his seven appearances.  However, he’s just 1-4 in the round of 16 at this event.

Sonego outlasted Khachanov’s close friend and frequent doubles partner, Andrey Rublev, in five sets on Friday.  This is now a third career appearance in the round of 16 at a Major for the 28-year-old Italian, one of which came here three years ago.  However, he’s 0-2 in those prior appearances.

They have played three times before, with Khachanov taking two of those three meetings, though they’ve split the two that occurred on clay.  All of those matches occurred between four-to-five years ago.  On Sunday, I give the slight edge to Karen.  He has the bigger game which can more easily dictate play, and a huge edge in experience in the second week of Slams.

Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Lorenzo Musetti (17) – Third on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz is now 33-3 in 2023, and has lost only one set through his first three matches in Paris.  Carlitos is looking to equal his best result at this tournament, when he advanced to the quarterfinals a year ago.  But his potential road to the final is anything but easy, starting with the uber-talented Musetti on Sunday, then potentially Tsitsipas in the quarters, and Djokovic in the semifinals.

Musetti has not dropped any sets to this stage, impressively taking out Cam Norrie in the third round, losing just seven games in the match.  This equals Lorenzo’s best career result at a Major to date, when he reached the round of 16 in Paris two years ago, and was even up two sets against Djokovic, yet only managed one game in the last three sets.

This is only the second of what will likely be many tour-level encounters between 20-year-old Alcaraz and 21-year-old Musetti.  When they played last summer in the final of Hamburg on clay, Lorenzo prevailed 6-4 in the third after nearly three hours.  But in the best-of-five format, the red-hot and super-fit Carlitos is the favorite, though I’m quite curious to see how seriously Musetti can challenge Alcaraz on this big stage.

Elina Svitolina vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Kasatkina was just 12-12 this season, and is defending semifinal points here from a year ago.  Yet she has performed very well under that pressure, winning all of her matches decisively in straight sets.  This is easily her strongest Major, where she owns 20 career wins, while she’s yet to accumulate double-digit wins at any other.

But this is also Svitolina’s best Slam, where she’s now 25-9, with three previous quarterfinals.  And while this is just her fifth WTA-level tournament since becoming a mother, returning to action only two months ago, she’s on an eight-match winning streak, coming off a title run a week ago in Strasbourg.  Elina survived two consecutive three-setters to reach this fourth round contest.

And Svitolina has completely dominated their history, with a record of 6-0.  That includes a clay court match five years ago in Rome, which is only one of two occasions Kasatkina has even managed to take a set off of her.  So despite Elina’s lack of match play this past year, she should be favored to achieve her fourth French Open quarterfinal.

Sloane Stephens vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Sabalenka is an excellent 32-5 this year, and yet to lose a set in Paris.  This is the farthest she has ever advanced in this city, though she’s reached the semis or better at every other Major.  Aryna is looking to win her fourth title of the season, and her second Slam in a row.

Stephens’ Major title came nearly six years ago in New York, though she did reach another final here a year later, when she was even up a set and a break before losing to Simona Halep.  Sloane had quite a rough start to her year, but has now won 12 of her last 14 matches on clay, including a title run at an ITF-level event a month ago.  And unlike Sabalenka, Roland Garros is her best Major, where she’s now 35-11 lifetime, and she’s reached the second week in nine of her last 11 appearances.

Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 3-0, though all three of those matches went the distance.  I expect another tight encounter on Sunday evening, but Aryna must be considered the favorite based on her recent form, and how well her big serve and groundstrokes have been clicking.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Elise Mertens (28) – Pavlyuchenkova was the runner-up here two years ago, but this run to the round of 16 is a surprise, as she was just 8-9 on the year coming into this event after missing most of 2022 due to a knee injury.  Mertens is 18-11 this season, and has not dropped a set to this stage, upsetting third-seeded Jessica Pegula in the last round.  They have split two previous meetings, both of which took place in 2017.

Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Juan Pablo Varillas – Djokovic claimed all nine sets he played in the first week, even though four of them went to a tiebreak.  Varillas has amazingly won three five-setters, coming from two-sets-down in the first two.  The 27-year-old had never won a match at a Major prior to this fortnight, and is the first Peruvian to advance this far at Roland Garros in nearly 30 years. 

Karolina Muchova vs. Elina Avanesyan (LL) – Muchova is vying for her fourth Slam quarterfinal, and her first since Wimbledon 2021, as injuries have interrupted her career.  Avanesyan is a 20-year-old lucky loser who upset Belinda Bencic in the first round, and is appearing in only her second main draw at a Major. 

Sebastian Ofner (Q) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Tsitsipas has only dropped one set thus far, while Ofner survived a five-setter against Fabio Fognini in the last round, and is another 27-year-old debuting in the second week of a Slam. 

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Teen Sensations Meet in the Third Round



Coco Gauff this week in Paris (

Third round singles action concludes on Saturday in Paris.


In what could be the first of many battles between two of tennis’ most promising young stars, 19-year-old Coco Gauff will face 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva.  And the top two American men, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, take on considerable opposition in Francisco Cerundolo and Sascha Zverev, respectively.   

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.

Mirra Andreeva (Q) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Second on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Gauff is 21-8 on the year despite changes to her coaching team and some continued issues with the mechanics of her game, primarily her forehand and serve.  She was the runner-up here a year ago, losing 6-1, 6-3 in the final to Iga Swiatek.  Coco dropped the first set in her opener, but has easily secured her four sets played since.

Andreeva is ranked 143rd in the world, but she started the year 312th.  She is an excellent 22-2 at all levels, including qualifying.  Mirra has taken all 10 sets she’s played since the beginning of qualifying last week.  The tennis world first took notice of her earlier this clay court season in Madrid, when she upset Leylah Fernandez, Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Magda Linette to reach the fourth round.

On Saturday, I would not be shocked to witness Andreeva upset Gauff.  Coco has not been playing her best tennis of late, going just 3-3 on clay ahead of this fortnight.  And she has the pressure of defending finalist points on her young shoulders.  But Gauff has a big game, and certainly has a huge edge in experience, both of which should be enough to propel her to victory.

Francisco Cerundolo (23) vs. Taylor Fritz (9) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

It will be quite interesting to see and hear how the French crowd treats Fritz on Saturday after provoking, trolling, and shushing the audience on Thursday evening.  Taylor may live to regret that decision, as the French tennis fans have long memories, and love to involve themselves in matches.  Fritz is now a strong 31-11 this season, and looking to advance to the second week of this tournament for the first time.

Cerundolo is 22-14 this year, and 15-9 on clay.  All three of his career ATP finals have come on this surface, including just last week in Lyon. 

So what will prevail on Saturday: Taylor’s serving prowess, or Francisco’s formidable forehand?  In another first career meeting on the day, I give the American the slight edge.  While the crowd will be against him, he is much more experienced at this stage of a Major.  Prior to this year, Cerundolo was 0-4 in the main draw at Slams.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Lesia Tsurenko – Third on Court Simonne-Mathieu

Andreescu’s victory over Victoria Azarenka in the first round was quite a surprise.  Bianca was just 9-9 on the year, and 0-2 on clay, a surface where she only owns 14 career victories.  She has unfortunately suffered setback after setback since her amazing 2019 season, yet continues to try to fight her way back to the top of the sport.

Tsurenko, a Ukrainian, has been open regarding how hard it has been to play on tour for the last year-and-a-half.  She even withdrew from Indian Wells in March, after having a panic attack which she blamed on unsettling comments from WTA CEO Steve Simon regarding Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  But Lesia is now a superb 27-8 this season at all levels, and eliminated 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova in the first round.

Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this year on a hard court in Hua Hin, when Tsurenko was leading 7-5, 4-0 in the semifinals before Andreescu retired from the match.  And on Saturday, I lean towards Lesia to prevail again based on both players’ form this season.

Sascha Zverev (22) vs. Frances Tiafoe (12) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Tiafoe is 23-8 in 2023, and while clay is not his strongest surface, he did win a 250-level title at the start of the clay season in Houston.  Frances was just 1-7 lifetime at Roland Garros before this week, at the only Major where he’s yet to reach the second week.

Of course it was at this event a year ago when Zverev suffered that gruesome, upsetting ankle injury in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal, ending his 2022 season.  He is yet to rediscover his top form this year, with a modest record of 18-14.  But Sascha did claim his first two matches this week in straight sets.

Zverev has dominated their history, with a 6-1 edge.  However, they haven’t played in over 18 months, and Tiafoe and Zverev are both different players than they were in 2021.  Yet on this surface, Sascha should be favored to advance after an extended battle on Saturday night.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Elena Rybakina (4) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – It’s hard to find two more polar opposite styles: the power of Rybakina, and the grinding defense of Sorribes Tormo.  Neither player has dropped a set to this stage, and Sara took their only previous meeting, two years ago on a hard court in Miami.

Zhizhen Zhang vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Ruud has not repeated his great success from 2022 during 2023, with an 18-11 record to date.  Zhizhen made his big breakthrough earlier this year in Madrid, where he won three consecutive third-set tiebreaks over Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Taylor Fritz.  He is the first Chinese man to win a match at the French Open in 86 years, as he and Wu Yibing continue to break new ground for Chinese tennis.

Ekaterina Alexandrova (23) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – This is the farthest Haddad Maia has ever advanced at a Major.  This is Alexandrova’s sixth time in the third round of a Slam, but she’s yet to go farther.  They’ve played twice before in qualifying for events in 2017, with Beatriz winning both matches.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Xinyu Wang – Swiatek won her first two matches by the same score: 6-4, 6-0.  And Iga is 4-0 in the third round of Roland Garros.  Xinyu is also yet to lose a set, in her best performance at a Major to date.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Alcaraz, Djokovic Face Seeded Opposition on Friday



Carlos Alcaraz on Monday in Paris (

Third round singles action commences on Friday in Paris.


In the top half of the ATP singles draw, which plays on Friday, 11 of 16 seeds have advanced to the third round, making for some blockbuster encounters.  But in the bottom half of the WTA singles draw, which also plays on Friday, only six of 16 seeds remain after two rounds, leaving plenty of room for new names to break through to the second week of this Major.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Friday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.

Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (29) – Court Philippe-Chatrier

Djokovic is now 22-4 on the year, despite his vaccination status and an elbow injury forcing him to miss multiple events.  And despite whatever this thing is taped to his chest.  Novak hasn’t dropped a set through two rounds, and hasn’t failed to advance beyond the third round of this tournament since 2009, when he lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.

Davidovich Fokina is 19-13 in 2023, and was a quarterfinalist here two years ago.  The 23-year-old is a flashy, emotional, and inconsistent player.  But he’s capable of defeating top players, as he did Djokovic last year in Monte Carlo.

Djokovic claimed their other two meetings easily in straight sets, back in 2021.  And on Friday, the 22-time Major champion is a considerable favorite to prevail again, especially in the best-of-five format.

Lorenzo Musetti (17) vs. Cameron Norrie (14) – Third in Court Simonne-Mathieu

Like Alejandro, Lorenzo is a flashy, uber-talented young player.  But his results are also up-and-down, with a record of 15-12 this season.  The 21-year-old advanced to the round of 16 in Paris two years ago, when he was up two sets against Djokovic before succumbing and retiring two games from defeat.

Norrie is the opposite: a consistent, less glitzy performer.  The British No.1 is 29-10 on the season, and has been one of the ATP’s winningest players the last two seasons.  However, he is 0-2 in the third round of this event, losing to Rafael Nadal and Karen Khachanov the last two years.

Their only prior matchup took place earlier this clay court season in Barcelona, with Musetti coming from a set down to win 6-1 in the third.  But this is another case where the best-of-five format favors the higher seed and more fit player in Norrie, while the slight upset by the Italian and his formidable backhand would not be shocking.

Diego Schwartzman vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Last on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Tsitsipas is 27-8 this season, yet is 0-5 in his last five tournament finals, dating back nearly a year.  That includes a straight-set loss to Djokovic in the championship match of January’s Australian Open.

Schwartzman has seriously struggled this year, with a record of 5-16 at all levels coming into this fortnight, arriving in Paris on a five-match losing streak.  However, he has advanced to the fourth round or better at this tournament in four of the last five years, and remains a considerable threat on this surface.

Stefanos leads their head-to-head 4-2 overall, and 2-0 on clay.  And based on recent form, the Greek is a significant favorite on Friday.

Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov (26) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz is 32-3 in 2023, and 22-2 on clay.  He’s accumulated four titles, three of which came on this surface.  Carlitos was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, losing in four sets to Sascha Zverev.

It’s been a really rough season for Shapovalov.  The Canadian was 7-9 on the year coming into the French Open, and 1-2 on clay.  And this easily remains his worst Major, with a lifetime record of 4-4, and this third round appearance being his best result to date.

In their first career meeting, the 20-year-old Spaniard is a strong favorite to prevail. 

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Elise Mertens (28) vs. Jessica Pegula (3) – Both players are yet to drop a set, though Pegula received a retirement from Camila Giorgi after one set on Wednesday.  Mertens leads their head-to-head 2-0, with both matches taking place a few years ago on hard courts.

Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (WC) – Khachanov came back from two sets down in his opening round contest against Constant Lestienne of France, while Kokkinakis survived a grueling five-setter in the last round against Stan Wawrinka.  When they played five years ago on clay in Monte Carlo, Karen prevailed in straight sets.

Kamilla Rakhimova vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Sabalenka is now 31-5 on the year, but is vying to reach the round of 16 in Paris for the first time.  Rakhimova is a 21-year-old who has never advanced to the round of 16 at any Major.  This is a first career meeting between two more players who have not dropped a set.

Lorenzo Sonego vs. Andrey Rublev (7) – Rublev has won consecutive four-setters to reach this stage.  Sonego already took out another seed, Ben Shelton.  These players have split two prior tour-level meetings, with Lorenzo claiming the one contested on clay.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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