Round 3 match-ups are just about set. Before we look at some of those, what happened in R2?
Looking at the favorites, Djokovic and Nadal advanced easily; in fact, the Spaniard isn’t breaking a sweat. This was the case last year, as well, when his form (confidence) was suspect, so we shouldn’t read too much into this other than he’s on his favorite clay beating guys he should beat.
Murray followed-up his Stepanek marathon with another 5-set marathon v Frenchman Mathias Bourge, a wild card. I tuned-in with Bourge up 2 sets to 1. The fifth set was a bit dramatic as the wild card gave us everything he had to hang-on.
The most troubling point here, other than Murray fans must be a bit concerned with his difficulty to get by these early-round underdogs, is that this was Bourge’s second five set match and therefore the longest match of his career; he advanced in straight sets R1. In other words, he had no business pushing Murray like this. Carillo and Anacone had a field day with some of this trivia. At one of the change-overs, the kid awkwardly asked the chair if someone could bring him a Coke and a Mars bar. Good going, Andy.
Along the same lines, Stan doesn’t look very good. Sure he advanced into 3R in straight sets (improving upon his R1 5-setter), but he looks disinterested. the eighth game of the third set was bizarre. The Japanese kid, Daniel, is serving 4-3, up a break. Stan pretty much has to break here to avoid going to a fourth set. He limps his way to the break, failing on several BP, literally showing very little urgency or consistency. The outcome didn’t seem to matter to him at all.
I guess we could spin this a couple of ways. It looked bad. Or Stan looked stress-free. This did not have the look of Andy wearing himself out in a 5-setter, talking to himself, screaming, etc. Stan advanced, but he didn’t seem worried much at all. I feel like he needs to start picking-up the tennis a bit. At the same time, despite the inconsistency, one has to assume Daniel was playing his ass off just to hang around as Stan’s heavy ball was certainly apparent in their various exchanges.
To be clear, Andy and Stan need to tighten-up their execution, but I will suspend some of my concern for Stan – wait see how he fairs in the next match. Andy, however, looks vulnerable.
Other R2 highlights: Kyrgios wins easily, as do Verdasco, Kei and Gasquet. That, my friends, is a fun little 4 top. Verdasco v Nishikori and Kyrgios v Gasquet, the winners to face-off in R4, will add intrigue to that bottom quarter, the survivor playing the Isner v Murray winner in that QF. A lot of talent there. Does Nishikori continue to build his clay résumé? Does Kyrgios start a run right here in R3 and beat the professional tennis of Gasquet and come into the Nishikori match beaming with confidence? Or does Gasquet end that run? Maybe Fernando shocks the draw. I would like to see Kei v Nick.
Murray should be fine though Isner hopefully advances and makes the Scot work. This is a good test, obviously, for Murray. He certainly doesn’t look good and his behavior on-court is starting to crack a bit. He has a lot more work to do, for sure. Actually, beating Karlovic (I assume) is a nice warm-up for Isner. Andy needs to get through to that QF in much better fashion than he’s shown thus far.
Let’s assume Stan gets by Chardy and then he has Simon (who barely survived Pella, a guy who plays some gritty tennis) – he should advance to his QF. These are tougher tests, so let’s say 3 to 4 set victories should set-up the Swiss for a deep run. But who knows.
The other half of that third quarter has the likes of Sock and Ranoic. Stan should survive all of this, but, again, who knows. On paper, Stan, in form, should arrive at the SF awaiting a beat-up Murray et al. That bottom quarter is a monster.
In the top half, we should be on schedule for the grand Novak v Rafa SF. But some interesting R3 match-ups include another Thiem v Zverev. If Thiem gets through in straights, that R4 Thiem v Nadal could be delicious. Thiem beat Zverev in 3 at Nice, but bageled the German in the third. If he struggles with Zverev, not a good sign, imho.
Nadal looks good destroying his veteran countryman, Granollers. All eyes on Thiem in R3 in anticipation of the Spaniard and Austrian R4 tilt.
The bottom part of that quarter has actually a bit of interest: Gulbis v Tsonga and Goffin v Almagro. There is talent there. I have been championing Gulbis for a while, but his 2015-16 is pretty piss-poor. However, he has a FO SF appearance (2014). This guy’s awkward style can impose on other players. If he beats Tsonga, he could be fun to watch.
At the top in Djokovic’s quarter, he might have some competition in 4R vs. Agut and then his QF is shaping-up to see Berdych, Cuevas or Ferrer (if the Spaniard finishes against Monaco). He has a cupcake draw on paper.
In sum, the bottom half is wide-open due to Stan and Andy’s less than stellar form along with a few dark horse threats that linger (Raonic, Nishikori, Kyrgios, Gasquet, etc.).
The top half is on schedule, but I see the Tsonga v Gulbis as having some interest along with the Thiem v Nadal if Thiem takes care of business in 3R.