I have not been studying French Open tennis during this first week of play, but knowing quite a bit about the boys, their patterns and the patterns of the current competitive play, let’s have ourselves a little look at tomorrow’s action.
Djokovic has been on my tele more than any other. His is an interesting development, given his comeback, the bits I’m reading about his approach to the matches via Craig O’Shannessy, watching his play here at Roland Garros, my gut, etc.
He does not look dominant.
His last match v Agut was a study in baseline intensity. The Spaniard is such a professional, such a fine striker of the ball and we can only imagine with the recent passing of his mother that the 13-seed had even more wind beneath his wings.
At a set a-piece, Djokovic down 3-5, heavens, that match was already tense before Novak turned-the-tide for good.
Even that second set where Djokovic had, I believe, three SPs, the play from both sides lifted these men ALMOST from the doldrums of clay. These boys were playing solid baseline grind, moving each other all over the court, one sensing the inspiration from Agut in his personal loss, to Djokovic in his climb back to championship form.
Yet the clay grind was, simply, too much, for me. They played their hearts out of almost every point and seemed to go NO WHERE.
This is a sufferer’s surface. The Djokovic v Bautista Agut match had that brilliant competitive spirit of European clay that clarified this point perfectly; the tennis genius is defined differently here, lifted in its brutality, held back by its incumbent style and pace.
The clay is almost certainly an endurance event with usually the hungriest and fittest finding the genius fool’s gold that works several weeks a year in Western Europe.
Does Djokovic have enough to beat the surging Verdasco tomorrow? Second question: are you surprised the Spaniard beat Dimitrov in straights?
Djokovic beats Verdasco because mentally and physically he’s just that much more than the Spaniard. Verdasco, as we know, can play and beat almost anyone on tour and clearly he’s playing well right now. And clearly Djokovic is vulnerable, recently illustrated in his R32 match.
I suspect Novak’s game will rise, given the round, the second-week and the career consequences. He hasn’t looked tremendous, but I’m calling this a frustration and lack of patience though we’ve all been waiting months for the Serb to find his form. But I think he’s almost angry, frustrated partly that this has taken so long. He wants bigger opponents, bigger matches under bigger lights. That’s what he misses and that’s, essentially, what he wants.
Does Fernando hit him off the court? At this point, these boys are capable of anything and given the queerness of clay, don’t be surprised of anything including the fact that people are still recounting Nadal’s dominance of some clay court somewhere (I caught a prominent New York Times tennis writer making note of Rafa’s successive set victories at RG. Are you kidding me?).
Djokovic outclasses Verdasco in four. Novak needs to finish this off in three, but Verdasco is playing well. I’m confidently nervous on this one, even though I should have written that the other-way-around.
Where’s that Djokovic BH DTL! Keep an eye on that.
Goffin v Cecchinato will also be interesting. They met a couple of weeks ago in Rome with the Belgian prevailing in three sets.
The Italian won Budapest in April, as a lucky loser. Moreover, he beat Fognini in Munich, so this Italian Renaissance in Paris continues (Said major Renaissance marked the transition between Medieval and Modern Europe, so let us enjoy the philosophy, music, art, and poetry of the sport amidst this clash of titanic movements: change v the status quo).
This Italian, like Bolelli, wields a nice one-hander. Though it’s not like the former’s Federer-like offensive CC and DTL aggression we saw v Nadal but more a Thiem-like belligerence from the deep, this kid Marco can match the Belgian given perhaps the latter’s French fatigue. Much applause for surviving his marathon with Monfils, but Goffin has a lot of clay in his shoes.
Does Goffin outclass the Italian? How much of the Italian manifestation this week can the Cecchinato use to reach a QF in Roland Garros? Does David find an easier match to finally look like the 8th seed?
I like the Italian over the Belgian in four. I’m calling the upset.
My mind has changed, but I need to show you the money. Goffin for the win!
Thiem v Nishikori should be all kinds of good BL brutality. Even though Nishikori is 2-0 H2H v the Austrian, having beaten him on clay in Rome 2016, I like Dom to take care of business. Nishikori, as we know, can play great tennis, even on clay where that Djokovic Jr. BH and defense keeps him in all kinds of points with a splendid defense-to-offense. But I like Thiem.
I beliem in Thiem.
I see the Khachanov v Zverev match kinda like Goffin/Cecchinato. Like Goffin, Zverev has been staying-out too late, might be a little hung-over if you catch my drift.
I have seen the Russian, a tremendous athlete, become too much for even good opponents. I have also seen him outclassed, given his big-hitting recklessness and immaturity.
Zverev overcomes the Russian (I think — ha ha).
QF-bound: Djokovic, Goffin, Thiem and Zverev.
Let it ride!