French Quarters

REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

To finish my commentary on Thiem vs Schwartzman, I liked Diego in this match and part of that absolutely comes from his results in Rome. He spanked Rafa, played a gem against Shapo and though he came-up against le patron (or il capo) in the final, he showed all kinds of value for this autumnal version of Roland Garros.

He had a fairly breezy draw here in Paris, as well.

On the other hand, Thiem looked off, hungover still. I rationalized his “form” as a maturity that wins despite looking “disheveled” or “out of sorts.” I think there’s something to that, which you see in great players (Rafa this evening showed this against Sinner, for instance; looking okay, but winning those couple of points here and there that make the difference). We know this look well. Thiem has that, but this “pedestrian” look also meant he didn’t have that ascendant game here in Paris.

Blah blah blah. I picked Schwartzman and as Courier said, who called the match, or really anyone watching could see, this should have been a straight-set win from Diego. Thiem looked that bad.

This means that Schwartzman squandered a less taxing win which would certainly have helped in his preparation for the SF with Rafa. In other words, his inability to put Thiem away could have major consequences. Either way, the Austrian did not look very good for a few matches and the Argentine has had that winning edge for weeks now, playing on his favorite surface.

Schwartzman has been a tough out for a few years, especially on clay. He’s built for this kind of tennis. Remember my clay narrative (how could you not since my latest installment was . . . two days ago)? The Argentine’s diminutive stature does not hinder him much on the clay and probably even benefits his game. He can cover the court, retrieve, has a wonderful feel for the dirt point, etc., etc.

I think back to that Shapo SF in Rome where Diego spun a magic wand there to take-out the one-handed Canadian. Brilliant stuff. Don’t ever count-out Diego from Argentina (yes that’s a nod to the futbol god).

One last note on this Thiem/Schwartzman QF. This was not a great match, in terms of the actual tennis. Dramatically, sure. A guy was broken as he tried to consolidate his own break or serve-out a set seemingly every other game. Roller coaster, on the edge of your seat . . .

But the level of play was just okay. There were some nice rallies, clutch breaks, saves, etc. I’m putting most of this on Thiem. He looked worn-out from the beginning. Perhaps the weather had something to do with this.

Over five hours. In the back of anyone’s mind had to be the sense that either one will be compromised for the SF or the F. Just a whale of an effort but certainly not the “match of the year” that came out of some Tennis Channel talking head’s mouth. Nope.

Nadal vs Sinner was a much better watch though I’ll give the Diego/Domi fan a pass if he/she got really caught-up in the roller-coaster-like epic journey of that first QF.

The Sinner/Nadal match was cleaner tennis, better form. The wind pushed the ball, pushed the players to make adjustments, but this was very interesting for two sets. The 19 year-old Italian made Rafa nervous.

He had the break in the first set and served for the set at 6-5. He lost in a TB.

He kept the match on serve in the second set to 4-4 before succumbing to the 12 time FO champ. But anyone watching knows this was a tight one.

Sinner has a long game, hits the ball tall, deep, heavy and doesn’t seem to get very rattled, certainly not like his countryman Foghat. This kid has class, which we knew going in. I did not actually expect this kind of resistance despite knowing his potential. He was playing Rafa. Very good to see.

I have to admit: the match gave me some flashback to the 2019 U.S. Open final, where a young gun (Medvedev) is trading blows with Rafa, has the Spaniard on the ropes, but can’t close the deal (the 2018 QF between Rafa and Domi too). Rafa is certainly clutch. But these youngsters come with gifts, as well. Sinner had some opportunities to really trouble the defending champ on a few exchanges. We could say this, of course, about many of these big matches with the Big 3. They find a way.

This Sinner match does give us some pause on the Rafa freight-train. Schwartzman could cause trouble if he’s recovered, but probably this is a bit much for the guy who’s had a pretty busy fall and is coming-off a five hour plus slug-fest with Thiem.

The pause will come more into our thinking if Djokovic can advance without too much damage. Sinner played, in a way, similar to Novak.

I can see Novak using those ground strokes to push Nadal side-to-side. Novak’s court position will add to the pressure on Rafa; Sinner was often too far back (noticing a theme here with many younger players?).

And the one shot the Italian could not come-up with nearly enough (almost not at all): the BH DTL. He got too entrenched in the BH CC to Rafa’s FH.

Novak has that shot.

As for tomorrow’s other QFs: we like Novak and Tsitsipas.

The Tsitsipas pick is from the heart. The Russian is balling and likely beats the Greek in straights. He just punked Stefanos in the Hamburg final, despite the fact that the one-hander served for the title at 5-4 in the third.

It was a choke, but I associated this with his choke in the U.S. Open against Coric (where he had 5 or 6 MPs). So, sure Rublev has all sorts of form and confidence. But Tsitsipas has had the yips. He looked as such in Round 1 here in Paris but came back from 0-2 to beat Munar.

The more I write about this match, the more I like Rublev. Stefanos better have his one-hander and inside-in FH weapon working, serve like an ace and clutch-up.

Either way, the winner faces Novak and who in their right mind is going to deprive us of Djokodal LVI.

I must say in closing: the Spaniard Carreno Busta, though he looked to be dealing a bit with some kind of ailment — really not sure what — looked very sharp in the points, throughout this match. This has less to do with any prediction against Novak (since we like the Serb to get through) and more to do with how he dispatched our new one-hander Daniel Altmaier. I watched much of this match and only like this kid more.

PCB is a terrible match-up for this young German. The Spaniard’s flatter ground strokes gave this kid fits and PCB is the consummate professional, so he served well, in a timely fashion, and took the opportunities presented to him. Not a lot of errors.

The German served for the second set at 5-3 and ended up losing that set in a tie-breaker. Fuck. He wins that second set 6-3, who the hell knows. But over all, too many errors and just too much from Busta rhymes (nod to BG).

But love the German’s energy and one-hander!

All-right, that’s all.

Peace, thanks for reading, enjoy the tennis and talk to you soon.

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