Roland Garros Fast Forward: Tsonga, Monfils, Ivanovic, Kuznetsova, Errani and More on Day 6
Here are ten matches to note on Friday at Roland Garros, five from the men and five from the women. Roger Federer vs. Julien Benneteau makes a fine eleventh offering, but Yeshayahu Ginsburg gives you all of the details that you want to know about that pairing in another article on this site. (Also note that many of the postponed matches from Thursday feature in that day’s preview.)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Jeremy Chardy: This clash of January’s Australian Open quarterfinalists may divide the loyalties of the Paris crowd. The flamboyance on both sides should thrill spectators as both men aim to pummel with a forehand the first attackable ball that they see. While both Tsonga and Chardy easily lose focus, both have kept their eyes on the ball through two straight-sets victories. A quarterfinalist at Roland Garros last year, Tsonga rode his usual rollercoaster through a clay season with a semifinal in Monte Carlo and a second-round loss in Rome. The two Frenchmen rarely have clashed, splitting their two matches by identical 6-4 7-6 scores.
Gael Monfils vs. Tommy Robredo: After he slugged a path past two fellow shot-makers, the story of the men’s tournament faces a different challenge altogether. In a contrast of styles, Monfils will look to break through the defenses of a resilient veteran who has compiled his greatest successes on clay. For his part, Robredo will look to grind down his opponent and exploit any lingering fatigue from the Frenchman’s overstuffed recent schedule. If Monfils blows a massive lead, as he did against Berdych, Robredo probably will punish him.
Feliciano Lopez vs. David Ferrer: The second-ranked Spaniard has planted himself firmly in the driver’s seat of his quarter, although Monfils might beg to differ. With two comprehensive victories, Ferrer has looked more formidable than anyone here except Roger Federer. He often has found fellow Spaniards trickier than expected, though, even beyond the inexorable Rafael Nadal. Fortunately for him, Lopez poses a much greater threat on a faster court with his lefty net-rushing style. Their head-to-head illustrates this trend with Ferrer sweeping their clay matches and Lopez dominating on hard courts. Still, the latter held match point in Barcelona last year before Ferrer fastened his jaws around him.
Andreas Seppi vs. Nicolas Almagro: Few would have given Seppi much chance to reach the second week for the second straight week here, but he is a plausible upset from doing exactly that. Seppi had won only two matches at six clay tournaments entering Roland Garros, only to eke out consecutive five-set victories. Laboring through an equally poor season at clay Masters 1000 events, Almagro did reach the final in Barcelona and has dropped just one set through his first two matches here. The Italian has won both of their previous matches, although neither came on clay. Whoever wins will be favored to reach the quarterfinals against David Ferrer.
Milos Raonic vs. Kevin Anderson: This match sounds more like Wimbledon than Roland Garros, and in fact their only previous meeting came on an indoor hard court. Each man has recorded one notable result on his least favorite surface, Raonic reaching the semifinals in Barcelona and Anderson reaching the final in Casablanca. Doubtless glad to see his perennial nemesis Tomas Berdych gone from this section, Anderson has produced somewhat more consistency on clay than Raonic with victories over Juan Monaco and Marin Cilic. But this match will hinge on a few key points, as it would elsewhere, and on the ability of both men to execute fundamentals while finding timely first serves.
Virginie Razzano vs. Ana Ivanovic: Much improved from the first round, Ivanovic started her second match with another flurry of winners and this time largely continued her dominance through the second set. She can take nothing for granted against a woman who refuses to go away when she falls behind here, no matter the opponent. Razzano will benefit from the support of those who remember last year’s miracle, which will encourage her to believe that anything is possible. As remarkable as Razzano’s repeat run is, however, her two victories came against Claire Feuerstein and Zuzana Kucova. And they were close, which this match will not be unless Ivanovic has a bad day, when anything can happen.
Bojana Jovanovski vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Some players specialize in clay, some players specialize in grass, and Bojana Jovanovski specializes in tormenting Caroline Wozniacki on clay. Jovanovski defeated the Dane twice this month while notching just one other victory since the Australian Open, where she reached the second week. One win from doing the same here, the Serb perhaps saves her best tennis for the biggest stages. While she went AWOL for a set in the second round, as she often does, Kuznetsova regrouped impressively to dictate play from there. She should have a decent chance to face Serena in the quarterfinals, not that anyone envies the honor.
Sabine Lisicki vs. Sara Errani: The greatest contrast of styles on the WTA schedule should test Errani much more than her first two opponents. Living up to her billing as a member of the top five, last year’s finalist has dropped just five games in the tournament, or one more than Serena Williams. A first meeting with Lisicki may require an adjustment period to the weight of the German’s explosive first serve, able to penetrate surfaces of any speed. Fans could see plenty of drop shots as both women love to use that gambit more often than most rivals. Very steady on outdoor clay this year, Errani has lost only to Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Petra Kvitova on her favorite surface. All of those women can and did pounce on her serve, which will be the key for Lisicki and her less lethal return.
Varvara Lepchenko vs. Angelique Kerber: Losing just ten games in two matches, Lepchenko owns three clay victories this year over the daunting Italian duo of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. This battle of lefties pits her against a woman at her least effective on clay, so the American should hold the surface edge. On the other hand, Kerber did reach the Roland Garros quarterfinals last year and has produced consistent if not outstanding results over the last few months. Perhaps her best performances of the year came in two three-set semifinal losses when she battled Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova to the finish. Kerber wins fewer of those epics now than she did last year, but she won’t play an epic if she brings that form here.
Monica Puig vs. Carla Suarez Navarro: Progressing by leaps and bounds, the charming Puig stands within range of the second week at a major. Puig did not reach this stage by feasting on cupcakes, upsetting top-15 opponent Nadia Petrova in three sets and winning a clash of future stars from Madison Keys. While Suarez Navarro should be favored with her superior clay prowess and overall experience, she has not looked this week like someone enjoying the best year of her career. The finalist in Acapulco and Portugal dropped the first set in both of her matches, including against anonymous American Shelby Rogers. Suarez Navarro can’t afford to overlook Puig, although she dismantled her in Portugal.