The rain and storms have relented and the French Open is officially underway. As is the norm on the red clay in Paris, the top players have been put through the wringer, straightaway. In the 29 men’s matches that have been completed, 9 of them have been 5 set matches. One of those 5 matches involved the defending champion Stan Wawrinka, who won his first 5 set match in more than 2 years.
Here are a few matches that most tennis fans will be having their TVs/devices tuned in to, on Day 3.
1. Andy Murray (GBR)  vs Radek Stepanek (CZE)
This will be the match that will be top most on the list of all the tennis aficionados as Andy Murray tries to fight himself out of a perilous situation. Murray will resume the match trailing 2 sets to 1 (with a break up in the 4th set) against the Czech veteran – Radek Stepanek. The British No.1 was in a more perilous position when he was down 2 sets to 1, before he began finding his way out.
Murray seems to have definitely been affected by his unique position coming into the second grandslam of the year as a prominent favorite for the title. One would expect the pressure only ratcheted up when he received a favorable draw (compared to a few other title contenders). However, Murray is experienced enough to not put the cart before the horse and focus on one match at a time.
Stepanek, who at 37, had to get through the qualifiers and he used all the momentum he has built up from the qualifiers to wrest the 1st set away from Murray. The cloudy and relatively less warm conditions definitely gave another edge to the Czech’s aggressive minded game and he was soon 2 sets to love up, before Murray mounted the damage control.
Prediction: The break should definitely help Stepanek physically, however the mental/emotional side, the 2 time slam champion will have a share of the benefit of the break. His fans will hope he will be able to regroup and come out firing to ensure he will not have a slow start like yesterday. I definitely think he will and make it through to the second round.
2. Tomas Berdych (CZE)  vs Vasek Pospisil (CAN)
When the draw came out this was the uspet alert match on the list for most experts. That does not count on Pospisil’s own present form – which is quite shaky to say the least, but the Czech No.1’s recent struggle which seemed to have hit a real low when he was served a double bagel by the ever improving Belgian David Goffin in the quarterfinals of Rome.
Berdych for his part reacted promptly by announcing a move on from his coach of a year and a half – Daniel Vallverdu. One would expect not to see many long rallies as both players are power hitters equipped with big serves and will try to impose their game and take control of the match.
Prediction: Berdych might not find his best game, however he still has enough weapons to see off Pospisil. Pospisil will have to bring his very best to pull an upset here. I will go with Berdych in 3 tough sets.
3. Fabio Fognini (ITA)  vs Marcel Granollers (ESP)
This should be a great treat for tennis fans given the wonderful ball striking skills of these two athletes. Fognini is quite known for his extremely flashy game and talented shot making. While his opponent, Marcel Granollers is not as well known for his own game and personality, tennis fans are aware of the shot making abilities of the spaniard.
The Italian has been playing some of his best tennis over the last few years and though he has not been able to have a great year thus far, he keeps displaying flashes of his brilliance every now and then. Granollers for his part will try to not get distracted by the circus that the 32nd seed invariably brings to his matches. Should Granollers be able to find his best game, this match could produce some great tennis for the spectators.
Prediction: Fognini has had the advantage in this rivalry, historically including a 4-2 lead on matches played on clay. The last time these two played, however, was in 2013. I will stick with the Italian showman in 4 enthralling sets.
4. Borna Coric (CRO) vs Taylor Fritz (USA)
In what is most probably going to be a first showdown among many to come in a future rivalry (hopefully), the two youngsters will be opening their campaign in the second grandslam of the year. Coric is, relatively, the more experienced of the two and is also the more comfortable of the two youngsters on the red clay.
Coric’s improvement curve seems to have stalled a bit over the last year or so, but he still has time on his side to deliver on the expectations riding on his young shoulders. Fritz has enjoyed some success on the North American hardcourts and though he has not done much of note during the clay season, we can say it was on expected lines given how alien the conditions are to American tennis players over the years.
Coric will want to make sure he can get some advantage in a rivalry, that many in the tennis galaxy expect to be played out on the biggest stages of the sport in the future.
Prediction: Coric has everything leaning his way, except probably, the weather which might reduce the advantage that the surface gives him. There is a good chance the match might be a straight sets affair, but one would be curious to see how well the two youngsters’ games match up. Coric to win in 4 sets.
–Prakash Potukuchi [ Prakash is the founder of Sportz Cosmos. He tweets here.]