All the leading men’s seeds have survived the first week at the second grand slam of the year, as nine time champion Rafael Nadal, defending champion Novak Djokovic, top seeded Andy Murray, the 2015 champion Stanislas Wawrinka and the red hot Austrian Dominic Thiem entered the pre quarter finals, most of them in championship winning form.
The defending champion Novak Djokovic was taken to the distance by the 41st ranked Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. The 5ft 7 inch diminutive native of Buenos Aires, Schwartzman appeared on course for the biggest win of his career as he took a 2-1 lead in sets, but was laid low by a back problem as Djokovic reeled off the last two sets dropping only one game each to register a 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win in 3 hours and 18 minutes on court Philippe Chatrier on Thursday.
In complete contrast, the fourth seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal dropped only one game against the hapless Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili as he won 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 in the match preceding Djokovic-Schwartzman. Next up for Nadal is fellow countryman Roberto Bautista Agut who had a surprisingly easy 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over the tall left handed Jiri Vesley of the Czech Republic.
Djokovic plays another Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas who ended the run of the of the last remaining Frenchman in the bottom half of the men’s draw, the sixteenth seeded Lucas Pouille. The nineteenth seeded Ramos-Vinolas, runner up in Monte Carlo this year (lost to Nadal) came back from 1-2 down in sets to prevail 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, in a match lasting three hours and forty one minutes on court Suzanne Lenglen.
The tenth seeded David Goffin of Belgium was forced to retire under tragic circumstances as he hurt his ankle under the tarpaulin at the end of the court while trying to chase down a shot while leading 5-4 in the first set against the Argentine Horacio Zeballos who next faces the sixth seeded Dominic Thiem, a 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-3 winner over the American Steve Johnson. The fifth seeded Milos Raonic moved on as the Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez retired trailing 1-6, 0-1 in just 28 minutes due to injury. He plays another Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, the 20th seed upset the Bulgarian Grigor Dmitrov 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
On Saturday, Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro squared off in a repeat of the Gold medal match at Rio Olympics and it was the Argentine making his first appearance in Paris since 2012 who got off to a good start but failed to convert a set point at 5-3 in the first set on Murray’s serve. The native of Tandil, seeded 29th, failed to hold on to his serve and lost the ensuing tie-break 10-8. Murray took advantage of the Argentine’s dip in form and despite failing to serve out the second set at 4-5, Murray broke right back and held to take a commanding two sets lead.
He then bageled the demoralized Argentine to complete a 7-6(8), 7-5, 6-0 win. Murray awaits the winner of the match between the 21st seeded American John Isner and the Russian Karen Khachanov, which was suspended after the Russian won the first set tie-break 7-1.
The giant killing run of the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco continued as he ended the hopes of the Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. The left handed Spaniard had upset the Rome winner Alexander Zverev in the first round and is now into his sixth round of 16 in the French Capital. He awaits the winner of Kei Nishikori and Hyeon Chung match, the eight seed from Japan took the first two sets but the Korean, ranked 67th in the world fought back in dogged style to take third set in a tie-break and leads by 3-0 in the fourth set.
The 2015 champion Stanislas Wawrinka, winner of the warm up event in Geneva last Saturday, saved four set points in the first set before prevailing 7-6(2), 6-0, 6-2 against the 28th seeded Italian Fabio Fognini who was hampered by a knee injury throughout the match. The third seeded Swiss is yet to drop a set in three matches thus year and awaits the winner of the match between the two Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils. Gasquet has saved all six break points but trails 5-6 in the first as rain suspended play for the day.
The 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia too has moved into the round of sixteen after completing the rout of the left handed Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. The veteran Spaniard seemed exhausted after a gruelling five set upset win over compatriot David Ferrer in the previous round. He will next play another big server Kevin Anderson of South Africa who ended the hopes of Kyle Edmund of Britain after a 6-7(8), 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win in just under four hours on Saturday. Anderson ranked in the top ten but has dropped to 56th in rankings served 24 aces in the match.
The following is the list of matches to be played on Sunday with my pick mentioned first:-
Novak Djokovic (2) v. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (19)
Dominic Thiem (6) v. Horacio Zeballos (-)
Rafael Nadal (4) v. Roberto Bautista Agut (17)
Milos Raonic (5) v. Pablo Carreno Busta (20)
Richard Gasquet (24) v. Gael Monfils (15), Gasquet trails 5-6 in the first set
Karen Khachanov (-) v. John Isner (21), Khachanov took first set 7-6(1)
Kei Nishikori (8) v. Hyeon Chung (-), Nishikori leads 2-1 in sets, down 0-3 in the fourth set.
The line up for the ladies section of the draw to be played on Sunday for the round of 16, as under with my pick mentioned first :-
Samantha Stosur (23) v. Julia Ostapenko (-)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (8) v. Caroline Wozniacki (11)
Garbine Muguruza (4) v. Kristina Mladenovic (13)
Venus Williams (10) v. Timea Bacsinszky (30)
There are still four slots to be filled in the round of sixteen, matches to be played on Sunday with my pick mentioned first :-
Elina Svitolina (5) v. Magda Linette (-)
Karolina Pliskova (2) v. Carina Witthoeft
Anastasija Sevastova (17) v. Petra Martic (-)
Veronica Cepede Royg (-) v. Mariana Duque-Marino.
Four players from the bottom half of the women’s draw have advanced after the third seeded Simona Halep of Romania, the Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, and the French duo of Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia won on Saturday. The 28th seeded Garcia won the deciding third set 9-7 against Su-Wei Hsieh of Chinese Taipei, while the unseeded Cornet did not allow the 9th seeded Agnieska Radwanska of Poland a single service hold in her 6-2, 6-1 demolition. The 2014 runner up Simona Halep beat the promising Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-0, 7-5 and next plays Carla Suarez Navarro, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over another Russian Elina Vesnina.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]