2019 French Open: Review Of The Pre-Quarter Finals

All four former champions at Roland Garros have reached the Quarter-finals of the second grand slam of the year. The top seed and 2016 champion Novak Djokovic, eleven time champion Rafael Nadal (2005-08,2010-14,2017-8) and the 2009 champion Roger Federer advanced without dropping sweat while the 2015 champion Stanislas Wawrinka survived a five hour nine minute marathon against the GenNext star Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

Roger Federer was the first man through to the last eight as he maintained his perfect record of not dropping a set in the tournament with a 6-2,6-3,6-3 win over the Argentine Leonardo Mayer on court Philippe Chatrier. Federer broke serve five times in the match and did not drop serve in reaching his 12th Quarter-final at Roland Garros and 54th overall at a Grand Slam.

Mayer trailed 0-3 in his career head to head with their most famous meeting till date was in Shanghai 2014 when Federer saved five match points in the second round and then went on to win the tournament. He was followed on court by his archrival Rafael Nadal who matched Federer’s feat of losing only eight games in dispatching another Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero.

Nadal reached his 13th Quarter-final in Paris with a 6-2,6-3,6-3 win in two hours and 13 minutes. The only time Nadal failed to win the title after reaching the last eight stage was in 2015 when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

The 78th ranked Londero who won a five setter against the Frenchman Corentin Moutet in the previous round fought gamely and in the third set after trailing 1-4 reeled off 10 consecutive points and looked set to level the score at 4-4. The second ranked Nadal regrouped to hold serve and closed it out with another service break.

Nadal, next faces the seventh seeded Kei Nishikori who squandered two match points in the fourth set against the charismatic Benoit Paire of France before coming through 6-2,6-7(8),6-2,6-7(8),7-5 in an error prone match on Suzanne Lenglen. Paire served 15 double faults while Nishikori had six. The Frenchman was broken to 30 while serving for the match at 5-4 in the final set as the two time quarter finalist Nishikori reeled off the last three games.

In what was by far the most entertaining match of the tournament so far, the 2015 champion Stanislas Wawrinka ended the aspirations of the 20 year old Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas with a 7-6(6),5-7,6-4,3-6,8-6 win to book a rematch with fellow Swiss Roger Federer whom he beat in 2015 enroute to claiming the first of his three grand slam titles. Each player broke serve five times and Tsitsipas won one point more than Wawrinka, 195-194.

Novak Djokovic continues to roll in his quest for a second non-calendar slam as he beat the exhausted German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3,6-2,6-2 on court Philippe Chatrier on Monday. Like Federer, Djokovic has a perfect 12-0 record in sets won at this year’s event. Struff, who won a marathon five setter 11-9 in the decider to upset the 13th seeded Borna Coric, had little left to offer against the world number One who is also bidding to become the only man in Open Era to win all four majors twice.

There was good news for Germany as the underachieving Alexander Zverev reached his second consecutive Quarter-final in Paris after a four set win over the Monte Carlo champion Fabio Fognini 3-6,6-2,6-2,7-6(5) on court Suzanne Lenglen. Zverev who won the ATP 250 event in Geneva before the Open has now won eight matches in a row and next takes on Djokovic in the Quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria , seeded fourth produced his best performance of the tournament with a 6-4,6-4,6-2 demolition of the last remaining Frenchman in the draw Gael Monfils, seeded 14th. The 25 year old Thiem got off to a dream start breaking service twice and although Monfils got one break back in the eighth game, Thiem served out the set 6-4.

There was only one break of service in the second set, Thiem broke twice in the third to complete a 6-4,6-4,6-2 win against the 32 year old Monfils, a semi finalist here in 2008 and also at the U.S. Open in 2016.

The Russian Karen Khachanov will now play Dominic Thiem after beating the eighth seeded Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in a slugfest in the last match of the day to finish on Monday. The 10th seed now assured himself of entry into the Top ten when rankings are released on next Monday as he won 7-5,6-3,3-6,6-3 against last year’s semi-finalist.

Del Potro failed to convert three break point chances in the opening set and from 5-5 in the opening set lost five consecutive games and it was an uphill battle for the Tower of Tandill as Khachanov employed heavy hitting from the baseline to counter the Argentine’s forehand.

The following is the quarter final line up with my pick mentioned first :-

Novak Djokovic (1) v. Alexander Zverev (5)
Rafael Nadal (2) v. Kei Nishikori (7)
Roger Federer (3) v. Stanislas Wawrinka (24)
Dominic Thiem (4) v. Karen Khachanov (10)

The defending ladies champion Simona Halep of Romania is now the firm favourite for the title after she recorded a crushing 6-1,6-0 win over Iga Swiatek of Poland. Fourteenth seeded Madison Keys beat Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-2,6-4. The Australian Ashley Barty ended the run of Serena Williams’ conqueror Sonia Kenin 6-3,3-6,6-0, while the American Amanda Anisimova ousted the Spaniard Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov 6-3,6-0 in a match shifted to Simmone Mathieu court.

On Sunday, the 2017 U.S. Open Sloane Stephens, seeded seventh beat the 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain 6-4,6-3 while Petra Martic of Croatia beat the veteran Estonian Kaia Kanepi 5-7,6-2,6-4. Johanna Konta kept British hopes alive with a 6-2,6-4 win over the Croat Donna Vekic. Marketa Vondrousova completes the quarter final line up after a crushing 6-2,6-0 against Anastasia Sevatsova.

– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@gmail.com]

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