2020 French Open: Review Of The Third Round

Twenty-year-old Hugo Gaston is the toast of all France as he is the sole local hope into the last sixteen of this year’s final grand slam of the year after ending the run of the 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in five sets on Friday at the Roland Garros in Paris. He joins the top three seeds and the favourites for the title, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

The left-handed Frenchman ranked 239th in the world, who received a main draw wildcard in the event this year, took full advantage of a two-and-a-half-hour rain delay and bageled the former champion in the fifth set to score a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 win. He next faces the third-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem in the fourth round.

Wawrinka took the first set in only 27 minutes on his fourth set point but then let slip a 40-30 advantage in the opening game of the second set as the Frenchman grew in confidence. He broke again in the ninth game to clinch the second set 6-3, before a lengthy rain delay at 2-2 in the third set. Gaston then broke serve in the sixth game of the third set before Wawrinka jumped to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set. Gaston went on to break back and level the score at 4-4, but Wawrinka broke again to force a fifth set. It was all Gaston in the fifth set as Wawrinka who committed 74 unforced errors simply fell apart in the decider.

The Frenchman now plays the newest Grand Slam champion Dominic Thiem, the US Open champion who is seeded third. The Austrian, who has made mincemeat of what is potentially a brutal draw, was rarely troubled by the in-form Norwegian Casper Ruud, a semi-finalist in Rome and Hamburg leading up to the French Open. Thiem who is riding a 10-match winning streak ousted the 28th seeded Ruud 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

Meanwhile, the 12-time champion and the undisputed King of Clay, the second-seeded Rafael Nadal once again dropped only five games as he did in the second round in his 6-1, 6-4, 6-0 win over Italian Stefano Travaglia.
Nadal, champion in Paris from 2005-08, 2010-14, and 2017-19, is now 96-2 at Roland Garros. He takes on the 20-year-old American Sebastian Korda who idolized the Spaniard growing up. Korda, the son of the 1992 Roland Garros runner-up Petr Korda of the Czech Republic, took out another Spaniard Pedro Martinez in a battle of qualifiers 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.

Lorenzo Sonego ensured a second Italian was through to the fourth round after beating the 27th seeded American Taylor Fritz 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-6(17). Sonego won on his seventh match point after saving five points in the marathon third set tie-break. The 12th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina was a 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-3 winner over Norbert Gombos of Slovakia. The Argentine who beat Rafael Nadal en route to reaching his maiden Master’s series final in Rome next faces Sonego in the fourth round.

On a somewhat predictable Saturday, Novak Djokovic continued his quest for his 18th grand slam title and also for a second career grand slam after routing the Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 on Phillippe Chatrier. Djokovic has dropped only five games in each of his first three round matches but now faces his first real test as he taken on the Russian Karen Khachanov, seeded 15th, who took out the 20th-seeded Chilean Christian Garin 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

In the first match of the day, the seventh-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini was expected to create history as he could have ensured three Italians in the last sixteen of a grand slam tournament for the first time in history, but he disappointed in his straight-sets loss to the German qualifier Daniel Altmaier 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4. Next up for Altmaier is the Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta who beat fellow countryman Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Bautista Agut got off to a quick start with a break of serve in the second game but the 17th-seeded Carreno Busta who had reached the quarter final at US Open last month dominated the 10th ranked Bautista Agut in a baseline duel on Suzanne Lenglen.

There were two retirements due to injury but not before Stefanos Tsitsipas and Grigor Dimitrov had taken a two-set lead over their respective opponents, and now face off on Monday. Tsitsipas lead the Slovenian Aljaz Bedene 6-1, 6-2, 3-1 before Bedene retired due to an ankle injury, while Dimitrov was up 6-1, 6-3 against the Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena before his opponent retired. The remaining two slots are taken by the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics who had an easy 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 win over the left-handed Brazilian Thiago Monteiro, and the Hamburg champion Andrey Rublev of Russia, who took out the two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson of South Africa. Anderson who is playing with a protected ranking had earlier upset the Serbian Dusan Lajovic in five sets in the second round, but showed little resistance in his 3-6, 2-6, 3-6 loss to the 13th-seeded Russian.

The following is the line-up for the round of sixteen with my pick mentioned first:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs Karen Khachanov (15)
Pablo Carreno Busta (17) vs Daniel Altmaier
Andrey Rublev (13) vs Marton Fucsovics
Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs Grigor Dimitrov (18)
Diego Schwartzman (12) vs Lorenzo Sonego
Dominic Thiem (3) vs Hugo Gaston
Alexander Zverev (6) vs Jannik Sinner
Rafael Nadal (2) vs Sebastian Korda

– 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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