Tiafoe v Querrey Among 5 Must-See First-Round Roland Garros Matches
If you thought you could wait to get the popcorn cooking for Roland Garros, think again. There are plenty of intriguing matchups in the first round of the clay-court Grand Slam, and the ATP World Tour's best are ready to put on a show on the Parisian terre battue.
Sam Querrey v Frances Tiafoe
This is a battle of Americans that would be plenty entertaining even if it were to occur in a later round in Paris. But the second-ranked player from the United States, Querrey, will attempt to hold off #NextGenATP Tiafoe’s charge in their second FedEx ATP Head2Head series meeting. Tiafoe has proven to be in great form this year, sitting at No. 4 in the ATP Race To Milan. The 20-year-old entered the season having never reached a tour-level quarter-final. But he won his first ATP World Tour crown at the Delray Beach Open and advanced to the final at the Millennium Estoril Open. Querrey, on the other hand, is just two spots off of his career-best ATP Ranking (No. 11) and looking to make an impact in France.
Querrey is at his best when dictating with his forehand at the first opportunity. And when the 30-year-old is able to do so, there are few players on the ATP World Tour who can stop him. But Tiafoe is one of the most athletic players on the circuit, and the #NextGenATP American will attempt to stave off the No. 12 seed’s aggressive play so he can take control himself. Look out for which player will make the most of their opportunities. When they played in Shanghai last October, Querrey saved nine of 10 break points en route to his victory. Tiafoe fell in five sets at Roland Garros last year. Will his newfound confidence allow him to break through on the terre battue?
Kyle Edmund v Alex de Minaur
Few players began the 2018 ATP World Tour campaign as well as Edmund and De Minaur. The current British No. 1 broke through to the Australian Open semi-finals, the best result of his career. Despite beginning the season outside the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings, #NextGenATP Aussie De Minaur battled to his first semi-final in Brisbane before advancing to his maiden ATP World Tour final in Sydney. By the way, the Aussie is just 19 years old. Yet, he has surged with the maturity of a veteran, climbing quickly to his current career-high of World No. 106.
The pair began their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry earlier this year on Estoril’s clay, with Edmund moving on in straight sets. The key lay in the second-serve stats — Edmund won 54 per cent of points on his second delivery, while de Minaur claimed just 38 per cent of his. The Brit will look to attack with his massive forehand whenever possible, especially with more time to set up on the Parisian clay. But the question that will be answered in this match will be simple: Will the Aussie manage to hold off Edmund’s offence long enough to counter-attack?
Philipp Kohlschreiber v Borna Coric
The duo’s most recent FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting was one of the wildest clashes on the ATP World Tour last season. In the Marrakech final, Kohlschreiber led by a break in both the second set and the third set, and even held five championship points to claim what would have been his eighth tour-level trophy. But instead, Coric stormed back to earn his maiden ATP World Tour title. Since then, the Croatian has qualified for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals, made the semi-finals at Indian Wells this year and followed that up with a quarter-final showing in Miami.
So while Kohlschreiber is the No. 22 seed, Coric will make this a popcorn-worthy first-round match. It will be interesting to see which player will be able to hold his ground on the baseline. While Kohlschreiber stands 5’10” and Coric 6’1”, neither player shies away from being the aggressor in rallies. In fact, both have heavy forehands, and especially on the clay, they will look to keep one another deep in the court with heavy deliveries close to the baseline.
Lucas Pouille v Daniil Medvedev
Pouille-Medvedev is undoubtedly one of the first-round matchups to watch given their significant talents and success in 2018. Pouille triumphed in Montpellier before finishing runner-up in Marseille and Dubai. Medvedev followed up his 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualification by claiming his maiden ATP World Tour in Sydney. But Pouille has lost four of his past five matches and Medvedev has dropped four in a row, so both players will be at maximum focus in an attempt to get back on track.
There will be a clear contrast of styles as home favourite Pouille looks to thrill the French fans and gain a 3-0 lead in the pair's FedEx ATP Head2Head series. The No. 15 seed is a rhythmic offensive player, who will look to dictate from the baseline with his forehand and keep the match on his racquet. Ironically, Medvedev’s style is predicated on throwing off an opponent’s rhythm. The Russian typically strikes the ball later than most players, and generally hits relatively flat shots off both wings. Pouille won the pair’s most recent meeting last year in Shanghai 6-4, 6-2. But don’t be deceived by the score — Medvedev won just six fewer points in the match.
Stan Wawrinka v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
Wawrinka, the Swiss superstar, won the Roland Garros title in 2015, powering past a slew of talented opponents on the terre battue. People might have forgotten that the year before, he lost in the opening round against Garcia-Lopez. In fact, the veteran Spaniard has won three of 10 FedEx ATP Head2Head matches against Wawrinka, all of which have come on clay. And while the No. 23 seed has won their three most recent meetings, Garcia-Lopez has shown good form lately. The 34-year-old challenged clay-court sensation Dominic Thiem last week in Lyon in a nearly three-hour marathon before falling in three sets.
It will be interesting to watch the battle between two players with one-handed backhands. Both competitors like to take control of points and dominate from the baseline, so whoever is able to earn the first aggressive strike in rallies will likely be in good position. Wawrinka is 18-2 on the Parisian clay over the past three years, and is looking to improve that record against an opponent in Garcia-Lopez who owns 12 wins at Roland Garros in 14 appearances.