Preview: Tsitsipas, Medvedev Face A Tall Order In Paris
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev are among the top seeds back in action on Friday at Roland Garros, but they’ve got their work cut out for them as they both face towering Americans for a spot in the fourth round. Sixth seed Alexander Zverev, 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta and 15th seed Casper Ruud also feature on a busy Day 6 in Paris.
Fifth seed Tsitsipas claimed a confident victory over Pedro Martinez to bring his clay-court win streak to six matches in a row. The Greek player has been on song on red clay, lifting a trophy in Lyon and claiming his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters before arriving in Paris.
Last year’s semi-finalist has a tall order ahead as he eyes a spot in the second week of Roland Garros for the third year in a row. He faces 6’10” American John Isner, the 31st seed, in the night session on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Isner dominated the early match-ups of their ATP Head2Head, but Tsitsipas has won their past three matches to gain the 3-2 edge.
“I'm sure he can serve well right now. Also, I'm sure he's a guy who likes to play on clay,” Tsitsipas said. “Conditions are obviously the way they are. I am just going to have to do my thing. Just have to find my way around it.”
Isner famously took Nadal to five sets in the opening round at Roland Garros in 2011. In more recent matches, he’s also earned confidence-boosting wins over Andrey Rublev and Roberto Bautista Agut on the clay courts of Madrid.
“It's the mentality. I haven't played a lot this year, but I'm not worried about the fact that I haven't played a lot,” Isner said after his second-round victory over Filip Krajinovic. “At this stage of my career, I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone. I just want to go out and play free and try to play loose, and be happy with the result either way. That's what I have done very, very well this year.”
Tsitsipas claimed a win over Isner earlier this year in Acapulco by finding ways to neutralise the American’s powerful serve, and it will be a strategy he’ll hope to repeat as they contest their first meeting on clay. He’ll also have to back up his one-handed backhand, especially against Isner’s high-bouncing, dangerous second serves. The winner of Tsitsipas and Isner will face either 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta or Steve Johnson, who will face off on Court Simonne-Mathieu, in the fourth round.
Second seed Medvedev will take on another of the ‘twin towers’ in Paris as he faces 32nd seed Reilly Opelka on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. The 6’11” American scored wins over Lorenzo Musetti and Aslan Karatsev on his way to his maiden ATP Masters 1000 appearance in Rome. Although he tried to brush it off as a fluke, he’s already backed it up by advancing past the first round of Roland Garros for the first time in three appearances.
“My brain's kind of thinking in a different way now, especially when I'm constructing points from serving. I'm so much more calm because I have so much more confidence, so much more trust in my forehand,” Opelka said. “I know there's still room for improvement, which is exciting for me. I think about it all the time. I'm thinking about how I can get better.”
Opelka’s opponent has similarly learned to embrace clay-court tennis. Medvedev reached the third round in Paris for the first time after recording wins over Alexander Bublik and Tommy Paul, and he’ll be looking to extend his 2-1 ATP Head2Head lead over Opeka in their first clay-court meeting. The winner will take on either American Marcos Giron or 22nd seed Cristian Garin in the fourth round.
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev is also in action on Friday, and he will take on Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the second match on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Zverev claimed a comfortable victory in their only previous meeting on his way to the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC trophy in March.
The winner of Zverev and Djere will face one of two unseeded and looming opponents, either Kei Nishikori or Henri Laaksonen, who will contest their first meeting on Lenglen. Both Nishikori and Laaksonen took out seeds in the previous round, with Nishikori fighting past 23rd seed Karen Khachanov in his second consecutive five-set match while the Finnish-born Swiss player stunned 11th seed Bautista Agut to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Fabio Fognini, the 27th seed and 15th-seeded Casper Ruud are also in action, and they could meet in the fourth round should they both advance on Friday. The Italian, who reached the quarter-finals here in 2011, will face Federico Delbonis, while Ruud takes on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina as he seeks to advance to the second week in Paris for the first time.
Australian Open finalists Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury lead the way in doubles, taking on Hugo Nys and Tim Puetz on Court 11. Ram and Salisbury, the third seeds, reached the final at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome (l. Mektic/Pavic) before arriving in Paris. Also in action, sixth-seeded Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut will face Jonathan Erlich and Lloyd Harris.
Thursday also marks the start of mixed doubles, headlined by a mouthwatering clash between Latisha Chan and Ivan Dodig taking on third seeds Demi Schuurs and Wesley Koolhof. Chan and Dodig have lifted two Roland Garros mixed doubles titles in 2018 and 2019, in addition to winning together at Wimbledon in 2019. Their opponents are seeking their first major title in mixed doubles, with Koolhof making his Roland Garros debut in this discipline partnered with WTA doubles specialist Schuurs.