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Ricky’s Paris Picks • Nadal, Del Potro Back In Action As French Open Second Round Concludes On Thursday @ Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal of Spain wins against Simone Bolelli of Italy in their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2018. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERG

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Rafael Nadal will be back on the court when he faces Guido Pella in the French Open second round on Thursday. Pella is one Argentine who certainly does not have a good chance of advancing. A different Argentine has a much better chance. That would be Juan Martin Del Potro, who is continuing his fortnight against Julien Benneteau.

 

Ricky previews some of Thursday’s best matchups and makes his predictions.

 

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. Guido Pella

Nadal has not lost a set at Roland Garros since getting beat by Novak Djokovic in the 2015 quarterfinals, a streak that is still intact through round one of this year’s tournament. But it almost ended on Tuesday. If not for another third-set rain delay that pushed the conclusion of his match against Simone Bolelli from Monday to Tuesday, the world No. 1 may have required a fourth. Instead, he erased a 3-0 deficit and forced a tiebreaker–after which he saved four set points to prevail 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(9). Nadal is now 80-2 lifetime at the French Open, 105-2 in best-of-five matches on clay, and 20-1 on clay this season.

 

Up next for the 10-time champion on Thursday is a second career showdown against Pella, who succumbed 6-3, 6-2 last year in Indian Wells. The Argentine has an easy time time earning another shot in this head-to-head matchup, as he trounced Estoril winner Joao Sousa 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 during first-round action. Aside from victories over Sam Querrey in Houston and Geneva (both in third-set tiebreakers), Pella had not beaten anyone ranked better than 50th during this clay-court season. He has never defeat a top-five opponent.

Pick: Nadal in 3

 

Julien Benneteau vs. (5) Juan Martin Del Potro

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina in action against Nicolas Mahut of France during their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

It appears that Del Potro ended Nicolas Mahut’s Roland Garros singles career on Tuesday. Del Potro will try to do the same with another Frenchman–Benneteau–on Thursday. Mahut said following his 1-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 loss that it may have been his final singles match at the French Open, while Benneteau has already confirmed that this season is his last on the ATP Tour. The 36-year-old is by no means done just yet, as he comes in at a respectable 62nd in the world and is coming off an impressive opening-round win over Leonardo Mayer in four sets. Benneteau is eyeing a second consecutive productive major, having reached the third round of the Australian Open–where he surprised David Goffin before losing to Fabio Fognini in five sets.

 

Del Potro is leading the head-to-head series 2-0, with straight-set wins on indoor hard courts in 2013 (Rotterdam) and 2017 (Basel). The 29-year-old Argentine was the hottest player around in February and March, with titles in Acapulco and Indian Wells plus a semifinal performance in Miami, before playing an abbreviated and unspectacular clay-court leadup to Roland Garros. A light workload has kept Del Potro rested and helped him recover from a minor groin injury sustained in Rome, which allowed him to play three impressive sets on the heels of a slow start against Mahut. Something similar to that level should help the world No. 6 get past veteran Frenchman without much fuss.

Pick: Del Potro in 3

 

Marton Fucsovics vs. (16) Kyle Edmund

Kyle Edmund of Britain in action against Alex De Minaur of Australia during their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

Edmund and Fucsovics will be squaring off for the second time in their careers. Their only previous meeting came last year in Winston-Salem, where Edmund coasted 6-2, 6-1. Both men are more experienced and more confident now; in fact, Edmund is a major semifinalist (2018 U.S. Open). The world No. 17 struggle for a couple of months thereafter, but he has heated back up with a runner-up showing in Marrakech, a quarterfinal finish in Madrid, a third-round performance in Rome, and a straight-set rout of Alex de Minaur on Tuesday in Paris.

 

Fucsovics has gained plenty of clay-court momentum, as well, with his first career title last week in Geneva. The unseeded Hungarian, who advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open before bowing out against eventual champion Roger Federer, maintained his fine form following the Geneva title by beating Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(5) in the French Open first round. But Edmund isn’t Pospisil; the Brit is playing much better tennis right now and is much more adept on clay–likely too adept for Fucsovics.

Pick: Edmund in 3

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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