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Ricky’s Roland Garros Picks For Friday @French Open 2018 • Djokovic vs. Bautista Agut & Goffin vs. Monfils

David Goffin of Belgium plays Corentin Moutet of France during their men’s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 30 May 2018. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

The stacked bottom half of the French Open men’s singles draw returns to action on Friday. For Novak Djokovic, the competition level takes a steep step up in the form of Roberto Bautista Agut. Gael Monfils, David Goffin, and Grigor Dimitrov are also aiming a spot in the second week.

 

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

 

(13) Roberto Bautista Agut vs. (20) Novak Djokovic

Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in action against Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan during their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 28 May 2018. EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Djokovic finally heated up just in time for Roland Garros, and the confidence he gained at the Rome Masters appears to be paying off in Paris. The Serb may not be quite back to his Grand Slam-winning ways, but he did not drop a set while beating Rogerio Dutra Silva and Jaume Munar in the first two rounds of the tournament. Djokovic had been 3-6 in his last nine matches before making a semifinal run in Rome, where he beat Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals before succumbing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

 

Up next for the injury-plagued world No. 22 is Bautista Agut, who trails the head-to-head series 6-1–including 3-0 on clay and 1-0 at Roland Garros. Djokovic prevailed 6-2, 6-1 at the 2016 Madrid Masters, won 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 a few weeks later at the French, lost to the RBA 6-4, 6-4 in the 2016 Shanghai semis, and most recently got the job done 6-4, 6-4 last season in Rome. Bautista Agut battled past Denis Istomin in five sets to begin his fortnight before picking up the pace to hammer Santiago Giraldo 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 on Wednesday. The 13th-ranked Spaniard has done very little since capturing titles earlier this year in Auckland and Dubai.

 

Pick: Djokovic in 4

Editors Picks: Roberto in four.

 

(8) David Goffin vs. Gael Monfils

The previous Goffin vs. Monfils contest at a major–also in the third round–failed to live up to its potential at last summer’s U.S. Open. Monfils retired because of a knee injury while trailing 7-5, 5-1 as Goffin took a 2-1 lead in their head-to-head series at the ATP level. The Belgian lost their first encounter 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-4 at the 2016 Rogers Cup before he prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 a few months later at the Shanghai Masters.

 

Monfils is a one-time French Open semifinalist (2008) and three-time quarterfinalist, but simply reaching the third round this time around has to be considered a success. The Frenchman, toiling away at No. 37 in the world, had been just 2-5 in his last seven matches prior to arriving at the French Open. He lost his opening set to little-known wild card Elliot Benchetrit but has since been on a roll, reeling off six straight sets by scorelines of nothing closer than 6-4 while crushing Benchetrit and Martin Klizan. But this is a whole different beast in Goffin, who is 8-1 in his last nine non-retirement matches at the French Open. The ninth-ranked Belgian has dropped 11 games in his last six sets since being pushed to the brink in the form of a two-set deficit against Robin Haase in round one.

 

Pick: Goffin in 4

Editors pick: Monfils in 4

 

(30) Fernando Verdasco vs. (4) Grigor Dimitrov

Fernando Verdasco of Spain plays Guido Andreozzi of Argentina during their men’s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 30 May 2018. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

Dimitrov and Verdasco will be facing each other for the fifth time in their careers. All four of their previous encounters have required third and deciding sets, and it would not be a surprise to see this one go the five-set distance. The head-to-head series stands at 2-2, including 1-1 on clay following meetings in 2013 and 2015, with Verdasco most recently getting the job done 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 earlier this season in Indian Wells. Dimitrov, in fact, needed five sets to survive his second-round showdown against Jared Donaldson–which the Bulgarian did in 6-7(2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 fashion after four hours and 19 minutes. He entered Roland Garros with an 0-3 record in his last three matches but ended that losing streak with a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(1) victory over lucky loser Mohamed Safwat.

 

Verdasco’s scare came in the opening round, when he outlasted Yoshihito Nishikori 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5 thanks in part to Nishioka cramping late in the fifth set–just as Donaldson had done against Dimitrov. The veteran Spaniard made much quicker work of Guido Andreozzi on Wednesday, coasting 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Verdasco, who ousted Alexander Zverev last year at Roland Garros, has advanced past the first round 13 straight years, has reached the fourth round on seven occasions and the third round three other times, but has never advanced to the quarterfinals. Solid but unspectacular is how the 30th seed can be defined in Paris, and that may be enough to defeat Dimitrov.

Pick: Verdasco in 5

Editors pick: Grigor in 4

 

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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