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Ricky’s Picks For French Open Tennis • Men’s QF Action: Zverev vs. Thiem And Djokovic vs. Cecchinato

Dominic Thiem of Austria plays Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 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

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Alexander Zverev did not have an easy time playing his part in it, but he and Dominic Thiem managed to set up the French Open quarterfinal showdown that was so highly anticipated when the draw was revealed a little less than two weeks ago. It will, in fact, be Zverev vs. Thiem on Tuesday. The other quarterfinal in the bottom half of the bracket pits Novak Djokovic against upstart Marco Cecchinato.

 

Ricky previews Tuesday’s two matches and makes his predictions.

 

(7) Dominic Thiem vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

Zverev and Thiem will be squaring off for the sixth time in their careers and for the second time during this current clay-court season when they battle for a place in the semis at Roland Garros. Thiem is leading the head-to-head series 4-2, but Zverev has won two of their last three encounters after most recently getting the job done 6-4, 6-4 in the title match of the Madrid Masters. Thiem still leads 3-1 on clay, having come out on the winning end on thre occasions in 2016–including a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 success at the French Open.

 

Only 19 years old when they first faced each other at RG, Zverev is now one of the undisputed best players in the world and certainly one of the most capable on clay. In fact, this a matchup between arguably the second-best clay-courters on the ATP World Tour behind Rafael Nadal. Zverev is an awesome 21-3 on clay this season (21-1 against opponents not named Nadal) with titles in Munich and Madrid in addition to a runner-up performance at the Rome Masters. Thiem also owns a pair of titles this season, having lifted the trophy in Buenos Aires four months ago before triumphing in Nice. The latter gave the 24-year-old Austrian plenty of momentum going into Roland Garros, where he has taken care of Ilya Ivashka, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, and Kei Nishikori in pretty much convincing fashion.

 

Already a two-time FO semifinalist, Thiem likes the Paris conditions much more than those of Madrid and he is playing well enough to victimize an opponent who may wear down in another competitive contest having already played 18 sets during this tournament.

Pick: Thiem in 5

 

Marco Cecchinato vs. (20) Novak Djokovic

While Nadal is abusing weaker top half of the draw, Djokovic’s road has worked out nicely for him on the other side. The back-from-injury Serb has not faced anyone inside the top 12 of the rankings and that will continue through the quarterfinals, in which he has a surprising date with Cecchinato. Having recovered from an elbow problem and with his old team back in place, Djokovic finally heated up for the first time in 2018 by advancing to the Rome semis and testing Nadal in two competitive sets. The world No. 22 has coasted for the most part this fortnight, ousting Rogerio Dutra Silva, Jaume Munar, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Fernando Verdasco.

 

Cecchinato’s run is nothing short of amazing, as the world No. 72 had never won a main-draw match at any major in his whole career prior to this fortnight. In fact, he was a mere 12-32 lifetime at the main-tour level going into RG. From completely out of nowhere, Cecchinato earned a stunning place in the last eight by defeating Marius Copil (10-8 in the fifth), Marco Trungelliti, Pablo Carreno Busta, and David Goffin.

 

The 25-year-old Italian has at least been relevant on clay over the past couple of seasons, but even on this surface it will be tough for him to deal with the enormity of the occasion against an adversary in Djokovic who is showing signs of recapturing his best form.

Pick: Djokovic 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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