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Ricky’s Picks For French Open Tennis, Including Djokovic vs. Struff And Thiem vs. Monfils

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Salvatore Caruso of Italy during their men?s third round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 01 June 2019. EPA-EFE/SRDJAN SUKI
Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Salvatore Caruso of Italy during their men’s third round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 01 June 2019. EPA-EFE/SRDJAN SUKI

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Not unlike Roger Federer through four rounds, Novak Djokovic has already faced three unseeded opponents and he will go up against another one–Jan-Lennard Struff–on Monday. Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils, and Juan Martin Del Potro are also aiming for a spot in the quarterfinals.

 

Ricky previews three of Monday’s matches and makes his predictions.

 

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Jan-Lennard Struff

The world No. 1 is going for the proverbial “Djokovic slam.” He currently holds titles from Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open, and his Roland Garros bid is off to a flying start. He clobbered Hubert Hurkacz, Henri Laaksonen, and Salvatore Caruso in straight sets to reach the second week. Djokovic had already started emerging from his Indian Wells-Miami slump with a title in Madrid and a runner-up finish n Rome.

Up next for the 2016 RG champ is a second career meeting Struff, who dropped their only previous encounter 7-6(1), 6-3 at the 2017 Doha event. At 29 years old, the German is enjoying by far his best season on tour. He is especially hot right now, coming off a third-round showing in Rome (beat Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic, fell to Kei Nishikori in three sets) and having defeated Denis Shapovalov, Radu Albot, and Borna Coric so far this fortnight. Of course, this is almost certainly where Struff’s run ends. Djokovic’s defense and service return will be too tough and Struff needed four hours and 22 minutes to outlast Coric on Saturday.

 

(4) Dominic Thiem vs. (14) Gael Monfils

Dominic Thiem of Austria plays Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay during their men?s third round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 01 June 2019.  EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA

Dominic Thiem of Austria plays Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay during their men’s third round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 01 June 2019. EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA

Thiem and Monfils will be squaring off for the fifth time in their careers. All four of their previous meetings have gone the way of Thiem, who is 2-0 against Monfils on clay. They most recently collided last season on the red clay of Buenos Aires, where Thiem eased to a 6-2, 6-1 victory. A 2019 Indian Wells showdownnever came to fruition because Monfils’ withdrew due to an Achilles’ issue.

Interestingly, that was the third time that Thiem and Monfils have seen a scheduled matchup get undone by injury. This one, however, should not be walkover; it should be every bit as good as advertised. Thiem was the 2018 RG runner-up and he is the reigning Barcelona champ. So far this fortnight he has knocked off Tommy Paul, Alexander Bublik, and Pablo Cuevas all in four sets. Monfils has recovered from his latest physical problems by engineering straight-set defeats of Taro Daniel, Adrian Mannarino, and Antoine Hoang. No opponent has managed to take more than four games in any set. Still, the physical and mental edge in a best-of-five situation on this surface goes to Thiem.

Pick: Thiem in 5

 

(10) Karen Khachanov vs. (8) Juan Martin Del Potro

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina plays Jordan Thompson of Australia during their men?s third round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 01 June 2019.  EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina plays Jordan Thompson of Australia during their men’s third round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 01 June 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

The record is also a perfect one in the Del Potro vs. Khachanov matchup–a 3-0 advantage for the Argentine, to be exact. He beat Khachanov three times last year; 7-6(4), 6-3 in Auckland, 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-7(0), 6-4 at the Australian Open, and 6-4, 7-6(4) in Beijing. That is somewhat surprising given the Russian was red hot for much of 2018, to the extent that he was an alternate at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. Building on such success has proven to be a tough task for Khachanov, who is just 13-12 for his 2019 campaign with a hard-to-believe eight losses in his opening match of an event.

Del Potro has been dealing with knee issues of late, but after playing only one tournament through the first four months of 2019 he finally appears to be armed with a clean bill of health. The 2009 U.S. Open champion started to show signs of progress in Rome, where he thrashed David Goffin and Casper Ruud before holding two match points against Novak Djokovic in a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 setback. Del Potro needed five sets to get past Yoshihito Nishioka in the third round, but he impressively bounced back to destroy Jordan Thompson 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 on Saturday. As the record suggests, this is not a favorable matchup for Khachanov; he plays with the same style as Del Potro but does not do anything in particular better than his much more experienced opponent.

Pick: Del Potro 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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