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Ricky’s Preview and Picks for Day 9 of the French Open Tennis • Featuring Djokovic vs. Khachanov

Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action against Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia during their men’s third round match.

By Ricky Dimon

The quarterfinal lineup will be rounded out at Roland Garros when the fourth round concludes on Monday. Novak Djokovic returns to the court to face his first seeded opponent of the fortnight in Karen Khachanov. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Grigor Dimitrov, and Pablo Carreno Busta are also in action.

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

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (15) Karen Khachanov

Djokovic and Khachanov will be squaring off for the fifth time in their careers. Khachanov has upset Djokovic in Paris before–but that most certainly did not come at Roland Garros (the Russian triumphed 7-5, 6-4 in the final of the 2018 Paris Masters). Djokovic, though, leads the head-to-head series 3-1; he has won two in a row at Khachanov’s expense with scores of 6-3, 6-3 (2019 Davis Cup Finals) and 6-2, 6-2 (Doha 2020).

That Doha match was the last time Khachanov played prior to the coronavirus shutdown, and he has been unable to get back in gear. The world No. 16 lost in the third round of the Cincinnati Masters and the U.S. Open before compiling a 1-2 record in his first two clay-court tournaments. Khachanov’s third-round win over Cristian Garin on Saturday was impressive, but it does nothing to suggest he can trouble Djokovic. The top-ranked Serb has not even dropped more than three games in any set through three rounds. He might not on Monday, either.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

No. 5-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas faces 18th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in a battle two all-court players each playing for their first French Open quarterfinal.

(18) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (5) Stefanos Tsitsipas

I really don’t see this one being especially competitive. Although both of these guys are all-court players, Tsitsipas appears to be better on clay. He played the best match of the 2019 French Open (lost to Stan Wawrinka in five sets) and he is 7-1 in his last eight clay matches right now with a loss only to a red-hot Andrey Rublev in a three-set thriller in the Hamburg final. The sixth-ranked Greek dropped his first two sets of this French Open to Jaume Munar as he was slow to recover from Hamburg, but he has since been on fire.

Dimitrov’s draw has been awesome this fortnight, while Tsitsipas has defeated three very good clay-court players–including Pablo Cuevas. That by no means suggests the Bulgarian is some kind of pushover, but this is a steep step up in competition for him. Tsitsipas moves just as well as Dimitrov on this surface and the fifth seed’s offensive firepower is noticeably superior.

Pick: Tsitsipas in 3

US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta is playing for his second French Open quarterfinal.

(17) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (Q) Daniel Altmaier

Djokovic could run into an all-too-familiar foe in the quarterfinals. In fact, is is quite likely that turns out to be the case. Carreno Busta is a also huge favorite in his fourth-round match, which will come against Altmaier–a qualifier ranked No. 186 in the world. After playing his way into the main draw, Altmaier knocked out Feliciano Lopez, Jan-Lennard Struff, and Matteo Berrettini to improbably reach the second week. The 22-year-old German had never won a single match at the ATP level prior to this event.

Carreno Busta will present a much different challenge. That’s not to say that the Spaniard is decidedly better than Struff or Berrettini, but he will be tougher for young, underdog opponent. The 18th-ranked Spaniard is one of the most consistent baseliners on tour, and his firepower off both wings also should not be underestimated. Carreno Busta is also playing some of the best tennis of his career right now, having reached the U.S. Open semifinals prior to this Roland Garros performance that includes a four-set win over Roberto Bautista Agut. Altmaier will be hard-pressed to make this one competitive.

Pick: Carreno Busta in 3

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.