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Ricky’s Picks And Preview for French Open Tennis • Roland Garros, including Rafa Nadal vs. Gasquet

Rafael Nadal saved two set points sweeping Alexei Popyrin in his Roland Garros opener. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON 2

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal will be back on the court on Thursday, when he goes up against good friend and familiar foe Richard Gasquet in round two of the French Open. Gael Monfls is also in action, as he faces Mikael Ymer. Ricky previews those two matches and makes his predictions.

(3) Rafael Nadal vs. Richard Gasquet

One of the most lopsided head-to-head matchups in tennis history will add another chapter when Nadal and Gasquet meet in the French Open second round on Thursday. They have faced each other 16 times on the main tour and Nadal has won on all 16 occasions, even though nine of them have come on hard courts–a surface that should give Gasquet at least some chance of success. Roland Garros is probably the last place where the Frenchman could be expected to pull off an upset. After all, Nadal is 101-2 lifetime at this event with 13 titles. Two of those victories have come against Gasquet: 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in 2005 and 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 the last time they faced each other in 2018.

More of the same should be in store, as Gasquet is slowing down to a greater extend than his fellow 34-year-old. He is outside the top 50 and has not won more than two matches at any tournament in 2021. Gasquet beat Hugo Gaston 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 on Tuesday, but that was a favorable first-round draw. Nadal, who beat Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3), warmed up for this fortnight with titles in Barcelona and Rome. The world No. 3 seems to be rounding into his best form and that means Gasquet is sure to be the recipient of another beatdown.

Pick: Nadal in 3

Gael Monfils bat Albert Ramos Vinolas in his opener for his second Tour-level win of the year. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

Mikael Ymer vs. (14) Gael Monfils

Heading into the French Open, there was no reason to think that Monfils would be the last Frenchman left standing. After all, he had won only a single match since February of 2020 and has been struggling both physically and mentally. But that could be the case following Thursday’s proceedings. Finally buoyed by a crowd behind him, Monfils turned in his best performance in the last 15 months and beat an in-form Albert Ramos-Vinolas 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday.

Up next for the world No. 15 is a first-ever meeting with Ymer, who outlasted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the opening round. The 105th-ranked Swede had previously not won a main-draw match on clay in 2021, so this is already a good result for him. Ymer’s matchup with Monfils, though, is not favorable. The veteran can counter-punch just as well as the 22-year-old and he wields exponentially more firepower. As long as Monfils comes out with a similar mentality to what was on display in round one, this should be mostly straightforward.

Pick: Monfils in 4

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