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RAFA Nadal To play Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic to play Lorenzo Musetti in Paris At French Open Tennis

Ricky’s preview and picks for Day 9 of the French Open, including Nadal vs. Sinner

By Ricky Dimon

There are two Big 3 vs. young Italian showdowns on Monday at Roland Garros: Rafael Nadal vs. Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic vs. Lorenzo Musetti. Roger Federer may have given Matteo Berrettini a walkover into the quarterfinals, but there are still three other men’s matches to whet the appetite of tennis fans.

Ricky previews the action and makes his predictions.

(3) Rafael Nadal vs. (18) Jannik Sinner

Nadal will probably face his toughest test of the fortnight to date when he goes up against Sinner. Although the Italian is just 19 years old, he has already had the pleasure of facing Nadal twice–and both times on clay. Those did not result in wins for the youngster, but they were surely valuable experiences in which he commended himself extremely well. Sinner lost 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 in the Roland Garros quarterfinals last year before falling 7-5, 6-4 a few weeks ago in Rome.

The world No. 19 was match point away from exiting in round one at the hands of Pierre-Hugues Herbert but he has since raised his level. Nadal, of course, did not have any trouble reaching the round of 16. The 13-time champion made quick work of Alexei Popyrin, Richard Gasquet, and Cameron Norrie. Sinner has more firepower than those guys–even Popyrin–with which to trouble Nadal, but just snagging one set would be quite an accomplishment.

Pick: Nadal in 4

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Lorenzo Musetti

It will be a clash of generations–the current world No. 1 vs. a potential future Grand Slam champion–when Djokovic and Musetti square off on Monday. That makes it look great on paper, but on the court it will probably end up being less glamorous. Djokovic, of course, is a massive favorite–and for good reason. The top-seeded Serb may not have been in dominant form earlier in the clay-court swing, but his motivation level is only piqued by slams at this point. Unsurprisingly, Djokovic’s level has increased significantly in Paris. He has advanced so far with defeats of Tennys Sandgren, Pablo Cuevas, and Ricardas Berankis and no opponent has made any set closer than 6-4.

Musetti is through to the last 16 in his first-ever major main-draw appearance. Obviously the 19-year-old Italian has nothing to lose, but there will still be plenty of nerves on such a huge stage. Musetti erased David Goffin and Yoshihito Nishioka in straight sets but a five-setter against compatriot Marco Cecchinato on Saturday does not exactly help. Then again, Djokovic will almost surely end this one long before fitness levels become an issue.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

(10) Diego Schwartzman vs. Jan-Lennard Struff

Schwartzman and Struff will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers. They have split their two previous encounters, although their past history is more encouraging for Schwartzman heading into a clay-court contest. The Argentine cruised 6-3, 6-0 at the 2017 Monte-Carlo Masters, whereas Struff prevailed on an indoor hard court (6-3, 7-6(8) at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals).

That isn’t to say that clay automatically means a Schwartzman win. Struff also made a run to the French Open fourth round in 2019 and his 2021 clay-court swing already featured a runner-up performance in Munich. So far in Paris the 42nd-ranked German has taken out Andrey Rublev, Facundo Bagnis, and Carlos Alcaraz–the latter two in straight sets. Schwartzman has found his form with straight-set beatdowns of Yen-Hsun Lu, Aljaz Bedene, and Philipp Kohlschreiber. A steep step up in competition means the world No. 10 is in for his first tough test of the fortnight, and this should be an entertaining and competitive contrast in styles. In the end, Schwartzman’s consistency and counter-punching will likely break down Struff.

Pick: Schwartzman in 5

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.