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Ricky’s Preview and Picks for Day 11 of the French Open • Nadal vs. Schwartzman and Djokovic vs. Berrettini

Rafael Nadal faces Diego Schwartzman for a trip to his 14th Roland Garros semifinal. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON 2

By Ricky Dimon

Quarterfinal action at Roland Garros will be completed on Wednesday, when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic try to set up their highly-anticipated semifinal showdown. Standing in their way are Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini, respectively.

Ricky previews the two matches and makes his predictions.

(3) Rafael Nadal vs. (10) Diego Schwartzman

Nadal and Schwartzman will be squaring off for the 12th time in their careers and for the second time in a row at the French Open when they clash in the quarterfinals on Wednesday afternoon. The head-to-head series stands at a dominant 10-1 in the Spaniard’s favor, including 5-1 on clay. Nadal avenged a surprising 6-2, 7-5 loss last fall in Rome by cruising 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(0) in the semis at Roland Garros. Those two matches are indicative of how much tougher it is to beat Nadal in Paris compared to other clay-court tournaments. This spring has been no different. Although the King of Clay triumphed in Barcelona and Rome, he also lost in Monte-Carlo and Madrid–and was one point away from losing in Barcelona. So far this fortnight he has not dropped a set in victories over Alexei Popyrin, Richard Gasquet, Cameron Norrie and Jannik Sinner. Nine of the 12 sets have been 6-3 or worse for the opponent.

Schwartzman’s quarterfinal appearance is far more surprising, even though he made a run to the semis in 2020. The 10th-ranked Argentine lost his opening match in a hard-to-believe four of five clay-court warmup events. Nonetheless, he has managed to defeat Yen-Hsun Lu, Aljaz Bedene, Philipp Kohlschreber, and Jan-Lennard Struff–all of whom were unseeded. This is obviously where Schwartzman’s favorable draw ends, and his stay in Paris will likely end in swift fashion. Nothing about his current form or past history against Nadal suggests the underdog can be competitive.

Pick: Nadal in 3 losing 8-10 games

Novak Djokovic plays ninth-seeded Matteo Berrettini with a semifinal spot on the line. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (9) Matteo Berrettini

Djokovic was one set away from bowing out of the tournament on Monday, but in reality that never came close to happening. The world No. 1 quickly erased a two-set deficit against Lorenzo Musetti, surging ahead 6-7(7), 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 before the Italian retired. Djokovic had previously been in cruise control this fortnight, completely destroying Tennys Sandgren, Pablo Cuevas, and Ricardas Berankis.

The 34-year old Serb was somewhat all over the place earlier in the clay-court swing, as well, so the question is which Djokovic will show up on Wednesday. The answer, of course, should not be in much doubt. After all, he is an unbelievable 31-4 in his last 35 Grand Slam quarterfinal matches. That is bad news for Berrettini, whose luck (getting a fourth-round walkover from Roger Federer) appears to have run out. The ninth-ranked Italian’s only previous effort against Djokovic also doesn’t bode well; he lost 6-2, 6-1 at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals. Expect Djokovic to answer Monday’s wakeup call and dominate from start to finish.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

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