10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Ricky’s Tennis Picks and Preview for Friday at Roland Garros: Nadal vs. van de Zandschulp and Schwartzman vs. Dimitrov

Rafael Nadal celebrates his second-round Roland Garros win. (Photo by Mine Kasapoglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

Third-round action at the French Open gets underway on Friday, with the loaded top half of the draw back on the court. Rafael Nadal is going up against Botic van de Zandschulp, while a red-hot Grigor Dimitrov faces Diego Schwartzman.

Here are my previews and picks for those two matchups.

(26) Botic van de Zandschulp vs. (5) Rafael Nadal

Nadal’s clay-court preparation for the French Open was disappointing, but that does not seem to matter now that he finds himself on his Roland Garros stomping grounds. The 13-time champion looked like his normal self in a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 tournament-opening rout of Jordan Thompson and in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Corentin Moutet on Wednesday night. Nadal is now 107-3 lifetime at the French Open.

That is bad news for van de Zandschulp, the 21-time Grand Slam winner’s third-round opponent on Friday. This marks the first-ever meeting between the two players, which is not too surprising since van de Zandschulp really broke onto the scene just last season. The 26-year-old Dutchman is up to No. 29 in the world thanks in part to a 2021 U.S. Open quarterfinal run and so far this fortnight he has ousted Pavel Kotov and Fabio Fognini with little trouble. Van de Zandschulp has more firepower than Thompson and Moutet with which to hurt Nadal, but on this surface even he is unlikely to offer much resistance.

Pick: Nadal in 3

Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria plays a backhand at Roland Garros. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

(18) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (15) Diego Schwartzman

Schwartzman and Dimitrov will be squaring off for the fifth time in their careers on Friday. Dimitrov is leading the head-to-head series 3-1 after winning three in a row, most recently via a 6-0, 6-3 blowout at the Madrid Masters a few weeks ago. Their only previous Grand Slam encounter came at Wimbledon in 2017, when the Bulgarian cruised 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2.

Dimitrov has made even quicker work of his opponents so far this fortnight, erasing Marcos Giron 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 and Borna Coric 6-0, 6-4, 6-3 in the first two rounds. Schwartzman needed four sets against Andrey Kuznetsov and five to get past Jaume Munar, so his form has not really improved from second-round losses in Madrid (to Dimitrov) and Rome (to Marcos Giron). The 16th-ranked Argentine flirted with disaster against Munar and a more experienced, confident opponent will likely send him packing.

Pick: Dimitrov in 4

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