Rafael Nadal Has Clear Path to Another Roland Garros Final
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The first week of action is complete in Paris, and Rafael Nadal remains the favorite to capture yet another French Open title. Here is a look at the 16 remaining men hoping to capture glory at Roland Garros, and a look at whether anyone can topple Rafa.
Rafael Nadal vs. Max MartererEmbed from Getty Images
Rafael Nadal, the tournament favorite, was challenged early by Simone Bolelli, the Italian veteran pushed him to a tiebreak but Nadal still won in straight sets. His second and third round matches were routs as he dominated Guido Pella and home favorite Richard Gasquet, surrendering just 11 games over 6 sets.
Fourth round opponent Max Marterer has extended his career year with a fantastic run at Roland Garros. The young German has a bright future, as evidenced by his wins against Ryan Harrison and Jurgen Zopp in straights, and Denis Shapovalov, another ATP young gun, in 4 sets. Zopp, a journeyman veteran, upset Jack Sock earlier in the tournament, and given his opposition, Marterer has really not been challenged.
All of that said, Nadal should blow past his lower ranked and less experienced opponent and I don’t see him dropping a set.
Diego Schwartzman vs. Kevin Anderson
Reaching week 2 is a solid result for both players. Schwartzman hasn’t dropped a set, defeating Calvin Hemery, Adam Pavlasek, and Borna Coric with ease. Anderson dropped sets against Pablo Cuevas and Mischa Zverev in rounds 2 and 3, after a straight set win over Paolo Lorenzi in round 1.
Form would favor Schwartzman, but Anderson is a bit more accomplished and I’ll still tip him to edge this contest. This is a clash between one of the ATP’s shortest players, against one of the ATP’s tallest.
Marin Cilic vs. Fabio Fognini
Cilic will be the favorite after dropping just one set in three matches, but Fognini has always had the potential to make noise on clay. The Croatian defeated James Duckworth and Steve Johnson in straights, dropping a set to Hubert Hurkacz in round 2.
Fognini had to survive a five set test against Kyle Edmund where he came back from 2 sets to 1 down to prevail. His other wins came with ease against Pablo Andujar and Elias Ymer. I’ll go with Cilic by a small margin.
John Isner vs. Juan Martin Del PotroEmbed from Getty Images
A great opportunity for either player. Isner has beaten Noah Rubin and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in straights, and Horacio Zeballos in 4 sets to reach this stage. Del Potro dropped a set in round 1 against Nicolas Mahut but then breezed past Julien Benneteau and Albert Ramos.
Isner is actually a solid player on clay, but Del Potro is more well rounded and should win this.
David Goffin vs. Marco Cecchinato
David Goffin will face an opponent he just defeated in Rome. Goffin saved four match points against Gael Monfils and a hostile crowd in round 3, prior to that he survived a challenged from Robin Haase, who collapsed from 2 sets to love up, and put away Corentin Moutet in straights.
Cecchinato is having a career year and rising fast. The Italian defeated Marius Copil 10-8 in the 5th set, then recovered nicely to ease past Marco Trungelliti, a lucky loser who had to drive from Barcelona to accept his spot in the draw and then won his round 1 match. In the third round Cecchinato upset Pablo Carreno Busta, denying PCB a great opportunity to make a run in this soft section.
Cecchinato has a shot at another upset, but if Goffin recovers himself he’ll prevail.
Novak Djokovic vs. Fernando Verdasco
Djokovic looked a bit shaky against Roberto Bautista Agut, but he still won that round 3 contest in four sets, and prior to that he got the job done in straights against Rogerio Dutra Silva and Jaume Munar.
Verdasco is having a late career resurgence on the dirt. The Spaniard with the powerful forehand was pushed to the brink against Yoshihito Nishioka, but after that five set win he defeated Guido Andreozzi and one of the higher seeds, Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets. Verdasco has the talent to push Djokovic, but you can’t pick against the former champion at this stage.
Dominic Thiem vs. Kei Nishikori
The match of the round it seems, Nishikori is back in form having won in straights against Gilles Simon and Maxime Janvier, and edging Benoit Paire in 5 sets. The Japanese #1 has played at Frenchman in France three straight times, and come out a winner.
Thiem is playing incredibly well on clay right now. He won Lyon in the run up to RG and then put away Ilya Ivashka, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Matteo Berrettini, dropping sets in rounds 2 and 3 but coming away the winner regardless.
This match could go either way but I’ll back Thiem’s form, this is his chance to do something memorable in Paris.
Karen Khachanov vs. Alexander ZverevEmbed from Getty Images
Despite being a heavy favorite in the early rounds, Zverev has struggled mightily after dispatching Ricardas Berankis in round 1. Both Dusan Lajovic and Damir Dzumhur challenged the young German star, with Lajovic succumbing to fatigue and Dzumhur failing to maintain his high level over the final 2 sets.
Khachanov has done nicely to make it this far, he’s not the strongest on clay but he put away Andreas Haider-Maurer, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and home favorite Lucas Pouille to reach this stage.
Zverev has all the ability but I’m far from sold on his mindset, and thus I’ll tip Khachanov in an upset.
Nadal d. Anderson
Del Potro d. Cilic
Djokovic d. Goffin
Thiem d. Khachanov
Either Del Potro or Cilic could win the right to lose to Nadal in the semis, though Del Potro has a better chance to win that semi. Djokovic should do enough to reach the semis, but Thiem has a chance to be the player of the tournament.
Nadal d. Del Potro
Thiem d. Djokovic
I’ll back an upset in the second semi, but Nadal is not going to lose this championship, particularly if Djokovic doesn’t find form quickly.
Nadal d. Thiem