As expected, the top half of the Roland Garros draw continued without much event, with the favorites moving on easily. The only things that could be considered even close to upsets were how easily Gilles Simon took out Mardy Fish and Ivan Ljubicic beat Fernando Verdasco. Still, neither of these results were the least bit surprising. There will be a bit of drama as Alejando Falla will face Juan Ignatio Chela on Monday. Falla will look to advance to the quarterfinal of a Slam as a qualifier, surpassing the mark that Milos Raonic set by reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open this past year. The real issue in that half will be how Andy Murray’s injured ankle holds up, which he twisted in his match against Michael Berrer. He still won without much trouble and we will hopefully get a good look as to if the ankle is bothering him at all when he next plays on Monday.
Novak Djokovic won the much-anticipated matchup of powers, beating Juan Martin del Potro in four sets. The match had to wait overnight as the five-setter between Wawrinka and Tsonga took much longer than expected. Djokovic did not have any real problems with Delpo, only dropping the second set-a set in which he played at a much lower level than we have become accustomed to seeing from Novak this year. With Nadal finally finding his form this round and Djokovic finally looking beatable, we may be in for a more exciting finish to the tournament than the first few rounds indicated.
Who Looked Good:
We haven’t mentioned him enough because he played a very unexciting (by his standards, at least) first two rounds, but Roger Federer finally looked like we’ve been expecting him to in the third round. Roger dominated Janko Tipsarevic, a man who had been playing the best tennis of his life. Roger used the whole court well and played great at net. It was the kind of play we really have not seen from Roger since the World Tour Finals last year. If he keeps this level of play up, he may very well challenge for a second French Open crown and a chance to finally steal Pete Sampras’s record for weeks as World #1. (Roger currently sits one week behind Sampras and cannot become World #1 until Wimbledon at the very earliest no matter what happens.) Unfortunately for tennis fans, Federer will face Stanislas Wawrkinka in Round 4 after Wawrinka beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five sets on Friday. Wawrinka never seems to try against Federer and usually comes in with the mentality and the gameplan like Federer will just wipe the court with him. Most of their matches become nothing more than glorified practice sessions with Federer winning easily (recall their match from the Australian Open).
David Ferrer still looks unstoppable, running through another very good clay court player in Sergiy Stakhovsky, only dropping five games this match. Flying a little under the radar that has been focused on Nadal, Djokovic, and to a lesser extent Federer and Murray, Ferrer has just been cruising. Ferrer has yet to be broken and has only faced three break points in three matches. He is currently in the midst of the best year of his career and doesn’t look like he’s slowing down now. He will face very talented Frenchman Gael Monfils in the fourth round.
Who Looked Bad:
Fabio Fognini still continues to move through the draw, taking out his first seed against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Friday. However, Fognini finally showed us his uncanny ability to blow matches he should win. Fognini should have easily won that match if he played at the level he played the first two rounds. Instead he had to fight it out in four sets and gave Garcia-Lopez a chance to win that he never should have had. Fognini will meet Albert Montanes (who easily took out 12 seed Mikhail Youzhny on Friday) in the fourth round. If you remember, Fognini and Montanes were two of the surprise players I mentioned to keep an eye on before the clay court season began. Both are incredibly talented, but it looks like this match will come down to Fognini’s mentality. If he plays his best, he will reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Otherwise, look for Montanes to move through.
Match of the Round:
That would have to be the amazing five-setter between Tsonga and Wawrinka. Tsonga looked incredibly solid early, moving Wawrinka around the court and hitting winners beautifully. But Tsonga slowed just a little starting in the third set and Wawrinka picked up his game, hitting winners and using his backhand to perfection, like we knew he could if he was confident in himself. I’m sure the French crowd was very disappointed in this match, making it the second year in a row where a Frenchman on Court Philippe Chatrier blew a 4-1 lead in the fourth set while leading 2 sets to 1.(If you remember last year, Monfils lost an epic to Fabio Fognini in a match that went so far into the night that the commentators could no longer see the ball sometimes.)
What to Watch in Round 4:
The bottom half of the draw is still where the action is, as three of the four matches should be good ones. Federer against Wawrinka should once again be boring, but hopefully can be close if Stan decides to actually play tennis. He has the talent to challenge Federer, just not the will. We already mentioned Fognini against Montanes and that match should also be competitive. Also, Ferrer against Monfils should be interesting. Ferrer’s form looks unstoppable recently, but Monfils definitely has the talent and the movement to make this a challenge. Also, Monfils always wants to do well in front of his home French crowd. I expect this to stay interesting for a set or two, but Ferrer should still win.
Richard Gasquet will hope to be the one to break Djokovic’s winning streak. He has played very well up to this point, though still has shown his trademark nerves in Paris. Still, he has the talent to make a challenge and Djokovic did look a little beatable in Round 3. Also, Djokovic has played on two consecutive days and tomorrow ill be the third. He seems to have limitless stamina since going to his gluten-free diet, but that will be tested if Gasquet can take a set off him.
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