Jun 02, 2021

2021 Roland Garros ATP Round Two

A series of wild upsets in round one have the men’s draw looking more exciting than ever. If you saw it coming, you’re smarter than me. Thanks to those of you who are playing in our bracket competition. A lot of really good picks there, and it looks like leaders d1ngal1ng, Eva, Ryan 3339, the_muro97, and Happysandbag have avoided the upsets the best so far.

Djokovic vs Cuevas :

The raucous upsets must have had Sandgren feeling a little bit optimistic, but the Djokovic Sandgren match went just about how it was expected to. Sandgren has proven to be a very game competitor in the majors, but the gap in current form and peak ability was just too large here. Novak has again somehow been placed in the “might beat Nadal” discussion by a lot of announcers, but he’ll have a tough test in this second round. Cuevas is the sort of player to never really upset a top player in good form, but his skill level translates very well to playing against them, so Djokovic will have a good chance here to either show dominance, or at the very least have a difficult warmup for future rounds. Cuevas was comprehensive in beating Pouille, and his one-handed backhand and shape continue to be great assets. Despite being a player similar to Gasquet in terms of aggression, Cuevas makes up for any passivity by being one of the greatest athletes on tour. He is extremely quick and fluid at the net and is a highlight reel for trickshots from difficult positions. Can he beat Novak? Probably not. It will be an entertaining contest though, which is often better than any desired result. Djokovic in 3.

Duckworth vs Berankis :

In the first round I said that Caruso was pretty much an instant win for everyone on tour right now. I really didn’t think James Duckworth was included in that solution set though. Caruso is living in a difficult stretch where he is making errors on rally balls but also is enduring some unfortunately luck. Duckworth made a number of strange gets and the ball took a bad bounce or wound up in the perfect spot and at times Caruso seemed almost amused by how poorly things were going. To be fair, they split sets and the 3rd was a tiebreaker, so the difference between them wasn’t as lopsided as the 3-1 scoreline would indicate, but Caruso has some work to do.

Berankis pulled off one of the other notable upsets today, beating Humbert in comprehensive fashion. The lefty never really pulled away, and just fell victim to being the less consistent player today. Berankis Duckworth in the 2nd round at the French is not in anyone’s brackets, so this is a great opportunity for one of them to pick up some huge prize money. 100k is a nice thing to have, and I think it will go to Berankis. Ricardas has the right game to play Duckworth; he’s consistent, he’s very comfortable from the baseline, and he plays very measured tennis. Errors are what really cost Caruso against Duckworth, and Berankis beat the much more talented player right now in Humbert. Duckworth’s defensive abilities and tenacity will keep him competitive in this, and if they were playing in the first round it’d be hard to predict much would separate them. Berankis in 4.

De Minaur vs Cecchinato :

Down a break in the first I was starting to wonder if Cecchinato was getting back to his old habits. Losing as a huge favorite followed him so much in his early career that match-fixing accusations were levied at least once, but he was proven innocent and he turned things around against Uchiyama in fine fashion. When the zip goes off his opponents’ shots and Cecchinato gets to dictate, he is a joy to watch. His dropshots are clever, and his instincts on the next shot are usually solid. He’ll want to go more with the power against his next opponent, as De Minaur’s forward movement is some of the best on tour. Travaglia was a bit overwhelmed throughout and this continued the theme on tour for De Minaur; he can beat everyone he’s expected to almost every time, and that’s why he brings price tags like some much bigger names when it comes time for the majors. Cecchinato should win this, but it will take a lot of work. De Minaur does have a bit of trouble with big hitters, and clay has never been his best surface, but the difference between these two that is in ADM’s favor is their work ethic. De Minaur will compete here from start to finish, and Cecchinato is prone to frustration and careless errors at times. These won’t need to disappear completely, but when they occur will have a big impact on the match. As it stands going in, Cecchinato is on his best surface and just made a finals run, so he should have an edge, even if it is small due to ADM’s sticky presence on defense. Cecchinato in 5.

Nishioka vs Musetti :

Nishioka got the benefit of a slightly out of shape Tsonga. Jo-Wilfried’s forehand and serve still make him a threat in most matches, but his movement to the ball is always a second late at this point. He knows whether he’ll get there or not and this decision-making keeps him from really being fully engaged in the match. He did a fair bit of relieved jogging after balls sailed wide, and although he’s still a great champion it looks like his commitment to tennis is not 100%. Nishioka gets a player he should never beat but already has in the next round. Where is Goffin? Musetti hit the ball crisp from start to finish, and was very focused, but Goffin’s losses have continued to look like he isn’t physically fit. A number of strange backhand errors into the net accompanied a genuine look of confusion/fatigue on his face, and I’d love to credit Musetti but this is the same Goffin who has underperformed for a while now.

Previous record (or H2H as it’s called on the interwebs) is interesting to look out, but is ultimately a bit misleading. A player can have won last week, and yet you still will get an unsettled feeling in your head when you go to back them. Nishioka is in a good rhythm, and it takes forever to hit through him, but Musetti is a level above him when he plays well. The motivation during a trip to home soil the week before a major event is questionable even for a young player, and Musetti’s only real issue here is that one-handed backhands tend to have trouble with left-handed opponents at times. It’s easy for Nishioka to keep the ball high on Musetti’s backhand and if Musetti runs around his backhand it’s an easy spot to make errors on. The inside-out forehand is wonderfully effective but so easy to lose the timing of. It’s always interesting when two players with very similar dynamics play, and both of these two have been thriving on just being willing to play more shots than their opponents. Musetti’s defense and passive play have frustrated a number of guys on tour already, but that just feeds into Nishioka’s game. The main different between them is that Musetti can really ratchet up the RPM’s when he wants to, and he should go with that early here. Nishioka is unlikely to get tired, but he tends to get frustrated and the pure belief in his game hasn’t been there for a while. This match will likely take a long time, but I’m not giving much credit to the Parma result (6-2, 6-3 for Nishioka). Musetti in 4-5.

Berretini vs Coria :

Pretty simple first rounds for these two players as far as the scorelines, but it took a lot of work for Coria to turn back Lopez and Berretini did run into some trouble against Taro Daniel. It’s a tale of two cities as Coria did nothing but defend and stay consistent and Berretini’s struggle was supplying all the offense against the journeyman Daniel. For this next match, the question of whether Berretini’s offense can hit through a premier defense is a familiar one, and the answer thus far in his career has been an overwhelming yes. His serve is a cannon, and his forehand can hit past opponents from any position. His backhand is the only thing lagging behind the rest of his game, but if that continues to improve then he’ll be a top 10 talent for the rest of his career. For Coria, things are a bit bleak but he’s in his best form, and outlasting an offensive talent is something that he’s well versed in being a clay specialist. Berretini’s dedication to hugging the baseline and getting to net will be a big thing for Coria to overcome, as it takes time away from a defender. Barring a Berretini implosion, this will be competitive but very difficult for Coria to get a lead in. Berretini in 4.

Seppi vs Kwon :

If your bracket wasn’t in shambles after the first two days, the third iteration of round one would get the job done. Felix Auger-Alliassime came into this event with Toni Nadal joining his team, and he’d been showing signs that he was finding his game. It may be a comfort issue, as FAA never really got into this one. He found his range late in the 3rd, and looked like he’d maybe turn the tides, but Seppi is a bit too consistent to just implode, and on a day where Berankis and Seppi notched clay wins at the French, no favorite was safe. FAA seems to freeze in the majors, and Seppi did apply a lot of pressure in rallies but Felix didn’t seem to be making comfortable contact with the ball. This may be some % growing pains, as changes in your body shape/length/size can really affect your timing, or he may just be proving that his game is a bit too big, and will render him an inconsistent performer. In any event, good for Seppi.

Kwon’s price against Anderson was a bit low considering he hadn’t really had good results recently and certainly not on clay. Anderson played well against Tiafoe and Cilic before his withdrawal, so you’d expect more investment on his side. Honestly, I don’t imagine much $ came in on Kwon at all, so the short price was a slight nod to him. This win is 100k in his pocket and a sigh of relief, as that money basically pays for the rest of the year. None of these players are really in danger of being off tour immediately, but the relief from early year success cannot be understated. Kwon and Seppi is a bit unknown. Kwon is very adept baseliner and plays such an enthusastic game that it’s hard to figure out why he can’t win more often, but he’s a bit like Kamil Majrczak in that he doesn’t have one big or clear weapon. This means he’s never really winning quick points, and that’s something that only the best players around can really afford. Guys like De Minaur and Djokovic and Schwartzman are guys who earn their points, but they are really exceptional at it. I think Seppi is a small favorite here, but since this is uncharted territory, it feels a lot like Duckworth/Berankis. Seppi beat a much better player, and his aggression was really sharp on both wings, whereas Kwon benefitted a great deal from Anderson’s errors. Seppi in 5

Fritz vs Koepfer :

The worst part about Fritz winning a match is that I actually have to use precious words to describe how well he played. Joao Sousa continues to be out of sorts. He was swinging his backhand overhand sort of half-blocking returns of second serves, and he never really found good offense, but Taylor Fritz played great. He’s crushing his forehand and seems committed to doing so on every swing. His service motion has always been smooth but it was a nice bonus to have on clay where cheap points are hard to come by. I don’t want to place too much merit in the performance as Sousa has really lost to just about everyone he’s played since his return, but Fritz played well at the UTR series and now he played well here. It gives him a bit of a chance against Dominik Koepfer, who enjoyed a simple straight sets win against Bourque. Bourque must have enjoyed getting the call for a wildcard, as he spends most of his time on the challenger tour. He played beautiful offense in stretches but clay is just not his best surface and Koepfer was able to earn quick errors at inopportune times. We’ve all played matches where it’s perfect point followed by error followed by perfect point, and some on tour (Hi Astra Sharma!) actually seem to enjoy and succeed playing this style, but against a grinder like Koepfer it just doesn’t work. It’s hard to gauge Koepfer’s level from that match but he seemed like he’s near his best quality. Fritz’ serve and power are the big keys here, as Koepfer is prone to losing the plot for stretches. If Fritz is to win this it probably has to happen quickly though, as Koepfer tends to get better as matches progress. Koepfer’s forehand may not be the biggest on the court either, but he does hit it to great effect and hides the direction well which will be a bit challenging for Fritz who tends to not move to his backhand wing so well at times. Very close match, but given Fritz’ familiarity with Koepfer (2-0 on hardcourt in their previous matches) I think he can continue his run. Fritz in 4.

Cilic vs Federer :

“If you saw Cilic and Federer in the same match, you’d think it was a grand slam semi or final!” declared the spaced-out Tennis Channel announcer. Maybe 5-6 years ago, but Marin Cilic is not the player he was. He was very close to losing the first set to Rinderknech, and it seemed that the momentum shift of serving for the set and then losing put Rinderknech in a difficult spot to navigate mentally. Future is still very bright for him, but he sort of removed any doubts from Cilic’s head by giving back the advantage and Cilic with momentum is still as good at times as the daft TC announcers seem to want you to believe. I just don’t think the announcers are watching much tennis outside of the matches they announce, because they seem to barely know the players who aren’t big names, and they never discuss the big names in a realistic manner. They’re still calling him “Big Sam Querrey” and getting excited about his win against Djokovic. They’re still naming Madison Keys as a threat to win any event she’s in. There’s nothing wrong with these players, but it’s a disservice to the viewers to give them inflated views of players who are barely relevant to the current season.

Cilic was pretty good his first round against a great opponent, and Federer was excellent against a subpar opponent. Istomin played well but he doesn’t really have the weapons to hurt Federer. Fed was quick to the offensive offerings and punished lapses in depth from Istomin. He seemed in a rush to get the match over with, and it worked. It feels like Federer has lost a fraction of a step, and a tiny bit of power so the ideal opponent to beat him will have to have shot tolerance and power. A guy like Coric or Khachanov or PCB who can make it obvious from the start that it will take a lot of work to beat them. It can cause Federer to go dropshot-heavy to try to create a cheaper way to win points, and when you’re trying to employ a new/creative strategy your decisions are always a bit late and your regular shots can go as well. It doesn’t seem like Cilic is that player though, as he tends to give up some errors and skates some line of offensive talent and decent returner. The way he played against Rinderknech was good enough to trouble Federer, but Cilic has really imploded against the Swiss talent in the past. I don’t think Federer is going to get close to winning this event, but I think it will still take a great performance to beat him, and it’s hard to see that coming from Cilic, even with all the amazing underdog results from the first round. Federer is more likely to execute his offense without errors when he has opportunities, and both of these players will likely have a few looks at break points in each set. Federer in 3.

Nadal vs Gasquet :

Nobody beats Richard Gasquet like Nadal beats Richard Gasquet. What happens when you’re the best of the rest is that you wind up playing the top guys a lot, and once they figure out your patterns it is hard as a skill player to really turn back the tide. Upsets come from hard work/luck or explosive offense, and Gasquet lives somewhere in between those two realms. Nadal actually seems to play better down a break, and although he rolled a lot of balls in against Popyrin, he played well today. The ball was really jumping on the ground today for Nadal, and although he seemed to be hitting the ball a bit soft, the hook he’s placing on shots is going to be very annoying to his opponents as the courts get a bit more worn down during these two weeks. Gasquet looks sharp, so this will be another very entertaining match, but he really hasn’t been near this top level for a few seasons. Nadal in 3.

Norrie vs Harris :

Cam Norrie continues to prove himself. I don’t see him really regressing at this point, which is great for the tour. His main change has been to just get a bit more offensive on his forehand, and it has really freed up his game overall. Bjorn Fratangelo played okay, but Norrie is a cut above him at this point. Lorenzo Sonego has one speed it seems, and Lloyd Harris outlasted him as he has so many other offensive talents. Harris has a big serve, and a big forehand, but he really thrives on hanging in rallies with guys who want a shootout. Sonego pushed and pushed and Harris just kept reflecting the power and playing reserved. It reminds me a little bit of RBA but without the robotic precision. A great win for Harris and these are the kind of difficult losses Sonego fans will have to endure with his hyper-aggressive style. Harris and Norrie is likely to be a very long match, and with Norrie’s new level it’s hard to point to Harris as a clear champion, and with Harris’ defensive ability, fitness, and power it’s hard to say that Norrie will have a clear path to victory. It pains me to say it, but based off recent performances Norrie should win. He’s beaten players of a similar caliber, and has been winning more matches. Harris’ runs on tour have come out of the blue though, so this is one I’d avoid. Unfortunately, I can’t avoid anything because I decided to write this article. Norrie in 4.

Sinner vs Mager :

Tricky tricky stuff in that first round for Sinner. Herbert really has a knack for making the court small and the game segmented. Sinner was lucky to squeak by, and hopefully that frees him up a bit as him and Monfils might be great. Gianluca Mager had a pretty easy go of it against Gojowczyk, and he will feel pretty comfortable against Sinner since they are countrymen. The comfort may fade though, as Mager will have to really play nonstop solid offense in his service games to have a chance here. Sinner’s fitness will be a slight question mark in majors since he’s had some cramping/fatigue issues in his legs before, but this is a good chance to recover. Sinner in 4.

Ymer vs Monfils :

Ymer and RCB were very evenly matched, and it was a lot of fun to watch. It seems like Ymer always has trouble holding serve, but he did so when he needed to and seemed a bit fitter than Baena. Equally long was the Monfils vs Ramos match, which produced for m the most surprising result of the day. I can’t say enough about how good ARV is, and how much it takes to unravel him, but Monfils’ defensive ability really did. ARV was putting extra weight on shots, and it led him to make a number of uncharacteristic errors on the forehand wing. Monfils’ serving was a big advantage here, as ARV was stretched wide or left deep in the court following a number of returns. This court positioning is something that a great claycourter can hit well to recover from, but the physical toll of having to play out of this position takes it out of you over time. Monfils did his classic “doubled over inspecting a phantom injury” thing in this match, and while it’s frustrating I’m fairly sure his opponents on tour know not to fall for that. Exhausted people generally don’t play their best tennis for an entire match, and injured people don’t jump and spin to hit a smash when they get an easy shot. It’s a mental battle as it always is for Monfils, and hopefully this win gives him confidence.

This is a simple spot right? Monfils is much better, much more experienced, hungry for wins, and just beat a player that Ymer can’t beat. Yes to all of that, but it makes it an uphill mental battle for him. Monfils likes a story, and Monfils loves to entertain. It’s entirely possible that he’ll have patches against Ymer where he just can’t motivate himself to play. It’s hard to focus against a guy who plays somewhat boring, and Ymer’s commitment to power and defensive effort don’t create many chances for Monfils to be spectacular. Another long match should see Monfils through, but he’s a flight risk here. Monfils in 3-4.

Schwartzman vs Bedene :

Finally Diego wins a match. It’s been a while since Diego’s results have mirrored his quality play, and a few seasons ago this slump would have made sense, but the quality he showed in between the arrival of the next gen stars and their actual ascension to the top left him with the onus of performing as one of the top players on tour. The same can be said for RBA. When he loses, we go HUH WHAT? OMG SO BAD HOW CAN IT BE? We get spoiled by great quality play, and Diego’s level is relativel unreal. He is the only player who has really ever done what he’s done. Beating Nadal on clay. Going deep in every major. Shortest guy on tour with one of the worst serves. Anyway, before I get too hyped up, it should be noted that Yen-Hsun Lu is not back to form, nor would he beat Diego if he were. This next match against Bedene is a tough test for Schwartzman. Bedene is the tour’s quality bisector because he tends to beat everyone who’s a bit off and lose to everyone who’s in form. I expect him to win at least one set, but I think he may play Diego into form because he tends to do it all from the baseline at the same pace, and Diego will at some point get zoned in. Diego in 4 because we all want the Karatsev Schwartzman rematch?

Karatsev vs Kohlschreiber :

Jenson Brooksby should have a good grass and hardcourt season, but Karatsev was a bit too much. Kohlschreiber wasn’t very active on tour, hadn’t been playing well, and wasn’t leading the H2H, but the oddsmakers made him the favorite anyway. He backed it up impressively, dispatching Fernando “Am I growing a beard or not” Verdasco in 4 sets. I somewhat thought the Molcan Verdasco result was mostly because Molcan is played such great ball, but it appears he’s become a bit of a paper tiger even on clay. Kohl is one of the best returners the tour has ever seen, but the years are getting up there. He plays a beautiful game, and his quality of ball can keep him from having his lack of speed exposed, but he’s unlikely to have much that can hurt Karatsev. Karatsev will have opportunities, and furthermore he really hasn’t blinked since he arrived on tour so he’s likely to apply a great deal of pressure as well. Karatsev in 3.

Basilashvili vs Alcaraz :

Basil solved a very tough puzzle in round one. Him and Lajovic were hitting the fuzz off the ball throughout this contest, which ultimately played into Basilashvili’s hands since he proves to be the bigger hitter against most of the tour. While him and Alcaraz is very tough to predict, this is an a really cool, new, and unique matchup for the tour. Alcaraz won 3-1, but he was in bad shape a number of times against Zapata Miralles. Zapata Miralles dictated well with his forehand but also dictated immediately when he had the chance. He took time away from Alcaraz and Alcaraz is a great offensive talent but his defending is only mediocre at this point, so if his opponent is firing he’s capable of getting a bit trapped. This is likely the key for Basilasvhili to win, because his offense is the sort that Alcaraz hasn’t really turned back yet. Errors are always Basil’s undoing, but here it’s halfway okay to expect that he won’t make them nonstop since Lajovic would have punished exactly that behavior. Alcaraz opened at -227 and this is right for the market share, but I think this is closer to a pickem. This is two specialists who’ve never met meeting on a high-profile stage. It’s likely that they both play well. Almost losing to Miralles, getting blown off the court by Monteiro; I am sold on Alcaraz’s talent but not on his results yet. Basilashvili in 5.

Bagnis vs Struff :

Bagnis and Struff playing in the second round seems wrong. Struff should be in the third round automatically after his performance. Bagnis was better from start to finish in his contest, proving a bit too consistent for Bonzi. Struff played the match of his life against Rublev though, whose eyebrows do not look dyed at all nor do they look drawn on (they do though). Struff seemed like he’d run away with this match, taking the first sets and seeming to be at his best level. Rublev played well but seemed frustrated at times and willing to pull the trigger on shots that would turn the momentum but weren’t exactly the right shot situationally. He really is committed to his offense though and sets 3 and 4 were a testament to that. As if the first two sets hadn’t even happened, Rublev plowed ahead. Struff started to find the net with some shots, and there wasn’t a lot to indicate that he’d turn things around in the 5th. The fight though that ensured was marvelous. I can say that having Struff serving with the lead is an awful prospect. He swings harder with the lead and his first serves are absolutely crushed. You want a chance to break back, but he can just take the racquet out of your hands. The final holds of the set were straightforward play but it was such good poise to be able to execute in those spots. A nice embrace at net ensued but Rublev was the most recent in a slew of bizarre upsets that this first round has produced. Bagnis should be happy his opponent played 5 sets, and Struff is prone to errors on the backhand so the lefty’s gameplan doesn’t have to deviate much, but the way Struff played is unlikely to disappear and he will have a huge edge in the hitting department. Feels inevitable for Struff to continue the run. Struff in 4.

Zverev vs Safiullin :

Here it comes! If you’ve read previous articles you know that Zverev has the same effect on me as going to write with a pencil and finding out the lead has broken off. As a result of him being an egotistical fencepost with the IQ of 4 carrots and arms that look like giraffe legs, I often wind up hoping he’ll lose which translates to less than stellar analysis. Actually, here is a brief window into a common pitfall in betting tennis. In round one I had a minor position on Carlos Taberner to win against Roman Safiullin. Roman went up an early break, so I tuned in. What I saw Safiullin completely overwhelming Taberner with power. Roman was serving great, and despite only notching a handful of aces he was dominating rallies. His run in qualifying was an outlier because he generally hasn’t been good on clay, but he is a pretty promising challenger standout. So Taberner doesn’t win, but I come away with some good information about a player who is a small market (as far as $ flowing in) and will likely be very affordable or even be getting a larger handicap than they should for the next round. If someone like Safiullin plays someone like Tiafoe, they’re just never going to get the type of investment that Tiafoe’s name will, so you can assume the actual spread is half a game or even a full game off from what actual models would predict, because the books ultimately just want to balance money. Furthermore, with this info in your pocket, if the line for the next round has a bigger market but the odds are close (something like Tiafoe -170 Safiullin +140), then you know that the book is mitigating exposure on the Safiullin side. Most bettors are not watching tennis full time, and just betting on big names and who “should win”. The flow of the tour is such though that guys are not always in their best form, and surging talents ranked off tour are just as good as guys in the top 100 on a given day. Anyway, I proceed to the draw and see Safiullin plays Zverev. This sucks. I hate on Zverev for being a pickle jar with no pickles, but he is still a tremendous tennis player. He is not the ideal opponent (like a Bagnis or a Monteiro) to back Safiullin against. But since we want to be paid for our info, bettors often do this. The situation is not ideal, but we mash the square block into the circle shape. No rocket science here, but something to look out for. The ideal wagering situation is that you have watched the previous rounds, can see a distinct difference in level, and that books either agree with your assessment (this requires understanding the market sizes which takes time and studying and this also means that any perceived “value” has already been removed), or you are getting a perceived edge based on the expected investment of the general public.

Anyway, Safiullin played great, and Zverev had a really tough time with Oscar Otte, but there are some reasons that Safiullin likely won’t win. One is that despite the great play, her threw in a completely sideways set in set two full of errors. These errors were made on simple rally balls, so despite redlining his game for long stretches, he is still likely to give Zverev cheap points. The second is that Taberner is a clay-specialist, but doesn’t have the defensive ability of Zverev. Zverev tends to play a bit further behind the baseline and moves better. The third is serving. Taberner earns all his points, and Zverev will likely get a bunch of errors from Safiullin who is a player similar to Struff in terms of intent but is not known for his defensive prowess. Zverev is a slow starter, and over time his general level remains higher than most fringe tour players can keep up. He did have the benefit of Otte being a tall fellow, and so his legs went out from under him after long rallies, but it will be similar for Safiullin. Zverev may make Benoit Paire look like a mature adult, but he hits a heavy ball even while playing a bit too conservative. Safiullin has a chance here, but it will require Zverev to mentally check out and he hasn’t done so in a while. Tricky match, but backing career-defining upsets is not a profitable longterm hobby. Zverev in 4-5.

Djere vs Kecmanovic :

Moutet really tried everything to put Djere off his game but it didn’t work. The lefty forehand to backhand exchange is usually a comfortable place, but Djere was creating very sharp angles on his backhand crosscourt like a young Sevastova, and this really put pressure on Moutet to stay moving. In the end, all the intensity and screaming that Moutet did just let Djere know to keep working, and it’s nice to see him playing well again. Kecmanovic pulled a nice upset against Evans, and he looked solid throughout which brings up a very interesting clash. Both Djere and Kecmanovic have had disappointing seasons, and have just basically found form. Kecmanovic has won every single one of their previous contests, but the Buenos Aires defeat came during a period where Djere was missing a lot. I think he turns it around here, but this is another “I THINK” statement and those are speculative at best. Kecmanovic is a much better defender than Moutet and gives up fewer errors. There are likely to be a number of long rallies, and I do think that Djere’s durability is a bit better. Evans seemed to phone it in at times, and Kecmanovic was on a 3-4 match skid before this so I’m not sold on him being back to form yet. Honestly, it’s been several seasons since he played consistently well, so this is the best chance for Djere to get his first win against him. Djere in 4-5.

Khachanov vs Nishikori :

Khachanov had a pretty straightforward win against Vesely, and Nishikori pretty much almost lost to the lefty qualifier Gianessi. It’s easy to see why Gianessi has so many wins against tour level players at the challenger level; he hits the ball very smooth and has every shot you could ask for. He plays well enough to be on tour tomorrow, and hopefully he makes the jump soon. Nishikori’s experience helped him hang in when he was down breaks of serve (which he was in almost every set), and he’ll need that again in this next round. These two played in Madrid and it was a high-quality contest that Khachanov lost. If this sounds familiar, it’s because every match Khachanov plays against a big name is a high quality contest that he loses. I think this is the perfect spot for him to break that pattern. Nishikori will have trouble defending his serve, and Khachnov will be the fresher player. Nishi’s backhand is always the better one, but Khachanov’s is solid enough to keep the rallies going. The edge I see (and it’s small) is that Khachanov has played fewer matches recently by virtue of his early losses. Burnout is real, and Nishikori has been grinding week after week trying to reassert himself on tour. I am admittedly a Khachanov fan so this is slightly biased, but the guy’s quality is undeniable and I consider it more of a when than an if as far as him having a big run at a major. Khachanov in 4.

Laaksonen vs Bautista-Agut :

Laaksonen was sharp from start to finish, and definitely benefitted from the extra matches during qualifying. Big serves, and heavy groundstrokes make him a tough prospect when you’re not playing your best, and Hanfmann never got a good chance to get engaged in this. RBA dealt out a similar quick beating to Vilella Martinez, and I expect a similar result with a tighter scoreline from this. RBA is a thoughtful yet robotic player, and negating a powerful offense is his specialty. Laaksonen is a great athlete, but he doesn’t really have a plan B, so I’m expecting errors to be his downfall as RBA keeps the ball in tough spot for him. Not a one-sided affair by any means, but Laaksonen’s offense is very direct and linear, so if the pace is something RBA can deal with, he’ll be able to break in the same manner in each set. RBA in 3-4.

Ruud vs Majchrzak :

Casper Ruud wound up in the finals when I filled out my brackets, and with all the upsets I’m starting to really like it. He managed to let Paire win a set, but that’s just because Casper Ruud is a classy guy. Majchrzak and Cazaux may have been a 3-1 scoreline, but there were a lot of momentum changes in this one. Arthur Cazaux really plays a beautiful game and it’ll be nice to watch him on tour. For now, Kamil Majchrzak is just not in possession of the firepower that you need to beat Casper Ruud. Ruud is crushing his forehand and serving very efficiently. Ruud in 3.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina vs Botic Van De Zandschulp :

I have to use this keyboard for a few more years, so I’m going to call them F and Z for this one. F beat Kukushkin pretty easily in round one, despite giving up a break of serve a handful of times. Kukushkin is still a difficult out, but F is on another level currently. Kukushkin will have to hope for some better draws in grass season where his efficient spot serving and flat forehands really can do damage. Z was down bad against Hurkacz, but Hurkacz’s legs went out from under him and it just made this a foregone conclusion even as early as the end of the 3rd set. Hurkacz to his credit played well early, but fatigue is real in a major and on dirt it can really happen to anyone. Credit to Z, and it’s a great result for a player who is going to make most of his points up on hardcourt and grass. Fokina should have a tough time in stretches here since Van De Zandschulp has a big serve and a lot of power, but his mobility is a slight cut below what Fokina asks of his opponent. The dropshot will be a big weapon here, and Fokina is likely to set up a very exciting match against Ruud in the next round. Fokina in 4.

Fognini vs Fucsovics :

Ok Fognini. I said I’d believe him if he won, and I think he has a good chance here. Fucsovics bested Gilles Simon, but he hasn’t been as good on clay as his endurance and defensive abilities would suggest he would be. It could be a situational thing, but this is a tough match for him. Fognini’s offense is a bit more fluid, and Fucsovics can get a bit passive which makes the game simple for Fabio, who hates to run and pretty much refuses to play anything defensive when he’s out of position. As always, Fognini’s potential implosion is in play here. Fucsovics will gladly take a cheap win, and his stoic play is just the thing that could frustrate Fognini if those errors begin. It’s an equation that’s always present, and Fucsovics is a fan favorite as far as this fan is concerned, but it’s hard to really predict how Fognini will fare. His first round was good enough to win this second round, but ya never know with the mercurial dingus. Fognini in 4.

Delbonis vs Andujar :

ANDUJARRRRRRRRR!!!!! The jaguar king cannot rise, because he has never fallen. Federer and Thiem in two weeks is just an amazing gift for a guy who has really put in the long yards on tour and always taken the game seriously on the court. Spirit eagle stories and jungle vibes aside, I have always been a big fan of Pablo and even though his lawyer sends me cease and desist letters, I will continue to write them. When he’s winning though? Wow it’s a double dose of solid. Thiem’s game looks okay at times, but his shots lack depth, and that makes him half the player he normally is. You can crush the ball if you want, but if it isn’t travelling through the court it basically just becomes a ball drill. Andujar was able to redirect a lot of shots and once he has his opponent on the defensive he doesn’t really miss. Thiem will regroup, and although he was quite candid in the press conference things are not anywhere near as bleak as he thinks. His quality was a result of years of playing the most difficult schedule, and he won’t need that to get back to form but he will need matches. I think he’ll start to look like himself by the US Open and the fact that he could potentially disappoint people by losing early in an event is just a testament to how amazing of a player he already is.

Delbonis opened as a favorite against Andujar which is very interesting. He won the most recent matchup but lost 5 in a row before that. Delbonis is having a slightly better clay season, but Andujar is just about near his peak. I think it’s an even prospect, but Delbonis will have to do a lot of work to win this match, and it takes time to produce those big swings. He tends to throw in a random game of errors at least once per match, and as fatigue comes he tends to get a bit flat on his backhand and crunch his body down a bit on his forehand which can put some open shots into the net. His positives are that he’s lefty, and that he really does crush the ball. Andujar will have to do a lot of long yards and seize his opportunities, but I think it’s doable. When jaguars have nightmares, Pablo Andujar consoles them. When poison frogs aren’t feeling their normal spicy selves, Pablo Andujar licks them and pretends to die. In truth, he is the spirit of the jungle, and the father of avocados. I want him to win, so he will. Andujar in 5.

Tsitsipas vs Martinez :

Great play from Pedro Martinez in round one, but Korda really was not physically able to compete for much of this match. His legs just weren’t there, which made it less exciting than it likely would have been given the quality of both heading in. Tsitsipas had a really tough opponent on his hands in Jeremy Chardy, and it was extremely positive for him that he won the first set, as it seemed like Chardy needed it in order to continue his assault. Down a set, a few more errors came, and he seemed a bit fatigued by the third set. Martinez is the type of player I’d normally talk up as having a shot against Tsitsipas, but the thoughtful narcissist has really played great this season. Patrick Mouratoglu is sitting smugly in his box, and it is a good partnership but it feels like Mouratoglu is trying to blow out the candles after someone else baked the cake. That reference doesn’t make sense, BUT I’M RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO FINISH THIS ARTICLE WHY AREN’T THERE MORE HOURS IN THE DAY HOW DID I FALL ASLEEP. If you’re in the NYC area, you may have seen me napping under a tree for 5 hours. This was not my attention, but waking up on French time is getting me a little wobbly.

Anyway, Martinez can pressure Tsitsipas in a similar way to Chardy since he has very efficient offense, and he’s not likely to fatigue during the match. The difference will be that Tsitsipas has an extra gear that Martinez does not. The flow of the scoreline will be very important. If Martinez can get off to an early start, he’ll have a chance. If he gets down in the scoreline, Tsitsipas may open up and when he’s playing good offense, he actually is a top 5 player. I don’t think this can go in straight sets unless they’re the 1 break variety, but this again would be the win of Martinez’s career. Tsitsipas in 4.

Krajinovic vs Isner :

Marterer didn’t really have it to beat Krajinovic, who withdrew last week with an alleged illness. I don’t doubt his report, but if he does have lingering issues then beating Isner is not as likely as I want it to be. Isner had a pretty easy time with Querrey, who is about as good as Tsonga right now. Powerful, but not playing enough to really be sharp. Isner matches are always the same. Can he hold serve forever? If yes, then he can win. If not, then nooooooo he can’t win. I think Krajinovic should win, but he has lost enough random matches that it’s hard to depend on him to show up in the big moments, and with Isner you really need to. Probably Isner in 4.

Monteiro vs Johnson :

Surprising result for Cerundolo, but with Monteiro’s quality the close line with Raonic makes a lot of sense. Tiafoe and Johnson had the friendly contest I worried they would, and Tiafoe reverted to some of his old ways. Johnson’s backhand isn’t likely to hold up against Monteiro, and it’s been a long time since Johnson played a 5 setter so he may not be the sharpest. Besting Tiafoe does mean you’re capable of beating Monteiro, but they’re two very different players and all rallies won against Monteiro must be earned while playing at the fastest pace. Johnson will likely be too rusty. Monteiro in 4.

Couacaud vs Carreño-Busta :

Good win for Couacaud, and despite this looking like a simple 3-0 the home crowd and Enzo’s tricky play may steal a set. Stealing more than that will require a bad day at the office from Pablo, and after a solid first round performance I don’t expect that. His only real struggles this year have been with an abdominal issue. PCB in 3.

Giron vs Pella :

This one is very difficult to call. Dimitrov was up two sets and had match points and seemed to tighten up. It’s the second difficult physical setback for him, as he classically was dethroning Karatsev before his back tightened up. The more these issues pop up the less reliable he becomes, but it’s still enjoyable to watch him play since he’s such a pure talent. Pella pulled off a fairly big upset considering how his season has gone, and it was nice to see him finding form again. It would seem that he is a favorite to come through here again, and it would be a season saving win for him. Giron can certainly hang even in this matchup, but Pella is at his best on clay and Giron is already running on expired time. Pella in 4-5.

McDonald vs Garin :

Another juicy match. McDonald was pretty good against Ruusuvuori, and Garin was solid against Londero. When these two get in a groove they are very difficult to wrest control from, and this match will likely come down to who has a better day. McDonald’s groundstrokes are sharp and he’s very fast around the court. Few players have won more matches this year at the lower levels than McDonald, but by a similar token few players handle their business at 250 events like Garin does. He’s capable of losing to anyone in the first round, but his physical strength is an absolute gift and he tends to just outlast players without really playing a dangerous array of shots. McDonald can win this, but Garin sits as the favorite going in. Garin in 4.

Opelka vs Munar :

Andrej Martin didn’t have much left after last week’s semifinals run, and Opelka brought the same powerful game that saw him winning some quality matches on clay last month. This matchup will be a tough loss for Munar if it happens, as he really should be able to dispatch Opelka, but this is a lot like the Isner Krajinovic match where one player is clearly better and the outcome will still likely be decided by a few early points played in a tiebreaker. Opelka’s forehand is really crushing the ball, and Munar has struggled with some big servers like Jarry in matches where he had complete control and still lost, so this is a great spot for him to turn it around but a tough situation. “But I’m better!” is the sentiment as you lose to someone who just plays behind a big serve, but this is why we play the games. Opelka in 5.

Paul vs Medvedev :

Medvedev actually seemed positive after his match against Bublik. There is that moment of thinking “he doesn’t like clay, he will struggle with Paul” but Paul and Bublik is an even prospect, and Bublik was beaten in straight sets. O’Connell seemed like he might outlast Tommy Paul, and Medvedev is a much higher level of baseliner. Much like Fognini, I am willing to take Medvedev seriously after his first round win, and when he indicated that he felt these balls let him play like it was hardcourt, it did give me a glimmer of hope. Tommy Paul is a bit more durable on defense than Bublik, so I think it may take four sets, but I am starting to hope for Medvedev to make a run here. Medvedev in 4.