Jun 03, 2021

2021 Roland Garros ATP & WTA Round Three

This has been a wonderland of nonsense. Even watching I’ve had a hard time believing some of these results, so for those waking up and scorechecking I imagine there have been some double-takes. We’re only 1/3 of the way through the event, and already office pools and brackets everywhere are in shambles. d1ngal1ng leads the ATP bracket contest, and vani leads the WTA. As the results have been the epitome of wild so far, I’ve decided both are wizards. It feels like the only option. Anyway, the crazy results have me a bit flustered, but it’s a good time to remind myself that my knowledge of the tour is still very limited, and the setbacks are a good chance to learn little lessons. Lessons like, always match your eyebrows to your hair color. Wait no that one wasn’t for me. Anyway, here are more predictions that I look forward to glaring at tomorrow if they don’t come true.

ATP Singles :
Djokovic vs Berankis :

Djokovic and Cuevas had a very clean-hitting match. Novak lost range a little bit in the third, but he has been pretty solid through the first two rounds and his third round is a bit easier than Cuevas. Berankis rarely wins a match on clay, so this third-round is likely to bump him up the rankings a bit if he wins the usual handful of matches he does in the hardcourt swing. Duckworth was a game competitor, but Berankis was very clutch in this match. He had 5-4 in the 3rd set tiebreak and just scored two points. Not the greatest mountain to climb but so often we see the players with two points on serve to finish a set go 1-1. Djokovic is enjoying an easy draw, but his quality means most early rounds will look like he was given an easy draw. It’s hard to say when it started, but his focus on making good returns has become an automatic part of his game. He seems so intent on getting every ball back and at this point even the balls he is stretched on are somehow hit cleanly back down the center. Berankis has the same chance as Cuevas. Djokovic in 3.

Cecchinato vs Musetti :

Double spidermans here, as two extremely talented Italian pro’s who are both playing their sharpest and at their best on clay meet in the third round. Cecchinato ran De Minaur around for their entire match, and his game has gone up a level after dropping a set in each of his last matches. De Minaur never really got himself onto the baseline, and as a result he struggled to find length on his backhand in rallies. It really was a great performance but one where he never really had control of rallies. Musetti was equally impressive with a similar defensive talent, and again his crisp hitting reversed a straight sets loss to Nishioka from a week ago to a straight sets victory of his own. This will be a tough one to handicap for the books since both are very popular when they’re playing well and this is their first meeting. Musetti is the more stable player defensively, and less prone to frustration on court. On the opposite side, Cecchinato is keen to go after any ball he’s able to play offense on, and Musetti can be a bit too passive at times since he covers the court so well. I’m reminded of last year’s event a bit where Cecchinato looked primed to really give Zverev trouble and then barely made an impact in the match. If you look at his losses this season they’re mostly to the guys at that next tier of the tour. Norrie (gross but he definitely has earned it), RBA, Shapovalov, Berretini, and players who basically can hurt him in rallies and can defend against his power. Musetti is similar, and even though he’s young he has a very level-head on court. I think we’ll see errors from Cecchinato resulting from Musetti’s defending but also because he hits a much bigger ball than anyone Cecchinato has been beating so far, and I think this will be the difference. Hard to see Musetti winning in quick fashion as well as Cecchinato is playing and as prone as he is to going to the dropshot well a bit too much, so this should be a 4-5 set match. Lorenzo has been the better player so far though. Musetti in 4.

Berretini vs Kwon :

Berretini is quietly making his way towards a clash many feel is inevitable with Federer, and it’s hard to argue with the idea. Coria is a great defender, but Berretini’s offense isn’t the sort that falls apart when his opponents make en extra ball. For the most part, they can’t make that extra ball anyway. Berretini’s serve is too big, and he moves around the court too well. Kwon’s win actually makes Auger-Alliassime’s loss look even worse, and his experience playing Anderson will be valuable in going against the big serving Matteo, but this is a similar match to the Taro Daniel one where Kwon’s success is likely to be due to mental fatigue from Berretini from having to supply all the offense. It’s hard to beat the same guy the same way set after set, so the simpler players (as far as offense) tend to benefit in patches. Berretini is playing too well right now to lose though, which is the type of sentence that this tournament has made me flinch when I type. Berretini in 4.

Koepfer vs Federer :

Fritz got me good there. I bet against Taylor Fritz pretty much every time he gets on the court, and it’s wonderfully profitable. The UTS run and the solid play against Sousa got me in a similar way that Bencic’s defeat of Podoroska did. When these tour players win via offense, they look like instant worldbeaters. When they play someone who puts the ball in play with variety and challenges their movement though, they falter. Koepfer is a guy everyone “should” beat. He’s a bit short for the tour, and doesn’t really have one huge weapon, but the compact offense that he runs is very solid, so opponents spend time deciding on tactics while he is able to move straight ahead. I believed in Fritz, but Fritz is imaginary.

Federer again looked at ease on the tennis court. The whole “I won’t win RG” press conference was just a beautiful piece of marketing, as he has zero pressure in these matches. While Cilic remained locked into one speed of shot and 3-4 patterns, Federer probed and picked and really didn’t seem concerned with the score. The result is that when there’s a break point or a tense rally, Federer is able to go for anything and his opponent has to defend that knowledge. If Federer misses, if Federer loses, it doesn’t really matter as he wasn’t expected to according to the optics. Too many players on tour revert to safe choices when the important points come around. I don’t think Cilic hit his backhand down the line once in the whole second half of this match. It isn’t a problem to attack Fed’s backhand but when he knows where you’re going he gets to move early. Conversely, Cilic was moving early to Federer’s shots and when Fed went down the line, he scored clean winners with shots that at times landed well inside the baseline and even by the service line. It seemed throughout that Cilic was looking to have a battle and Federer was looking to steal a match. Fed’s serve is still good enough to carry him through matches, and he is more calculating and brilliant than he is given credit for. In the second set, down a break, when he really looked exhausted, Federer got himself a time violation, and decided to have a chat with the umpire in French. Very classy. He decided to continue explaining himself in French, and approach the umpire. Very classy. He decided to lean on the netpost, and adopt a crosslegged casual stance. So classy. Meanwhile, the result was a 5 minute timeout for Federer in a situation where Cilic had all the momentum. He ended it by dragging Cilic into the conversation, putting him on the spot with “Marino, am I playing too slow?” This is a guy who had a panic attack on court in the Wimbledon finals playing Federer, and making him the bad guy was an instant way to ruin any competitive fire that Cilic had found. Cilic immediately began putting his hands up apologizing, and backtracked even though he had already complained to the umpire that Federer rushes him on his serve and takes his time returning.

Despite the gamesmanship, Federer is a classy guy. In the 3rd set tiebreak, Cilic hit an ace to start and the ref jogged down to overrule it and call it long. The “down from the chair” adventures are predictably in favor of the player they feel they owe something to, and there’s something very “you’re making it up” about the way they see the scuff marks. Federer then overruled the overrule and gave Cilic the point. From there it was all Roger, and it’s hard to see someone beating him without really making it a physical battle. Short points are good for Fed, and he threw in so many love holds in the second half of this match and never really resorted to the bailout dropshots that have been present in most of his “I’m not physically fit” performances. Koepfer may be a more bothersome test than Cilic. He has no real way to score quick points, and Federer will have all the pressure. It will be interesting to see how patient Federer is about picking his spots here, as Koepfer isn’t at Fed’s level but does hit the ball with good depth and often turns his matches into lateral sprint contests. Fed’s serve will be key, and does make him a considerable favorite here. It’s not the ideal opponent to worry about an upset, but Koepfer will make this a physical contest and I’m interested to see how willing to engage Federer is. I went into this wanting to think Koepfer is a threat, but it is truly hard to paint Federer as losing. Even if you consider his physical ability to be the same as a player like Opelka or Isner, his serving efficiency is still as good as theirs at getting simple returns. If we’re being fair also, his physical ability is worlds better than theirs anyway even towards the end of his career. I think Koepfer will do better than expected, but this tournament has beaten the hope out of me. Federer in 4.

Nadal vs Norrie : To be added after Nadal wins. IF NADAL WINS!!!!! OOOOO SPOOOOOOKYYYYY

Edit : Nadal match just finished. Not a lot to say here. Gasquet took the first set off, hanging behind the baseline an easing into things. He followed that up by going all out in the second which sent the set into overtime, but serving second in the 3rd set it just seemed inevitable. Nadal challenges Gasquet’s movement too much for him to really win. Norrie had a good solid performance against Harris and will be Nadal’s first real test. Norrie has been winning a ton of matches and will run forever. This is likely what he’ll have to do against Nadal, but as a fan it’s fun to see players who compete uphill. Nadal in 3, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Norrie grabs a break here and there.

Sinner vs Ymer :

Sinner is one of the only players to come through round two unscatched. There’s no wild news from his camp or from his game. He continues to play powerful tennis and doesn’t have a real hole in his game. It makes him a healthy favorite in the next contest, which is against the hardworking Mikael Ymer. Ymer and his brother were a very overhyped pair when they first started getting wildcards on tour, and the results didn’t seem to come. Mikael has gone down to the challenger tour and played a ton of matches though, and the 250 results have started to come which makes winning 2 rounds here even more beneficial to him finally landing in a comfortable spot on tour. Monfils has finally won a few matches, but it’s always the same story with him. When he loses, it just looks like he isn’t fully engaged in the match. Tennis is tough, and when you haven’t been playing multiple matches and have a ton of lingering issues, it’s easy to hit a wall physically but not have too many outward signs that anything is wrong. I recently made a finals of a doubles tournament (handball; not tennis) where I’d blown out every team up until the finals and then somehow only managed to score 4 points in the final game. I hit a wall but after the match people told me “you looked like you were rushing” and it kinda triggered the recognition that we don’t really know what’s going on with these athletes when they throw in these confusing losses (hello Karatsev), and that the players often don’t until afterward also. I realized watching footage that I’d just been tired, and wasn’t moving my feet well at all, but in the moment I just thought I was having a bad stretch of misses. Anyway, the point is that I’ve been the leader of the pack at times in criticizing Monfils about his losses, but his physical ability and occasional lights-out offense are things that make me forget that the other players on tour are not helpless victims for him, and that slight lapses in stamina can spell very lopsided losses.

Speaking of lopsided losses, this should be one but may not be. Ymer wouldn’t be expected to beat Sinner on hardcourt, but he did last season in straight sets. Ymer wouldn’t be expected to be in the third round of a major, but he is. Sinner will have to play a lot of balls to get through here, but the biggest benefit to his chances here are that Ymer doesn’t defend his serve well. He tends to locate the ball well when he’s fresh, but spins it in a bit more later in the matches. Sinner is a very strong finisher, and the big hitters tend to run away with things down the stretch. Hard to go against Sinner here. Sinner in 4.

Schwartzman vs Karatschreiber :

The good news is that Diego Schwartzman is back to winning tennis matches. The better news is that evvvvveryone’s brackets took a tumble this week. If I had to guess the percentage of wagers on Karatsev/Kohlschreiber I’d say it was easily above 90 for Aslan. This was a monumental upset and it made me laugh. This event has been ridiculous in so many ways and like the stranded person on an island I at some point have decided to make the best of it. I love Kohlschreiber’s game, but there is no way Karatsev should be winning this last match. The best thing about Kohl’s run is not even his clever and strategic play, but the fact that this is the worst Diego Schwartzman has performed on tour in quite some time, and Kohl manages to get him here. Alcaraz and Struff await, both quality players but man it would be fun if Kohlschreiber kept winning. Why not throw in the fact that their only previous meeting was a straight sets win for Kohl in 2017 (it was hardcourt though). A common pitfall with gambling is to forge ahead until we get the narrative right. We lose backing one player, so we back the player they lost to in the next round. We lose fading one player, so we continue fading him round after round until we get it right. The revenge factor tends to be a common leak, but what I would suggest here is that since maybe 45% of people would be backing Karatsev to beat Diego, Kohl’s win should make you avoid this contest entirely. I feel somewhat disingenuous writing outcomes for certain matchs at times since there are so many question marks that I don’t have an accurate way to nail down. It’s what makes sport beautiful, but it’s also what lends itself to the author doing a bit more storytelling than reporting.

Right now, Schwartzman should win this match. He was steady against Bedene, and has more stamina than Kohl considering their ages and considering the duration of their stretches on and off tour. Kohl’s variety was good for tempering Aslan’s offense, but Diego tends to work a number of shots to win points, and isn’t really going for too much. As far as errors, Diego can go entire sets without making more than 3-4. On the flipside, Diego’s lack of a big serve and his “outlast/outmaneuver” style during rallies means that Kohlschreiber will get a chance to ply his craft. I expect a high quality contest, and I feel that Diego’s ability to extend rallies will take the edge off of Kohl’s game at some point. Losing the next match after a big upset is a fairly common theme on tour both because emotionally there is a big letoff after a great win, and also for the common sense reason that later rounds have players in better form. Schwartzman in 4.

Alcaraz vs Struff :

Alcaraz is very good. Alcaraz is very strong. Alcaraz is very noisy. I cannot think of another player I have heard make a noise late after every single swing for an entire match, but he sure did it. That’s the only detraction I can make from his performance today though, as he really crushed the ball from start to finish. Basilashvili seemed a likely option for the upset, but when you look at his results over the course of this year, they are just too varied for him to be relied upon. In this one he lost range early with his backhand, and tried to played a more measured game which led to even more errors and Alcaraz taking control. For Alcaraz, his serve was a huge weapon today, and his physical strength looks to have improved in the past few months as he has the sort of arms that Zverev wants to have. If things continue he may someday have the kind of arms that Sakkari has, which is of course the ultimate goal.

Struff put on a similar performance against Bagnis, but it was somewhat more expected from my end. Bagnis is a very hardluck fellow, and I’m starting to see why. He always seems like he’s digging in in matches and waiting for the other player to cool off, but when he gets a chance to go for a shot he tends not to be able to execute. I’m seeing now that this is because of his dig-in methodology. He spends so much time exerting himself to extend rallies and play consistent that when he gets opportunities, his body is too beat up to really have the dynamic movement necessary to execute. He played this match with his entire leg leg taped from his foot to his knee, and this is the universal sign that “i don’t care how you do it just make it so i can play” has been the message to the physio.

Struff against Alcaraz is a really exciting contest, and a new one. Both hit huge on the forehand, and both swing freely on their serves. Alcaraz has a better backhand, but can get a little wild with it. I don’t see a way that this won’t be an amazing match. Struff’s undoing has always been players who can rush him, and Alcaraz’s power will do just that. Alcaraz should be relatively fresh, and Struff’s win against Bagnis took some time (a 7-6 and 7-5 set to start) but it was a good chance for him to recover from the 5-setter against Rublev. To pick Alcaraz, we have to overlook Struff beating Andrey “Color them in no one will notice” Rublev. To pick Struff, we have to pretend that Alcaraz hasn’t looked like the best claycourt talent to appear on tour since Dominic Thiem. I think a slight edge goes to Struff’s experience here, but it’s really hard to separate these two and Alcaraz does seem to be playing the bigger game right now. Alcaraz in 5.

Zverev vs Djere :

Zverev won in straight sets, but it was very satisfying seeing Safiullin play well against him. I don’t need Zverev to lose, and any sort of vendetta against a player would be childish anyway since I don’t really know any of them personally and am just commenting on the snapshot I see of them in the media/matches. That being said, I have greatly enjoyed Zverev’s career because it is not what we expected/is what he seems to deserve. When he burst onto the tour, he was touted as the next #1. He seemed to be just that. Huge serves, and the best offensive backhand I’d ever seen made him seem a prime candidate. Everyone telling him he would be the best seemed to be something he bought into though, and his effort level and hardship tolerance really held him back for quite some time. At this point, he’s becoming too good to lose even though he still struggles with reality, and it makes for exciting upset possibilities (which are fun in tennis; sports need villains) but also means that we usually do get to see him go up against top players in the later rounds. Getting robbed of the high-profile matchup does take a little away from tournaments.

There’s no higher profile matchup than Laslo Djere though. Miomir Kecmanovic was just about done with his second round match, up two sets and playing very solid. Djere don’t care though. DJERE DON’T CARE YOU HEAR ME ZVEREV!!!!!##@%%@ Sorry. I … I don’t know what got into me. Djere and Zverev met earlier this year on hardcourt and Djere had a number of break points and opportunities to win both sets. His size makes him a good returner for Zverev’s offerings, and his relatively powerful shots match up well with Zverev. Zverev is not always looking to grind out a long match, but is confident enough in his baseline game that he will play a bit more passive. This is great for Djere’s chances, as he doesn’t really have the sort of offense that will hit through Zverev, and can’t win a serving duel with anyone on tour. He’s a big giant powerful clay specialist, and seeing Zverev struggle a bit with Safiullin’s power but win due to his errors makes me feel that Djere will be a similarly difficult prospect. On the opposite side, Zverev would have to lose this match to lose this match. He, again, is going to have a big advantage on serve. His forehand and backhand are both better than Djere’s, and his movement is a bit better also. It will be about work. Beating Djere on clay when he’s playing well is a lot of work. Will Zverev do that work? We’ll see. This is a player who has beaten Nadal on clay this season, who I am concerned will emotionally be able to handle playing a guy who hasn’t won more than 10 matches this whole season. I’m grabbing the popcorn and cheering, and I think this will be tough. Someone tall in 5.

Nishikori vs Laaksonen :

This is a dangerous match. Laaksonen would never be expected to put away Nishikori considering his defensive ability, but he just did exactly that to RBA. From the start of qualifying until now Laaksonen has been booming big serves and smoking forehands. It’s the exact thing he does on the challenger tour with limited but decent results, but it’s surprising to see tour level players struggling to unravel it. Sometimes players just catch fire, and Nishikori will have to weather some storms in this one. Nishikori and Khachanov had a spirited contest, and as Khachanov loses another high quality match I’m starting to see his real issues take shape. He’s hanging in these matches and displaying great defensive mettle, and hitting the ball big, but to no effect. He seems to lose his forehand shape at times but it also feels like he doesn’t go big enough when he does get control of rallies. He is a huge guy, and crushes the ball, and has a big serve, but he plays like he’s Diego Schwartzman at times. If you look at Berretini he’s had similarly close contests, but by going big on his shots in key moments he’s notched the big wins, and has become locked in at the top because he now has the freedom to play his offense. It’s not easy to just produce offense, but watching Cilic against Fed today it’s easy to see how some of these players get locked into simple patterns that, while efficicent and safe, are not going to dispatch guys who’ve been playing professional tennis their whole lives. Just a minor issue, but I think Khachanov would benefit from a few months of swinging for the fences because just the added threat of this would make his conservative offerings more dangerous.

Nishikori has always been able to turn matches into a backhand to backhand exchange, and he was one of the first to expose the gameplan for beating Del Potro. I think that’ll be the plan here for him, but Laaksonen’s pair of victories are a bit like Kohlschreiber’s. Sometimes the name and the reputation need to be discarded and the current form needs to be considered. Nishi went 5 in round one with Gianessi, and 5 in round two with Khachanov. I expect Laaksonen to win a set or two here, but Nishikori should be able to make his backhand the deciding factor. Nishikori in 5.

Ruud vs Fokina :

Finally a simple match. Casper Ruud is great. Everyone else is stumbling and creating headlines, and he is just crushing his early rounds. Majchrzak is a nice player, but there just wasn’t a reliable way for him to win points. Davidovich Fokina is a player I thought would beat BVDZ pretty convincingly, but he barely crossed the finish line. I think he’ll fare better against Ruud than most, since his baseline game and variety are perfectly suited for clay, but this may come down to physical fitness and Ruud will be the fitter player. This is really what you want out of the tour; two players with a ton of promise playing in a major event. It is not unthinkable that ADF could win a set or two here, but it’s very hard to overlook Ruud’s professionalism in terms of his results and play. He doesn’t take points off, and despite having a more straightforward game than Fokina, he’s less error-prone aside from the occasional forehand shank. Ruud in 4.

Fognini vs Delbonis :

Ok Fognini. I guess we believe you. Another solid performance sees the grumpy duckling into the third round. Delbonis and Andujar had the war they were expected to, and the clay specialists have proved time and time against that it’s very hard for them to pull away from each other. Fognini opens this one as a small favorite, but Delbonis has been one of the most solid competitors for the past few months. Fognini is better. He moves better, and is able to generate simpler offense, but he is a wholly unreliable individual. Besting Fucsovics requires consistency, and beating Delbonis will require patience. Delbonis got tired after around this many sets played last week, and Molcan’s offense was able to stretch him and earn errors. I would expect a similar outcome here, but Fognini is just the worst person to believe in. Fognini in 4.

Tsitsipas vs Isner :

Tsitsipas and Martinez played a great match, but Martinez just doesn’t have a cheap way to earn points. Tsitsipas’s serve and power kept him on the defensive throughout, and it reminded me a lot of the Novak/Cuevas contest where the rallies seemed almost even but the result seemed inevitable. Next up is a scary one for Tsitsipas. John Isner ruins tournaments with his serving, and him finding form on clay is very interesting. No surprises here. Tsitsipas will be able to hold serve fairly easily most of the time, and he’ll need to guess right enough times to break Isner when it matters. If this were 2/3, it would be a bit more dangerous. As it stands, Tsitsipas is likely to win in 4.

Johnson vs Carreño-Busta :

Steve Johnson! Despite some really bad stretches, the moustached avenger was able to win a second round. This season has included a ton of “wins right when you need them” for players in jeopardy of crashing off tour (Basilashvili, Chardy, Kohlschreiber), and these are certainly welcome points and bucks for Steve. PCB is supposed to dominate this matchup, but it probably won’t go that smoothly. Pablo faced a very game Enzo Couacaud in round two, and the Frenchman was serving great, but PCB has made a career out of scaring his backers in these events. Johnson’s forehand heavy approach should make a simple equation for Carreño-Busta, but he doesn’t really play aggressively enough all the time to make things simple. PCB is a player who meets his opponent at their level and slowly outcompetes them, and their previous encounter on clay went to three sets which is a good indicator that, given Johnson’s resurgence, he will grab a set or two. Johnson’s backhand is still a liability, and PCB hits a much bigger ball off both wings than Monteiro who largely plays a defensive Cam Norrie style backhand. PCB in 4.

Giron vs Garin :

Giron’s run is improbable but well deserved. Since his arrival on tour he has always competed regardless of the name or situation, and it has benefitted him greatly. Competing is important, and he’ll need it against Garin. Late in the third set, McDonald had defeated Garin. They were in the tiebreaker, and Mackie had run Garin around for the entire match. Facing a match point in the tiebreaker, Garin could barely hit the ball past the service line. He rolled in a few and seemed very nervous, but Mackie missed. He saw the opportunities late, and he did that awkward “RIGHT NOW” motion to his box and let out a lot of emotion. When he tensed up and missed the forehand at match point, he seemed rattled. When he got another look at one, his fistpump and “right now” was a bit more subdued, and when he lost the set, the match was over. This is a difficult thing to infer because it’s so results-oriented, but letting out a lot of emotion on a point really can set you up for a crushing defeat. Emotional fatigue is hard to overcome, and you don’t want to give an opponent that is scared/folding up anything to cling to. Opponents can capitalize on your roars and energy, so when you’re pulling off a big upset, stay quiet and focus on the task at hand. Your opponent is likely already thinking about how ridiculously well you played and in somewhat of a state of disbelief, and your emotional swings can often look to them as the sun does when it emerges after a thunderstorm.

I really don’t want to be playing Garin late in a match, and he just is strong as a bull which makes him a healthy favorite for this next one. Giron has a knack for outlasting players, and he’ll be able to score on his forehand wing a good bit, but Garin isn’t likely to lose too many quick points here, and his experience should be a big factor. Garin in 3-4.

Opelka vs Medvedev :

Tough loss for Munar as expected. He had some points but he just plays a bit too passive and looks to earn the errors. That’s the formula against Opelka but it doesn’t have to be, as he tends to give up the errors more when he’s on the run than when he’s just faced with the prospect of a long rally. I have become a small fan of Medvedev as many have during this heroic claycourt run, and I am worried that Opelka will end his honeymoon. Opelka’s serve, forehand, and the surface issues make Medvedev feel like a flight risk. I’m not sure why we need Medvedev in the draw, but we do. He was solid against Tommy Paul, and Medvedev’s troubles seem to be less prevalent here at Roland Garros. The balls are working well for him, and his own serving game is good enough to get deep in sets against Opelka. Opelka did look extremely exhausted late in the match against Munar, and if you watched it with audio, you heard a very interesting gentleman. After literally every single point, a man with a very deep French accent was shouting “COME ON REILLY LETS GO REILLY COME ON REILLY REILLY COME ON”. His only deviation was one “STOP IT REILLY COME ON REILLY” after Reilly double faulted. It was exhausting and amusing, and with the absolute silence from that gentleman after the match was over it seems that there is at least one person in RG betting on Opelka who is very concerned about losing his money. If you watch highlights you’ll hear him, and I imagine we’ll hear him again in future matches. From the end of the point, til the players were ready : COME ON REILLY LETS GO REILLY LETS GO REILLY COME ON REILLY ONE MORE POINT REILLY COME ON REILLY!” I think Medvedev will get through here. Opelka has had fatigue and leg issues in the past, and Medvedev will be able to defend well in the rallies. Medvedev in a tense 4 sets.

WTA Singles :
Linette vs Jabeur :

Disappointing end to the match for Barty who withdrew with a hip issue. Great result for Linette though. Jabeur closed out this time against Sharma, who played well in stretches but was against a bit overmatched in terms of offense. Jabeur will have an interesting serving duel with Linette, but I would say Jabeur’s game is a bit bigger during rallies. The offensive talent of Linette can’t be undervalued though, so Jabeur will have to be careful to take care of her service games early in sets. Jabeur in 3 is possible, but I suspect she will see the finish line offered up to her by Barty’s withdrawal and get it done in 2.

Gauff vs Brady :

Gauff has really done well this week to avoid dropping sets. She was down a break in the second against Wang and seemed like she’d need to fix things in the third, but she just kept fighting. These are the kind of matches she needs to win so that later on in her career, that fight is automatic. Brady winning the first against Ferro was huge, because the crowd getting involved in the second did seem to take her out of her game a bit. Double faults crept in at 2-2 in the second getting her down 0-30 and from there she lost range. She started trying to look for one big shot to swing the momentum, and it basically amounted to giving up a second break. Ferro threatened a number of times in the third, but Brady is just a bit more consistent at this point and Ferro is still trying to decide what the right tactics for her are.

For Gauff this is a great spot to beat a big name on a big stage. Brady’s game is established at the top, but she isn’t the best on clay. Gauff’s struggles with Krunic and Wang raise question marks though, since Brady plays a bit smaller in terms of margin of shot, but a lot bigger in terms of weight of shot and RPM. It’s Brady’s errors that will give Gauff a chance here, and I’d expect another 3 set battle. Gauff has the better results on clay this year, but these are the type of question mark matches that arrive for young talents where they tend to fade a little. Extremely tough one to call. Brady in 3.

Stephens vs Muchova :

Sloane Stephens played well in patches against Navarro, but she did well from start to finish against Pliskova. It, again, is the best shape we’ve seen Sloane show up in in quite some time, and it’s actually a bit odd that she was able to get in shape during a season. Muchova missed some easy ones against Lepchenko, but was just a bit too good. Muchova Stephens is much like Gauff and Brady. Muchova is established at the top, but Stephens is playing her best and there isn’t a simple way to score points on her. Where I see a problem with Stephens is that Muchova is capable of hanging in rallies much better than Navarro or Pliskova, and Sloane’s resurgence is somewhat new so when the pressure moments arrive, the errors she’s made during her lackadaisical months on tour will likely creep up. I don’t love Muchova’s game on clay, but she’s the better tennis player and has more experience. Muchova in 3.

Krejcikova vs Svitolina :

It’s easy to get comfortable with early rounds on the WTA side since the skill gap is a bit wider, but soon we get to matches that all seem like they’ll go 3. Krejcikova is on a great streak, but Svitolina played very well in Rome. They have similar power, and similar baseline durability. Svitolina is going to be the faster player, but the ball will do most of the running here. Barbora is just a bit sharper and Svitolina is prone to losing confidence, so Krejcikova in 3. The tough thing about matches like this is really making definitive statements about them at all. What separates two extremely talented baseliners without serves, and who will show up that day? It’s hard to be sure.

Kenin vs Pegula :

Kenin did extremely well to push past Baptiste in straight sets, and this sets up another very winnable contest against a talented American. Martincova continued to struggle to find form on clay, and Pegula wasn’t much better but her slight edge in power proved to be a difference maker as Martincova was looking to earn points and Pegula was free to just keep hitting/counterpunching. For this match, Kenin really has the edge in experience, and her backhand just makes her a really tough prospect for anyone without a lot of power to beat. She has a fluid motion and can take the ball in either direction, with pace and depth. Pegula is quick, but on dirt she isn’t the best mover. Kenin’s forehand can decelerate at times, but she tends to play her best at the majors. Kenin in 2.

Sakkari vs Mertens :

Mertens and Diyas had an actual war. They both crushed the ball every chance they got, and while Mertens is a very cerebral player, her shot selection proved to play right into Diyas’ hands. Lobs that were expected to be tricky fell right onto Diyas’ racquet, and shots where she held off on passes to go down the line found Diyas standing there. Sometimes playing at the higher levels you outsmart yourself against weaker opponents, and that was the struggle for Mertens today. In the end she transitioned to simple patterns and hitting to the open court, and this was a great plan because Diyas is somewhat willing to get stuck in pushmode and Mertens is good enough to execute several shots in a row to earn a rally. Sakkari had a much simpler time with Paolini, and should head into this match with Mertens as a favorite. Mertens has struggled against pushers (but generally wins), and against power (where she tends to fade late) and Sakkari is some strange combination of the two. She’s been very defensive minded on tour for a long time, but her serve and forehand are starting to find a dangerous range this season. I think she’ll be able to outlast Mertens, but Sakkari hasn’t been rock solid about getting things done in straight sets against her better opponents so Mertens will have her chances (what a non-committal sentence). Sakkari in 3.

Kostyuk vs Gracheva :

Marta Marta Marta! Kostyuk backed up her play against Muguruza nicely and this section of the draw is hers for the taking. Gracheva outlasted Giorgi’s offense and proved the steadier player in the end. I’d say I should have seen it coming but Giorgi really didn’t have a big letdown period against Martic so more credit to Gracheva for her good ballstriking. For this match I think Gracheva has a decent chance. Kostyuk is getting to the part of the draw she isn’t usually in, and pressure will build since she’s a favorite here. Gracheva is very durable from the baseline and similar to Kudermetova she takes her chances when she gains control of rallies. Kostyuk’s power may earn some errors but she won’t have the one-sided “when can i earn the winner” equation that she did against the more defensive-minded Zheng. The match will still be largely on Kostyuk’s racquet though. Kostyuk in 3.

Kontaveit vs Swiatek :

Kontaveit had a pretty simple time against Mladenovic, but Swiatek really dominated her matchup. It doesn’t even seem odd that Swiatek would be zipping a solid tour-player at all. Her game is like a hybrid of Nadal and the only real knock I can put is that her footwork gets a little sloppy sometimes on her backhand. Will it matter though? As I scrolled to this part of the draw I actually felt bad for Kontaveit that she’s running into this, so you won’t be surprised that I expect Iga to win here. It could be close, because Kontaveit is one of those 2nd tier (after the title winners) players like Mertens and Jabeur and Collins who always play great but never quite get across the finish line for titles. Swiatek is just a bit too comfortable on clay to pick against, and her serving is a huge weapon. Kontaveit will be evenly matched in the hitting department, so the key for her will be keeping the scoreline close. Swiatek can still succumb to pressure, but keeping the scoreline close will require some errors from Swiatek that are somewhat unlikely with two simple practice matches and having won this event last year. Swiatek in 2.

Williams S. vs Collins :

Serena was mostly in control of her match with Buzarnescu, but late in the second she faltered a bit. Her forehand and footwork slowed down, and she was breathing through her mouth a bit which is a telltale sign of fatigue. Buzarnescu played an incredible backhand at set point, after being stretched wide twice in a row she swung full and hit a clean winner crosscourt that saw Serena not even move. It was a well deserved set, and it reminded me that for a lot of these players, a chance to notch a win or even some medium successes against Serena at the tail end of her career is a cool experience for them. Murray and Venus have gotten some flak for continuing to play, but if you consider a guy like Andujar, his wins against Federer and Thiem make his career a lot more interesting. Good for Buzarnescu who has fought through a lot of injuries and tantrums, and good for Serena to close out.

Collins I thought would struggle, but she allowed only 2 games against Kalinina, and there’s nothing to really indicate that there are lingering issues from her abdominal surgery. As a result, I would consider her a favorite in this next matchup. Serena’s movement is slowly fading, and her stamina is going with it. She was always a great mover “for her size” and she was always a good defender “for an offensive player”. These are slighted compliments, but we’re seeing that more and more players are able to make inroads against Serena when she isn’t swinging full. Collins has a very specific talent and it’s moving the ball and returning aggressively. Serena will have similar chances against Collins’ serve but I would give a small edge in rallies to Collins and you’d expect a ton of rallies in this match after Buzarnescu was able to get there. May take a while, but Serena’s stamina doesn’t seem suited to winning this event. Collins in 2.

Rybakina vs Vesnina :

Rybakina in 2. She hit through Hibino, and Vesnina is not there yet in her return to the tour.

Azarenka vs Keys :

Surprisingly good play from Keys in her second round. Fernandez was beaten soundly, and Keys is in the same category as Fognini where I don’t believe them until they win a few sets, but now I sort of have to. Azarenka and Tauson was a high quality affair, but Tauson is not quite ready to just take over the tour. She’ll have a good season and will likely finish in the top 100, but Azarenka is a very tough opponent and kept the ball moving well. The extra ball coming back is what she’ll need to produce against Keys, whose booming forehands make her look like a title winner anytime she wins a set. Her power is scary enough that Azarenka could get blown off the court, but her inconsistency is such that she could lose a set in 20 minutes. Fernandez is nowhere near the defender that Azarenka is, and Aza is an adept problem solver who has solved puzzles like Keys her whole career. Azarenka in 3.

Pavlyuchenkova vs Sabalenka :

Pavs keeps winning, and it’s great to see since it means her seeding will be good enough for runs in the hardcourt events as well. She’s like the WTA Chardy in terms of her skill and composure, and Sabalenka started slow against Sasnovich so there is a glimmer of hope here. With Barty out though, Sabalenka becomes the most likely contender to be in the finals, and she beat Pavs pretty quickly in their last outing. Sabalenka will be tested here, but Pavs has no real path aside from hoping for errors. Sabalenka in 2.

Zidansek vs Siniakova :

Zidansek had one amazing run on clay a few seasons ago, and has been quiet since then. She’s won some matches, but hasn’t shown that type of quality. It’s back this week, and coincides with the resurgence of Katerina Siniakova. The plucky power player was absurdly good against Kudermetova, and it was probably the best match of the second round. Siniakova should be a small favorite here, but only because she’s hitting big off both wings while Zidansek is mostly offering a forehand-heavy offense. Hard to see Siniakova getting across the finish line in two, because neither of her previous matches have been straightforward even when she was a pretty heavy favorite against Bouzkova. This means Zidansek will have ample chances to win, so I’d avoid backing either player here if you like money, and if you don’t like money why not? Money can buy sammiches. Siniakova in 3.

Cirstea vs Kasatkina :

Cirstea seems to be running on fumes here, and almost went down against Trevisan. Bencic made me feel pretty confused, as she played tremendous in round one and only won 4 games against Kasatkina. This event has really been a wild time, but it’s good to be reminded that I can get carried away by someone’s quality play. I rate Podoroska high but her results have been subpar, so I fell quickly for believing Bencic was in some superhuman form because she beat one of my favorite players from last year’s RG. Podoroska’s insistence on hugging the baseline let Bencic’s power hurt her, and Kasatkina played a much more varied game. This Cirstea Kasatkina matchup is one I’d lean towards Cirstea in because she has a much simpler way of earning points, but I watched her struggle mightily against Voundrousova in a similar matchup, and her fatigue from the stretch of wins she’s been notching for the past few weeks mean that Kasatkina’s ability to move her opponent slowly around the court may earn errors. Trevisan is certainly not the player that Kasatkina is on offense either, and she’s had some near misses against the big hitters she’s faced this year (a few tiebreakers against Sabalenka) so I’d expect her to get through here. Kasatkina in 2.

Hercog vs Vondrousova :

I 100% just realized that I’ve been spelling it Voundrousova for as long as I’ve been cheering for the crafty left-handed youngster, and I apologize. That’s a big whoops. Hercog and Vondrousova are likely to have a number of long rallies, and neither one really gave up much in their previous matches so they should be fresh for it. When they played last year in Rome, Vondrousova won in the third, and that’s what I’d expect here. Hercog doesn’t get that deep in draws very often, so she’ll be going all out, but Marketa is the more experienced player. This is a good section of the draw for either to get through in though, because Badosa is high quality but doesn’t always dominate affairs. Vondrousova in 3.

Badosa vs Bogdan :

Bogdan has had an interesting season, and these points will help a lot as she chips away at getting back on tour. Badosa was very solid against Kovinic, and Bogdan has struggled with her range on her forehand at times. Badosa will make her play a ton of extra balls, and although Bogdan’s A-game is at the same level, she doesn’t tend to play it for a full match. Badosa in 3.