May 27, 2022

2022 Roland Garros Men's Round Three Writeup

If you enjoy top seeds coming terrifyingly close to crashing out, you’re gonna love Roland Garros. The second round was almost as hectic as the WTA, and with the main storylines still to come in the second week this is shaping up to be the best tournament of the season so far.

Djokovic vs Bedene :

There’s no way to know what’ll happen in the future, but the books low price on Cuevas did prove to indicate the match would be closer than public sentiment held. Bedene was just a bit sharper in the key moments, and his rewards is a matchup against the #1 seed and man voted most loyal to his childhood barber 10 years running Novak Djokovic. Djokovic played Molcan in round two and it was really entertaining. Molcan elevated his level to heights I honestly haven’t seen from him before, but the extra infusion of pace didn’t trouble Djokovic. The tough part about playing Novak is how well he reflects your offense. He’s quick to angles and his takeback is fairly short on the backhand side when it needs to be. While he’s negating everything good you do, he is also one of the best spot-servers the tour has ever seen. I’ve used the word cumulative too often, so let’s just say the overall pressure of facing Novak is what upends people. Molcan didn’t do anything wrong, but lost. Bedene won’t do anything wrong either, but he’s never had big enough weapons to trouble the top players on tour. Djokovic will have a very safe home in the backhand to backhand exchanges, and should complete this in 3 single breaks sets.

Dimitrov vs Himself :

I know he’s playing Diego Schwartzman in the third round, but fans at Dimitrov know that he’s his own worst enemy here. The way Dimitrov was hitting his serve and forehand in round two was probably as hard as I’ve ever seen him hit. The sound off the racquet was so enjoyable, and like so many texts from an ex I find myself leaning in, hopeful, ready to get hurt again. Dimitrov was opened as a -150 favorite against Schwartzman with good reason. He’s blitzed his first two opponents and Diego has looked lost at times. This is the spot where Schwartzman’s previous level won’t do. Dimitrov’s serving is good enough to get him forehands to work with, and from there he can hit through the court. Coric was fairly helpless in this match, but Schwartzman is levels above him defensively at this point. Let’s say that Dimitrov’s play doesn’t drop; he wins this match.

Diego didn’t exactly inspire confidence with his 0-2 comeback against Munar, but he’s going to make Grigor play a ton of tennis if he gets any semblance of a lead. His dropshots are the key to most of his offense, and Dimitrov’s speed will let him deal with that. I’d expect Dimitrov to win the first, and the 2nd set really should decide this match. If Diego can even terms, Dimitrov may fall back into a more passive approach or lose his timing. Saying “if Dimitrov wins the first and second he’ll win the match” isn’t much, but it’s what we know here. This has not been an inspiring season for Schwartzman, and I think Dimitrov Djokovic is on the cards. Dimitrov in 4.

Auger-Aliassime vs Krajinovic :

I didn’t want to group the apologies last round, but I’ve also been spelling Felix’s name wrong. Pretty much 3 seasons in a row I thought his last name had two L’s in it, so whoops. Let’s throw in another whoops for expecting him to play the same mediocre tennis in round two. He was an entirely different player, and Carabelli had no answers for his power. In a good serving rhythm, FAA becomes a top 10 player. It’s similar to Tsitsipas in his 2020/2021 campaigns; he wins behind his serve or he struggles with all opponents. Maybe that’s all tennis. Playing Krajinovic is tricky because Filip is playing some excellent ball right now, but these two were going in different directions heading into round two and now Felix looks to be the dominant player. It’s a guy with a more stable but smaller baseline game (Kraj) against a guy who’s able to score points easily with his serve and forehand. I think Krajinovic will be competitive, but FAA has a level he can elevate to that can get him this win. FAA in 4-5.

Van De Zandschulp vs Nadal :

Foolishly, I clicked. The click was intended to set me apart. To capitalize on top tier reporting. And so if you look at my ATP bracket, you will see that this is the round where Botic beats Nadal. It only took Nadal breaking for 1-0 against Jordan Thompson for me to regret this pick. This might be the 20th time Nadal has convinced me he is finished, only to leave me digging back into the draw trying to figure out who could conceivably even get a set. The gentleman who said Moutet had no chance to win a set was correct. Nadal has not exaggerated his foot issue, but it seems that it is not as large of a hinderance as we worried. Botic beat Fognini in a fun match where Fabio gave up. He withdrew with some or other injury, but most viewers had tuned out by that point. He was up a break in the first, but gave it back and lost. He was up a break in the second, and gave it back again. When he arrived in the tiebreaker, he went up a minibreak. From there it was careless forehand error, careless forehand error, complete resignation on a dropshot, careless backhand error, serve he didn’t run for, etc. He’s a mess and I wish him a quick recovery from whatever injury he was pushing through, but the guy’s idea of “when things aren’t going his way” includes situations where the scoreline is even. Not professional at all.

Nadal will have a really tough time if Botic has time. Botic will have a really tough time once Nadal finds his backhand. Picture a young Berdych playing Nadal, and you’ll get the picture here. Botic has great power and deceptively good defense, but the frantic scrambling pace that Nadal plays at is not something he’s used to. There just isn’t a way to train against that, and as a big server you’re used to points being shorter than they will be here. It’s hard to see anyone besides Novak and Alcaraz having a chance against Rafa, but I look forward to him fooling me again soon. Nadal in 4.

Zverev vs Nakashima :

Sebastian Baez managed to prove that Zverev is not the same player he was when he earned his choke artist title. Baez did everything right in their 2nd round contest, and Zverev never really fell apart. The difference in physical strength was evident in the 3rd and 4th sets, and the 5th could have gone either way so it’s really a good sign for the future for Baez considering he’s only 21 years old. He has Diego’s defense but way more variety on offense and goes a bit bigger on his serves. For Zverev, this third round is half a timeout. Nakashima will push the pace and he has a bright future, but this is like playing Baez without the dropshots. Zverev is a complete idiot so he’ll manage to make this close, but he should really thrive since Nakashima takes a very straightforward approach during rallies and Zverev hits heavier off both wings. Zverev in 3-4.

Isner vs Zapata Miralles :

Isner is becoming a clay specialist and I find his game pretty tedious but I can always get behind someone winning on their worst surface. He enters this match as a -200 favorite and the issue is still the same. Clay gives him a little more time to get to shots during rallies, and his serve can make him actually unplayable. A win against Barrere is nice but Zapata Miralles is a better opponent for this spot because of his style. BZM being a clay-courter means he’s looking not to get a winner off his serve but a ball to make his opponent run. This is the ideal formula to beat Isner, since you need to extend points and take his legs out from under him as much as possible while avoiding letting him go big on your shots. As long as he’s moving, you’re safe, and clay-courters tend to serve at a very solid percentage so Isner will potentially have a tough time. He has a sharp forehand and he withstood the initial barrage against Fritz nicely. Isner will make this scoreline competitive, but it’s hard to like him in this spot after Miralles beat Fritz. Part of me thinks I’m hoping for Isner to lose, but I think this is an even match. Zapata Mirallez in 5.

Norrie vs Khachanov :

If you put these two in a commercial, Geico would sue. Lawsuits aside, this is a tough matchup for me to call. I’ve been a Khachanov fan for forever. He seems like he has all the tools, yet nothing really sets him apart on tour. At the same time as I’ve been willing him to victory, I’ve been hoping for Norrie defeats. I used to question how he had even managed to get on tour, but his work ethic and improvements to his backhand, forehand, and serve have proven me wrong. To me, Norrie doesn’t have a great way to score in this matchup, but he’s won it twice already. They met on clay twice in 2021 and Norrie won both times. He’s playing even better this year so he’s a favorite but oof it’s hard to watch a guy hitting a flat backhand excel on a surface where constant topspin infusion can literally win you matches. What I do see him doing that is excellent is understanding that his goal is to frustrate opponents. Norrie works hard on being a pest during rallies and giving his opponents no pace or angle to work with. It’s effective, and a lot of guys seem to hit a wall when playing him. Norrie in 4.

Korda vs Alcaraz :

Some tense moments for Korda in his second round with Gasquet, but he managed to win in straights. These two exchanged a number of breaks, but when I watched it seemed like Gasquet was always rushed and Korda had all the time in the world. Korda inside the baseline beats just about anyone because his swing and footwork are uniform regardless of which direction he’s going and he has easy power that reminds me of Berdych’s B game (no disrespect to Korda, Berdych just swing a lot harder at times). I doubted Korda a bit but he looked at this best, and this makes the next round more intriguing than it would have been pre-tournament.

Alcaraz alllllllmost lost this one. ARV is a tough out for anyone, and he doesn’t really miss. His main wins on tour come on South American clay, where he uses heavy and hot conditions to extend matches and generally roll once the 2nd half of the match comes around. Alcaraz really was dead even with him for most of this match, and the sets they traded were largely who blinked first. In the end, it wouldn’t have been a bad loss for Alcaraz but it may have been hard to take because of the media’s response. In a way, they’ve removed some of the joy from Alcaraz’s first major by announcing that he already should be winning it. If it takes a while to get there, that’ll weigh heavy on his mind. ARV did play well enough to beat him, but Carlos won this match with his defense. He has the same coaching as Nadal in terms of effort, because he reacts instantly to the ball and chases it regardless of it’s trajectory. A big trade secret among top level racquetsports is that the ball is up longer than you think it is, and he put a few back that made heads spin all around the globe. If ARV had a bigger serve, he’d be in the third round, but Alcaraz getting through this type of match is already a step up from the other Next Gen prospects at this juncture in their career so I think the title hopes are still alive. Add in that all the pressure was on him to not blow this opportunity, and it was a healthy comeback win.

The price has dropped to -600 against Korda, which seems fair. I’m not sure overall that Korda will do so much better than Ramos, because it takes so many shots to hit through Alcaraz. Gasquet on wobbly legs was able to defend and push the issue in all three sets, so Alcaraz’s top tier defending should be enough. The five setter raises conditioning concerns for most, but Alcaraz was moving as fast at the end of that match as he was at the beginning. Korda’s serving will make the scoreline close, but I think Alcaraz will get more forehands to work with in this match and will edge by Korda in 4.

Ruud vs Sonego :

I thought both these matches would be close and neither one was. Ruud was back to business and won in three lopsided sets. It’s the efficiency that always impresses me with him; he plays every point with intent and rarely ever goes for anything wild. His coaching team deserves a lot of credit, but his maturity on court is tremendous. Snapple fact : Ruud has apparently never smashed a racquet and made it his goal on tour to never do so. While Casper was auditioning to be the next Mr. Ruudgers, Sonego was cruising past last weeks runner-up Joao Sousa. With this result and the finals runs, Joao should remain on tour for at least another season and he has had some excellent and unexpected grasscourt and hardcourt results behind his serve/forehand combo so it isn’t the end of the season at all.

Sonego’s chance here depends on his serve. Ruud is going to have an edge in most neutral rallies just because Sonego’s backhand isn’t up to par. Having that liability brings players into a more aggressive shot selection, and it’s hard to force the issue against Ruud because he is constantly hitting with a lot of topspin. Sonego can pressure Ruud in at least one set because Ruud plays such a steady level throughout, but I don’t think he can get more than that. Ruud in 4.

Goffin vs Hurkacz :

This match was set at a pickem, and I agree. Goffin had the much tougher matches playing Frances Tiafoe and Jiri Lehecka, and Hurkacz has had relatively simple (on paper) ones with Zeppieri and Cecchinato. Marco unravelled early in their clash, and Hurkacz with a lead is pretty dominant. Goffin will prove tougher on Hurkacz, but working in Hubert’s favor is how deceptively solid he is from the baseline. He isn’t moving quickly, but he hits hard off both wings and doesn’t need to force anything. This new buzzsaw Goffin is likely going to look to play at a pace Hurkacz can’t, but that’s pretty much the approach in all tennis matches at the top level. This is one where I like Goffin, but Hurkacz serving and relative fresh legs make me wary. With a lead he’s very dangerous, and Goffin does struggle in patches even when he’s playing well. Goffin in 5.

Rune vs Gaston :

Rune is -345 to beat Gaston. Rublev was -345 to beat Tiafoe when he lost. Medvedev was -345 to beat Wawrinka at the USO when he lost, and to beat Humbert on clay when he lost. If you’re sensing a pattern, yes. It’s a standard offering, but one that has had a storied past (don’t get me started on -200 +170). The number doesn’t need to ring alarm bells anyway, because Gaston has only been around a few seasons but has already made a career out of winning when he probably shouldn’t. Cachin really fell flat in his second round, but having to play qualifying may have been more matches than he’s used to and chasing dropshots on tired legs isn’t great. Gaston has the full backing of the French crowd, and they get louder if he’s winning or losing. Basically, they just get louder. It’s a ton of fun even though it verges into the disrespectful as they squawk on players shots, offer up their own line calls, and cheer for double faults. Watching Holger Rune deal with this phenomenon is going to be fun, but something tells me he won’t give us the show we’re looking for. He was clinical in downing Laaksonen, and his own uber-confidence may lend him the support he needs to clench his fist at the crowd when he wins points. I honestly don’t love riling up a crowd, but the numb way players have been responding to the fans getting involved isn’t ideal either. If they make you the villain without you doing anything, you may as well play the villain a bit. Fans love a story, so you may even pull some to your side, and boos and whistles are much more aesthetically pleasing than cheers for your opponent.

Tennis-wise, Rune has a big power advantage here. He’s young, and has beaten a bunch of top players on clay here already. He also is a speed-demon, so the risks for him in this match are putting too much emphasis on any single point. He’ll be made fool of, and he’ll never have the crowd on his side, but he has the weapons to combat the situation. Rune in 3-4, and when they wind up in an electrifying 5th set I’ll be back to apologize.

Ymer vs Tsitsipas :

Mikael Ymer seems to play better at majors which is unsurprising but a great sign. He’s a superior athlete and plays a grinding style. It doesn’t work on hardcourt in smaller events because the 2/3 format tends to be a sprint, but it was obvious early on that him and Evans was not going to end in anything less than 4 hours if Evans wanted to win. Backhand vs slice backhand would happen 4-5 times each, and then Evans would try to push the issue with a forehand winner. It was working with Evans up a break early in the 4th at 3-0, but from there Ymer won 6 games in a row and it appears Evans just hit a wall. If you haven’t been playing a lot of big matches, it’s just hard to keep going when your opponent is grinding away, and the mental battle this round has pretty much been won exclusively by the more consistent baseliners.

Tsitsipas and Kolar turned out to be one of the better matches today. I never thought I’d see Tsitsipas yelling after every point, but he did today. He wasn’t complaining to his box, but was genuinely fighting hard and trying to will himself to win. Rather than the usual lapse in play that lets his opponents in, Tsitsipas dealt with a real challenge. Kolar played way better from the baseline than I expected, and his dropshot use was marvelous and not superfluous at all. Tsitsipas tried constantly to will the crowd to cheer more for him, which I think should be met with immediate boos. Don’t tell me to cheer when I’m already cheering, you dingus. He started showboating a bit in the fourth when he went up a break and soon found himself back on even terms, but Tsitsipas was just a tiny bit better today. Beating a player who’s in their best form is impressive, and Kolar’s effort would have beaten 50% of the advancing players in this round so it’s a good sign for Tsitsipas.

This next round is more work. Ymer isn’t going to give anything away, but it’ll be tough for him to score if Tsitsipas digs in. Despite this bottom half of the draw being an “easy” route for Stefanos, it’s starting to seem like it will take a lot of physical effort from him to make the finals. Rune and Gaston in the next round won’t be simple no matter who wins. Ymer will probably win a set just on work ethic, but this match is on Tsitsipas’ racquet. He serves bigger, has more variety on his forehand, and covers the court similarly well. If he gets tired, it could be a shootout. He should win in 4 though if he takes care of his first serve percentage.

Rublev vs Garin :

Rublev can act like shotmaking and offense are his game, but he’ll know he only won today because his movement is better than Delbonis. When Federico was able to swing freely, he bossed Rublev around. When Rublev tried to go for quick offense, he found the bottom of the net. Where he thrived was in extending rallies, in redirecting his backhand down the line, and in going behind Delbonis after gets. This is always a useful tactic on clay just because you get your opponent into a rhythm of defending/guessing. It doesn’t work as well on clay since changing direction is simple, but those quick changes on clay take a good bit out of your legs.

Garin and Ivashka had a tight match today but Ivashka got worn down. Garin was happy to run around the court and hit heavy balls, and Ivashka’s percentage just wasn’t great when he tried to move him. A late surge in the fourth set was nice, but Garin showed his experience here and being patient was the right recipe. It’ll be the right one again against Rublev, who crushes the ball but not really in the perfect way for clay. I thought he would roll Delbonis, but it was really a close one because of Rublev’s errors, so adding in Garin’s defending is going to make this tough. It’ll be a question of Rublev tempering his offense long enough to gain control. Garin isn’t going to counterpunch with too much vitriol, and dragging rallies out is his main route to victory so Rublev team needs to tell him to look for balls to hit, not the end of the point. One of the best servers once told me he really levelled up when he started wanting a return to work with, rather than an unreturned serve, and it’ll be a tough test for Rublev’s patience here. I’d expect this to go 5, because c’mon Rublev’s not gonna stop smash. Rublev smash. Rublev in 5.

McDonald vs Sinner :

MACKIE WHAT ARE YOU DOING I SAID TO LOSE. Not realizing his tournament was over, McDonald went ahead and won in straight sets. It looked very much like the Cressy match with Basilashvili, except Basil never found his form. Interesting plot twist, but not a good tennis strategy. Sinner dropped the first against RCB, but the writing is kinda on the wall anytime he plays a guy without a serve. This will be a very similar match, where McDonald can certainly break serve a few times but overall he’ll be playing Jannik into form. The darkest of dark horses with the babiest of deer limbs continues to roll. Sinner in 4-5.

Simon vs Cilic :

The crowd didn’t really need to get involved for Simon to win today, but they did anyway. Johnson was gracious in defeat, and I saw him genuinely trying to find a way out of slicing his backhand today. He hammered some two-handed winners on returns, and he went for a few one-handed passes which travelled almost to the net. It just was an impatient attempt. I’ve said this in the DC chat a few times, but I think it’s a bit lazy for players to lose to Simon in straights. The appeal of playing big offense and trying to hit through him is plan A, but once he starts giving you no pace, are you really going to lose to your own errors? Why are you forcing anything when your opponent is hitting balls that you can jog to? For the most part, Simon’s forehand just goes over the low part of the net right to your forehand. For the most part, Simon’s backhand is just looking to keep the ball low down the center or high to your backhand. If I’m coaching someone against Simon at this point, they go in trying to win quickly, or play him even for 5 hours.

Johnson is a bad candidate to go to plan B, and Cilic won’t do it either. Luckily, he won’t have to. Cilic’s serving and general motivation on court is enough to put an end to Simon’s run. The crowd may get involved which is kind of cruel because Cilic has had some issues dealing with nerves in the past, but Cilic possesses the kind of actual offense that is making Simon retire. A beautiful run, and one of the best aesthetically pleasing players to ever grace the tour (this can be sad about so many French players honestly). Simon may hang early, but his legs have to go at some point and this is the match. Cilic in 4.

Kecmanovic vs Medvedev :

Kecmanovic and Medvedev is great popcorn. Great popcorn is delicious. Kecmanovic and Medvedev are delicious? Hmm. The best thing about this matchup is that Kecmanovic grinds out his points. Medvedev is looking less like a flight risk, and Kecmanovic won’t give him a quick exit even if he wants one, so we might get the best of both of them. Stylistically, Miomir is better suited to clay. He has a whippy forehand and applies a lot of topspin on his backhand. He has a good kick serve, and is extremely patient. Medvedev hits everything pretty flat, and tends to use slight alterations/angles to make his groundstrokes slide through the court. It’s not a good recipe for clay, but he’s been rolling through this draw so it’s time to stop doubting him. At -160 for this match, this is the lowest you’ll generally find Medvedev in a match, but after beating Djere 3, 3, 3 I think this is more a model of the possible outcome than an expected investment. People love betting a big name, and Medvedev should be crashing out of this event in the next 2 rounds so the books can somewhat afford a wash if Med wins. I don’t think he will, but this is exactly the juncture in the tournament where the finish line starts to look more appealing than his personal preferences in surface. Kecmanovic in 5 or a very serious concern for the favorites in the bottom half of the draw.