May 25, 2022

2022 Roland Garros Men's Round Two Writeup

The first round is in the books and after a relatively mundane first day the upsets and 5 setters arrived. All 3 favorites look great so far and are getting their first big test in this round, but so far the French crowd seems like the best player in the draw.

Djokovic vs Molcan :

The sense of imminence of Alcaraz’s takeover has dulled a little bit in the past two weeks. Djokovic looks okay. He was rusty for an event or two, but he coasted through Rome and he was his usual clinical self in round one. It’s easy to think these guys are susceptible to upsets when we see them in the 2/3 format, but it’s going to take something heroic to beat Novak. This will be his first huge test in this event, and the question he can answer here is whether there are any lingering stamina issues. He gave a press conference after the loss to Fokina in Monte Carlo where he said he had no energy after the third. It almost sounded to me as if it was the first time he’s ever been tired before as confused as he sounded about what had occurred. Molcan works very hard and swings fully on every groundstroke, so Novak will have a few hours of tennis on his hands here. If he wins this in straight sets, I think he’s the actual favorite for the title, but I would actually like to see this go a bit deep just to see how Djokovic elevates to the situation. I’m guilty of thinking the big 3 are more human than they’ve ever proven to be, but Molcan has made a number of finals in recent history and he just hit through Coria fairly quickly. This should be a good one, and I think Molcan’s backhand is likely what will break down as rallies go further and further. Djokovic in 3-4.

PS : Zero_Dimension has pointed out that Molcan is currently being coached by Marián Vajda, Djokovic’s former coach. This is pretty important info, and add in that Molcan has played Novak on clay already; the comfort level should be there despite the occasion.

Bedene vs Cuevas :

Tradition is important in tennis. So with deep respect for this, O’Connell and Brooksby kept alive the recent trend of next gen players crashing out of majors early against veterans. In their defense, Bedene and Cuevas are two very accomplished players. They just hadn’t really done anything this season, with both recently returning to the tour after injury. It is wildly impressive for them to bring the level they did. Bedene looked healthy against O’Connell, who extended rallies but was always a bit on the back foot in this one. Brooksby was in all-out scramble mode and traded a number of shots, but Cuevas improved as the match went on. If not for Brooksby’s general inexperience on clay, I’d say it was one of Cuevas’ best matches from the past few seasons.

This matchup is one that’ll likely see a few momentum shifts. Cuevas smoked Brooksby, but he’s playing 7-5 sets and third sets in pretty much every event he’s at. I do like his level more than Bedene here though, and since one of these players is basically in their third match back on tour (Bedene), it would be understandable if he had a slight drop in level. The price is only -180 or so for Cuevas which is a little lower than I expected, so I may not be giving Bedene enough credit. If they played with both in normal form, it’d be even so I suppose the slight premium for Cuevas could be interpreted as a slight reflection of his edge. Still, after rolling Brooksby who garners a large investment anytime he’s on the court, I’d expect more people to be backing Cuevas so the price is a little bit of a red flag. Hard not to back the guy with the bigger offense here. Cuevas in 4-5.

Dimitrov vs Coric :

Coric winning a match always sends the mind to the events where he was playing incredible, and the next stop on that train are the years where he couldn’t find the court with his forehand. Taberner is a good win, but Carlos plays a very linear game and Coric’s lateral movement is his strength. This is unfortunately the spot where Dimitrov usually struggles. The Dimitrov we watched in round one can put Coric away, but Coric and everyone on tour know that you can dig in and wait til Dimitrov runs out of ideas generally. There’s an extra hurdle when people think that you will implode; players tend to put more balls in play and genuinely play more alert. That’s the sky is falling analysis, but from a straightforward perspective Dimitrov should win this match. He has a much better serve, he’s in great form, and he’s been playing a ton of decent tennis this year. Coric’s rust may cost him, but his heart (cliched but true) will likely make this closer than it should be. Dimitrov in 4.

Munar vs Schwartzman :

The bad news is that Diego just doesn’t let this guy Munar win. The good news is that all their matches contain a 7. One of the joys of tennis is losing a 7-5 or 7-6 set and replaying every single point you lost over and over in your head for the next forever, and you can imagine Munar has been doing this. These two are very similar. Both rally endlessly. Both use height on their forehand and are lockdown on the backhand wing. Both lack an offensive serve. The one major difference I’d throw out is their use of the dropshot. Diego can go to it too often, but he tend to find a rhythm on dropshots and really unravels his opponents decisionmaking on defense. Munar, since he’s from Spanish tennis, pretty much hits dropshots at the perfect time and executes well. It’s one of the tenets of all the players on the Spanish team, and their academies might be some of the best places to train to learn point creation. The problem is that Diego is extremely quick to net, and doesn’t really get tired. I shouldn’t just gush about Diego, since he did drop a set against Kuznetsov while Munar beat Altmaier (who’s a slight cut above Kuznetsov in ballstriking and rally durability). Still, this feels like another situation where the players are very similar and one is just slightly better at it. Schwartzman in 4.

Auger-Aliassime vs Ugo Carabelli :

I have to apologize because I thought Ugo was Carabelli’s first name (it’s Camilo). I also apologize for doubting the books when they listed him at +125 against Karatsev. This was the classic match where the claycourter just has to outlast errors, but instead of doing that Carabelli went after his shots. His serving was excellent from start to finish, and Karatsev found his rhythm at times but there was never any sense of panic from Camilo. It just seems like Karatsev is not fully focused on the court these days. He makes impatient errors and his backhand timing is not as sharp as it was during his epic run.

Felix tried to crash out in spectacular form, but 5 set comebacks are starting to become fairly predictable for him. One DC regular spotted Felix down a set still priced at -325. It isn’t quite the fact that he comes back in these matches but how unremarkable the comebacks are that interests me. His service holds get quicker, and his opponents just kinda fade. Varillas hung tough and had some looks late in the match, but Felix is at such a higher level that it seems any semblance of consistency is enough to get him through.

I’d like FAA to put it all together, and play on overdrive from start to finish, but it’s unrealistic. Carabelli serving so well is a big step up from what Varillas brings to the table offensively. Carabelli is a bit slower but hits bigger on the forehand wing and he probably won’t lose from two sets up. Felix should play slightly better here having eclipsed the pressure of losing first round, but this will probably be another close one. FAA in 5.

Gojo vs Krajinovic :

Gojo got a great gift when Alejandro Tabilo withdrew, but Alessandro Gianessi proved a difficult test. Gianessi being lefty made the gameplan similar, but he’s much quick defensively than Tabilo and works a bit harder (Tabilo thrives behind his serve and a huge forehand, but it’s more accuracy than power). Gojo ended up going down 0-40 while serving for the match, and then somehow won 5 points in a row to see himself in the second round. For a first time qualifier, this is monumental. He also gets rewarded with one of the greater flight risks in the draw. Filip Krajinovic is tremendous when he’s playing well, and loses faster than Paire when things are off. A straight sets victory against Opelka in round one is a great result but doesn’t tell a lot about what will happen here. Gojo is much more durable in the rally so he’ll test Krajinovic’s consistency. The only issue with announcing Krajinovic as the winner here is how wildly inconsistent he’s been in the past, so I guess the main caveat would be not to really bet on him. Still, he creates better offensively and his defensive skill is up there with the top 50 in the world. Krajinovic in 4.

Van De Zandschulp vs Fognini :

All the tennis headlines read the same “Botic Van De Zandschulp’s campaign has begun”. If you’re not excited about a Dutch guy guy who might make the third round, I don’t know what to tell ya. A solid win against hard-hitting Pavel Kotov in round one gets him here, and this is another winnable match. Fognini is a step up in terms of offense and defense, but he plays at a pace that Botic will be very comfortable with. Fognini had some Fognini moments, but his match against Popyrin didn’t prove to be the exciting clash of new vs old. Popyrin went back to his old strategy of hitting multiple balls per game into the bottom of the net. This sort of aggressive tunneling works well if you are a dog looking to explore a neighbors yard, but is not so good for tennis. Popyrin might be a touch behind the pace, or he’s just not willing to play long points. In any event, Botic and Fognini is a different match.

Van De Zandschulp has a better and more reliable serve than Popyrin. He rarely gives up cheap errors from the baseline. He moves the ball aggressively and similar to Brooksby he can take a bit off to find the right angle down the line or cross-court. I think Fognini will prove just a break or two away from winning this match, but Botic is in that next tier of players and Fognini’s results often make him look like a gatekeeper. Interestingly, these two are in Nadal’s section and with Fognini’s history of occasionally doing well against Nadal, he might have some extra motivation. Close one, but Goatic in 4.

Moutet vs Nadal :

After a pretty rough first set, Moutet was able to roll against Wawrinka. Stan just hasn’t played enough matches to be back to his old self, and his form on the backhand faded as things progressed (a lot of half-volley errors and balls sailed wide). Nadal’s foot injury is somehow the main headline at RG, but he moved well in a quick win against Jordan Thompson. I listened to a few press conferences he gave and the one quote that stuck out was him saying if he didn’t think he could win, he probably wouldn’t be there, so I’m going to assume that the sky is not falling. If it isn’t, then this is Nadal’s version of Molcan. Moutet will make him play a lot of balls, but shouldn’t really win any more than a single period of this match. If we were able to steal a set, it’d likely be the set of his career and it’s hard to keep pushing once you’ve accomplished something. Being lefty doesn’t really help against Nadal since he gameplans so well, and Moutet’s backhand will likely get a healthy does of slices to deal with. Nadal in 3-4.

Zverev vs Baez :

Give some credit to Ofner for playing his game in a tough spot. Zverev is just a bit too good for players without some major weapons and his height and agility make him pretty solid at returning big serves. Baez had a solid win against Lajovic, who found his form but couldn’t really win rallies in less than 10 shots (WARNING: NUMBERS NOT ACCURATE WHEN REPORTED BY TURTLE). This is another spot where Zverev likely would have lost a season ago but should expect to win. Baez is an incredible clay-courter. He has all the dropshots and rarely misses and he defends terribly well. In this match though he’s going to be at a disadvantage as far as power for the duration of the match. Zverev is boring but boring means you’re somewhat solid. He hits his backhand hard enough to both top players and his forehand can be a liability but he seems to know that and plays a bit more conserative. I do respect Zverev’s ability to be so narcissistic that he renders himself incapable of dealing with adversity, but I’m having a hard time seeing how Baez will score barring an implosion. Zverev on clay hasn’t been impeccable this season, but he’ll have a serving edge and I do think that’ll give him a chance to close out in what should be some competitive sets. Zverev in 4-5.

Nakashima vs Griekspoor :

If you bet the first round of tennis events, then you run into spots like ADF vs Griekspoor. One guy who’s been in a terrible slump and one guy who’s on top of the world, and the struggler rolls through. Fokina on his best surface, with a few marquee wins this season, was unfolded by Griekspoor’s consistency. It became clear around the second set that this was a problem for ADF particularly on the backhand wing. Fokina is willing to go for whatever offensive shot presents itself, and Griekspoor was willing to go for zero. He kept the ball deep and hit hard, where Fokina really couldn’t create anything off of it but kept trying. Tough stuff but I can be happy for Tallon. Doubly happy since this seems like an easier match than what he just came through with flying colors. Nakashima was a click better than Majchrzak, but he got through that match with consistency and speed. I don’t expect it to go quickly, but Griekspoor is a tiny bit more stable than Nakashima in long rallies, and he hits a heavier ball. The former Dutch #1 should keep rolling. Griekspoor in 4.

Isner vs Barrere :

Isner did his usual Isner thing, which makes this match tough to call. Barrere was on his way to the L I expected him to get against Taro Daniel, but Taro seemed to run out of gas. Maybe it’s the lack of wear and tear since he’s been playing more challenger events and a lighter schedule, but Barrere just seemed perfectly ready to take over once Daniel stopped moving him. Given how close Halys was, it’s expect that Barrere winds up in a number of tiebreakers as well. It’d be nice for him to win, but there’s really just too much uncertainty in tiebreakers for me to pick somoene who’s been off tour against Isner. Pull for the Frenchman, but Isner in 4 is the most likely result.

Zapata Miralles vs Fritz :

Bernabe and Mmoh had a nice contest, but Michael Mmoh just doesn’t end rallies. He can it the ball big but doesn’t most of the time. Consistency and defense can win you tennis matches, but nobody can outrun the ball in any sport. You need to go after your shots or you’re just giving your opponent no reason to miss. The worst part of Mmoh’s approach is probably how often it yields results at the lower levels. Even Miralles had trouble in the third, but since Mmoh isn’t going to close out with winners when he gets a break, Miralles only had to make sure he didn’t make mistakes and keep probing until he broke back. It’ll be much tougher for him against Fritz, who survived a really high octane contest against Taverna. The old Fritz would have folded up in this spot, so his team should be happy with their progress. Miralles is around the same level as Taverna, but he doesn’t have the same serve so Fritz will have ample chances to win this. Since he’s Fritz, he might Fritz it up. Zapata Miralles also will have no doubts about whether he can win; this is a big moment but he won’t play like the moment is too big. Should be a spirited contest where Taylor’s ability to serve more free points gets him there in the end. Fritz in 4-5.

Norrie vs Kubler :

The entirety of France was pulling for Manuel Guinard in round one, but it just takes too much work for a bigger guy to hit through Norrie. His level slowed down as the match progressed and Norrie’s reward is someone who actually wants to play long rallies. Kubler has good power, and he’s been serving well this week. He’s just going to run into a wall here. I would advise that a new matchup can be tough on anyone, so Kubler not really being a mainstay on tour could do him some service. When your tendencies are known, it’s a lot easier for your opponents to shift to the next position. When your patterns are new, you get a lot more guessing or players frozen in the center which means you can control things better (this is what benefitted Raducanu greatly during her run; nobody could really pick a side confidently when she had balls to work with). Caution, but not confidence. Norrie should wrap this up in 3-4.

Dellien vs Khachanov :

Thiem’s straight sets loss was not a fun time for his backers. It had seemed like he’d played a few matches and that he’d settle in for this event, but Dellien was better from start to finish and Thiem just doesn’t seem able to control the ball that well at this point. I think we all look a bit too much into players’ play during recovery and reintroduction to the wild, but Thiem having a wrist issue makes us collectively remember Raonic and Delpo and wonder whether we might have seen his peak already. Anyway, that’s kinda sad, but in happier news Karen Khachanov won a match. Nuno Borges looks ready to be on tour, and that’s the right takeaway for him and his team after a disappointing 4 set L. He had a ton of break points in the first set but just couldn’t capitalize, and sometimes when your opponent has to come through a few 10 minute games you accidentally play them into form. Still, Borges has a good enough serve to win on tour, and the more matches he plays like this the more comfortable he’ll get with the big points.

Dellien really shouldn’t be able to win this match. Khachanov is really good defensively, and tends to lose because he plays a very simple brand of tennis. Dellien tries to expose people’s movement and their backhands, and I don’t think he can hit through Khachanov often enough to do that. Add in how well Khachanov was defending break points, and he should see himself into a 3rd round. Dellien beating Thiem and playing Hurkacz close twice this season does mean he can hang, but I think he’ll look like a slightly lower weight class in this one. Khachanov in 4.

Korda vs Gasquet :

Korda did the thing! I doubted he’d roll through Millman but he got the job done nicely. Now he continues wading through the wily veterans with a pretty skillful matchup against Richard Gasquet. Gasquet has been en fuego the past two weeks and it’s unlikely to end. He’s always been a really tough out at the majors and his backhand is pretty much the best one-hander without a major title to it (just saw a stat before posting that Musetti/Tsitsipas/Wawrinka’s backhands are the same speed as Gasquet, but he gets 2900 RPMs while they all get 2300). Perhaps Nadal being injured finally opens the door for Gasquet? Probably not, but it’d be neat.
Gasquet was dominant against Harris which was somewhat expected, but Harris has been very inconsistent this year so it’s hard to say Gasquet’s win was so much better than Korda.

I see this as an even matchup despite the books making Korda something like -170. Korda likes to play at one very measured and comfortable speed. When he has control, he looks unbeatable. When he’s pressured a bit, or when rallies get deep, things begin to feel a little tense. This becomes a match where Gasquet needs to drag things out, if only to take some of Korda’s legs out from under him. He’s a tremendous server and has huge and beautiful groundstrokes, but he hasn’t had many deep runs on clay before so his fatigue can be called into question. The problemo is that Gasquet isn’t the most durable at this point in his career either, so an extended match could be very difficult. Gasquet level is higher, but it might be tough to get into Korda’s service games. Gasquet in 4-5.

Alcaraz vs Ramos-Vinolas :

For this match the oddsmakers have priced Alcaraz at -5000. There are tiers in tennis, but on clay Ramos-Vinolas is basically a wall. You have to beat him soundly and the score doesn’t affect his play. Risking $5,000.00 to win $100.00 is nutter butters. Not only are books now pricing people out of backing Alcaraz, but his opponent ARV is being offered at +1337. Just a normal 3k gap, not a wildly offensive and unregulated business practice at all. Anyway, if you want the short math on why sportsbetting is nearly impossible, it’s the gap. You’re always paying too much to back a favorite, and you’re never being paid enough to back an underdog. Alcaraz will have to serve well to win this convincingly. Ramos wasn’t tremendous in round one, squeaking by Kokkinakis in 4 sets, but he will isolate Alcaraz’s backhand and he doesn’t leave the ball short very often. It’ll be hard for ARV to hold serve easily, but I’d expect this match to take a while. The opposite side of that expectation is that if Carlos runs through this, the “Korda might beat him” hope starts to look bleak. I kinda believe the hype, but there are no cakewalks to a major title. Alcaraz in 4.

Ruud vs Ruusuvuori :

Tsonga played great today, and literally left it all out there, swinging for the fences until he actually hurt his shoulder and was barely able to play at the end of the fourth. Three tiebreakers against Ruud is a win in itself, and Tsonga (who couldn’t really swing at all and was lobbing serves in and even used a left handed overhand at one point) got a standing ovation at 6-0 in the tiebreaker which brought tears to his and Casper’s eyes. Really touching moment and a nice exit for a great champion.

While Casper was somewhat in control of a tight match, Ruusuvuori was enjoying a roller coaster against a tricky hometown hero. I didn’t catch a lot of this match but the rallies I did see were fairly even. Ruusuvori actually matches up decent against Ruud because they play so similar. Ruud won’t really hurt you on the backhand wing but he keeps it deep. Ruusuvuori also sends most of his offerings crosscourt and tends to hit sharply to keep his opponent from doing much. Ruud forehand is definitely better, but he’s been a tiny bit guilty in the past of playing down to his opponents level in spots like this. Could be some chances for Ruusuvuori, but Ruud is a frontrunner in this section of the draw so I’d expect him to win eventually. Ruud in 4-5.

Sousa vs Sonego :

Gojowczyk wasn’t much resistance for Sonego, but CH Tseng pushed recent finalist Joao Sousa to the limit in their first round. If this had been straightforward, I actually might give Sousa the favorite tag for this second round, but 5 sets is not what he needed after a grueling week that ended in a third set tiebreak. He’s gotta be running on fumes at this point, so Sonego’s serve and shoot style may yield dividends. The issue that keeps anyone from declaring Sonego the victor is his inconsistency in recent events. The dude’s been crashing out in the first round and since we know he’s an offensive talent it’s hard to decide when he’s got a hold of things. Beating Gojowczyk unfortunately means nothing at this point, so Sousa and Sonego should be a close one. Defensively, Sousa is way better. Sonego has a better serve, but they’re both pretty forehand dominant players who try to push the pace. I’d expect this to devolve into a shootout, with Sousa proving to have a bit more mettle despite his fatigue. Sousa in 4-5.

Tiafoe vs Goffin :

Tiafoe is going to be a tough out at this event. Bonzi served more aces on break points than I’ve ever seen and Frances never let it bother him. He was patient about moving the ball, but moved quickly to any forehands he had open. He and Goffin have traded wins in the past,but haven’t played anything recent on clay. Goffin’s been one of the hottest players on tour in this European clay swing so Tiafoe heads into this as a small underdog. Neither are going to struggle to see offense, and both are extremely quick so rallies should be exciting. Tiafoe is physically stronger than most players and that can really help in a 3/5 format. Goffin’s first serve can disappear also which can leave him flat when he does have the lead or as matches extend late. I think if Goffin can win it’ll have to be quick. He can isolate Tiafoe’s backhand and his is much more reliable. If this goes to 5 it’ll be Tiafoe pulling away though. Goffin in 4.

Hurkacz vs Cecchinato :

Hurkacz is through in straights which is pretty solid against Zeppieri. Hubert can be ill suited for clay all he wants, his serve and his easy power are going to keep him moving through matches. An entirely different affair Him and Cecchinato could be close, but I’m reminded of how much Cecchinato struggled against Zverev’s weight of shot in their last RG meeting. Add in that Cecchinato just barely got past Andujar after being down 2 sets to 0 and it looks like the end of the road for Marco. What solves the Hurkacz problem is perfect tennis from Cecchinato. He won’t get many looks in Hurkacz’s service games, but he can keep him moving in his own and since he has a lot of zip on the ball he can hit winners. I’m expecting a good losing effort, since Marco isn’t exactly the most stable of competitors and Hurkacz’s composure will remain steady throughout. Cecchinato to break more racquets, and Hurkacz in 4.

Rune vs Laaksonen :

The books placed Rune at a pickem against Shapovalov, and they were right. Shapovalov fans were left scratching their heads today as Denis didn’t really maintain his composure against a guy who’s probably more immature than him. There was a good amount of griping at the referees, and it looked like two spoiled kids who don’t deserve the toys they are actively breaking. As far as the tennis, Rune is pretty good. He makes a lot of errors but has a huge forehand and a pretty reliable service motion. He’s fast, strong, and has a deluded sense of confidence which only really hurts his percentage. I think believing you’re great does remove the barrier of competing uphill that so many have. If you blink when you’re about to win, it’s easy to succumb to nerves. If you’re overconfident but also making a full effort, it’s not the worst combination.

Laaksonen benefitted greatly from the rain delay it seems, losing the first and then coming back the next day to basically win in straight sets. Despite wanting to write him off here, there won’t be any “OH NO IT’S HOLGER RUNE” on Henri’s mind. Martinez is in a slump, but he’s still pretty hard to beat. Rune’s win against Shapo is a whole different tier of tennis, but Shapo was getting into Struff levels of trying to hit instant winners. This’ll be a good test for the youngster, who’ll need the same type of solid returning that saw him past Zverev. He should be good for it, but a servebot with big power against an emotional kid is always a tricky spot. Rune in 4-5.

Cachin vs Gaston :

Exit the coolest name in the tournament. Gombos did well to even this match at a set apiece, but Pedro Cachin is just in too good a rhythm. So much of the tour results hinge on who sees the ball go through the hoop a few times,and who uses their slumps to pack in a week off for some extra training or a quick confidence building trip to a challenger event. Cachin will make a good villain for the next challenge, but it will be an uphill battle. The French crowd has shown that they are willing to shout Gaston to victory if necessary. Noise during De Minaur’s service motion, shouts during the rally whenever they thought Gaston had won the point (which was almost always too early), and full rounds of applause for every ADM double fault were on display, and while the atmosphere was electric, at some point the umpire should have said something. It was a lengthy 5 setter in which De Minaur won the 4th 6-0 and went up 2-0 in the decider. Gaston just keeps fighting though, and the crowd and general fatigue seemed to get the better of Alex.

For Hugo, it’s a huge boost. He isn’t doing much on tour, but this paycheck will pay his expenses for at least another year and the ranking points don’t hurt either. Playing a challenger level guy here is also just what the doctor ordered. De Minaur is one of the fastest on tour and even he had his legs taken out from him at times by Gaston’s dropshots. Cachin will be more comfortable on clay, but it’ll be extremely important to play steady. When De Minaur was even or winning, the crowd was a bit more subdued. As soon as Gaston got a few points in a row it was pandemonium. I’m not sure I like Gaston here. He was cramping a bit at the end of the match, De Minaur is pretty much the exact wrong swing production to hit through a claycourt. Cachin will keep the ball in tough locations, and Gaston will have a slightly tougher time in the battles in the frontcourt. Cachin in 5.

Evans vs Ymer :

Cerundolo may have had a plan against Evans, but he had only one. Evans played solid tennis and moved the ball well, and Cerundolo went big time and time again. His forehand timing wasn’t there, and it seems like his plan is to swing away until he finds his timing. All well and fine, since Evans would likely have outlasted him had they played a ton of extended rallies. Still, the Cerundolo brothers appear to have split the defensive mettle and offensive firepower, and both will want to work on becoming the other during the offseason. Ymer had a pretty easy time with Duckworth, who just hasn’t been playing. It makes this match tough to call, since neither Ymer nor Evans were really pushed, and now they will be supremely. That might be my answer. Ymer is a ball machine and hits with great power. Everything that his game lacks is slightly assisted by the slower pace of clay and the more reserved tactics being optimal. Evans is very hard to beat if you don’t hit huge, but he also lacks dynamic power himself so it will be tough for him to earn quick points against Ymer. In the end, I think this goes to 5. Evans hasn’t been rolling this clay season, and Ymer has been crashing out early as well. Evans in 5.

Kolar vs Tsitsipas :

Zdenek is really enjoying watching this five-setter right now. As I’m typing this Tsitsipas is closing out the fifth, so I’m going to assume he gets there. Musetti and Tsitsipas gave us the match of the first round. It’s worth checking out the highlight video from this one if it makes its way online, because there was a really high level of play. In the end, Musetti fell into a tough spot on serve. He was serving almost exclusively to Stefanos’ backhand, which is the right move but left him a bit predictable. I thought the other issue was the flow of the match. Early on Musetti was using his defense and counterpunching to great effect and Tsitsipas was trying to create. This led to errors and Musetti’s comeback from 4-1 to 4-4 in the first set really got him the crowd. Musetti had control of rallies in the 3rd and 4th, but it’s really hard to hit through Tsitsipas once he digs in. Trying to supply all the offense is tough, and Musetti burnt himself out. At the handshake the difference between the two physically was visible. Tsitsipas is just a bigger dude with more muscle, so he can play at his best level for slightly longer. Lorenzo should be happy with his play,but the loss mirroring the one he took against Djokovic is going to bother him for a while.

Despite playing 5 sets against a top tier opponent, Tsitsipas should be good for the next round. Kolar is going to wind up on tour along with Lehecka and a few other top challenger performers, but he’ll be a bit outclassed here. Good serves, and a solid baseline game, but that next tier of offense (something like Cressy) or physicality (something like Djere) is necessary to beat Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas in 3-4.

Rublev vs Delbonis :

Rublev overcame a nice test in Kwon, and the angry broccoli has a decent section in the draw here. Delbonis was efficient against Mannarino, but it wasn’t really a dominant show. The rallies were fairly even, but Mannarino made a number of forehands errors when he’d finally go to take control. Good news for Delbonis who probably won’t crush worlds the rest of the season, and a tricky spot where no one will expect him to win. Rublev’s singular approach does feed into Federico’s game. Delbonis is looking to hit the ball big and he can definitely trade with anyone from the baseline. His movement will be an issue though. If he isn’t getting equal punches in, Rublev will be able to get through him. I’d imagine this being very close early on with Rublev pulling away in the second half of the match. Delbonis has a puncher’s chance but he’ll need Rublev to really lend him some help at the right moments to win more than one set. Rublev in 4.

Ivashka vs Garin :

The first single celled organisms appeared on Earth 3.5 billion years ago. Things were pretty wack back then, but the volcanos were decent. Those cells went on the overcome the odds time after time to get us where we are today. Peak cognitive abilities, good arms to flail, and legs to run around. Game theory to understand the optimal way to proceed in any situation, and statistics and nutrition to help us train and be the best we can be. Yet no one has really invented a way to easily beat pushers yet. I’m not disparaging Ivashka’s game, nor Garin’s, but they are out there basically saying “you will miss if I don’t” and their opponents are saying “yes but I wish you would not say it out loud”. Garin dragged his match with Tommy Paul out, and just seemed more willing to do the work. Paire, in ever classy fashion, just went ahead and went for nonstop offense against Ivashka, but that wasn’t the answer due to him being the Ben Simmons of tennis.

I’m excited for this match because these two Spidermans get to play for 4 hours. Garin is probably the physically stronger of the two, but Ivashka has a much more useful serve. All pushing complaints aside, these two are top tier players and clay is won by whomever plays more consistently hard for longer. If someone knows they can outwork you, there’s no reason they need to play any other way. I’m interested to see who gets through here, and whether they have enough left to deal with Rublev who is somewhat unreliable on clay. Ivashka in 5 (hours).

Basilashvili vs McDonald :

Early in the second set, I watched Basilashvili hitting the net harder than maybe anyone I’ve ever seen. He was clearly sick of Cressy’s volleying, and had gone to “smoke everything” as the main approach. He somehow found his accuracy in the third though, and he put together one of many 0-2 comebacks that took place in the first round. Mackenzie McDonald did well to sneak past Agamenone, who had his chances but couldn’t really break back once he lost the lead in sets. These two have played recently in Rotterdam, but Basilashvili should be able to reverse that result here. He’s absolutely useless when it comes to emotional stability, so there’s no guarantee that Mackie doesn’t wear him down or capitalize on errors, but I think Cressy’s serve was the only reason Nikoloz found himself down two sets in the first place. It’ll be tough for McDonald to overcome the difference in weight of shot. Basilashvili in 4.

Carballes Baena vs Sinner :

Oscar Otte and RCB played the 5 I expected but not at all how I expected it. Otte somehow found his groove after going down 0-2, which is somewhat odd for the less durable athlete. RCB didn’t blink though, and the cumulative running seemed to weigh heavier on Otte. This sets up another good match for Sinner, who ran through Fratangelo earlier today. I don’t see anyone beating Sinner easily on clay anymore. He’s not the most physically imposing guy, but he seems to be able to hit the ball bigger than the rest of the tour for longer. Errors can come, and he loses the big serving duels, but add the same muscle Zverev’s team has added to his body and it’ll be extremely difficult to find a moment to breathe when playing Jannik. RCB is the perfect opponent because he wants to push the pace on the baseline, but his serving isn’t really strong enough to keep Sinner from starting rallies almost even. Sinner in 3.

Simon vs Johnson :

“He can’t retire if the match never ends!” decided Pablo this morning, before engaging in 300 20+ shots rallies with Gilles Simon. In another slightly more inspiring edition of the crowd willing a result, Simon went up 6-4, 6-4, on Carreño Busta before dropping the next two sets 2,1. Opening the 5th down 2-0 wasn’t ideal, but the crowd just kept getting noisier and noisier until PCB finally gave back the break at 4-3. After a quick hold by Simon, who’d been visibly exhausted since the third, the writing was on the wall.

While Simon was playing nine hours of tennis, Steve Johnson turning back the moustache clock. Jiri Vesely ran out of gas after a tough first set win, and Johnson has a halfway hopeful situation here. Simon will be tired, and Johnson can rely on his serve to get him some easy games. His slice backhand is normally a liability, but since Simon doesn’t really go for any rally-ending shots on his backhand, Johnson almost gets a pass on his weaker wing. This will be a match about who wants it more, and hopefully Simon can recover since he’s already beaten a player slightly above Johnson’s top tier. The entire outcome depends on Simon’s ability to physically recover. If he’s back to where he started the PCB match at, he can win in 3-4. If he’s off his game or flat, the emotional dump from winning the first round will probably let Johnson make the third round of the French for what I would imagine is the first time ever.

Fucsovics vs Cilic :

This is an interesting spot for Cilic. Fucsovics got a big gift in round one as Blancaneaux looked a bit flat after his qualifying run. Marton has been struggling to find wins on tour, so this is a great boost. While he hasn’t been playing well, Fucsovics is one of the better players on tour in terms of fitness. He keeps the ball low, and has a devastating slice backhand that he uses too often. This isn’t ideal for clay, but against Cilic it’s a decent package. Cilic has been the better of these two all season. He had a pretty simple match in round one against Attila Balasz, who is a highlight reel of a player but hasn’t been playing. Cilic has a way better serve, and a more aggressive backhand, but I think Fucsovics’ particular gamestyle will make this a long day. 4 of their 5 sets played have been decided in extra innings (with 3 tbs) and the other was a single break so despite the surface/time lapsed since then, I’m gonna be wary of naming Cilic emperor of the world here. Cilic in 4-5.

Kecmanovic vs Bublik :

If ever there were two people I want in an unscripted buddy cop film, it’s these two. It’s hard to imagine two more different players on tour, and these are the types of matchups it’s fun to watch players manage their emotions in. Bublik had a nice win against Rinderknech, but this is a big step up in terms of workload. Add in that Kecmanovic has just recently beaten him in the round of 32 in Madrid, and this becomes a very uphill battle for Bublik. This is the type of weird spot where Bublik wins in straights and Kecmanovic can’t find his forehand, but there’s just no sense living in that world. Since he actually won a round, I do expect Bublik to acquit himself fairly well, but the workload to beat Kecmanovic in a 3/5 match is something I don’t expect to see him commit to. Kecmanovic in 4-5.

King of Clay vs Djere :

Medvedev winning a match on clay is always fun. There’s something strange about wanting to see more of someone in conditions they don’t enjoy, but I always want tennis players to get out there on their worst surface. The hole in the boat for those hoping for a deep run is that Facundo Bagnis was not healthy for this match. There was some speculation that his prize money could be forfeited or fined for showing up injured, but while that is in the rules, I think it would be a bad move. This is a guy who is hapless on hardcourt, but showed up and served better than Murray and Dimitrov to open the year. He works really hard every year, and sometimes we overestimate our caliber.

Since Daniil won, I get to wonder again whether he’ll commit to the cause. Djere is an extremely durable opponent, but his downfall in these spots is always that he doesn’t score that often on his serve. He’ll need to frustrate Medvedev to win this, and he’ll want to get an early lead since Medvedev is really only crashing out of this tournament against a top 10 opponent, or via frustration in an early round. I do think Djere can win this, and he got Medvedev to quit in Budapest a few seasons ago so this might be a chance for an upset. I don’t believe Med is committed to being here. If Djere can get the first he’ll get the rest. Djere in 3-4.