by: Tom Cochrane
The big names in the women’s tournament keep on falling, with Caroline Wozniacki and Francesca Schiavone among the women’s seeds departing on Day 7.
Day 7 Recap
Wozniacki’s new pairing with coach Thomas Johansson, a former Australian Open champion, got off to a shaky start as the former world number one was bundled out of the tournament by Kaia Kanepi. Wozniacki become preoccupied with poor officiating and lost her focus, going down in 3 sets to the Estonian. Schiavone, meanwhile, lost a cliffhanger 8-6 in the deciding set to naturalised American Varvara Lepchenko.
Germany’s Julia Goerges was another seeded casualty on Day 7, but there was better news for Maria Sharapova, who breezed past the Chinese player Peng, and also for Petra Kvitova and Li Na, who each battled through 3-set matches to book their spot in the round of 16.
Among the men, it was another successful day at the office for the Spanish armada, with Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro all claiming fine straight sets wins. They were joined in the fourth round by fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers, who outlasted Paul-Henri Mathieu in 5 sets.
In the match of the day, Argentine Juan Monaco came back from a 2 sets to 1 deficit to edge past the big-serving Milos Raonic in a 5-set thriller. Showing no signs of the back pain that affected him against Jarkko Nieminen, Andy Murray cruised past Santiago Giraldo to set up an enticing fourth round clash with Richard Gasquet, who got completely on top of Tommy Haas after dropping the opening set, the Frenchman claiming 18 of the final 21 games of the match.
Matches of the Day – Day 8
1. Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
A year ago at Roland Garros, this pair squared off and it seemed as if Tsonga was on his way to a routine victory when he claimed the opening 2 sets. But Wawrinka then lifted his game and came back to record a famous 5 set victory.
Will that match play on Tsonga’s mind as the pair do battle once more today? At the start of the tournament, I definitely would have backed Wawrinka in this match, as I feel he is far more comfortable on the clay than Tsonga. But the Frenchman is far fresher than his Swiss opponent, who has been made to play a couple of very long matches so far in the tournament. To my mind, that makes this one almost an even-money bet, but I’ll stick with Wawrinka noting that, unlike last year, he needs to make a good start this time around. Wawrinka in 4.
2. Victoria Azarenka vs. Dominika Cibulkova
After coming very close to defeat in her opening round match, Victoria Azarenka’s form has improved in subsequent matches although this match-up represents the first true test of her form in Paris this year. The diminutive Cibulkova made the French Open semi-finals in 2009, and has a powerful game that has troubled many of the very best players on the WTA Tour in the past.
I think Cibulkova will fancy her chances going into this match, knowing that clay isn’t Azarenka’s best surface. If it goes to a third set, however, I’m predicting that Azarenka’s big match performances so far this year will help to get her over the line. Azarenka in 3.
3. Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Tomas Berdych
A blockbuster clash between two of the hardest-hitting players on the ATP Tour, the reward for winning this match is most likely a quarter-final showdown against the great Roger Federer. Both Del Potro and Berdych are former semi-finalists at Roland Garros and both sit in the chasing pack hovering just behind the Big 4 of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray.
In defeating Nadal and Federer to win the 2009 US Open, Del Potro showed he had the potential to claim a berth in that elite group, although a serious wrist injury curtailed his progress for a significant period after his Grand Slam breakthrough. Berdych, on the other hand, beat Djokovic to make the 2010 Wimbledon final but couldn’t see off Nadal in the final.
On hard-courts I’d give Berdych the edge, but on clay-courts I think Del Potro has the advantage. The lanky Argentine isn’t a natural clay-courter but having grown up playing on the surface, he knows how to use the red dirt to his advantage. Del Potro in 5.
4. Sara Errani vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
Former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova wound back the clock at Roland Garros with her crushing win over third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round. The question now is whether the Russian veteran can back up that superb win or whether she will experience a comedown and struggle to replicate that standard of tennis.
Errani is a solid clay-court player who has enjoyed a very successful start to the year, having won 3 titles already on the WTA Tour this season. Errani will draw plenty of confidence from those tournament victories, but I think Kuznetsova’s experience and all-court game will give her the edge. Kuznetsova in 3.
5. Novak Djokovic vs. Andreas Seppi
Italy’s Andreas Seppi faces an enormous task in attempting to dethrone top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic, who is riding an amazing 24 match winning streak in Grand Slam play and looking to claim his fourth successive major title.
Seppi is a solid baseliner who has steadily worked his way up to his current career high ranking of 25 in the world. But the Italian doesn’t have a lot of big weapons at his disposal, relying more on a game of consistency. To my mind, that means he won’t cause Djokovic too many problems in this duel. Djokovic in 3.
Put your house on: Lucky loser David Goffin has done incredibly well to make the round of 16 after sneaking into the main draw when Gael Monfils was a last-minute withdrawal. But to be honest, he’s got next to no hope against Roger Federer.
Upset alert: Croat Petra Martic is looking to knock out her third seed of the tournament when she squares off against tenth seed Angelique Kerber. The German will need to be at her sharpest to survive.
Likely to go the distance: I think the Azarenka-Cibulkova match and the Del-Potro-Berdych match (each previewed above) will go to deciding sets.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.