Expectation is a tricky thing. For tennis players, it’s a reward for what they’ve done right, but as we saw yesterday with Sascha Zverev, it often makes it harder to keep doing what they are doing, and sometimes the wheels completely fall off.

Conversely, two players who know all about the burden of expectation managed to avoid any pitfalls in their matches yesterday, with both Simona Halep and Andy Murray getting through to the second round. Both former finalists in Paris, it will be fascinating to see how they deal with the rising expectation as the tournament goes on.

Our first day of second round action, day 4 promises a bit of everything, with a look at the past, present and future of the sport. So for the three to see, read on.

Borna Coric (CRO) vs Steve Johnson (USA) [25] – 1st on Court 6

It seems like Borna Coric has been “the next big thing” on the ATP tour since forever, but at 20 the Croatian still has time on his side if he wants to deliver on all the hype he’s carried since 2014. A deep major run is exactly what he needs, but if he wants to do it here, he’s going to have to do it the hard way. The 25th seed in Paris, the American Johnson remains so unhyped he might as well be Canadian, but quietly possesses one of the better forehands on tour, has a clay-court title this year in Houston, and should matchup nicely with the big-hitting Coric. Expect Johnson to try and step in on every forehand opportunity, and while Coric will give himself a bit more initial room, he’ll be loath to cede any additional ground, and that puts them on course for an absolute slugfest.

CiCi Bellis (USA) vs Kiki Bertens (NED) [18] – 2nd on Court 2

She may have just turned 18, but is it really too early to start talking about CiCi Bellis as a future major champion, or is this recommendation just an excuse to write “Cici and Kiki” a bunch of times? I’ll let you decide, but there’s no denying Bellis is definitely one to watch. Still adjusting to life on the WTA tour, CiCi’s ball striking makes her natural ability easy to spot – her forehand in particular being already a thing of beauty – but will come in a firm underdog against Kiki. A titlist last week in Nuremburg, Kiki can blast them off both wings, but isn’t going to paint too many lines and should give CiCi chances to exercise her exceptional feel. Should be an intriguing encounter.

Tommy Robredo (ESP) vs Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [11] – 2nd on Court 1

Yes, Tommy Robredo is still going. No, I haven’t seen Grigor Dimitrov either.

Coming in 259 spots higher in the rankings, you’d think Dimitrov would have an easy time of this one, at least at this point in Robredo’s career. And yet with Dimitrov, nothing is certain. We only have to go back to April for the last time Robredo defeated the Bulgarian, a three-set affair on the clay in Marrakech, and that alone bodes well for his chances here. Of course, if we get the Dimitrov we saw in Melbourne back there’s no question about this outcome, but he’s been missing for a while, and few thrive more on their opponents’ inconsistency than Robredo. The definition of a tough first round test, for a talented player who needs one.


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