Sometimes you’ve got to take the good and the bad when it comes to grand slam tennis. Monday was one of those days.
Suffering a pectoral injury that ruled her out just before she was scheduled to appear on court, Serena Williams was forced to retire against Maria Sharapova in what would’ve been arguably the marquee match of the tournament so far.
Nevertheless, making it to the second week has to be seen as a huge victory for the American, even if it ended under less-than-ideal circumstances. For Sharapova, a chance at revenge will have to wait, not that she’ll mind with a first post-suspension quarterfinal now set.
Of course, this is a tournament bigger than any one star, and considering the makeup of both quarterfinal draws, may yet crown some new ones. Read on for a look at the first day of quarterfinal action on Tuesday at Roland Garros.
Dominic Thiem (AUT)  v Alexander Zverev (GER)  – First on Philippe Chatrier
At 24 and 21 respectively, it’s not like Dominic Thiem and Sascha Zverev are running out of time to break through at a major, but considering the hype that surrounds them, sometimes it can feel that way. Certainly this is a big opportunity here, as whoever wins will be the odds-on favourite to make their first final at least. Having played six times before, Thiem currently leads their rivalry 4-2, but Zverev can take confidence in winning their most recent meeting (and first in over a year) a few weeks ago in the Madrid final, 6-4, 6-4. As in that match, the deciding factor here will, break up their myriad arduous rallies by turning the other’s defensive baseline position into their own attack (Zverev did a much better job hitting through his backhand in particular), and that’s something Thiem is certainly capable of. Give Zverev the slight edge, but it’s almost a certainty Thiem makes this interesting.
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) v Madison Keys (USA)  – First on Suzanne Lenglen
One of the tour’s most fiery personalities against a player with a tendency to get inside her own head – what could go wrong? Such is the story here as Yulia Putintseva looks to simply annoy Madison Keys into submission. Keep in mind Putintseva has done it before in a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 win over Keys in Tokyo 2016, and the game plan will be essentially the same here: take the big-swinging American’s best, keep her moving side-to-side and draw the errors. That said, Keys at her best – and we’ve seen her pretty damn close to it already this tournament – can simply blow a player like Putintseva off the court, but with the Kazakh sure to pull out all the tricks, it’s likely she’s in for a tough afternoon.
Daria Kasatkina (RUS)  v Sloane Stephens (USA)  – Second on Philippe Chatrier
One’s a grand slam champion, the other has showed the potential to get there, now Sloane Stephens and Daria Kasatkina meet in what is a first Roland Garros quarterfinal for both women. A very even matchup on paper, the head-to-head stands one win apiece (the most recent being a 6-4, 6-3 victory for Kasatkina this year in Indian Wells), with similar clay court form and playing styles that match up very well on this surface. Expect every area of the court to be well-utilised as Kasatkina plays the role of puncher to Stephens’ counter-puncher, with both women able to adjust the tempo at a moment’s notice, as well as strike several where-did-that-come from winners. If this is anything other than a nail-biting three-setter it will come as something of a surprise, but regardless you’re sure to get your money’s worth.
Novak Djokovic (SRB)  v Marco Cecchinato (ITA) – Second on Suzanne Lenglen
The one matchup we all saw coming when the draw was made two weeks ago, Djokovic v Cecchinato is sure to bring all the funk. Unsurprisingly the two haven’t played before, and the range of outcomes here are about as wide as they come. Djokovic could very well roll – certainly he’s started to look more like himself than he has in a long time this tournament, but he’s not without the occasional lapse that can be exploited, particularly off the forehand. Whether Cecchinato has the offensive goods to exploit those openings remains to be seen, but at the very least his outstanding touch will ask Djokovic to hit on the stretch, and that should provide some serious highlight-reel tennis.