As far as final-four quartets go, you’d be hard pressed to find a more interesting one than the crop of men at this year’s Roland Garros. In Dominic Thiem, Marco Cecchinato, Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal, you have just about every possible career arc diverging. Whether it’s the highly-touted up-and-comer looking to fulfil his potential, the just-happy-to-be-here Cinderella, the veteran with unfinished business, or the all-time great trying to further cement his legacy, there’s something for everyone on day 13.

So what can we expect from Friday’s matches? Read on to find out:

Starts at 1pm CEST

Dominic Thiem (AUT) [7] v Marco Cecchinato (ITA) – First on Philippe Chatrier

One has played some of the best clay court tennis we’ve seen all year, the other is Dominic Thiem – who’s to say Marco Cecchinato can’t keep the run going here? Obviously Cecchinato comes into this match a heavy underdog, and against Thiem, he will be asked to play an especially grueling brand of tennis, but there’s a surprising angle here that works in the Italian’s favor, namely he’s not only played the Austrian twice before, he actually beat him at a futures event in 2013 on – you guessed it –  clay. Of course, non-tour-level results from half a decade ago won’t exactly sway the outcome of this match, but it will fuel Cecchinato’s self-belief at a point when generally, underdogs start to feel the intensity of the spotlight forced upon them. Simply put, if we get a fearless Cecchinato, Thiem will be forced to reckon with shotmaking unlike any he has seen so far this tournament, and that leaves the result of this match far from a certainty.

Not before 3:30pm

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [1] v Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [5]

For as much as Rafael Nadal’s extreme topspin proves bothersome on clay for the entire ATP tour, if there’s any man it’s a tad less effective against, that man is Juan Martin Del Potro. At 6’6 with some of the biggest shots on tour, Del Potro never fails to get his licks in, which when he’s really feeling it, spells trouble regardless of the opponent. That said, the problem for Del Potro is that this surface gives Nadal the best chance to absorb and redirect his blows, and the reason the Spaniard leads the head-to-head 9-5 across all surfaces is that for as much as Nadal would prefer to grind his opponents down, he’s more than capable of playing closer to the lines and stretch an opponent like the Argentine when needed to. If Del Potro is to win this one, he’ll need to be absolutely on fire for the duration of this match, yet unless Nadal’s wrists are once again troubling him, don’t expect the Spaniard to let him stay that way.


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