French Open 2019 Day 9 Preview: Halep, Zverev and Del Potro on Deck

published: Jun, 03, 2019

by: Ben Stevens

What a match. Five hours and ten minutes. 123 winners. A single point between them. Take a bow, Stan Wawrinka and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

About as good an advertisement for advantage final sets as a traditionalist can ask for, this was a match that lacked for neither quality nor drama throughout, and while it was Wawrinka that made the final breakthrough, both players can hold their heads high knowing they offered a display of grand slam tennis at its finest.

Here’s your three to see on day 9 at Roland Garros:

Fabio Fognini (ITA) [9] v Alexander Zverev (GER) [5] – Third on Suzanne Lenglen

A matchup between a guy with a reputation for unreliability at the slams, and another with a reputation with, well… just plain old unreliability, Sascha Zverev versus Fabio Fognini is one fascinating encounter. So far this tournament neither man has been particularly convincing, but Fognini has to be given the slight edge due to his 7-6, 6-1 victory over Zverev in Monte Carlo a few weeks ago, although it’s fair to argue that result wasn’t as much down to the Italian outplaying his opponent as it was constantly pulling wonder-shots out of his backside. In any case, Fognini will once again look to vary his shots and redirect pace, the question being whether Zverev can maintain enough weight-of-shot to move the Italian back and make him play with less ambition and more desperation – either way it should be make for a fun few sets of tennis.

Karen Khachanov (RUS) [10] v Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [8] – Fourth on Suzanne Lenglen

If you like tall dudes slugging it out with massive forehands, well… Karen Khachanov versus Juan Martin Del Potro is the match for you. His fourth straight fourth-round appearance here, Khachanov is as much at home on the clay as Del Potro is, and with the Argentine’s knee injury, it’s fair to argue the Russian might actually be the favourite here. That said, Khachanov is less the type to constantly test Del Potro’s mobility than he is to try and out-hit him, and if this becomes a first-strike fest, there really is nothing to separate them. With that in mind, expect this match to stay firmly on a tightrope, with only a few points separating winner from loser.

Simona Halep (ROU) [3] v Iga Swiatek (POL) – Fourth on Philippe Chatrier

A tour that isn’t exactly lacking for young, up-and-coming talent, it seems the WTA has just got richer this past week with the breakout of Iga Swiatek. A former junior number 5 and the 2018 Wimbledon girl’s champion, the 18-year-old Swiatek announced herself here with a 6-3, 6-0 demolition job on 16th seed Qiang Wang in the second round, and followed it up by surviving her own bagel to overcome Monica Puig on Saturday. Of course, Halep still comes in a clear favourite, but with the way Swiatek is able to get consistently excellent depth and find lines with her uniquely abrupt forehand, this match should be worthwhile as both a test for the Romanian and a glimpse of the WTA’s future.

Ben Stevens

Contributor to TennisConnected. Long time player, coach and fan. Still waiting on Mark Philippoussis to break through at a major.

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