ATP Tour: French Open Selected Round of 64 Matches Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

Our tennis writer previews selected men's matches from the French Open's Round of 64.

Dominic Thiem 2/9 | Stefanos Tsitsipas 28/10
Alongside Alex Zverev, Dominic Thiem has emerged as one of the potential vanquishers of Rafa Nadal at this year’s event. Thiem won on clay in Argentina, but fairly indifferent quarterfinal runs in both Barcelona and Monte Carlo hardly reflected his reputation as the next King of Clay. But that all changed in Madrid. He lost in the final to Zverev, but that hardly mattered. He became the man to break Rafa Nadal’s ridiculous clay-court winning streak. He also had great preparation for this event with a win in Lyon prior to this. He swatted Ivashka aside with aplomb yesterday and will take some beating.

Thiem has not been fortunate with this draw. Tsitsipas has been the breakout clay-court player this season and will represent a real threat to Thiem. He managed a Round of 32 run in Monte Carlo before that unbelievable event in Barcelona. He beat Thiem, Schwartzman and Carreno Busta en route to a heavy final loss to Nadal. He went on to reach the semi-finals in Estoril before a Round of 32 finish in Rome. He has occasionally looked a bit jaded in his post-Barcelona matches, but a hard fought win over Taberner in the opening round should have eradicated the rust.

Theim leads the head-to-head 2-1, with Tsitsipas winning their last match in Barcelona. All three of those matches came this year so they will be very familiar with each other’s games. But once again, it may perhaps be worth it to opt for the underdog here, especially giving Theim’s ability to fold under Grand Slam pressure. 

Malek Jaziri 7/2 | Richard Gasquet 2/11
This has really been something of a breakthrough season for Tunisian Malek Jaziri. The journeyman pro has had a Baghdatis-esque rise from obscurity that really started way back in Dubai. That semi-final run included an amazing victory over Grigor Dimitrov. He went on to win a Challenger event before a decent quarterfinal run in the Grand Prix Hassan II. But the clay-court season has shown further evidence of progress, with a Round of 16 run in Barcelona followed by a run to the final in Istanbul. That win in Istanbul included a win over Marin Cilic, once again showcasing his propensity for an upset. He did need five sets to overcome Youzhny, but I suspect that Jaziri has it in him to upset a home favorite this week.

Mercurial French talent Gasquet has had a fairly benign year to date, with a run to the final in the Open Sud de France his best offering thus far. He actually reached the semi-finals at the Grand Prix Hassan II before Monte Carlo. A victory over Diego Schwartzman and narrow quarter-final loss to Alex Zverev did hint at the clear ability that Gasquet has always possesses. But first round exits in Hungary and Rome show that not all is well in his game. Having said all that, he was imperious in his first round match, absolutely devastating Andreas Seppi in straight sets.

7/2 just looks too god for Jaziri, despite the fact that he trails their head-to-head 1-0. As noted earlier, Jaziri is a somewhat enigmatic figure who can beat anyone on his day, and Gasquet has hardly been in blistering form. This one could be worth some speculative business. 

Gilles Simon 17/20 | Sam Querrey 9/10
Clearly Sam Querrey is a player with a preference for the harder courts. But you do tend to forget that he is twice a runner-up in the US Men’s Clay-court Championships, as recently as last year. But his form is poor, with four consecutive losses preceding this event. He had that excellent run to the quarterfinals in Indian Wells prior to this real dip in form. So I can understand on the surface why the prices are so similar. But last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist and US Open quarterfinalist is clearly a man for the big occasion and should be underestimated at your peril.

Gilles Simon has experienced something of a renaissance of late. He was enjoying an ignominious year before victory over compatriot Benoit Paire helped propel him to a quarterfinal at the Grand Prix Hassan II. He then enjoyed a decent Round of 32 run in Barcelona before his heroics in Lyon at the weekend. Simon came out of nowhere to knock out the pugnacious Chung, and he pushed Dominic Thiem to three sets in the final. So it would seem that Simon has found form at just the right time this year.

Simon leads the head-to-head 4-2, which includes a win at the French Open in an epic five setter in 2013. However, you have to go all the way back to 2013 to locate a Simon win, and I have to side with the American this week. 

Written by Damien Kayat for

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