Damien Kayat previews Diego Schwartzman vs Philipp Kohlschreiber and Roger Federer vs Dominik Koepfer in the 3rd round of the French Open.
2021 ATP Tour
Roland Garros, Paris, France (Outdoor Clay-Court)
Selected 3rd Round Matches- 5th June
Diego Schwartzman (10) 2/13 vs Philipp Kohlschreiber 44/10
37-year-old Philipp Kohlschreiber has been in desperate form over the past few seasons. The eight-time ATP winner is currently playing under the Protected Ranking rule in Paris. At his peak, the German was an indefatigable baseliner who could push the very top players to the limit. He started his 2021 season in April, losing in the 2nd round of the Challenger event in Belgrade. Depressingly, his best result leading into this year’s French Open was a quarterfinal at the Challenger event in Heilbronn. Many would have expected him to lie down and play dead at this year’s French Open. But he has proved the doubters wrong, picking up victories against Verdasco and the red-hot Aslan Karatsev. That single-handed backhand has looked supreme on these high-bouncing courts. He has also used all of his accumulated experience, serving accurately and finding interesting angles with that versatile forehand. The German has reached the 4th round twice in Paris and he is the type of five-set pugilist who represents a threat to the top-ranked players.
Diego Schwartzman is your prototypical clay-court specialist. The diminutive Argentine uses strong baseline play and returns brilliantly. His movement also makes him doubly dangerous on these slower surfaces. Last year was really a breakthrough year for Schwartzman, largely contributing to his slightly inflated 10th seeding. He reached his first Masters Final in Rome prior to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final in Paris. It entrenched him as one of the preeminent clay-court figures in world tennis. However, I think that may have been slightly presumptuous. Lest we forget, last year’s clay-court swing- as with facet of the game- was deeply affected by the pandemic. Prior to last year, most of his success has come on the South-American clay-court scene (which is virtually the B movie version of the European clay-court swing). He even won another title in Buenos Aires earlier this season. This year he was 2-5 on the European clay-court swing coming into this event. He is hardly an elite clay-court player. But he has won six consecutive sets here without really breaking a sweat. His recent record in Paris is excellent and he will be licking his lips in anticipation for this 3rd round match.
Verdict: Schwarzman in four sets at 24/10
Kohlschreiber leads the head-to-head 1-0. That came way back in Vienna in 2017. There’s a huge temptation for me to go for the huge upset here, with Schwartzman in poor form and Kohlschreiber a wise old head in Grand Slam tennis. But I don’t think that the veteran will be able to counterpunch as effectively against Schwartzman. He was able to use Karatsev’s power against him. Schwartzman is just too similar to the German for him to compete. I think Schwartzman to win in four sets at 24/10 could be a good bet.
Roger Federer (8) 23/10 | Dominik Koepfer 3/1
Shock, horror! The preternaturally serene Roger Federer has an ugly outburst at the chair umpire. Have you ever? Well yes, we have. People tend to go apoplectic with shock when Federer acts like a person. But he actually has a healthy number of volatile outbursts, even in the recent past. Remember his antics in the Indian Wells Final against Del Potro? Those may still be the ugliest scenes of Federer on court. He also got an obscenity violation at last year’s Aussie Open. Roger Federer also gets heated. I never really anticipated him playing this well this fast. Outside of a sloppy 2nd set, he was pretty solid against Cilic. It has shifted the goalposts as to what the Swiss can realistically achieve in this year’s championship (at least in some people’s opinion). His next match will be against the unfancied German Dominik Koepfer.
Dominik Koepfer is your stereotypical journeyman pro. The 27-year-old is actually having a relatively solid season, a season that saw him momentarily enter the world’s top 50. His semi-final run in Mexico came out of nowhere. He beat the likes of Cameron Norrie and Milos Raonic in an incredible semi-final run. He also played well in his final precursor event to this tournament, pushing Casper Rudd to three sets in the Geneva quarterfinal. So, it’s fair to say that Koepfer isn’t just here to fill the numbers. Victory over 30th seed Taylor Fritz in the last round speaks to his undoubted tenacity on this surface. But can he possibly overcome the shot-making prowess of the Swiss master?
Verdict: Federer to win in four sets at 49/20
This will be the first meeting between these two. This will be an interesting test for Federer. Koepfer will be the first clay-court specialist that he will have faced in this year’s event. He will likely test Federer’s movement more than short-point specialists like Cilic. Plus, his lefty forehand adds a level of awkwardness that could give Federer issues. Look, Federer is probably going to win this match. But I can certainly see the German picking up a set. Federer to win in four sets at 14/5.