Best of the 2016 French Open Men's First Round

Forecasted rain could delay the start of the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, and that would create a flurry of activity to finish the first round matches in a reasonable amount of time. With all that said, there are a handful of intriguing opening round matchups that are worth watching on the men’s side, and here are a look at those matchups, with predictions.

Borna Coric vs. Taylor Fritz

The 18 year old Fritz will battle the 19 year old Coric in a battle of what are likely future ATP stars. Coric hasn’t been in great form as of late, but he did post an ATP final showing in Casablanca, and he has more ATP experience in his young career than the American Fritz. Fritz was the French Open junior finalist last year, and on the senior circuit he’s already reached an ATP final (Memphis), making him the youngest American to do so. Given this is clay, Coric should have an edge, but this is a match worth checking out.

Prediction: Coric in 4 sets

Hyeon Chung vs. Quentin Halys

The 19 year old Chung is an underdog on clay against the 20 year old Halys, the difference in ranking aside, Chung is on a three match losing streak, while Halys found some recent success on the USTA pro circuit clay court challengers. On home soil, look for Halys to make a move, and earn a spot in the second round, along with a new fan base.

Prediction: Halys in 4 sets

(32)Fabio Fognini vs. Marcel Granollers

A pair of clay court specialist veterans. Granollers has a pair of quarterfinals this spring on clay, while Fognini has a quarterfinal and a semifinal. Both players are capable of reaching a much higher level of play than they have been at recently. Granollers is a fiery competitor, while Fognini is an erratic talent. Presuming Fognini finds form and plays solid tennis over best of 5, he should win.

Prediction: Fognini in 5

Alexander Zverev vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert

Herbert has never lost to young Zverev, and this match could result in an upset. Zverev is a potential draw dark horse, and the favorite in this match, as he comes off the final in Nice, and a semifinal result in Munich as well. Herbert is a doubles specialist who qualified for both of the clay Masters this season. He’s playing on home soil, and with his aggressive game he should push Zverev hard, still I have the German finding a way to win. Zverev has had a remarkable breakthrough this season and it should continue in Paris.

Prediction: Zverev in 4

(24)Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Nicolas Almagro

Almagro has been poor for most of this season, but he won Estoril, and he’s had success on clay against the fellow one-handed backhander Kohlschreiber. This is one of the great tactical clashes of the first round, and Kohlschreiber, the champion in Munich, and a semifinalist in Barcelona, comes to play as well with his crafty game. Almagro has more power, and should take at least a set, but I have Kohlschreiber advancing as Almagro’s mentality tends to let him down in big moments.

Prediction: Kohlschreiber in 5

Andreas Seppi vs. Ernests Gulbis

The former French Open semifinalist Gulbis has a great h2h record against Seppi, but he’s a shadow of his former ATP top tier self. The Latvian has failed to make any deep runs in tournaments this season, and has struggled to his game, and his head together. Seppi reached the quarters in Nice, but he’s been poor otherwise this year as well, and this match could disappoint, or a be a baseline battling classic. I want to pick Gulbis, but I can’t trust him enough right now to do it.

Prediction: Seppi in 4

(22)Viktor Troicki vs. Grigor Dimitrov

Dimitrov is better on clay than Troicki, and he’s ahead in the h2h 2-1. He’s also more talented than his Serbian counterpart. With that said, his choke against Troicki in the Sydney final at the start of the season set the stage for his continually poor play in big matches, and under pressure. Dimitrov hasn’t been able to win points and matches when it counts, and with his focus escaping him, he’s lost his seeded ranking. After losing the Istanbul final, Dimitrov has struggled through a pair of losses. Troicki hasn’t done much in recent weeks, and he’s one of the seeds most likely to exit early in the draw. I have Dimitrov finding a way to win this match.

Prediction: Dimitrov in 4

(30)Jeremy Chardy vs. Leonardo Mayer

The Frenchman Chardy has split his clay court meetings with Mayer. The Argentine would love to defeat a seed and make the second round. Neither veteran has done much of note this season, and this match has the makings of a long, drawn out war, given the similar level, and tenacity of both players. This match should be messy as well in terms of errors, given Chardy tends to wail on the ball and produce a lot of them if he doesn’t connect on his shots. I still have the Frenchman relying on the home crowd to prevail.

Prediction: Chardy in 5

(9)Richard Gasquet vs. Thomaz Bellucci

Gasquet is 3-0 against Bellucci, and the Brazilian has been in terrible form this season. Gasquet is a home favorite, and with his smooth clay game, he should ease past the big hitting Bellucci. Regardless, this match should feature a shotmakers showcase from both players.

Prediction: Gasquet in 3

I’ll be back after round 1 with a look at the best round 2 matches, along with predictions. Enjoy the opening days of Roland Garros 2016.

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