French Open Watchability Power Rankings: Kyrgios vs Tomic Stands Out

The French Open is right around the corner. On the men’s side, Rafa Nadal looks like a shoo-in the favorite to lift his record-extending 11th Coupe des Mousquetaires, especially after the draw came out.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. There are plenty of interesting opening matches worth your time. Without further ado, let me introduce a new edition of the French Open First Round Watchability Power Rankings.


Rafael Nadal vs Simone Bolelli

The World No. 1 is going to thrash the Italian. Stop dreaming about a colossal upset. No. 1 seed Virginia basketball may have lost to 16-seed UMBC in this year’s March Madness, but Bolelli upending Rafa at Roland Garros would be like Zalgiris Kaunas beating  the ’92 Dream Team in a best-of-seven series. Not going to happen. In our lifetime, we will probably never see another 10-time single slam champion. Go ahead and witness history.

Watchability Index: 6/10

My pick for RG18 breakout star

Casper Ruud vs Jordan Thompson

The 19-year-old Norwegian is a beast in the making on clay. His top spin forehand is heavier than Shaq. Over the last month, Ruud has reached two Challenger finals on dirt, plus he cruised through qualifying. If Del Potro is not fully recovered, I see the Scandinavian making it to the second week.

Watchability Index: 6/10 (Nothing exciting about Thompson, sorry)

Beware of the pronunciation

Jack Sock vs Jurgen Zopp

The slumping American needs a positive tournament ASAP. Meanwhile, the Estonian entered the draw as a lucky loser. I’m sure their somewhat similar last names will lead to some misunderstandings among super casual fans.

Watchability Index: 5/10

Actually interesting debut from a competitive standpoint

Borna Coric vs Philipp Kohlschreiber

The veteran German (ATP No. 24) arrives at the Bois de Boulogne in considerably better form than last year, having reached the Munich final as well as the round of 16 in all three clay masters. Across the net, Coric has stepped up his game this season. The Croatian is playing above his No. 41 ranking. The 21-year-old has been a tough out against any opponent lately:

  • Indian Wells: SF loss to #1 seed Roger Federer 5/7 6/4 6/4
  • Miami: QF loss to eventual finalist Alexander Zverev 6/4 6/4
  • Monte Carlo: R16 loss to two-time champion Novak Djokovic 7/6 7/5
  • Madrid: R16 loss to eventual finalist Dominic Thiem 2/6 7/6 6/4

I think Coric will pull the “upset” off. It’s only a matter of time until he settles into the Top 20.

Watchability Index: 7/10

Keep gettin’ dem checks

Marin Cilic vs James Duckworth

Few things in life are less amusing than watching Marin Cilic abuse an overmatched foe. I’d rather watch a race between a snail and a turtle to be honest. Got to feel good for injury-ravaged world No. 1067 Duckworth, whose protected ranking of 105 was high enough to sneak into the main draw once Milos Raonic confirmed his withdrawal. Roland Garros will be his first tournament away from Australian soil since late 2016. Unless you are trying to hibernate due to extreme boredom, I’d pass.

Watchability Index: 1/10

Karen Khachanov vs Andreas Haider-Maurer

The Austrian (world No. 412) is wisely using the protected ranking (No. 63) provision in search of one last hurrah. Haider-Maurer, a full year into his comeback, is so over the hill he can barely compete at the challenger level.

Watchability Index: 1/10

Next Gen Battle

Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Carlos Taberner

The winner will obtain his first ever Grand Slam main draw victory. Tsitsipas is by far the more heralded prospect, having shined throughout the European clay swing. Nevertheless, Taberner is the typical Spanish grinder who compensates his lack of weaponry with robust tactics and willingness to die on the court. I see him bursting onto the main tour within the next year.

Will the Greek star crumble under pressure versus the qualifier?

Watchability Index: 7/10

Refrain from gambling on this one

Nicolás Kicker vs Federico Coria

Ok, I made it up. These two Argentinians are not actually facing each other. Instead, they are on the news for the wrong reasons. Kicker got busted for fixing a challenger match in Barranquilla (Colombia) back in 2015. Meanwhile, the younger brother of the 2004 French Open finalist failed to report a bribery attempt at a Futures event also three years ago. Both will be issued a suspension. Way to throw your career down the sewage system, fellas!

College tennis nerds only

Peter Gojowczyk vs Cameron Norrie

The Brit is the best player to come out of the NCAA since Steve Johnson. The Texas Christian University product will be excited to play against GOJOwczyk, who may or may not be a distant cousin from Borna GOJO, the Croatian who played #1 singles for Wake Forest this season. By the way, congrats to the Demon Deacons for their first ever NCAA title!

Watchability Index: 7/10

Ghosts from the past

Viktor Troicki vs Grigor Dimitrov

Same venue, merely two years ago, Dimitrov hit rock bottom in a dramatic five-set loss to Troicki. The Serbian is now a shade of his old self, whereas the arrow is pointing up for the Bulgarian under the tutelage of Dani Vallverdu. Will the 2016 precedent influence the outcome of this match?

Watchability Index: 7/10

Heating up

Ernests Gulbis vs Gilles Muller

Feeling old today? Let me remind you that it’s already been a decade since Gulbis’ epic quarterfinal run at the French Open as a teenager. After sucking struggling for the past two years, the Latvian has found his groove lately, stringing together solid wins both at the Bordeaux Challenger and at Roland Garros’ qualifying draw. Most importantly, he is still arguing with opponents, umpires and spectators. Muller is not the most entertaining opponent, but this is must-see television, unless you are learning how to hit a technically sound forehand. In that case, imitating Gulbis would be a poor choice.

Watchability Index: 9/10

World Tennis Entertainment’s matchup of the century

Nick Kyrgios vs Bernard Tomic

This duel necessitates no introduction.

Eurosport & Tennis Channel should ditch all the other matches and treat this like a huge boxing or WWE fight:

  • Hire Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith to debate for hours about their on-court tantrums. Donate $1,000 every time Skip claims LeBron is a bum next to Kyrgios at basketball.
  • Mic them up during the contest.
  • John McEnroe should announce the winner following the post-match presser. Entertainment is subjective, isn’t it? Who cares about winning more points?

Watchability Index:  10/10
(Editor’s Note: After this article was published, Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open due to injury.)
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