Cristian Garin has an impressive clay-court resume. Garin’s rise to the top of tennis was on clay. He won three Challengers on clay in late 2018, including two wins in finals over ATP Tour-level player Federico Delbonis, to shoot up the rankings from World No. 141 at the beginning of month to World No. 89 by the month’s end.
Then, once he made the main tour, the Chilean won five clay-court tournaments, including the ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro over Gianluca Mager. Garin has established himself as one of the top male players on the dirt, having at least one ATP Tour clay title in each of 2019-2021.
However, there is a gap in Garin’s clay resume: his performance at Roland Garros. Garin has never made the second week of the French Open, falling last year to Karen Khachanov in the third round. That third round performance was his best ever result.
Can the Chilean go further this year at the French Open?
It wasn’t exactly a smooth start to the tournament against the slumping Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero.
Despite going down an early break in the first set, Londero took the first set 6-3. He had at least 1 break point in every Garin service game in the set.
And things really seemed to be taking a turn for the worse when Garin went down 2-3* in the second set. But, like higher-ranked players often do, Garin fought back. He immediately broke Londero after going down a break and eventually took the set 6-4.
The third set seemed like it was tumbling Londero’s way when the Argentinian was up 4-0 *15-30 on Garin’s serve. But, yet again, Garin responded. The Chilean won 5 games in a row and eventually took the set after a very tight third set tiebreak 7-6(6) to go up 2 sets to 1.
The fourth set saw Londero’s resistance melting away. This time, Garin got to at least 30-30 in every Londero service game and comfortably took the set, and the match, 3-6 6-4 7-6(6) 6-2. It was a great way for Garin to celebrate his birthday.
Garin ultimately used his good depth and heavy hitting to wear Londero down, who couldn’t sustain his control of the baseline with his huge forehand. Londero was erratic at points and didn’t have the consistent depth and placement that Garin offered. Unfortunately for the Argentine, it was his fourth loss in a row and 15th defeat out of his last 17 matches.
Statistically, it was a middling match for both. Londero only won 59% of his first serves and 49% of his second serves. Garin won 65% of his first serve points, but only 47% of his second serve points.
Overall, there were 14 breaks in the match, with Londero getting broken eight times and Garin six times.
While Garin is the player moving on, if he wants to truly make a deep run at Roland Garros, he will have to be much better in his ensuing matches. Next up for the Chilean is American Mackenzie McDonald. McDonald played a great match to beat Emil Ruusuvuori, saving 17 of 21 break points and breaking Ruusuvuori seven times.
McDonald has a big first serve and can take control of the points with his forehand well. While his forehand might not be as heavy as Londero’s, it’s steadier at this point. Still, Garin should have too much clay-court craft for McDonald.
In the third round he would face either Argentine Guido Pella or American Marcos Giron. Pella played a good match to beat Daniel Galan in the first round of the French Open, winning 61% of his service points compared to 51% for Galan, but he still has not played a lot of tennis lately and might not be totally match-tough.
As for Garin’s other potential opponent, Marcos Giron, well the American should feel very fortunate that he’s even in the second round. Giron had to save 3 match points in the third set before his opponent, No. 16 seed Grigor Dimitrov, eventually retired. Giron is consistent, but doesn’t have the power nor weight of shot to seriously challenge Garin.
So, Cristian Garin has quite a clear path to his first-ever Roland Garros second week (and first at a Grand Slam). And given he’s in No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev’s eighth of the draw, a player who has went a mediocre 1-2 during the clay-court season so far, the chance to go further awaits Garin.
But, it’s best for Cristian Garin to take his 2021 Roland Garros experience one-match-at-a-time.
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