On paper, Monday’s schedule at the French Open is more loaded than Sunday’s, at least on the men’s side. Pablo Andujar’s gargantuan upset over reigning US Open champion Thiem and Alexander Zverev’s near-collapse were really unexpected. Are we in for another roller coaster ride to start the week?
Stop the disrespect!
David Goffin vs Lorenzo Musetti
I can’t believe some stuff I’ve been reading since the draw was unveiled. Lots of visionaries are penciling in Musetti as Novak Djokovic’s guaranteed opponent in the Round of 16. While the Italian wunderkind is destined for big things and has completed a phenomenal season thus far, I think we should pump the brakes a little bit. Prior to his rocky debut, everyone was really high on the prospects of Alexander Zverev making a deep run at the French Open. Not even two months ago, Goffin beat the German in straights at Monte Carlo. The Belgian is one of the three players to steal a set from Rafael Nadal at the French Open since 2016. He’s not a 3.5 country club player. Sure, last year he looked helpless against an inspired Jannik Sinner, but the warmer spring conditions suit his game style better. We’re in for a cracker.
Watchability Index: 9/10
AO 2017 BFFs
Roger Federer vs Denis Istomin
It’s impossible not to think about the 2017 Australian Open when you look at this matchup. Federer arguably won the most special Slam title of his legendary career and Istomin claimed his best win ever over Novak Djokovic. It feels like the Tashkent native hasn’t been in the spotlight since. This time around, Federer returns to a major after a 15-month layoff, while Istomin has not played a main draw since 2019 Wimbledon. He’s actually 2-9 in main draw matches since the 2017 French Open. Hardly anyone outside of Uzbekistan expected the No. 203 to end the drought in Paris.
Watchability Index: 8/10
Clay boycott & revolutionary idea
Daniil Medvedev vs Alexander Bublik
Ahead of the 2017 clash between Gael Monfils and Dustin Brown, I made the case for that match to be relocated to a soccer stadium in Paris such as Stade de France or Parc des Princes. This time it makes even more sense for the following reasons:
- Both Medvedev and Bublik absolutely despise clay court tennis.
- Troll Match of the Year written all over it. I’m hoping Bublik serves 50% bombs, 50% underarm.
- PR move. Paris Saint-Germain needs to cover up the fact Thomas Tuchel has won the Champions League with Chelsea five months after being sacked from PSG.
- PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi loves tennis. He was an aspiring pro back in the day, reaching #995 in the rankings, even playing against Thomas Muster. Aside from being the visible face of PSG, Al-Khelaifi is the president of the tennis, squash, and 127 or so racket-sport federations in his home country of Qatar.
Someone urgently make this happen.
Watchability Index: 10/10
Shades of 2020
Sebastian Korda vs Pedro Martinez Portero
Weird things happened throughout the unconventional 2020 edition of Roland Garros. Among them, both Korda and Martinez picked up five straight wins as qualifiers and squared off for a round of 16 berth. The American cruised in three easy sets back in October and would go on to face idol Rafael Nadal two days later. The Spaniard has struggled mightily ever since, whereas Korda’s first half of 2021 has been superb, including a maiden career title in Parma this past week without dropping a single set. Therefore, this is naturally a trap match.
Watchability Index: 7/10
Carlos Alcaraz vs Bernabe Zapata Miralles
Alcaraz and Zapata went toe-to-toe twice after the pandemic hiatus, albeit the first meeting took place at a Spanish open tournament. Alcaraz won in straights. The second duel was the Cordenons Challenger final, where Zapata defeated the rising star 6-2 4-6 6-2. Both players are coming off challenger titles and a successful qualifying campaign. Alcaraz should be a force to be reckoned with in the next few years, hence why this match is a must watch.
Watchability Index: 8/10
Memorial Day classics? Or duds?
Frances Tiafoe vs Steve Johnson
East Coast vs West Coast. Junior to pro vs college tennis legend. 1990s vs 1980s. Alright, I’ll stop trying to create a faux rivalry. Tiafoe isn’t a wizard on clay but he should dismantle Johnson. The former USC Trojan is winless in singles this season. We’re six months in…
Watchability Index: 6/10
Sam Querrey vs John Isner
Ninth career meeting between the two most consistent American players in the past decade. Querrey leads their head-to-head 5-3. Their lone clash on clay came at the 2010 Belgrade final(!!!), where the Californian won 3-6 7-6 6-4. Hardly an indication on what is going to happen. Querrey has only won five matches since the start of 2020)!!!) A private jet should be ready to take off from Charles de Gaul airport soon.
Watchability Index: 7/10
Main Photo from Getty.