French Open Men’s Watchability Power Rankings, Tuesday Edition

Rafael Nadal Paris 2020 Quarterfinals FO

Labeling the first two days at the French Open as intense would be an understatement. Some of the biggest names were either knocked out or barely escaped the jaws of defeat. On Tuesday, both 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and top seed Novak Djokovic are slated to appear on Court Philippe Chatrier, but there are plenty of additional enticing matchups.

French Open Day 3 Watchability Power Rankings

Steep precipice ahead

Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Andreas Seppi

Auger-Aliassime made headlines early in the spring for hiring Toni Nadal as his co-coach along with Frederic Fontang. However a 4-5 record thus far on the clay swing is nothing to brag about. Inconsistency and mental fragility have been the common themes. Seppi is not only over the hill, but hasn’t been able to complete an adequate preparation for the French Open. The Tyrolese has only played one match in two months. A loss here would be catastrophic for the Canadian.
Watchability Index: 7/10

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Diego Schwartzman vs Yen-Hsun Lu

If Auger-Aliassime’s clay campaign has been lackluster, Schwartzman’s has been dismal. Less than a year after reaching the Rome final and Roland Garros’ semis, the Argentinian has only amassed two meager wins in five tournaments on European dirt. Waiting across the net will be Rendy Lu, using the protected ranking provision for what seems to be the 37th Major in a row. The current world No. 679 might have the mental edge, though, as he defeated Schwartzman 6-4 6-0 at 2016 Winston Salem. Watch out.
Watchability Index: 6/10

Mandatory inclusion

Rafael Nadal vs Alexei Popyrin

Ahead of their battle in Madrid a few weeks ago, Popyrin said he would study Robin Soderling’s monumental upset of Nadal at the 2009 French Open. For a couple games, the Aussie managed to emulate the hard-hitting Swede, blowing the Nadal off the court. The dust eventually settled at Manolo Santana Stadium and the Spaniard won 6-3 6-3. Considering he has nothing to lose, Popyrin will probably swing freely and give a mini scare or two to Nadal. It would be surprising if the 2017 junior champion stole a set, but every Nadal match at Roland Garros is must-see TV.
Watchability Index: 8/10

Pump some GAS

Hugo Gaston vs Richard Gasquet

Back in 2002, Gasquet won the junior title and made his men’s singles debut. At the time, Gaston was one year old. In 2020, the youngster enjoyed a totally unexpected run to the round of 16 as a wild card, beating 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka and pushing two-time finalist Dominic Thiem to a fifth set. The Frenchman arguably hit more drop shots than serves throughout four matches in Paris. Nevertheless, Gaston has been unable to back up that performance. 15 wins, 15 losses since, mostly at the challenger level. Former teen prodigy Gasquet is far from his best, but should have enough gas in the tank to advance here.
Watchability Index: 7/10

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Clay sombrero

Adrian Mannarino vs Aljaz Bedene

In baseball, the inglorious feat of striking out four times in a game is called a :golden sombrero.”  Mannarino, one of the flattest hitters on tour, will try to avoid going winless in six clay tournaments this spring. The Frenchman leads Bedene 2-1 in their head-to-head series, but the Slovenian prevailed in their lone encounter on clay. On Monday, the local crowd nearly carried Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Benoit Paire to upsets over Jannik Sinner and Casper Ruud respectively. Can they push Mannarino over the hump here?
Watchability Index: 6/10

Compulsive winners

Jenson Brooksby vs Aslan Karatsev

Aslan Karatsev needs no introduction. Formerly a perennial Challenger player, he’s turned into a world-beater after the pandemic hiatus. He owns a stellar 24-8 record this season. Not bad, right? Well, it’s a pretty weak winning percentage when compared to Brooksby’s 26-4. The 20-year-old American has been tearing through the Challenger circuit, with two titles and a final this year. Yet, due to his lack of experience on red clay, his successful qualifying campaign at Roland Garros is his most impressive achievement in my eyes. In the final round, he saved three match points against the gritty Evan Furness. Giving up is not an option for the former Baylor Bear. If I had ground pass tickets for Tuesday, I’d stop by Court 8 to watch this under-the-radar gem for sure.
Watchability Index: 10/10

The main event

Fernando Verdasco vs Phillip Kohlschreiber

Not trying to get too emotional here, but tennis fans shouldn’t be taking these matches for granted. Verdasco and Kohlschreiber have been tour mainstays for almost two decades and are naturally on the tail end of their careers. Their first match took place at the extinct Las Vegas tournament. This will be their tenth clash, should Verdasco be healthy enough to suit up after the injury scare he suffered last week in Belgrade. Enjoy these veterans while you can, folks.
Watchability Index: 9/10

Main Photo from Getty.


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