French Open 2015: Picks for crunch matches on Day 3
Andreas Seppi vs John Isner – The battle of giants
When Seppi was in the news last time, traffic in Delhi was still finding road visibility a tiresome exercise, Europe was cuddled in the warmth of their beds, and America was waking up to their warm coffee mugs. Seppi had beaten Federer in the Australian Open and made the right headlines. With nerves of steel he hit a wrecking forehand and clinched his first victory over Federer. Ever since, the gritty Italian has struggled with injuries, has been mainly off the circuit during his favorite clay court season.
While Seppi struggled with injuries, Isner evolved his game for clay and went unbroken for 4 weeks on the European clay. However, he did not win any titles nor did he reach the finals. And after he was broken by Nadal in Madrid, his form has plummeted atleast for his service games. He exited Rome early, and Geneva earlier.
This decline in form should help Seppi who loves to fight till the last point. He is a slow starter to the matches, and will hence, take his time to adjust to the Red Clay and shall lose the first set. However, he wins most of his matches in 3 sets, and last year credited himself with a couple of 5 set matches in Roland Garros. This should provide him with a major psychological boost that should encourage him to take the fight to Isner.
Their head to head is 1-1 with Isner losing to Seppi in Rome.
My pick – The well-rested Seppi to win in 4 sets.
Jiri Vesely vs Leonardo Mayer – Who is tactically stronger?
Vesely is a promising young Czech player who relies on his serve. When his first serve is fine – serve out wide - he is looking to attack the return by advancing to the net. His height and giant strides help him advance forward effectively, but his sideway movements are limited due to his inability to slide. Therefore, an effective way to beat him is to play the forehand angled shots from various positions in the court. And the players who possess this ability – Garcia-Lopez, Cilic, Gimeno-Traver – have beaten him already this season.
Mayer is similar to Vesely in height but more sophisticated with his movements. Mayer is fast, and can slide really well on the baseline. He possesses the amazing forehand that he uses with preciseness from the centre of the court to control the points to make his opponent play the running shots. Armed with a serve that has huge pace – lacks in variety though – he becomes a formidable opponent. Although his majority of the serves are through the center but their speed and height makes them difficult to return.
Their head to head is 1-1 with Vesely winning their previous meeting on clay. This loss should provide Mayer an extra incentive to go for the win over Vesely.
My verdict – Mayer to win.
Kristina Maldenovic vs Eugenie Bouchard – Home support vs the Global favourite
The opening day of the French Open in 2015 saw the crowd favorite Caroline Garcia succumb to the pressure. After winning the first set and getting an early break in the second set, Garcia pressed the self-destruct button and lost the match.
On the second day at the time of writing, Cornet and Hesse had already upset the favorites, all the French players have won their matches while Simon is ahead against his compatriot, Razzano leads in the third set, and Paire is down a set. What happens to the French hopes on the third day remains to be seen and Mladenovic’s match against Bouchard – a global brand – could set the tone.
Mladenovic entered the French Open with a solid run on clay courts in the previous four weeks. Her results in 2015 reflect with the rise in her rankings. She is currently on the brink of making it in the top 50 and an advance into the second round would help her achieve that goal. She prefers to play the volleys and is adept at it due to her experience in doubles, but this could become a hindrance for her against the hard hitting Bouchard. Hopefully, the crowd does edge her through against another crowd favorite – Eugenie Bouchard.
The Parisian crowd at Roland Garros appreciates French players and Bouchard’s origin from Quebec – French speaking part of Canada – puts her in a tough choice. The hard hitting Canadian is struggling with a shoulder surgery and therefore, her ground strokes will be less lethal allowing Mladenovic to come to the net if she chooses to. However, Bouchard is an all round player who is mentally strong and prefers to come from behind while Mladenovic plays with the momentum, i.e. she needs the momentum to be with her in order to win.
Their previous meeting was more than 2 years ago on the hard court, where the Canadian edged the French.
My verdict – Mladenovic to go ahead – take a break first.
Winner – Bouchard. For the punters, this is a safe bet.