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French Open 2015: Previewing the most interesting 2nd round matches

With the second round of Roland Garros underway, we bring you 3 must-watch matches for tennis enthusiasts.

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Top 5 / Top 10 27 May 2015, 09:50 IST
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Martin Klizan vs Gilles Simon

Slovakia’s Martin Klizan (L) and (R) France’s Gilles Simon

Klizan was outstanding last summer on clay. His form and playing style earned him many final appearances along with a few trophies. He carried that form late into 2014 and beat Nadal in a marathon 3 set match in the far east.

Klizan has a good serve which is aggressive with a more solid defense than other tall players. He likes to start slow and expresses his game on the court when he is behind. He compensates for the inability of top-spin in his forehand by hitting more inside-out shots. Being a Southpaw provides him with an additional advantage over the right-handers as he is playing more on his favorite forehand wing.

Gilles Simon is a wily customer to say the least. He has amazing pace on the court, but you rarely see him rushed through the courts. His ability to position himself perfectly behind the baseline allows him to return the ball precisely. All the above quantities come together with the patience and mental fortitude required to play long rallies.

Simon’s double handed backhand may lack power but his precision in their placements has cost majorly to many of his opponents. He rolls his wrist over the backhand shots to generate spin on these shots, and can hit them with ease in both fashions – down the line as well as cross-court.

On paper and according to bookmakers, Simon looks to be the favorite to win, though Klizan’s attitude to fight till the end makes it an interesting match.  

Thanasi? Kokkinakis vs Bernard Tomic

Australians Thanasi Kokkinakis (L) and Bernard Tomic(R) will face off at Roland Garros

It’s a battle of two promising stars from Down Under who possess contrasting playing styles. Kokkinakis is similar to Kyrgios and the Australian players of the past, who liked to serve big and keep the points short. Perhaps a desire to rush to the celebrations is in Aussie blood I assume.

Although not as highly profiled as Kyrgios, Kokkinakis is clearly of a similar mould. His service has pace but lacks variety and directions at times. On clay, this is not going to help him win much. His game is one-dimensional and needs to be developed further and at the right side of 20 – he is just 19 years old – he seems to have enough time to develop the game to become a formidable player of  the future.

Tomic is a player with immense ability but lacks the mental strength and fitness, and needs to resolve his off-court issues with his family too. Paradoxically, his strength – confidence – is his biggest weakness. He knows he is better than the players outside top 15 and therefore, plays against them with contempt. It was most evident against Luca Vanni in Rome. He was a set up and then failed to hold serve to elongate the second set and did not even try to win in the third set.

However, in the first round of the French Open, when the stakes were high, he turned on a gear and won in four sets with complete control of the match in every point. For his height, he possesses a good serve and hits aces when he is under pressure. He loves to make the rallies longer in the initial stages of the match to tire the opponent. This is a huge improvement over his fitness level from two years ago when all critics accused him of giving up easily in long matches due to cramps.

The bookmakers are offering Tomic at 2.5. This has a huge value because Tomic has a 2-0 head to head lead over Kokkinakis and should win this match too.

Sergiy Stakhovsky vs Steve Johnson

Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky (L) and American Steve Johnson (R)

Stakhovsky against Johnson is a tricky match on paper. On one side of the net we have a player – Stakhovsky - who is fast on the hard court but his running style never suited the red surface. Stakhovsky is a hustler in the correct sense of the word. He can pop-up on any part of the court in an instant. A player thinks he has made a perfect drop sense only to be retrieving the ball from the baseline because Stakhovsky has lobbed him.

Stakhovsky runs the entire duration of the match to put the balls back in the opposition half of the net. The hustler’s pose a mental challenge against players who like short points. Steve Johnson and the current American male tennis players form this ilk, i.e. they like short points.

Johnson has been a hope for the U.S., and his victory over Garcia-Lopez in the marathon five setter has increased these expectations further. After Isner he remains the only American hope to advance into the third round. Amongst the current American players, he has the most balanced game for clay.

A strong serve with a patient attitude to build a point. A strong forehand allows him to control the match. The lack of both a good drop shot and backhand restricts him to play more on the. However, his opponent also has a non-existent backhand. 

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