With the first round almost completed—only one match remains, Steve Johnson versus Laurent Lokoli—it’s time to look back on what exactly happened in the first 63 singles matches of the 2014 French Open. After watching the contenders who played on Sunday cruise in their first matches, we began to see rain breaks and upsets among several of the top players. Just how did they happen? And what matches should you be interested in taking a peek at in the second round? The Bad Man Bureau is here to help.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeats (3) Stanislas Wawrinka: 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0. In a word, what happened?
Impatience. Whether because of the fear of another rain delay or because of the oncoming darkness (the match got started in the late afternoon), Stan the Man appeared to want to be off the court as quickly as he could. Not to say he tanked—he definitely looked into the match as it started—but he rushed his shots, attempting down the line winners off of Garcia-Lopez’s serve and trying to hit winners from anywhere on the court without having constructed the point to his favor. Wawrinka has played this kind of tennis before, going for brash shots, but in the last twelve months those shots have generally been winners—or lead to the Swiss winning the point. On Monday, that wasn’t the case, and Stan suffered a premature exit.
Martin Klizan defeats (9) Kei Nishikori: 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-2. In a word, what happened?
Injury. Nishikori came in with a back injury that forced him to retire from the final in Madrid and withdraw from the Rome Masters event. He had been extremely successful on the clay prior to suffering the injury–even dominating Nadal in the Madrid final early on–to the point that he was considered a contender in our ATP Names to Know preview. But Klizan has played well on the clay as well, winning the title in Munich this year as a qualifier where he knocked off three top twenty players. After dropping the first set though, Nishikori simply wasn’t the same and meekly dumped the next two sets.
Ivo Karlovic defeats (11) Grigor Dimitrov: 6-4, 7-5, 7-6(4). In a word, what happened?
Tactics. I pointed this match out in the pre-tournament draw analysis. Karlovic wants to keep points short with his ace-heavy, serve-dependent game. To beat him, you need to be able to return his second serve and then extend those points as long as possible. Make Karlovic run. The Bulgarian did not execute that gameplan, preferring to stand tight against the baseline when he was attempting to return Karlovic’s serve and then attempting to keep the points short himself, trying to generate angles and winners early in rallies. He played directly into the big Croat’s game, and it cost him.
Kristina Mladenovic defeats (2) Li Na: 7-5, 3-6, 6-1. In a word, what happened?
Forehands. Mladenovic, who currently is ranked 103 in the world, had previously reached the top 40 just last year. Her game is predicated on smacking the ball flat and hard across the net, and when it’s on, she’s capable of looking like a promising young player. This year, though, we’ve seen the other side of things, where the Frenchwoman has failed to win back-to-back main draw matches all season long. Today she was fantastic, especially in breaking down Li Na’s forehand, where the former French Open champion compiled 7 forced errors and an astonishing 17 unforced errors on the forehand wing as the pressure mounted against her. A disappointing result for a player that was picked to reach the final in our womens’ singles draw analysis.
Yanina Wickmayer defeats (13) Caroline Wozniacki: 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2. In a word, what happened?
Heartbreak. Let’s be honest: Caroline performed admirably in the face of the recent developments of her broken engagement with PGA star Rory McIlroy just last week. The former world number one could have easily used her nagging leg injury as an excuse to pull out so that she could avoid the spectacle of cameras focused on her to try to catch that one moment of emotional weakness. Instead, the Dane soldiered through and played two tight sets of tennis with Wickmayer but eventually succumbed. As was mentioned in our Players to Know article, Caroline could have probably used some more match play, as she was constantly playing events when she was at her peak, but her clay court preparations this year was limited to just two matches.
Second Round Matches to Catch—Mens’ Singles
Nadal’s Quarter: (32) Andreas Seppi vs Juan Monaco; Head-to-Head: Seppi 1-2 Monaco
These two have not played since 2011, so we can pretty safely throw out the head-to-head. Monaco has been 4-4 on clay this spring, while Seppi has been 5-6, so both have not had great results during the run-up to Roland Garros. Seppi is the seeded player here, but this match screams five-setter.
Wawrinka’s Murray’s Quarter: (12) Richard Gasquet vs Carlos Berlocq; Head-to-Head: First Meeting
Gasquet dusted off the cobwebs with a straight-set victory over the slumping Bernard Tomic, while Carlos Berlocq needed four sets to take out former world number one Lleyton Hewitt. But Gasquet may be in trouble here. In addition to the fact the Parisian crowd may be expecting a deep run at Roland Garros from him, Gasquet is rusty. His win over Tomic was his first since Miami in March. Berlocq on the other hand has played quite often on the clay this spring, collecting a title in Portugal and a quarterfinal appearance last week in Nice.
Federer’s Quarter: (15) Mikhail Youzhny vs Radek Stepanek; Head-to-Head: Youzhny 4-3 Stepanek
With both players having to rally from two sets down in the first round to advance, this could be a match full of short points and potentially topsy-turvy tennis. These two are meeting for the first time since last year in Munich, a claycourt event. That time Stepanek won, but it was a tight three set affair. Youzhny has played decently at Roland Garros in recent years, reaching the third round or better since 2010; Stepanek, on the other hand, snapped a four match losing streak in singles here with his come-from-behind win. This could be a quick match, or we could see some more five-set magic between these two.
Djokovic’s Quarter: (13) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Jurgen Melzer; Head-to-Head: Tsonga 3-0 Melzer
Both are former semifinalists at this event, so they know how to play on the red dirt in Paris. Tsonga’s results for his preparation for Roland Garros haven’t been bad per se, but they aren’t befitting a player who is lurking just outside the Top 10; he’s 5-3 with one quarterfinal (Monte Carlo) to his name. Melzer returned from injury just in time for the European claycourt swing, and he’s played every week in an attempt to get matches under his belt and improve his ranking. He’s played approximately .500 tennis, going 7-6 on clay. Tsonga will definitely have the crowd behind him, but if Melzer can keep it tight, will the crowd’s support translate into pressure for the Frenchman?
Second Round Matches to Catch—Womens’ Singles
Williams’s Quarter: (9) Dominika Cibulkova vs Tamira Paszek; Head-to-Head: Cibulkova 1-0 Paszek
The only time they played was five years ago in Charleston, a green clay court. Cibulkova won that match pretty handily, but this match could be a complete question mark. Paszek is a former top thirty player who’s seen her ranking plummet due to a variety of maladies, but she can strike the ball. Cibulkova was the Australian Open finalist from this year, but her victory over Virginie Razzano was her first clay win this season. It’s hard to make heads-or-tails of the potential result.
Radwanska’s Quarter: (18) Eugenie Bouchard vs Julia Goerges; Head-to-Head: First Meeting
Come for the beautiful women, stay for the tennis! While it would be easy to dismiss this as simply eye candy, there is the potential for a great match here. Bouchard is riding on a six-match win streak, including her first career title in Nurnberg. Goerges, while she hasn’t lived up to her potential, plays her best tennis on clay and has collected wins over Sloane Stephens and Sorana Cirstea this spring.
Halep’s Quarter: (27) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Camila Giorgi; Head-to-Head: First Meeting
Two top fifty players clash here in the second round, and as written in the WTA Players to Know article before the tournament, both of these could easily go on a deep run at this year’s French Open. Kuznetsova has the experience and more varied game; she’s able to transition from defense to offense a little better than Giorgi can. The former French Open champion should walk away with a win here as she’s also the better player on clay, but Giorgi appears that she’s finally understood how to put her high power game together and could be primed to pull off an upset.
Li’s Jankovic’s Quarter: (28) Andrea Petkovic vs Stefanie Voegele; Head-to-Head: Petkovic 2-1 Voegele
These two haven’t played since 2009, when Petkovic defeated Voegele in the finals of an event in Bucharest on clay. It will be interesting to see if Petkovic feels any pressure from now being the player likely favored to reach the quarterfinals with Li Na’s early exit. The German is a former quarterfinalist in Paris, but she hasn’t played well on the red dirt this spring. Voegele hasn’t either, but with expectations shifted to Andrea, this match could be close.