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By Chris Oddo | Thursday June 1, 2017

Wow. Time flies. We are already down to 32 in the men’s and women’s singles draw in Paris, and we’re here to take a look at how the men shape up ahead of round three.

The Big Boys are Through

Before Roland Garros there was perhaps a little more doubt about the week one chances of the top four seeds, but they’ve all passed their early tests and set themselves up nicely for a deep run. Now we start to get into some more enticing matchups. Andy Murray has had the most difficulty getting through two rounds, and his life could become even more difficult in the third round as he is slated to face Juan Martin del Potro. That’s a bear of a third-round matchup and when it’s said and done Murray might be thankful of the fact that he has been pushed to four sets by both Andrey Kuznetsov and Martin Klizan in week one.

Here’s a look at Murray’s section of the draw:


There are four really fun matchups here. Murray leads Delpo 6-3 in their lifetime head-to-head but the pair split two epic clashes last season at the Rio Olympics (won by Murray) and at Davis Cup (won by Del Potro). It will be amazing to see them do battle on clay, and hopefully Del Potro is fit enough to give it a good run. He injured his groin today during his match against Nicolas Almagro and he entered the tournament with some other injuries (back and shoulder) so there is always some doubt about Del Potro’s ability to grind out a five-setter.

Kei Nishikori is a former semifinalist at Roland Garros and they don’t call him “Clay Nishikori” for nothing. He should get past Hyeon Chung, but man is the South Korean ever evolving into a good player. Wins over Sam Querrey and Denis Istomin have him into his first round three of a major.

No.22-seed Pablo Cuevas against Fernando Verdasco could be an incredible—and incredibly physical—tilt as well. The Uruguayan has the higher ranking but he’s not as well known as Verdasco. How Cuevas has never made the second week of a major we honestly don’t know.

Another surprise third-rounder will feature Karen Khachanov against No.21-seeded John Isner. Expect heavy hitting in this tilt. And don’t count Khachanov out due to his relative lack of experience. He just blasted past another big hitter in No.13-seeded Tomas Berdych and did not face a single break point.

Nadal’s Section

So far so good for Rafael Nadal. He hasn’t really been tested in his first two rounds and who knows when that will happen.

Here’s his quarter:


Looks like Nadal is the heavy favorite to come out of this section. He’ll face Nikoloz Basilashvili next. Funny that there are four Spaniards remaining in this quarter. Do any of them have a shot at beating Rafa? Is Grigor Dimitrov, who snapped a four-match French Open losing streak this week, ready to get his season back on track? If so he could provide some resistance to Nadal next week. As for now, it’s hard to see anybody getting in the way of Nadal. That said, Roberto Bautista Agut is one heck of a player and he keeps getting better. One day he’s going to push deep at the French, but a Spaniard beating Nadal on the terre battue? That’s a big ask.

It’s interesting that Jiri Vesely is still alive. He’s probably best known for his win over Novak Djokovic at Monte-Carlo last year, but the hard-hitting Czech southpaw also reached the second week at Wimbledon last year. He’s a very dangerous player when in a groove.

Novak’s quarter is the toughest

Everybody has been asking us this week: which quarter is the toughest? We hesitated to answer, because we wanted to see the draw break a bit. Now we know: It’s Djokovic’s section. The good news for the defending champion is that the two most dangerous players won’t face him until the quarters.

Here’s the quarter:


The good news for Djokovic is that Thiem and Goffin might end up tiring one another out before they reach the quarters. That could make a difference. Djokovic should get past Diego Schwartzman, but the Argentine is one heck of a fighter and could cause trouble if Djokovic isn’t ready. We think that Thiem vs. Steve Johnson and Lucas Pouille vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas should be excellent battles. It’s awesome that Johnson is honoring his father with an emotional run in Paris, and it is great news that Pouille appears ready to step up and represent France boldly on his home soil (something that far too many shy away from doing), but he’ll have to be really good to get by the experienced Ramos-Vinolas.

Stanimal is Alive

And finally, we have Stan Wawrinka’s section. The Swiss has won a major in each of the last three years, which means that yes, no doubt about it, #Stanimal is a serious contender. After winning the Geneva title, Wawrinka has won all six sets he’s played in Paris and he’ll look to squash the hopes of former Roland Garros quarterfinalist Fabio Fognini in round three. Hard to see the Italian taking that one, as talented as he is. Wawrinka is 5-1 lifetime vs. Fognini but this will be their first meeting on clay.

Here is the quarter:


That Monfils vs. Gasquet tilt promises to be a doozy, and one would have to think that whoever emerges victorious will have a chance to give Wawrinka a run for his money. In the bottom of this section we see No.7-seeded Marin Cilic along with Feliciano Lopez, Kyle Edmund and Kevin Anderson.

How about that! Kyle Edmund and Kevin Anderson for a shot in the second week of Roland Garros? Believe it or not, it would be a third trip for Anderson, who owns a 16-9 record at Roland Garros. For Edmund it would be his first, but his second at a major.

Most Likely to Knock of a Top 4 Seed

It really does feel like all top for seeds could make the semis, but there is a long way to go. Here is our list of most likely to knock off a big fish:

Juan Martin del Potro (Murray)
Kei Nishikori (Murray)
Richard Gasquet (Wawrinka)

After this it gets really hard. We don't see anybody coming between a Nadal-Djokovic semifinal, but Thiem or Goffin would be the fourth on this list (judging from what we saw Thiem do against Djokovic in Rome, we'll say Goffin 4th and Thiem 5th).

Who has been most impressive thus far?

Answer: Nadal.

The Spaniard has done everything we expected and more. He has dropped just 14 games in two rounds and created 28 break points in those six sets, converting 13.

Who has been the most pleasant surprise on the men’s side?


Have to call it a tie between Grigor Dimitrov and Steve Johnson. Dimitrov because he has really been struggling and seemed to be in danger of falling off the radar. Johnson because he is dealing with the death of his father and rising to the challenge of honoring his name. Karen Khachanov’s upset of Tomas Berdych comes a close third.

 

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