Tennis - The French Open - Half-Term Report
The French Open is now down to the half-way stage and yesterday witnessed the first group of men's and women's quarter-finalists determined from the bottom half of their respective draws. The main news from yesterday was the loss of eighth seed Milos Raonic, who had new coach John McEnroe in his corner for the first time, against the unseeded Ramos-Vinolas.
The Canadian number one, who towered over his opponent Ramos-Vinolas, was well and truly cut down to size by the Spanish journeyman who progressed to his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final in straight sets. Raonic's serve, which is his main weapon, was less effective in the slow overcast humid conditions, as were his ground strokes that lacked their usual bite and penetration. Raonic was also largely ineffective on return, which meant Ramos-Vinolas faced little pressure on serve, and he was able to boss proceedings from start to finish.
Second seed Andy Murray and fourth seed Stan Wawrinka both had to work hard in the first two sets of their fourth round encounters against Isner and Troicki respectively, but both proved too good for their lower ranked opponents and progressed in fairly comfortable fashion to the quarter-finals. Murray will face ninth seed and home hope Richard Gasquet next up in what should be a fascinating encounter judging by the way Gasquet has played so far this week.
The Frenchman, who has reached the quarter-finals for the first time, looked in scintillating form dispatching sixth seed Kei Nishikori in four sets yesterday. Murray leads the head-to-head 7-3 and has not lost against Gasquet since Rome on clay 2012. However, the majority of their three and five set matches have been close and this one has the potential to be a repeat of their epic five set battle at Roland Garros back in 2010, when Murray came from two sets to love down to win.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka will face Milos Raonic's conqueror, Ramos-Vinolas, in the quarter-finals and Wawrinka has never lost against the Spaniard winning all six encounters. They last met just over a week ago at Geneva where Wawrinka won 6-1 6-1 but their previous five encounters between 2012 and 2015 had been extremely close. With a semi-final spot at stake and Ramos-Vinolas in such good form, I expect this encounter will be a lot closer than their match at Geneva.
Today's fourth round men's action features six of the tournament’s top-20 seeds, including top seed Novak Djokovic, who has firmed up as tournament favourite since the retirement of Nadal due to a wrist injury. He faces 14th seed Bautista-Agut, who he has never lost to in four encounters and it's unlikely that trend will change today.
The match of the day could be between seventh seed Tomas Berdych and 11th seed David Ferrer. They have met thirteen times and Ferrer leads the head-to-head 7-6. On clay Berdych leads the head-to-head 3-2, including his straight sets 7-6 7-5 win at the Madrid Masters this year.
The conditions today will be a lot slower than Madrid, which will improve Ferrer's chances, as Berdych will struggle to hold serve more and hit through the veteran Spaniard. However, it's unlikely to be a one sided affair and four or five sets is likely, so backing Ferrer to win in four sets at 7/2 and five sets at 5/1 is definitely worth considering, as he has the conditions to suit and stamina to outlast Berdych.
Another potentially close match could be between 12th seed David Goffin and Ernest Gulbis, who is experiencing a mini revival after a lengthy spell of poor form and disappointing results. At his best Gulbis was a major force on clay, but a string of unlucky injuries during his career meant he has never fulfilled his true potential.
Goffin is definitely living up to his potential and he has reached the fourth round or better in all the major tournaments this season, which includes two semi-final appearances at Indian Wells and Miami Masters. Goffin is the clear favourite to progress to the quarter-finals and while he should reward favourite backers today I don't expect it to be a one sided affair.
Their previous two encounters were on hard courts and clay back in 2014 and 2015. Gulbis won the first and Goffin the latter but both were extremely close three set affairs and this match also promises to be just as close. The Over 37.5 Games line at 5/6 looks like the best value bet for this match as if Gulbis plays anywhere near his all time best the match could easily go to five sets.
The women's fourth round matches yesterday failed to be completed due to the poor weather. Sixth seed Muguruza managed to complete her match seeing off the dangerous veteran Kuznetsova in impressive fashion 6-3 6-3 but the most impressive result of the day was American Shelby Rogers ranked 108 in the world knocking out 25th seed Begu in straight sets.
Yesterday's two other women's fourth round matches between fourth seed Halep and Stosur and second seed Radwanska and Pironkova, both failed to finish before the rain came, but Halep was leading 5-3 and Radwanska 6-2 3-0 and I expect both will progress and face off against each other in Tuesday's quarter-finals.
Today's action sees top-seed and defending champion Serena Williams play 18th seed Svitolina. Serena leads the head-to-head 3-0 and is the red hot favourite to progress to the quarter-finals, which she should do without too much drama. Sister Venus is also in action today against eighth seed Bacsinszky. Bacsinszky has reached this stage in more impressive fashion and I expect her to prove too good for 35 year old Venus and progress in straight sets again today.
Madison Keys seeded 15 should prove too strong for the unseeded Kiki Bertens today at 1/2, while 14th seed Suarez-Navarro is worth taking on against surprise package Putintseva at around 1.4 on the exchanges with an eye on cashing out if she loses the first set or if her odds double.