The quarterfinals are set for Friday in Montpellier and as expected, the draw is still laden with Frenchmen. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the highest remaining seed after top seed Marin Cilic was upset by Dustin Brown in round two. Three-time champ Richard Gasquet is still in the mix as well after winning his opener against Malek Jaziri on Thursday.
Here’s a quick look at Friday’s slate and what to expect.
(3) Richard Gasquet vs Kenny De Schepper
Gasquet was afforded the luxury of an easy start on Thursday as Malek Jaziri was broken twice in his first three service games. That allowed Gasquet to dart out to a 4-1 lead before he stumbled twice on his own serve. He would break Jaziri again at love in the 11th game and then close out the first set at 7-5. Gasquet was much smoother in the secnod set, again getting an early break to take an early lead. His first serve was much better in set two, taking 14 of 15 points after winning just 63 percent in the opener. The Frenchman was still forced to save four break chances and he did manage to fight them all off. Not the cleanest opener for Gasquet, but relatively easy in the end.
A day after knocking off 6th seed Mischa Zverev, Kenny De Schepper edged Illya Marchenko in two tiebreaks to advance to the quarterfinals. The French qualifier was broken one time on four chances, a bit better than the eight he allowed against Zverev. In a tight match, De Schepper came up big on the big points in the tiebreaks. In all, he won just seven more points than Marchenko (89-82).
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Gasquet has torched De Schepper in two career meetings, straight sets wins at Wimbledon in 2015 and on clay in Estoril that same year. In both matches, De Schepper had an awful time on serve with Gasquet breaking him ten times on 17 chances. De Schepper managed to break Gasquet just once in four tries. This again looks a mismatch wih Gasquet’s ground variety likely to break down De Schepper in rallies. Unless Gasquet really stumbles on serve, this should be a straight sets win.
Prediction: Gasquet wins in straight sets
Benoit Paire vs Dustin Brown
This will be the circus match of the day. Brown arrives with confidence after taking down top seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday. Brown’s serve was about flawless, winning 40 of 52 points. He never faced a break point. That backed up another solid serving day in his opener, where he edged Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-6, 6-3. The German had eleven aces and saved all four break points against his serve.
Paire arrives in the quarters off of a win over 5th seed Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 7-6 (5). The Frenchman pounded out 14 aces and won 93 percent of his first serve points in the win. He again had issues getting that first serve in though at just 47 percent, but was able to win a solid 62 percent off his second serve. He was broken just once on two tries. For the tournament, he’s been broken three times on four chances.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Dustin Brown owns two career wins against Paire – one at the ATP level and one at a Challenger, but both are on clay and over four years ago. They did both go the distance and based on both players’ level this week, this could be set for three sets as well. The big question is whose serve will dip enough to allow the other to take advantage? Both have been serving fairly consistently, but that’s not always normal for either. Paire’s penchant to not land his first serve at least half the time could catch him again here. Expect some nice ground exchanges though, that’s where Paire can stay in contention with his backhand being a game changer when it’s on.
Prediction: Brown wins in three sets
(4) Alexander Zverev vs Jeremy Chardy
Zverev got a nice respite after Germany’s Davis Cup failure over the weekend. The extra days off before his first match still didn’t solve all his problems though. Zverev survived a bumpy 7-5, 63-6, 6-4 win over Aljaz Bedene on Thursday. Sascha Z. was forced to save 15 break chances, successful on eleven of those. His second serve struggled, losing 66 percent of the points and he tossed in ten double faults. The fourth seed wound up winning just two more points than Bedene (101-99).
Chardy rallied in round two after dropping the opening set to Paul-Henri Mathieu for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win. Chardy walloped 15 aces and again fought off the majority of break chances against his serve. In the first round, he saved seven of nine in a three setter against Marcel Granollers. Thursday, he saved seven of eight against Mathieu. Five of those saves came during the deciding set
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Zverev perhaps could be excused for a somewhat rough start after playing heavily in Davis Cup last weekend and then getting used to new conditions. He did make the semifinals here last year, so the surface jives with Sascha’s game. Chardy does own a win in their lone meeting, which came indoors in Kuala Lumpur in three sets back in 2015. The Frenchman used a big first serve that day and Sascha really had little oomph to match on his own. That is definitely a possibility in this one with Sascha struggling a bit on serve in his opener. Chardy’s usual difficulty comes when he’s pressured to match serve for serve over the course of a match. In the ground game, Zverev’s got the better shots and consistency, but Chardy can take advantage of any tired legs. This one feels like a possible upset to me.
Prediction: Chardy wins in straight sets
(2) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Daniil Medvedev
Tsonga barely broke a sweat in the 6-1, 6-2 dismantling of Pierre-Hugues Herbert in his opener in Montpellier. The second seed won 32 of 38 points on serve and was routinely destroying PHH’s with ease. Tsonga broke his fellow Frenchie twice in each set, while never facing a break point himself. The match lasted all of 44 minutes. It was a nice tune-up for Tsonga who made his return to the Open Sud de France for the first time since 2010.
Medvedev’s stock continues to rise in 2017 as the 20-year-old Russian is now into his second ATP quarterfinal. Earlier this year, he made his first ATP final in Chennai. On Thursday, he bettered 8th seed Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-3. He broke the Spaniard twice in each set and was only cracked once on serve himself. So far, his pre-season change to his training regimen has paid off. Medvedev made a point to push his physical fitness harder and to work on his volleys. While he did succumb to cramps in Davis Cup play, he’s looked no worse for the wear this week through two rounds in France.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
Medvedev will be getting his first look at Tsonga in his career as he takes on a Top 15 player for the third time already in 2017. He hasn’t been able to rise to the occasion, but you get the feeling that will come with more experience. This is a tough spot though against Tsonga, who is difficult to break when he’s at his best. That will put more pressure on the Medvedev serve to produce. Expect Tsonga as usually to play his forehand as much as possible with shorter and more aggressive points when possible. This could well be a tight match, but I like Tsonga to get it done.
Prediction: Tsonga wins in straight sets