2017 French Open R3 Preview: Lucas Pouille vs Albert Ramos-Vinolas

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A spot in round four is the prize when two seeds face off on Friday. (16) Lucas Pouille battles (19) Albert Ramos-Vinolas for the fourth time in their careers. Ramos-Vinolas came up with the three set win in their most recent meeting in Monte Carlo earlier this season.

(16) Lucas Pouille vs (19) Albert Ramos-Vinolas

Pouille started slow in round two against Thomaz Bellucci as he found himself in an 0-3 hole in the opening set. The Frenchman was not flustered though as he roared back to take the 1st set in a tiebreak en route to a 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-2 win. Pouille has been pretty solid through two rounds, including his five set win over Julien Benneteau. Combined, he’s won around 78 percent of his first serve points and 53 percent off his second serve. Double faults have been a bit pesky with seven in each match. He was only broken five times total however over the course of eight sets. Off the ground, his big hitting style has been on display. He had 61 winners against Benneteau and 35 against Bellucci. His unforced error count as expected is a tad high with 88 through two matches, but that is some of what you get with Pouille’s style of play.

Round two was also less taxing for Ramos-Vinolas who bounced French wildcard Benjamin Bonzi in straights; 6-2, 6-1, 6-1. He was never threatened, winning 44 of 57 service points and not facing any break points. ARV was clean with 32 winners and 14 unforced errors. He would break Bonzi seven times on 14 chances. It was a good follow-up to his four set win over Marius Copil in round one. ARV was broken twice on six chances in that match, winning 74 percent of his first serve points and 63 percent of his second. The Spaniard tallied another clean ratio with 35 winners and just 19 unforced errors.

Previous Meetings

Their last match against each other in Monte Carlo saw a steadier performance from Ramos-Vinolas overall. He was able to stave off seven of nine break chances, while Pouille was broken five times on six chances. Pouille chipped in four double faults. The Frenchman won under 60 percent of his service points, while his Spanish opponent took 73 percent of his first serve points and 52 percent off his second. The final scoreline in their semifinal battle read 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 in favor of Ramos-Vinolas. It should be noted that Pouille was struggling physically as the match wore on, receiving treatment on his back and hips in the final set. Pouille’s power game noticeably effected in the latter portions of the match.

Prior to Monte Carlo, it had been over two years since these competitors last met. That came in 2015 in Auckland, where Pouille trounced Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-2 in that early season tournament. Their first-ever encounter came on the Challenger circuit in 2014 in a lopsided set-to-set battle on clay that saw Ramos-Vinolas emerge the victor at 6-0, 1-6, 7-6 (0).

The Breakdown

Serve has played an integral role in their previous meetings. Pouille possesses far more natural power than Ramos-Vinolas, but can struggle with consistency in that department. The double faults so far at Roland Garros have not burned him too much, but it’s an area that he should tighten up in what is likely to be a lively and long match. Ramos-Vinolas isn’t going to wow you with power on his serve, relying more on placement and variety. The stat numbers will tell you how both are faring without the obligatory look to the scoreline – if Ramos-Vinolas isn’t winning at least 70 percent off his first serve, he’s likely in trouble. Oppositely, Pouille’s optimal win rate on first serve would also be in the 70s and as high as the 80s if he’s dominating play.

Off the ground, this should be another baseline-fest from both players. Pouille as laid out has more power on his ground strokes and his forehand is a big weapon. His backhand has been a bit error prone at times, so expect Ramos-Vinolas from his lefty set-up to try and target that wing. As for Ramos-Vinolas’ groundies, he’s more of a craftsman than a punisher. He’ll use varying speeds and placement to try to get better positioning for himself in order to finish off rallies. If he’s executing this plan, he’ll have Pouille off-balance and trying to do too much with his own shots.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

This has the makings of one of the best matches of the day if both players continue to produce as they have through two rounds. Pouille’s backhand has been a little iffy and the double faults are another concern. For Ramos-Vinolas, I think his biggest concern is serving adequately enough to match Pouille. If he can, then he’s got a shot to beat him again. A lot will be made of Ramos-Vinolas having made the quarterfinals last year, but let’s not forget that prior to 2016, he was 1-5 in main draw matches at Roland Garros. Both he and Pouille have been inconsistent this season at-times and plenty good enough to beat most on this surface at others.

So who shows up on Friday? I think having played a lefty in his last match, Pouille gets a bit of an edge. Lefties can often throw you off early with their differing spins and angles. Obviously Ramos-Vinolas and Bellucci are different players, but Pouille should be a bit more comfortable after seeing a lefty already. That being said, lefties gave him some early problems this season with Pouille going 0-2 back-to-back against Donald Young and losing to ARV in Monte Carlo. Perhaps that issue has been corrected through with wins over Jiri Vesely, Martin Klizan and Bellucci all on clay since then.

I side with Pouille just slightly here because he seems to be better at carrying momentum over once he gains it and I see that with the Frenchman right now. Ramos-Vinolas was on a losing skid before Roland Garros and has yet to be fully tested, whereas Pouille got through that great opening round match with Benneteau and looked solid in round two. This should be fun and could go the distance if both bring their best.

Prediction: Pouille wins in five sets

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