Philipp Kohlschreiber, Beat Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells in March, can he beat hom again in Monte Carlo? (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Philipp Kohlschreiber, Beat Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells in March, can he beat hom again in Monte Carlo? (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)|Associated Press

Tennis: Abrams picks one Tuesday doubles match and three Rolex Monte-Carlo singles matches. Will The Joker get revenge vs. Kohlschreiber?

Matches start at 5:40 am EDT

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Monte Carlo Masters 1000
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

After a rousing group of first round matches on Monday, some of the higher seeds get ready to play today and tomorrow, with a number of very interesting matchups. Top seeded Novak Djokovic takes on German Philipp Kohlschreiber as the third match on Center Court (Court Ranier III), while second seeded Rafa Nadal begins play on Wednesday. By the time Djokovic gets on court, seventh seeded Marin Cilic will have finished his match with Argentina’s Guido Pella, and Pella’s countryman Juan Ignacio Londero will have concluded his battle with Canada’s Felix Auger-Alliasime, on Court 2. FA2 will pull double duty as his doubles match, where he’s paired with fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov, is scheduled on Court 9, after suitable rest, against Austria’s Jergen Melzer and fifth-ranked Dominic Thiem.

Monday saw a few really tight contests as a couple of veterans pulled great escapes to emerge victorious. Diego Schwartzman, in the “Battle for #23” trailed Kyle Edmund 6-3, 3-0 before reeling off 12 out of the next 13 games to notch a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 win, and Fabio Fognini, with his Italian fans from just across the border hanging on every shot, escaped after being down 6-4, 5-4, 30-15, two points from defeat. Fognini found the magic to pull out a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory and send the Italians home happy.

Edmund wasn’t the only seed to go down Monday. Shapovalov the 15th seed, went out to tough German Jan-Lennard Struf, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, and 12th seeded Nikoloz Basilashvilli lost a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 decision to Marton Fucsovics. But 9th seeded Borna Coric, 10th seeded Daniil Medvedev, 11th seeded Marco Cecchinato and 16th seeded David Goffin all advanced. Other notable winners included Radu Albot, Roberto Bautista Agut, Grigor Dimitrov, Martin Klizan, Mikhail Kukushkin, Dusan Lajovic, Jaume Munar, Lorenzo Sonego, and Stan Wawrinka, in addition to Pella and Kohlschreiber.

The doubles draw experienced a monumental upset when the top seeded French team of Nicholas Mahut/Pierre-Hugues Herbert lost their first round match in a couple of tiebreakers to a pair from The Netherlands, Robin Haase/Wesley Koolhof. Third seeded Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares topped Rohan Bopanna and Dominic Inglot 13-11 in a match tie-breaker, 4th seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah beat the Djokovic brothers 1 and 3 (proving that one man can’t win a doubles match by himself), 5th seeded Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic squeaked by Ben McLachlan and Struff 11-9 in another match tie-breaker, and 6th seeded Henri Kontinen/John Peers got by Wawrinka/Dimitrov 6 and 3. In a bit of a surprise, Karen Khachanov/Feliciano Lopez had little trouble with Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau, winning 4 and 3, and in the first match I can remember them winning together, the Zverev brothers beat Romain Arneodo and Hugo Nys (who??) 10-7 in a third set match tiebreaker.

Tuesday’s predictions:

Novak Djokovic over Philipp Kohlschreiber
Just a few weeks ago in the California desert at Indian Wells, Kohlschreiber beat the world’s No. 1 ranked player in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4 and had, what appeared to be, a pretty easy time doing it. That won’t happen again. Djokovic seems extremely attentive, to say the least, and will want some sweet revenge against the 35-year-old German. Kohlschreiber’s got a very solid game, but let’s be honest: Nole is a much better tennis player. Not only that, I’d say that Djokovic is one of the top five clay court players, to boot (maybe the second best), and he’s going to go all out here. Give this one to Nole, and I’d be surprised if it was close, because of the situation.

Stan Wawrinka over Marco Cecchinato
Is it possible that these two guys have never met? Cecchinato, the 26-year-old charismatic Italian is ranked No. 16 right now, and is one of the best clay courters out there. Additionally, he’ll have plenty of hometown support, as Monte-Carlo gets lots of fans from adjacent countries Italy and France (actually, Monaco sits inside of France—kind of like Vatican City sits inside of Italy). But Wawrinka lives in Monte-Carlo, so the noise from his neighbors alone should counter the cheers Cecchinato gets. And don’t forget that, although he’s only ranked No. 36 right now, Wawrinka has a French Open title on his resume, which instantly makes him the favorite in my book, seeing how the courts in Monaco are so similar to those at Stade Roland Garros. In a close one, I see the Swiss notching a win.

Karen Khachanov over Lorenzo Sonego
God, I hate to do this, but I actually think that Khachanov is going to win this match. I promised myself, after picking the tall Russian to win four first-round matches in a row, all of which he lost, that I’d never pick him to win again. But after a really fine showing in Indian Wells, where he took out Feliciano Lopez, Andrey Rublev and John Isner in a row and then pushed Rafael Nadal to 7-6, 7-6, I’m back on the Russian’s bandwagon. Ranked No. 12, and clearly benefitting from a flawed ranking system (keep those comments coming in, readers) Khachanov has had a really rough 2019, posting just a 7-7 record. But Sonego is only 6-6 himself, and ranked No. 96, which seems pretty accurate for him. These guys played on the hard courts at the 2018 U.S. Open and Khachanov ran away with a straight set victory, and the clay might blunt his game a bit. Still, I think the Russian is the better player, and I’m going with Khachanov and let the chips fall where they may.

Kyle Edmund/Neal Skupski over Diego Schwartzman/Joao Sousa
Edmund and Skupski are a real doubles team and Schwartzman and Sousa are not. That pretty much tells the story. Although Skupski usually plays with his brother Ken, as he did last week in Houston, his second favorite partner is Kyle Edmund, and they play really well together. Schwartzman is a sporadic doubles entry, and Sousa is a clay courter, which usually doesn’t translate particularly well to the doubles game, unless your name is Nadal. I like the Brits to win this one, but, since doubles is played with no-ad scoring and plays a “Champions Tiebreaker” where the first team to ten points wins the third set, almost anything goes. Doubles at this level can often be a crapshoot, as a few of the matches from Monday showed, but Edmund and Skupski should win.

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