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Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns the ball during his match against Jeremy Chardy, of France, during the Madrid Open tennis tournament on May 9, 2019. 
Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns the ball during his match against Jeremy Chardy, of France, during the Madrid Open tennis tournament on May 9, 2019. |Andrea Comas | Associated Press
Tennis

French Open Monday: Abrams picks 17 1st Round men’s matches featuring Nadal, Djokovic, etc., PLUS 17 women’s with Serena, Wozniacki, Bertens

Matches start at 5 am EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

French Open
Stade Roland Garros
Monday, May 27, 2019
Men’s First Round

Rafa Nadal over Yannick Hanfmann
Rafa Nadal begins his quest for his twelfth French Open title with German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, a former USC Trojan. While Nadal is chasing history, Hanfmann, who is deaf, has lost to Daniel Masur, Lorenzo Sonego, Filip Krajinovic, and Jan Choinski over the past couple of months. Although it has been proven this year that Nadal is human and actually can lose on the red clay, it won’t be here, it won’t be now, and it won’t be to Yannick Hanmann.

Novak Djokovic over Hubert Hurkacz
For those that think top seed Novak Djokovic is just going to roll through the French Open and try to take the title from Rafa Nadal in the finals, they have another thing coming. In his first match, Djokovic is up against Hubert Hurkacz, a formidable opponent, who is a 22-year-old 6’5” Pole from Wroclaw. Although Hurkacz lacks both the resume and the experience of Djokovic, he’s got game. Ranked No. 44, I expect Hurkacz to give top-seeded Nole trouble, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this match went five sets. But ultimately, it ends the way we thought it would—with Djokovic moving on.

Peter Gojowczyk over Jo-Willie Tsonga
About ten years ago Jo-Willie Tsonga, the Muhammad Ali look-alike, was viewed as a challenger to the very top players in the game. Not any more. Tsonga has been injured, been rehabbed, made a comeback, and is just not the same player he used to be. He’s always been very aggressive with a compelling attacking style of play, and he still is, but now his game is sprinkled with misses and mistakes that didn’t exist before. Now, he’s inconsistent enough to become a first-round casualty in big tournaments if he’s given a tough draw. And Peter Gojowczyk is a tough draw for the Frenchman. Although Gojowczyk, a 6’2” German is only 5-10 on the year, he’s 2-0 against Tsonga, and he seems to have Tsonga’s number. I’m going with Gojowczyk here in a bit of an upset.

Dominic Thiem over Tommy Paul
Tommy Paul, the 22-year-old born in Vorhees, New Jersey, a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan, is struggling getting onto the main ATP Tour, where the money, fame, prestige, and media glare is. He was a Junior prodigy, having moved to Greenville, North Carolina as a baby, and there was talk that he could make it on the Tour right out of the box, but that never happened. Then, in 2018, he had an elbow injury that sidelined him for over four months, and put his professional birth on hold. He has found moving into the top ranks difficult, to say the least. He has been trying to make a living on the Challenger Tour, where he has become a bit of a force and is now routinely making the semis or finals of the events there. But he’s going to find this test against fourth-ranked Dominic Thiem very difficult indeed. Thiem is considered the second best clay courter in the world, and has wins this year over Federer (finals of Indian Wells) and Nadal (semis of Barcelona) on his way to his two titles. He got to the finals of the French last year only to fall to Nadal, and is expected to challenge for the trophy this year. Thiem will start his run with a win over Paul in his first match here in Paris.

Richard Gasquet over Mischa Zverev
There are a few things a tennis handicapper can be sure of. One is that Nick Kyrgios will give you a good story and will be interesting to watch, whatever happens. Another is that Fabio Fognini will either be a worldbeater or a dog, but you’ll never know before hand which one. And the third is that Mischa Zverev will lose in the first round. Zverev is 1-8 this year, with his one win coming on a retirement in the middle of a first round match from Nicola Kuhn, who quit at 2-2 in the third set of their match in Miami back in mid-March. Although Richard Gasquet is not the player that he was ten years ago, he still has that world-class one-handed backhand, and he will relish this opportunity to take an easy win into the second round of his hometown Grand Slam event.

Stan Wawrinka over Jozef Kovalik
Stan Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion, should have little trouble with Jozef Kovalik, a 26-year-old Slovakian who is in the main draw with a Protected Ranking. Kovalik suffered a right wrist injury in August, 2018, and hasn’t played on the Tour since. I think he’ll find Wawrinka a tough opponent, and Paris a tough city to make his comeback, as Stan the Man will make him hit many, many shots. Although Wawrinka has been spotty this year, when he’s on, he’s very tough to beat, and he is hungry to get back to the top of the sport, since he’s currently ranked only No. 28. He can start here.

Daniil Medvedev over Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Pierre-Hugues Herbert broke out of his mold as one of the world’s best doubles players by getting to the finals of Montpellier where he lost to Tsonga 4 and 2. Still, he has wins over Shapovalov, Berdych, Thiem, Chung, Querrey, Marterer, Chardy, and Nishikori this year alone, proving that he can play singles after all. Still, Medvedev is a tough opponent, is ranked 14th in the world, and has never lost to the Frenchman. The Russian sports a 25-10 record this year, and has played some compelling tennis over the past few months with his own wins over Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Albot, Nishikori, Tsonga, Monfils, and Raonic, among many others. I like the Russian to win and move on.

Gilles Simon over Sergiy Stakhovsky
This year has not been particularly kind to Gilles Simon, as he’s only accumulated a 12-12 record, but a first round encounter against Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky should provide some first round medicine for the Frenchman. These guys have played four times and Simon has won all of them quite easily, with the worst beating of the Ukrainian coming the one time they played on clay. Simon should thank the French Association for the lucky draw.

Pablo Cuevas over Maxime Janvier
Pablo Cuevas is a 33-year-old Argentinian who has 15 years of experience on the Tour and a world ranking of No. 47. Maxime Janvier is a relative rookie at 22-years-old, who will be playing just his third Tour match in the first round here in Paris. They’ve played once, a straight set Cuevas win in Germany last year, and I think Cuevas’ experience should tell you all you’ll need to know about this match going in.

Juame Munar over Salvatore Caruso
Experience is everything, and although Juame Munar is only 22-years-old, he’s got much more of it than Salvatore Caruso, a 26-year-old Italian. Caruso sports a career 1-6 record on the Tour, and will be playing only his second main draw match of the year against Munar, while Munar has started to make a name for himself on the Tour, particularly on clay courts. Munar is ranked No. 53, sports a 2019 record of 15-12, and is known for being very dangerous. I like Munar to roll.

Guido Pella over Guido Andreozzi
These two Argentineans have battled four times, but never in a main draw match on the Tour. They’ve played three times on clay, all won by Andreozzi, but the last time they played was back in 2014, which seems like a lifetime ago. Since then, Pella has broken out of his shell and become a bit of a name internationally, ranked at No. 23, while Andreozzi has been relegated to playing mostly qualies and Challenger tournaments. I like the timing of this for Pella to finally overcome his compatriot and assert his dominance. Where else can you go into a match with a 1-3 record against an opponent and leave the court with a 1-0 advantage?

Alex de Minaur over Bradley Klahn
Alex de Minaur emerged from the shadows at the beginning of the year and became an Aussie favorite, at age 20. But he’s played sparingly, especially during the Spring clay court season, and has a shorter match record than I’d like to see at this time. Still, he’s 11-7, with a title to his name, and a world ranking of No. 25, and that’s not all bad. He’ll be taking on 28-year-old Bradley Klahn, who is now old enough to be categorized as an American journeyman. The Californian is looking for his first main draw win of the year, and is only 9-31 in his entire career. Klahn won’t find it here, as de Minaur’s all court game is simply better and more accomplished.

Alexander Bublik over Rudolf Molleker
Although Alexander Bublik, a 21-year-old Russian, has little experience, with only three main draw matches to his name this year, he’s got game, and that’s all that counts in this match. Molleker, an 18-year-old from the Ukraine, has even less experience than Bublik, and in their only encounter, in the qualies of a Moscow event last year, Bublik won, running away 6-2, 6-2. This one, the best of five sets, should allow Bublik to further showcase his superiority, as he should roll over Molleker fairly quickly.

(Note: Due to a glitch with WTA website, Neal wasn’t able to access all of the players’ rankings and match history. So today, just quick picks Sorry.)

Women’s First Round QuickPicks

J. Gorges over K. Kanepi

K. Bertens over P. Parmentier

C. Wozniacki over V. Kudermetova

J. Konta over A. Lottner

P. Kvitova over S. Cirstea

S. Rogers over A. Sharma

S. Zhang over V. Lepchenko

D. Collins over T. Maria

S. Hsieh over V. Golubic

S. Williams over V. Diatchenko

Cornet over V. Kuzmova

L. Davis over K. Pliskova

Barty oer J. Pegula

D. Vekic over L. Samsonova

E. Mertens over T. Zidansek

B. Andreescu over M. Bouzkova

S. Kenin oer G. Gatto-Monticone