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Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro plays a shot against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka on May 30 (Christophe Ena )
Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro plays a shot against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka on May 30 (Christophe Ena )|Associated Press
Tennis

Tennis Saturday -- Abrams on French Open Men’s Third Round, Djokovic, Monfils, Martin del Potro, Zverev 

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

FRENCH OPEN
Saturday, June 1, 2019

Men’s Third Round Picks

Novak Djokovic over Salvatore Caruso
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic hasn’t been pushed yet, and I don’t expect qualifier Salvatore Caruso to be the one to push Nole. Caruso is here after two really fine wins over both Jaume Munar and Gilles Simon, but neither of those guys are in The Joker’s league. Caruso is going to find out how the other half live in this match.

Gael Monfils over Antoine Hoang
Antoine Hoang is another of the young French fighters that the French Federation continues to pump out, much to the chagrin of the very challenged Americans. With 10 players in the Top 100, the Francs fill their draw with wild cards of young phenoms and those players win. Hoang took out Damir Dzumhur and veteran Fernando Verdasco to set up this meeting with the very face of French tennis, Gael Monfils. Monfils hasn’t lost a set in this tournament yet, and although he might drop one to the young ambidextrous Hoang, this match belongs to the man who provides the French with the most excitement since Yannick Noah.

Dominic Thiem over Pueblo Cuevas
Dominic Thiem has lost a set in each of his first two matches, seemingly being pushed by guys he’s better than. But maybe he’s just playing as well as he needs to. This guy has the hardest-hit groundstrokes on the Tour -- as measured by the electronic measuring devices used at the French Open -- and some of his shots look like they are missiles coming off of his racket, often reaching 100 mph, which is faster than most of the women serve. He’s ready to be pushed by Pablo Cuevas, who may be the best opponent for Thiem; he can push Thiem, but he can’t beat him. Cuevas is here because of a good draw in which he beat a wild card in the first round without dropping a set, and moved on when Kyle Edmund retired, injured, after losing the first two sets in their Second Round match. Thiem will show Cuevas what a Top 10 player looks like.

Juan Martin del Potro over Jordan Thompson
Jordan Thompson, the quiet Aussie, has very silently made his way into the Third Round with very little fuss, but he did take out Ivo Karlovic, who set a record for becoming the oldest winner of a match in French Open history, topping Ken Rosewall’s record set back in the 1970s. This match, to me, comes down to who is healthy. If del Potro can take more punishment after his difficult five-setter over Japan’s pesky Yoshi Nishioka, he will win this match simply because he’s a better player. If del Potro comes up lame, as he could do at absolutely any time, Thompson will move on. But everyone is hoping that del Potro stays healthy because he’s striking the ball as well as he has any time over the past five or six years, and he’s awfully fun to watch play. I especially liked when he bowed to Nishioka after their epic five-setter, showing his opponent the highest level of respect.

Fabio Fognini over Roberto Bautista Agut
This will be the match of the day, without a doubt. I’m picking Fognini over the determined RBA for two reasons: Fognini is on a roll, playing some of the best tennis of his career, and has enough confidence for two people, which means the world in a tennis match. And because he holds a 6-3 lifetime match record over RBA, which tells me that Fognini’s style works on the Argentine. With that said, RBA beat the Italian in straight sets a couple of months ago in Miami, although that was on hard courts, which might not be the best predictor of a match played in the lion’s den at Stade Roland Garros. It wouldn’t surprise me if RBA took out the multi-talented Fognini, but there is a greater probability that the match goes in Fognini’s direction.

Sascha Zverev over Dusan Lajovic
This will be a battle. These guys played in last year’s French Open, when Zverev triumphed over Lajovic in a competitive five setter, and if anything, Lajovic has raised his game immensely in the year that’s passed since. I like Zverev to win this because we haven’t seen what Zverev can actually do on the court, this past week, and I think we (and he) is due. If Zverev entertains to his ability, he’ll cruise. If not, this will, once again, be very competitive.