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Spain’s Rafael Nadal plays a shot against Belgium’s David Goffin during their third round match May 31 (Michel Euler)
Spain’s Rafael Nadal plays a shot against Belgium’s David Goffin during their third round match May 31 (Michel Euler)|Associated Press
Tennis

Tennis Sunday -- Abrams on French Open Men’s Round of 16 . . . Tsitsipas, Nishikori, Paire, Federer, Mayer, Nadal

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

FRENCH OPEN
Sunday, June 2, 2019

Men’s Round of 16

Stefanos Tsitsipas over Stan Wawrinka
Stefanos Tsitsipas came into this tournament ranked and seeded No. 6, and based on live rankings, he’s now No. 5. Another win and the 20-year-old will be No. 4 in the world, behind just Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer, and that sounds about right. He’s been tested here on the red clay and has shown not only a genuine resolve to compete and win, but also an all-court game that will mature into the best in the world, but is pretty damn good right now. Wawrinka impressively has taken out Cristian Garin and Gregor Dimitrov — the later in a 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 instant classic — to show that he’s come around and that his form is letter-perfect. But in choosing between youth and exerience, especially at this, the physically toughest of all the four Grand Slam events because of the surface, I’m going with youth. I expect this to be a war that could last four hours or longer because of long points and fine shot retrieving, but ultimately I think the 20-year-old Greek takes down the 34-year-old three-time Grand Slam champion.

Kei Nishikori over Benoit Paire
Benoit Paire has had the tournament of his life, on the hometown clay here in Paris. He’s played in front of his compatriots, and they’ve loved every step he’s made in moving into the Round of 16. The competitiveness he showed in beating fellow Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert was really impressive, as the match went long and hard until Paire finally won, 6-2, 6-2, 5-7, 6-7, 11-9. If Paire continues to play this way, he will beat Kei Nishikori. But I don’t think the resolute Japanese will allow that to happen. Nishikori thrives on long, close matches that he can use to ground down his opponent, and that’s probably what this match will be. Nishikori had a severe test himself, beating the 31st-seeded Laslo Djere 8-6 in the fifth, so whatever fatigue Paire must be feeling, Nishikori is too. The key here is that Nishikori has triumphed in six out of the eight matches these two have played (including all three on clay), so I’m gong with the guy who has won three-quarters of their matches and has been dominant on the surface they’ll be playing on now.

Roger Federer over Leonardo Mayer
Leo Mayer has played great tennis in advancing into the Round of 16 here in the City of Light, taking out Diego Schwartzman and Nico Mahut in the last two rounds. But no matter how much you want to congratulate the Argentine, his three wins here were not against one of the best players of all time. Third-ranked and third-seeded Federer has looked almost perfect in his return to the red clay of Stade Roland Garros. I doubt that Mayer has either the game nor the ability to take out Federer here and now, as he’s never beaten the master from Switzerland yet. The only critisizm I’ve heard about The Fed here has been the color of his new “kit” — the clothes that he wears on court, which feature white with a muddy light brown accent. That won’t matter at all as Fed rolls, but I absolutely expect Mayer to put up an epic fight.

Rafa Nadal over Juan Ignacio Londero
Juan Ignacio Londero, another of a group of terrific Argentines, has had three good wins and deserves to be in the Fourth Round here in Paris. Unfortunately for him, he’s playing the man who is the best clay court player in the history of tennis, Rafael Nadal. Going into this tournament there were questions about Nadal’s recent form, for the first time that I can remember as a French Open started. But Nadal has more than answered those questions as he has played excellent tennis and has dominated all of his foes. He did lose the third set last round to David Goffin, but for those who didn’t see the match I must say that Goffin served howitzers and hit his forehand harder than I’ve ever seen him hit them (his forehands were measured at between 96-100 mph in that fourth set, when his normal forehands have been measured at between 82-85 mph). Nadal is locked in, and won’t stumble over Londero