Day 8 matches to watch: Federer, Sharapova, top seeds face tough tests
PARIS – The top seeds face stern tests on Sunday with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line, as Roger Federer tries to hold off Gael Monfils, Maria Sharapova plays Lucie Safarova and Tomas Berdych faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Play begins at 5 a.m. ET on Tennis Channel, with coverage moving to NBC at 12 p.m. Full television and broadcast schedule can be found here. Full order of play can be found here.
Gael Monfils goes for his third-straight win over Roger Federer: Monfils has won five consecutive sets on clay against Federer, beating him in straight sets in the Davis Cup final last fall and then earlier in the clay season at the Monte Carlo Masters. He has repeatedly played Federer tough over the last year, including leading him two-sets to love at the U.S. Open before losing in five sets. "Davis Cup was rough," Federer said. "Monaco was so early in the clay court season it was always going to be tough, even though I wasn't hitting ball so bad, but still not quite understanding how passive or aggressive I needed to play. I thought he played a good, solid match, and me, too. It came down to a few points. It was a pity for me not to get through that one. He's played me tough throughout my career."
The French love Federer here in Paris but Monfils has a way of building a rapturous scene at Roland Garros. He was games away from losing in the third round to Pablo Cuevas, down 1–4 in the fourth set, but the crowd began to roar and urge him on. Asked whether the crowd "resurrected him" Monfils quipped, "I am a phoenix." Let's see if he rises to the occasion on Sunday. The two play in the third match on Court Philippe Chatrier.
In the other Switzerland-France tie—what is this, the Davis Cup final?—No. 8 seed Stan Wawrinka plays No. 12 Gilles Simon (third match, Lenglen).
Tomas Berdych puts his streak on the line against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Berdych has made the quarterfinals or better at every tournament he has played in 2015. That streak is under serious jeopardy when he takes on No. 14 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who had a spotty clay season but has looked sharp in Paris. Berdych has had to work hard through two lengthy four-set matches in the the second and third rounds, while Tsonga has not lost a set. The Czech leads their head-to-head 6-2, including a win just a few weeks ago at the Madrid Open.
Maria Sharapova has yet another potentially tough one against Lucie Safarova: 7–6(5), 6–7(7), 7–6(2). That was the scoreline the last time Sharapova and Safarova played each other, last year in Stuttgart. Sharapova eeked out the win in over three hours after Safarova valiantly saved match point after match point. It was one of the most memorable matches of the 2014 season. So don't let Sharapova's 4–1 head-to-head record fool you. The Russian, still struggling with a cold that she insists is getting better with each day, could be under fire against the Czech lefty (fourth match, Lenglen). Safarova has shaken off some spotty form on clay to win all six sets she's played so far, including two strong wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Sabine Lisicki.
Ana Ivanovic tries to do something she hasn't done since 2008: Since winning her first and only Slam title here in 2008, Ivanovic has never been able to return to the quarterfinals. She faces No. 9 Ekaterina Makarova (first match, Lenglen), a woman is bidding to make her fourth consecutive Slam quarterfinal. Something's gotta give.
Garbine Muguruza is a win away from defending her 2014 result: The Spaniard was a surprise quarterfinalist last year when she beat Serena Williams in straight sets and eventually lost to Sharapova in three. Now she's the marginal favorite to beat No. 28 seed Flavia Pennetta (fourth match, Chatrier). No. 21 Muguruza is 2–0 against Pennetta but this is their first meeting on clay.
Alize Cornet trying to keep the French flag flying in the women's tournament: The 29th seed is back on her favorite court to try and make the the quarterfinals in Paris for the first time in her career. She faces No. 19 Elina Svitolina (first match, Chatrier) who has to be somewhat gassed after two grueling three-set wins in the last two rounds. Cornet has won their two matches.