French Open Day 8 matches to watch
Novak Djokovic vs. Andreas Seppi (second match, Court Philippe Chatrier): It's hard not to like Andreas Seppi. He's the quiet Italian, seemingly unencumbered by the innate need for the dramatics of his countrymen and women. He's had a stellar clay season, winning the Serbia Open, beating John Isner and Stanislas Wawrinka in Rome and beating Fernando Verdasco in the third round here to earn a date with Novak Djokovic. The World No. 1 has looked ruthless through the first week and Seppi shouldn't derail him. "He’s in best form I think in his life and won a tournament in Belgrade. So he’s very famous in Serbia," Djokovic said. "I think half of Serbia will support Seppi because of winning the trophy. No, I’m kidding." Yeah, we know, Novak.
Victoria Azarenka vs. Dominika Cibulkova (first match, Court Suzanne Lenglen): The last time these two played, Cibulkova blew a 6-1, 5-2 lead and missed out on her chance to be the woman to end Azarenka's 2012 win streak in Miami. The tiny Slovak got incredibly nervous trying to close the match and lost 1-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5. So does the 16th seed have a shot to pull off another big upset on the women's side? Absolutely. Though Azarenka leads their head-to-head 7-1, their last five matches dating back to 2008 have all gone the full three sets and Cibulkova's one win over Vika was on clay. And let's not forget that Cibulkova has been a semifinalist here in Roland Garros. The key for Cibulkova: closing. In their last 2 matches, Cibulkova has led 6-3 3-1 and 6-1 5-2 and Azarenka rallied to win both matches.
Sloane Stephens vs. Samantha Stosur (fourth match, Chatrier): Stephens hasn't had to face a seeded player on her way to the Round of 16 and she's never played Stosur before. I think she's in for a rude awakening. It's difficult for players who have never faced her before to prepare for Stosur's game. She plays like no other woman on the tour, especially on clay where her kick serve and heavy topspin forehand jump off the court an keep her opponents off balance. That said, Stephens has the legs and the power to hang with the Aussie, the issue is whether she can be consistent. She'll need a good serving day and be willing to hit her backhand down the line.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (third match, Chatrier): This is a dangerous match for Tsonga, who lost to Wawrinka last year in Paris after leading two sets to none. Wawrinka is coming a huge confidence building win, outlasting Gilles Simon in five sets, while Tsonga was finally able to get through a match without dropping a set, beating Fabio Fognini in straights. The two have only played each other twice in their careers, with each winning once. I'm tipping Wawrinka to pull off the upset. He's a much better clay-courter (two of his three titles have come on clay) and the angles he's able to hit with his one-handed backhand really opens up the court on clay.
Juan Martin del Potro vs. Tomas Berdych (fourth match, Court Suzanne Lenglen): Berdych survived a tough five-set match against Kevin Anderson in the third round and Del Potro had a more complicated than it should have been straight set win over Marin Cilic. In the grand scheme of things there's very little separating these two. Del Potro leads the head-to-head 3-2, though they've split their two meetings on clay and their two matches this year (Berdych won in Rome, Del Potro in Rotterdam). Based on current form you have to give the nod to Berdych to win. He's been one of the hottest players on clay this season. The winner will likely get Roger Federer.