French Open Day 9 matches to watch
Richard Gasquet vs. Andy Murray (fourth match, Court Philippe Chatrier): This is Monday's match of the day. It will serve as Murray's reckoning after an odd week sporadic injury concerns that led to a near second-round retirement against Jarkko Nieminen due to back spasms. Murray looked fine two days later, beating Santiago Giraldo in straight sets, and he attributed the positive turnaround to the work of his physio.
Gasquet has looked positively inspired through his first three matches. Could it be? Could Richard Gasquet finally be embracing -- nay, enjoying -- the challenge of playing his home Slam? He's not only shown the beautifully fluid game that saddled him with the "genius" tag at 12 years old, but also the grit that he's never been able to summon on the big stage. He'll come into this match with a ton of confidence, having beaten Murray just a few weeks ago in Rome. Murray had his big coming out party in front of his countrymen in 2008, when he famously rallied from two sets down to beat Gasquet in the fourth round at Wimbledon. The stars seem aligned for Gasquet to return the favor here.
Petra Kvitova vs. Varvara Lepchenko (fifth match, Chatrier): Kvitova went on her first walkabout of the tournament in her last round, dropping a set to Nina Bratchikova before recovering well to win in three sets. Lepchenko will need her to go on a more prolonged one if she's to pull off the upset here. It's one thing to pull off upsets of Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone, two players who are stuck in, arguably, career-ending slumps. It's quite another to pull one over on Kvitova, whose pure power and shot-making ability will put Lepchenko's legs to the test.
Janko Tipsarevic vs. Nicolas Almagro (first, Court Suzanne Lenglen): These two reinvigorated journeymen have never faced each other on tour, a fact that is somewhat surprising given their veteran status. Both men are riding seven-match win streaks, with Almagro winning Nice the week before the French Open and Tipsarevic going undefeated in Dusseldorf. With similar playing styles, I give the slight edge to Almagro for his superior clay court prowess, though Tipsarevic's straight set win over Tomas Berdych in Dusseldorf was mighty impressive.
Juan Monaco vs. Rafael Nadal (fourth match, Lenglen): All the top guys have shown signs of instability except for one: the dude who owns this joint. Nadal has been inscrutable in his first three rounds, giving no signs that even an accomplished and in-form clay-courter like Monaco will bother him. Maria Sharapova vs. Klara Zakapalova (third match, Chatrier): Much like Nadal, Sharapova's done nothing but set to rest that she's the woman to beat here in Paris. In three matches she's dropped a total of five games and her opponents have hit a total of eight winners against her. Zakapalova has beaten Maria before, at a Slam no less: In 2003 at the Australian Open when Sharapova was 16 and ranked outside the Top 100. So... that might not count.