Tomorrow promises to be a great day for tennis fans with 12 of the top 20 players in the world playing (and 14 of the top 23). Expect some tight and exciting matches at the final Masters 1000 tournament of the year.
As always, Baseline Rally will evaluate the players, analyze the match-ups and offer up some predictions.
ANDY RODDICK VS. ANDY MURRAY
The action kicks off at center court tomorrow with the top two players in the world named Andy. The similarities between the players ends at their first names though, as Roddick relies on his potent service game, while Murray possesses one of the top return games in tennis.
Murray has been in fine form recently, going undefeated since faltering in the US Open semi-finals. Roddick on the other hand, has had some up and down results most recently getting steamrolled by the Fed Express in the Basel quarterfinals.
This match-up presents some severe problems for Roddick, who has gone 3-7 in his career against Murray. If Roddick is unable to get free points on serve, Murray’s ability to turn defense into offense makes Roddick the underdog in long rallies. If past history is any indicator, Roddick will struggle to get free points on serve.
In their most recent match-up at Queen’s Club earlier this year, Roddick’s 1st serve percentage was a blistering 82% yet he was still destroyed by the score of 6-3 6-1. Murray was easily able to neutralize Roddick’s serve, as the American was only able to win 52% of 1st serve points. Murray also won the battle of aces serving 13 to 3 for Roddick. Expect this trend to continue.
PREDICTION: Murray 6-2 6-2
NOVAK DJOKOVIC VS. VICTOR TROICKI
The best player in the world, Djokovic, will try to add to his historic season with a win in Paris. Standing in his way in the round of 16 is his countryman Victor Troicki – the #19 player in the world.
Djokovic has had an easy go of it against his fellow Serbian in their history. The Djoker has won 9 of the 10 meetings between the two including the most recent 9 matches. The two have met twice already this year with Troicki only winning a total of 6 games over the course of their four sets.
In their meeting in Miami earlier this year, Troicki was only able to win 51% of first service points. Djokovic has too many weapons and athleticism for Troicki to remain competitive.
PREDICTION: Djokovic 6-4 6-3
JO-WILFRIED TSONGA VS. ANDREAS SEPPI
Despite the fact that I always struggle to spell his first name, I am an unabashed fan of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The 8th ranked Frenchman does everything big including his blistering serve and his amazing forehand. He matches up against Italian Andreas Seppi, who is the lowest ranked player remaining in the tournament at #46.
Seppi is a nice player with a finesse all-court game, but I can’t see him keeping up with Tsonga on his home turf. Tsonga usually struggles with dangerous returners or players who can hold serve easily as Tsonga’s return game is certainly not his strength. Seppi possesses neither of these qualities as his first serve return is decidedly average and his serve is below average.
These two met most recently in the Australian Open at the beginning of the season, where Tsonga won in straight sets (including two by tie-break). Seppi was successful in longer rallies off the Tsonga second serve, but was unable to translate this into a match victory.
Look for Tsonga to continue on in this tournament.
PREDICTION: Tsonga 7-6 6-4
MARDY FISH VS. JUAN MONACO
In what might be the best match of the day, world #9 Mardy Fish takes on the 34th player in the world in Argentinian Juan Monaco. Fish looked dominant today in taking out tough German Florian Mayer. However, Monaco has been playing the best hard court tennis of his career, reaching the finals at Valencia last week including beating David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.
Monaco has taken his fine form into this week with two dominant performances over Donald Young and Gilles Simon. His win over Simon today on Simon’s home turf was especially impressive.
These two have met three times on tour with Fish holding a 2-1 series lead although all three matches were extremely competitive (and two took place a long time ago). In their most recent meeting on clay, Monaco won 7-6 7-5, using his impressive return of serve and heavily top spinned groundstrokes to his advantage.
I expect Fish to be very aggressive and try to press the play in this match. However, Monaco’s defense may force Fish into many unforced errors. I like the mild upset in a very close match.
PREDICTION: Monaco 3-6 7-5 6-4
RICHARD GASQUET VS. ROGER FEDERER
If you are a fan of all court, beautiful tennis, you will love this match-up between 20th ranked Gasquet and world #4 Federer. These two are dangerous from anywhere on the court and play a brand of the game that purists love. This should be a great one to watch.
Federer has had the better of Gasquet in their careers, holding an 8-2 mark over the Frenchman. Also of note, Federer is 4-0 on hard courts against Gasquet. In their most recent match-up, Gasquet prevailed at the Italian Masters event 4-6 7-6 7-6 on clay. In analyzing the numbers of that match, Gasquet won an unsustainable 74% of his 2nd serve points. With a regression toward the mean, Federer would have taken that tight match. Earlier this year on a hard court in Dubai, Federer won 6-2 7-5. In that match-up, Gasquet won a more realistic 54% of points on his 2nd serve (and only 53% of points on his first serve).
Even at this stage of his career, Federer does not lose often, and when he does it is usually against players who can pound him from the baseline (like Djokovic or Nadal). While Gasquet plays a very pretty game, I don’t believe that he has the weapons to beat Federer on an indoor hard court.
Federer played a great tourney in Basel, and in his current form, he will defeat Gasquet in straight sets.
PREDICTION: Federer 7-5 6-4
TOMAS BERDYCH VS. JANKO TIPSAREVIC
In yet another marquee match in Paris, world #7 Berdych takes on world #11 Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic has been playing some of the best tennis of his career, having won Moscow and reaching the finals in St Petersburg before retiring last week in Basel against Florian Mayer. Berdych, on the other hand, has a 1-2 record since an impressive tournament win in Beijing in early October.
In addition to Tipsarevic’s recent success, he has also historically had success in his head-to-head match-up with Berdych. Tipsarevic is 4-0 in his career against the Czech national and has only dropped two sets in their four meetings.
Tipsarevic’s mix of consistency and firepower always gives Berdych fits and I expect it to continue to do so. Additionally, with Tipsarevic coming in with a lot of confidence, he will likely be even more dangerous.
PREDICTION: Tipsarevic 6-4 7-6
DAVID FERRER VS. ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV
In yet another battle of top 20 players, fifth ranked Ferrer faces 17th ranked Dolgopolov on the indoor courts of Paris. 29 year old Ferrer is a model of consistency and rarely beats himself. Dolgopolov is also a finesse player, albeit a finesse player with a pretty big game. He takes more risks and makes more errors from the baseline.
After bowing out early in his last few tournaments, Dolgopolov finally was able to win a match against Philip Kohlschreiber today. He is in tough, however, against Ferrer, who is in his usual fine form having made the semi-finals of the event at Valencia last week.
Ferrer boasts a 3-1 career record against the Ukranian including 2-0 on hard courts. His consistency and prowess from the baseline will be too much for a struggling Dolgopolov.
PREDICTION: Ferrer 6-4 6-4
JOHN ISNER VS. FELICIANO LOPEZ
Finally, the third ranked American in the world, #23 John Isner, takes on the 4th ranked Spaniard in the world in #21 Feliciano Lopez.
Lopez is not your prototypical Spanish player, as he is a huge server and a middling returner. If this sounds familiar, it is probably because Isner has a very similar game. Both are near the top of the standings in aces this year, with Isner at 751 and Lopez at 719. Amazingly, Lopez is actually slightly more successful on his first serve, winning an impressive 78% of those points while Isner checks in at 77%.
This is the first meeting between these two and I expect a marathon. In addition to the first serve points won mentioned above, both players are decidedly below average on both 1st and 2nd serve return points. Isner wins an abysmal 24% of 1st serve returns – lowest among top 25 players and an equally unimpressive 42% of 2nd serve points – also lowest among top 25 players. Lopez is slightly better but is second worst among top 25 players in both categories at 26% and 44%. On 2nd serve returns, the next closest in futility among the top 25 wins 48% of those points.
All this to say, I don’t see many breaks of serve happening in this match.
PREDICTION: Isner 7-6 6-7 7-6