I think that, more often than not, it’s pretty obvious this blog doesn’t necessarily keep watch on the top players, although it ends up doing so during bigger events, as they are the ones who usually reach the furthest stages of them. That’s why we rejoice in the first rounds of Grand Slams, for instance, for they are the rounds in which we see the promising youngsters, the journeymen, the comeback kids, those who are not necessarily at the top of the game but are, to us, those who make tennis the most interesting sport to follow.
For this year’s French Open, apart from having dissected the draw of the Argentines, we will not elaborate on the possibilities of Rafael Nadal winning a record seventh Coupe des Mousquetaires or of Novak Djokovic completing the Nole Slam. Instead, we will focus on the first-rounders that should be the most interesting to watch, in our opinion. For some, the identity of the winner might not leave room for much doubt, but the opponent may be the player to watch. For others, it’s the quality of the matchup so early in the tournament that leaves us drooling in anticipation. In the end, all of them should bring us some good tennis moments.
The four matches previewed here tonight will be played tomorrow. Only the fourth is on a non-TV court. I will continue with the matches to be played on Monday and Tuesday tomorrow.
Andrey Kuznetsov vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
This match goes into the “we know who will win (unless there’s a miracle) but the opponent is why we’ll be watching” category, as we’re pretty sure that the current World no 5 will end up victorious (unless there’s a miracle). However, Andrey Kuznetsov is one of those promising youngsters who are worth stopping to watch.
At 21, Russian Kuznetsov (not to mix with Alex Kuznetsov, who is from the United States) is the 2009 Wimbledon Junior champion. A good all-court player, he is steadily rising in the rankings and is a definite top 30 prospect. You can see a bit of what he can do in these two videos, although both date (the first one was when he was still a junior and the second is from two years ago).
Nicolas Mahut vs Andy Roddick
Andy Roddick came back from a nearly two-month layoff due to a hamstring injury last week, in Düsseldorf, and clay is not his best surface (which, I know, is an understatement). However, his facing Nicolas Mahut should be an interesting battle of veterans, no matter what the end result may be. Roddick’s record, nevertheless, is better (75-42) than the Frenchman’s (6-20).
It seems like an open match, and it should be fun to see who will emerge the winner in this one.
Filip Krajinovic vs Nicolas Devilder
This battle of qualifiers should be fun to watch for the pleasure of watching the extremely gifted young Serbian Filip Krajinovic play. Another member of the Class of ’92, Krajinovic missed most of last season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. He came back slowly last February, playing a couple of Futures events before jumping to Challengers and then received a wild card for the ATP500 of Barcelona, where he logged his first ATP Tour win since his comeback.
In 2010, Krajinovic made quite an impression as, ranked 319, he got all the way to the semi-finals, defeating then no 52 Horacio Zeballos in the second round, then benefitting from Novak Djokovic’s retirement in the quarters to finally lose 1 and 2 to Sam Querrey in the semi-finals.
Although he is now ranked 630 because of his long absence from the Tour, I’m pretty sure that he’ll be coming up the rankings really quickly.
You can watch a little of Krajinovic’s shots in this really nice video (pre-injury):
Pablo Andújar vs Victor Hanescu
This match will not be on a TV court and it really is a bummer, as the two times they met, Pablo Andújar and Victor Hanescu gave quite a show. If Hanescu emerged the victor in both matches, it was after very tight matches and I was fortunate enough to be on location the last time they met, in Buenos Aires. You can see a couple of points from this match in the video, from the Spaniard’s corner:
Both matches between the two men ended up in a third set tiebreak and although Andújar did not have a good European clay swing, I’m pretty sure this match will not be a one-sided affair either. It should be interesting to follow, albeit only from the scoreboard.