By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
Images courtsey of Camerawork USA
The year’s second Grand Slam is in full swing as the clay court season culminates with the 2019 French Open. Both the men’s and women’s singles draws have been dwindled down to 32 players, with third-round play scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
Several of the Citi Open’s 2019 headliners are among this year’s seeded players at Roland Garros and are looking to make deep runs in France. Below is our latest update following second-round victories from D.C. commits Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kei Nishikori and Gael Monfils on the men’s side and the No.1 American Sloane Stephens in the women’s draw.
Tsitsipas Continues Clay Success
World No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas has looked rather comfortable this week on the newly-renovated Philippe-Chartier Court.
Tsitsipas has received the featured court treatment for each of his first two matches and after a straight sets win in the first round, the 20-year-old rallied from a set down to beat world No.86 Hugo Dellien of Bolivia 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 in Round 2. It was Tsitsipas’ ATP-leading 31st match win in 2019.
The 2018 Citi Open semifinalist will again play on the primary show court in Roland Garros Friday as he takes on world No.60 Filip Krajinovic of Serbia with a berth in the Round-of-16 at stake.
While Tsitsipas has been economical with his court time, Krajinovic has gone the distance in a pair of five-set victories over Washington Kastles star Frances Tiafoe and veteran Roberto Carballas Baena.
Having already won the title in Estoril in April before reaching the finals in Madrid and the semifinals in Rome in May, Tsitsipas has lofty aspirations in Paris.
“To be holding that beautiful trophy that Roland Garros has to offer,” Tsitsipas told reporters this week.
The winner of the Tsitsipas-Krajinovic third-round match will face either No.24 Stan Wawrinka or Grigor Dimitrov in the Round-of-16.
Nishikori Wins Battle over Tsonga
In one of the most anticipated early-round matches in the men’s draw, world No.7 Kei Nishikori rallied to beat one of France’s favorite sons, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in four sets.
Nishikori beat Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in just over three hours to advance to the third round at the French Open for the fifth consecutive year.
Despite the home crowd support, Tsonga conceded that Nishikori was too good.
“Kei played a good match,” said Tsonga, a French Open semifinalist in 2013 and 2015. “This was a match of high level and I haven’t played such a good for a long time. For me, it was a good effort but Kei was just too good for me today.”
Nishikori, who captured the 2015 Citi Open, is now 13-1 lifetime against players at their home Grand Slam tournament. He will next face No.31 Laslo Djere of Serbia in Round 3 at Roland Garros.
Should Nishikori make it through to the second week in Paris, potential threats further down the draw include another Frenchman in Benoit Paire (Round-of-16) and 11-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal (quarterfinals).
Monfils Looks to end French Drought
No.14 Gael Monfils could not have scripted a better start to his 13th career appearance at his home Grand Slam. The Frenchman has won each of his first two matches in straight sets, including a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 triumph over countryman Adrian Mannarino in Round 2.
The 2016 Citi Open champion will face another Frenchman, Antoine Hoang, in a third-round match on Saturday. Should Monfils advance, No.4 Dominic Thiem is a potential opponent in the Round-of-16.
Monfils, who reached the semifinals at the 2008 French Open, is looking to become the first Frenchman to win Roland Garros since Yannick Noah in 1983.
Stephens Seeks Return Trip to Women’s Final
No.7 Sloane Stephens has opened her French Open account in style with back-to-back straight-sets victories over Japan’s Misaki Doi and Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo. With No.4 Kiki Bertens having been upset in her second-round match, Stephens is now the highest seed remaining in her quarter of the draw.
Stephens fell to Simona Halep in the French Open final last spring, but the 2015 Citi Open champion has a legitimate shot at her second career Grand Slam title (2017 U.S. Open).
Stephens will next face Polona Hercog in Round 3 on Friday. Stephens is 3-0 lifetime against Hercog, having never dropped a set. Stephens most recently defeated Hercog in the Round-of-64 in Madrid in April.
Should the No.1 American continue to advance, she could later encounter No.9 Elena Svitolina in the Round-of-16 and No.15 Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals.
Bryan Brothers Advance to RD3
Competing in the French Open for the 20th time as a tandem, Mike and Bob Bryan advanced to the third round in men’s doubles Thursday with a 7-5, 7-6 win over the British brother team of Ken and Neal Skupski.
The four-time Citi Open champions have been reunited on the court this year after Bob Bryan missed the second half of 2018 due to a hip injury that required surgery.
Unlike the Bryan brothers, who have partnered professionally more than two decades, the Skupski brothers have played together on the ATP Tour for just a year-and-a-half. Their time as a doubles team is also coming to an end as younger brother Neal will be partnering with Jamie Murray moving forward.
Transition isn't uncommon in men's doubles, but the Bryan brothers have been among the contants. The No.7 seeds in Paris are now targeting a third French Open triumph and a 17th Grand Slam title overall. Later this summer, they will be making their 15th appearance at the Citi Open as a team.
The Bryan brothers will next face either the pairing of Washington Kastles star Yoshihito Nishioka and Ricardas Berankis or the No.10 seeds J.J. Rojer and Horia Tecau with a berth in the quarterfinals at stake.
Another round complete in Roland Garros means another round closer to the Citi Open!