After two days of intensified rain on the grounds of Roland Garros, Williams is playing catch up. The 21-time grand slam champion may have to play four ‘Best of 3’ matches in four days in order to win her 22nd grand slam title thus tying Steffi Graff’s total. Her first opponent over the next four days will be a familiar one, who has tested Williams in previous matches – Kazakhstan’s Putintseva. At 21 years-of-age Putintseva is a regular now on the WTA circuit, but it’s safe to say she is unfamiliar with the latter stages of grand slam tennis. Putintseva, a fiery, volatile type of character often brings a lot to the tennis court that can get under the skin of her opponent and that will be required in order to get the better of heavy favourite Serena Williams.
Williams leads the H2H 2-0 with just the one meeting on the clay of Madrid in 2013. These two players actually have more in common than meets the eye, as Putintseva’s training base has been in France at the academy of Williams’ longtime coach Patrick Mouratoglou, for a number of years now.
The experienced three-time Roland Garros winner should have too much firepower for her young Kazakh opponent, but it will be interesting to see whether Putintseva produces the inspired brand of tennis she is capable of. One thing is for sure is that Putintseva won’t be overawed by the occasion or the opponent on the other side of the net.
The first match on Philippe Chatrier sees Djokovic continue his run for a first Roland Garros title, this time Berdych stands in his way to the semi-finals. This head to head stretches over eight years, with Djokovic dominating 23-2. Berdych’s only victories against Djokovic was during the Czech’s memorable run to his only grand slam final in Wimbledon 2010 and also at the Rome Masters in 2013 – his last win.
Djokovic is undoubtedly the better clay court player and he holds a valuable mental edge over Berdych, but Berdych has been playing some faultless tennis from the baseline throughout the 2016 Roland Garros tournament. Berdych is playing with reckless abandon after splitting with his coach Dani Vallverdu, and it feels like Berdych is playing with a free frame of mind that ultimately takes the pressure off himself in a results-driven sport.
The World No. 1 will have too much consistency for Berdych and as we witness regularly at the higher echelons of the ATP Tour that the mental contest is where most matches are won and lost- Djokovic wins the mental battle over Berdych handily.
The quarter-final match between Thiem and Goffin features the most competitive match of the day, where it is not set in stone for any of the competitors to win. Goffin benefits from a favourable H2H of 5-2, but Thiem is a very different prospect in 2016 to previous years where he was attempting to find his feet on the ATP Tour.
Goffin and Thiem are level at 1-1 in their previous clay match ups, but it can be argued that previous encounters mean very little in this particular match as both will be playing in uncharted territory- the first quarter-final of both Thiem and Goffin’s career. Incidentally, the winner of this match will not only achieve their first Grand Slam semi-final, but the winner will also break the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time in their career, so a gigantic battle is well and truly on the cards in this match.
Prediction: Thiem in five sets
Play continues at Roland Garros at 1pm (12pm BST)
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