Sunday’s play at the French Open could be hampered somewhat by the weather in Paris, which is forecast to be rain for a large portion of the day.
I could probably have done with some rain on Saturday when Andrey Kuznetsov started in timid and errant fashion against a Rafa Nadal who could barely get a serve in and struggled off the ground.
A downpour might have given the Russian a chance to start over, but a below par Nadal was handed set one on a plate by Kuznetsov in a limp and hugely disappointing display.
Typically, Kuznetsov found his game towards the end of set two and did take three games in that set, which was almost a certainty after set one.
That was after Novak Djokovic had landed the ‘sure thing’ with the required straight sets win over Thanasi Kokkinakis, but this being the French Open the eye-opening results were never far away.
Marin Cilic really surprisingly, to me at least, won in straight sets against what had been an in-form Leo Mayer, while the second leg of the treble won when Simone Bolelli and David Ferrer went over 8.5 games in set one of what turned out to be a five set clash.
Not many would have that as a five setter nor indeed Jack Sock to win in three against Borna Coric or Jeremy Chardy to do the same to David Goffin on another tough day for punters.
Tomas Berdych vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
The French have enjoyed a good tournament so far, with Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and Jeremy Chardy still involved at the fourth round stage, but quite conceivably all five could be beaten in round four, with all starting as underdogs.
Tsonga has made the most of what was a very handy draw against two no-hopers and a Pablo Andujar who failed to rise to the occasion and didn’t seem to have the required belief in the last round.
The Frenchman has been very hit and miss on the clay since his injury comeback and he was okay against Andujar, but that level doesn’t look good enough to beat the ultra-consistent Berdych.
The Berdman took down another Frenchman in Benoit Paire in the last round and he’s now on 18 of his last 20 against French players, with wins in the last 10 on the bounce.
Indeed, Berdych has only dropped two sets in those 10 matches and he looks a solid choice to improve that record against French players today in his 11th career clash with Tsonga in a series he leads 7-3 at the moment.
Tsonga and Berdych met on quicker clay in Madrid three weeks ago and it was fairly comfortable for the Czech that day and although Tsonga is entitled to improve after more matches and should be boosted by crowd support I still don’t see him toppling Berdych.
Other than athleticism I’m struggling to find a facet of Tsonga’s game that’s better than Berdych’s at the moment and assuming it doesn’t get really windy on Sunday (or whenever they play) I’m happy to side with the Czech to prevail.
Gael Monfils vs Roger Federer
The weather may well play its part in this one, with any delay in proceedings surely favouring Monfils, who, as is his wont, has probably irreparably damaged any chance he had of landing this title with week one's antics.
Five set battles with Diego Sebastian Schwartzman and Pablo Cuevas and a four setter with Edouard Roger-Vasselin have probably taken too much from Lamonf overall, but he might still have enough to beat Federer.
Monfils looked down and out against Cuevas, who put in a pretty awful choke that prevented the Uruguayan from winning in four sets, but he delighted the crowd on Lenglen by breaking the record for Open era five sets wins at the French Open.
The very fact that he has that record goes some way to explaining why Monfils is yet to make a final of a major and he probably won’t again this time, but he has won his last two matches against Federer and both were on clay.
One was a thrashing in the Davis Cup Final last year, which is arguably Gael’s best ever performance, and the other was recently in Monte-Carlo and if this is a late start or Monday start all the better for the Frenchman.
To win the French you have to defend well and Monfils can do just that against Federer, but after those marathons in week one I wouldn’t fancy him to nick another five setter.
Over the last two years seven of Federer’s last nine defeats at grand slams have come in three or four sets and as a long shot I like the 4.30 about Monfils winning with a -1.5 set handicap.
Federer, as he usually does, has looked smooth up until this point, but his record over five sets lately is poor and perhaps age has something to do with that.
We know that Monfils has the game to beat Federer on clay and for once the crowd won’t be as much on the Swiss’s side.
Pray for a lengthy downpour of rain and put your faith in Monfils to give us a run for our money as a long shot.
Sure thing: Back Berdych to beat Tsonga at 1.37
Value bet: Back Berdych -1.5 sets to beat Tsonga at 1.74
Long shot: Back Monfils -1.5 sets to beat Federer at 4.30