It’s quarter-finals day at Roland Garros and Rafa Nadal is an odds-on favourite to record his tenth French Open title.
The Majorcan has looked imperious, having dropped just twenty games in four matches. It’s very difficult to make a case for compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta to end this run, given that he’s lost all three previous matches between the two.
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Nadal ’s intensity is back to its best, and the thirty-one-year-old has looked almost unbeatable. And despite the fact that seven of the top eight seeds remain, the Spaniard’s odds have shortened further.
Novak Djokovic is still not back to his best but is playing with more consistency, in front of his new coach Andre Agassi. The thirty-year-old did experience a wobble in his third round win over the Argentine Diego Schwartzman, after trailing by two sets to one, but later found a gear to motor through the last two sets by dropping just two games.
“Andy Murray is improving with every match and seems to be a different player when coach Ivan Lendl is watching…”
Djokovic now faces the rapidly improving Dominic Thiem in the tie of the round. The Austrian has been racing through his matches with little difficulty and is the only player this year to have beaten Rafa Nadal on the clay. The head-to-head reads five nil in Novak’s favour (including a 6-1 6-0 meeting in Rome on clay), but this match should be far tighter. I’ll take Djokovic to win in four very tight sets (16/5).
World number one Andy Murray is improving with every match and seems to be a different player when coach Ivan Lendl is watching from the stands. Last year’s runner-up now faces Japan’s greatest player, Kei Nishikori: a player who defeated Murray in last year’s US Open quarter-finals. However, that was a rare win for Nishikori over Murray, and I don’t see him following up on this occasion. There’s a calmness with Murray and I’m expecting him to prevail again.
His likely opponent in the semi-finals is the 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka. Having won his home tournament in Geneva, confidence is high. The 32-year-old has yet to drop a set in Paris and now faces the giant Marin Cilic. Cilic is also in good form, as he too, has yet to drop a set. However, Wawrinka has won his last seven meetings and I can only see that trend continuing here. Wawrinka to win in four sets (29/10) is my prediction.
Whatever happens in the Women’s event, we are guaranteed a new champion
Only three of the eight remaining players have reached a Grand Slam final (Halep, Wozniacki and Pliskova). When I previewed this event in the build-up, it was before the draw had been made, but both selections, Kristina Mladenovic (advised at 13/1) and Timea Bacsinszky (50/1), now clash in the quarter-finals. Mladenovic has got through three of her matches in a gruelling final set, but she’s one of the most consistent players on the tour in 2017. She will also have the home crowd behind her.
“The Latvian has beaten Wozniacki in their three previous encounters, including twice on the clay this year”
Bacsinszky loves playing at Roland Garros and has reached another last eight off the back of some excellent performances. This includes an impressive result against Venus Williams in the fourth round. I can only see another close match here, but the bet might be to go for over 2.5 sets at 27/20.
The winner will face either the much-experienced Caroline Wozniacki or nineteen-year-old Jelena Ostapenko. Wozniacki beat former winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in the previous round and has had to call upon plenty of reserves to win three of her four matches. Ostapenko is a player on the rise and had a terrific win over an in-form Sam Stosur. The Latvian has beaten Wozniacki in their three previous encounters, including twice on the clay this year. I’ll take Ostapenko to book her first Grand Slam semi-final.
Tournament favourite Simona Halep faces the player of the season in Elina Svitolina
Halep reached the final here in 2014 and looked in formidable form when dropping just two games in trouncing Carla Suarez Navarro.
Svitolina has been remarkably consistent in 2017, having won four titles already and defeating Halep in a three-set final on the clay in Rome. The Ukrainian showed typical grit in defeating qualifier Petra Martic on Monday, but I can see that run coming to an end against Romania’s Halep, who is moving quite freely despite some concern pre-tournament over an ankle injury.
The home crowd also have Caroline Garcia to cheer on, and the twenty-eighth seed knocked out compatriot Alize Cornet in straight sets in round four. Garcia has always had the talent but has underachieved in previous years. She does now seem to be building up an impressive head of steam and holds a big chance of upsetting the second seed Karolina Pliskova. The six-foot-one, big-serving Czech is more comfortable on a harder surface and did lose her only previous clay court meeting against Garcia. No French player has won their own Grand Slam singles title since Mary Pierce in the year 2000. Garcia can take another step closer to victory and a place in the semi-finals.
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