French Open R3 previews: Djokovic vs. Dimitrov, Haas vs. Isner

A pair of a marquee matchups in the top quarter of the French Open draw will play out on Saturday. Novak Djokovic is going up against Grigor Dimitrov while Tommy Haas is battling John Isner.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (26) Grigor Dimitrov

Dimitrov and Djokovic will be clashing for the fourth time in their careers and for the third time this season when they face each other again in the third round of the French Open on Saturday. Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 2-1, but Dimitrov won their only previous clay-court encounter 7-6(6), 6-7(8), 6-3 in a three-hour and two-minute marathon earlier this spring at the Madrid Masters. The Serb had scored a prior 6-3, 6-2 victory at the 2012 Shanghai event before taking care of Dimitrov 7-6(4), 6-1 almost three month ago in Indian Wells.

Based on what happened in Madrid and also on Dimitrov’ current level of play, this showdown will be massively hyped. The 22-year-old Bulgarian boasts a 19-11 record for the season, which also includes a runner-up finish to Andy Murray in Brisbane and a quarterfinal showing in Monte-Carlo. Dimitrov, who is through to the last 32 of a slam for the first time in his career after easing past Alejandro Falla and Lucas Pouille, registers at 28th in the world and looks poised to surpass his career-high mark of No. 26. Djokovic has not been entirely dominant in 2013, but he captured the Australian Open title and also ended Rafael Nadal’s reign in Monte-Carlo. The world No. 1 is looking to bounce back from relatively premature losses in Madrid (to Dimitrov) and Rome (to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals), and so far this fortnight he has dismissed both David Goffin and Guido Pella in straight sets.

Dimitrov mentioned on Thursday that he will be facing a different Djokovic than the one whom he saw in Madrid, and he is exactly right. The 2012 runner-up has to be more inspired at a major, especially with a chance to complete a career Grand Slam. At the same, time Dimitrov’s fitness is his biggest question mark and he has not given anyone any reason to think that he can survive a grueling five-setter–which is likely the only way he can pull off what would be a monumental upset. Count on Djokovic avenging his recent loss and ending this one before Dimitrov can even get worn out.

Pick: Djokovic 6-2, 7-5, 6-3

(12) Tommy Haas vs. (19) John Isner

Haas and Isner will be squaring off for the sixth time in their careers and for the second time this season when they meet in round three of the French Open on Saturday. Isner leads the head-to-head series 3-2, but Haas won most their most recent encounter 6-3, 6-4 more than three months ago on the indoor hard courts of San Jose. They have never clashed on clay and their four other matches all came prior to 2010. Two of Isner’s victories came in third-set tiebreakers; 6-4, 6-7(6), 7-6(5) at the 2007 Washington, D.C. event and 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(3) at the 2009 Cincinnati Masters.

Speaking of marathons, Isner had another one–well, not exactly by his standards–on Friday against fellow American Ryan Harrison. For the first time in his career, the world No. 21 came back from two sets down as he prevailed 5-7, 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-1, 8-6 to end a six-match losing streak in five-set matches. With a previous Roland Garros win over Carlos Berlocq (6-3, 6-4, 6-4), Isner is now 15-12 during what has been an up-and-down season. Haas had no such trouble against a different up-and-coming American, Jack Sock. The 35-year-old scored a 7-6(3), 6-2, 7-5 victory in his second-rounder to improve his 2013 record to an outstanding 23-9. Highlights for Haas include a semifinal in Miami (with an upset of Novak Djokovic) and a title in Munich. The world No. 14 kicked off his fortnight with a 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-3 defeat of Guillaume Rufin.

Isner’s survival against Harrison was not a typically outrageous Isner five-setter, such as a 70-68 Wimbledon triumph over Nicolas Mahut and an 18-16 loss to Paul-Henri Mathieu in the second round of last year’s French Open. Still, three hours and 50 minutes of match play without a day of rest in between is not good news for Isner. Given the No. 19 seed’s situation combined with Haas’ awesome form and relative waltz through the first two rounds, the edge goes to the German.

Pick: Haas in 4

1 Comment on French Open R3 previews: Djokovic vs. Dimitrov, Haas vs. Isner

  1. I’m going to disagree w/ BOTH pix. I like Dimitrov over the Joker. Joker just not dominant on clay, and Dtrov just might pull it off in 4. As for Isner, his on court and off court attitude seems much improved…that and his serve should take down the 35 yr old!

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