French Open Day 5 picks, including Gasquet vs. Berlocq and Seppi vs. Monaco

The Grandstand’s Ricky Dimon and Chris Skelton of Tennis View Magazine preview and pick four of the best men’s singles matches on Thursday at Roland Garros. Among those in second-round action are seeds Richard Gasquet and Andreas Seppi.

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem

Ricky: Thiem is not going to be afraid of this. He has certainly never seen anything like a match against Nadal on Philippe Chatrier, but the 20-year-old has gained some valuable experience this season. He has been to the third round of two Masters 1000s and an additional third round on the clay of Barcelona. Thiem also extended Andy Murray to three sets in Rotterdam–and that was before he really took his game to a new level this spring. Nadal is going to be too tough on red dirt, but Thiem has the game that can trouble the world No. 1 (aside from a single-handed backhand). This could be the Austrian’s true coming out party…albeit in a straight-set loss. Nadal 7-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Chris: The 20-year-old Austrian seems to be on the fast track for top-10 greatness, having honed a balanced game with legitimate weapons and few flaws to exploit. Thiem already has notched some notable results this year, upsetting Stanislas Wawrinka in Madrid and taking a set from Murray in Rotterdam. He lacks the big-match experience and the raw firepower to hit through Nadal in a best-of-five match, however, on any surface. And Nadal seemed to emerge from his doldrums, at least in part, midway through his Rome quarterfinal against Murray. This match could be interesting for a while—until it’s not. Nadal 7-5, 6-2 6-2.

(12) Richard Gasquet vs. Carlos Berlocq

Ricky: At 100 percent, Gasquet should not have too much trouble with Berlocq at home in France. But Gasquet is not 100 percent. Because of a back injury, the Frenchman said he would not have played this event if it had been anything other than the French Open. He was good enough to beat a slumping Bernard Tomic in straight sets but admitted afterward to having some pain. Berlocq will be much different customer from Tomic. He’s a respected fighter and an accomplished clay-courter. The Argentine won a recent title in Oeiras and took care of Lleyton Hewitt in his Roland Garros opener.  Berlocq 5-7, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Chris: It’s clear that Gasquet has a massive talent edge over Berlocq, who is the Frenchman’s inferior in every element of the game. But Berlocq holds the momentum edge after winning his first career title in Oeiras this spring. Showing surprising resilience, the 31-year-old from Argentina knocked off both Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych having never previously defeated a top-10 opponent. Gasquet did not play a match on outdoor clay this year until Roland Garros, by contrast, and said that injury would have prevented him from playing any tournament except his home major. He at least notched a routine first-round win over Tomic. This is a much tougher test of Gasquet’s fitness. Berlocq 5-7, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2.

(32) Andreas Seppi vs. Juan Monaco

Ricky: This has five-set grind written all over it. Neither 30-year-old is in great form at the moment, but both are pretty good on the slow stuff. Monaco played relatively well in Dusseldorf and cruised past Lucas Pouille in straight sets on Tuesday. Seppi’s first-round win was far more impressive, as he ousted an in-form Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 7-5, 6-3. The Italian reached the third round of the French Open last season and made it to the fourth round in 2012, when he pushed Novak Djokovic to five sets. Seppi 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

Chris: Both of these veterans have left their prime a few years behind them and are unlikely to retrieve it. Speaking of retrieving, Seppi and Monaco cover a clay court especially well and have enjoyed their best results on this surface. Seppi once came within a set of upsetting Djokovic at Roland Garros, which would have carried him to the quarterfinals. He rebounded from a disastrous start to the clay season with a strong win over Giraldo in the first round. Monaco has been only marginally better on clay this year as this former top-10 player has dropped outside the top 75. But this is still an extremely tight matchup that should feature many long, grinding rallies and few clean winners. Seppi 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

(28) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Denis Istomin

Ricky: Istomin vs. Kohlschreiber is becoming what Istomin vs. Dmitry Tursunov was earlier this season. They play each other all the time. Istomin won 6-4 in the third in Munich before Kohlschreiber got revenge last week in Dusseldorf by the same margin in a deciding set. Players coming off long and successful weeks are having little trouble so far in Paris. Nice champion Ernests Gulbis is in the third round and Dusseldorf runner-up Ivo Karlovic upset Grigor Dimitrov in the first round. Kohlschreiber should be brimming with confidence after his Dusseldorf title. Kohlschreiber 7-5, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Chris: It’s always fun to watch two crisp but contrasting backhands. In this case, Istomin’s streamlined two-hander will square off against Kohlschreiber’s florid flick. The surface advantage probably belongs to the German, who is also the more talented shot-maker overall and is riding a modest winning streak after a title on home soil last week. But Kohlschreiber is an enigmatic competitor who tends to wilt under the spotlight, whereas Istomin seems to have a habit of rising to the occasion. He won their only previous meeting at a major three years ago at Wimbledon. This match marks their third this year after they split a pair of encounters, both on clay and both in three sets. Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

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