French Open R2 previews and picks: Nadal vs. Thiem, Murray vs. Matosevic

Rafa 3Rafael Nadal’s French Open fortnight will heat up on Thursday with an intriguing second-round contest against Dominic Thiem. Andy Murray and Marinko Matosevic are also looking for a place in the last 32.

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem

Heading into this season, neither fans nor players–at least not the majority–could have been familiar with Thiem. Fast forward five months and the 20-year-old Austrian has made a major name for himself. He will have his biggest opportunity yet to make headlines when performs on Court Philippe Chatrier during second-round action at the French Open on Thursday. Thiem, who started 2014 at No. 139 in the world and is now 57th, earned his 11th main-draw match win of the season with a 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-2 defeat of Paul-Henri Mathieu.

What is without question an opportunity for Thiem is also–undoubtedly–a terrible second-round draw. Nadal is 60-1 lifetime at Roland Garros, is the four-time defending champion, and has won eight titles at the event overall. The top-ranked Spaniard got his campaign started on Tuesday by routing American wild card Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-3, 6-0. This will be far more competitive, because Thiem is in the midst of an outstanding clay-court swing and he has the power game that can trouble Nadal. It remains to be seen, however, how the underdog’s one-handed backhand holds up against the No. 1 seed’s heavy topspin. Most of the best tennis sportsbooks have Nadal as a -250 favorite to beat Thiem in straight sets. The favorite may do it, but it won’t be before an extremely entertaining fight.

Pick: Nadal in 3 losing 11-14 games

Marinko Matosevic vs. (7) Andy Murray

For the first time ever, Matosevic finds himself in round two of a Grand Slam. At long last, the 13th time proved to be the charm for the 28-year-old Australian. He had been a well-documented 0-12 lifetime at majors prior to his arrival at Roland Garros, but he finally got the monkey off his back with a 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-7(1), 7-5 victory over Dustin Brown on Tuesday. Matosevic owns a decent 12-13 record for the season.

Up next for the world No. 66 is Murray, who won their only previous encounter 6-2, 6-2 last summer on the grass courts of Queen’s Club. The eighth-ranked Scot booked his spot in the last 64 by taking out Andrey Golubev 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Murray’s year has been hampered by recovery from surgery, but he won two matches earlier this month in Rome before testing Nadal in an exciting three-setter. Matosevic will much prefer facing Murray on clay instead of grass, but you have to think he is content just to be in this situation–finally–and his game is likely to be broken down by Murray’s counter-punching.

Pick: Murray in 3

50 Comments on French Open R2 previews and picks: Nadal vs. Thiem, Murray vs. Matosevic

    • Yeah, just so that they can root against him….sheesh! But its true the seats have been quite empty for the matches!

      • I wonder how many are rooting for him and how many are against. Perhaps the latter are more heard and seen.

  1. Do they pack out his practice sessions to root against him? I don’t buy the hatred thing. Yes they root against him sometimes but Santoro says maybe they’d like to see someone different win it.

    Rafa got the loudest cheer when he entered the court and there were loads of cameras from the stands taking pictures of him. So many wanted a selfie with him after the match.

    • I have now come round to not caring whether “the French” hate him or not because either way, it does not matter to Rafa. What matters to him is that he does what he is paid to do: win.

      What surprises me though is the missed marketing opportunity by the French Tennis Federation to hitch their wagon to Rafa’s worldwide popularity (he is popular, just check the survey I posted on the non-tennis thread) and specifically, his amazing run at RG. Compared to the other Slams RG is seriously lagging in terms of investment outlay and has a long way to go to catch up. Why not leverage Rafa’s success there for their own benefit in the meantime, instead of appearing indifferent at best, and outrightly hostile at worst?

  2. Not just the French Open either.

    Federazzi went berserk and gave Rosol a standing-O when he beat Nadal. Same for Darcis last year.

    French just happen to be the worst.

  3. At last SKY got the message. After saying yesterday that Djerk was the 2011 RG champion, today they’ve announced that the defending champion Rafael Nadal is through to the 3rd round and that he is looking for his 9th title at the FO.

  4. Dominic Thiem
    7 mins ·
    2:6, 2:6, 3:6 against Rafael Nadal. I have not played so badly. But there were many little things not good enough, that I call him real. Especially mega many rookie mistakes were there. Minor errors. The pass because you on sand against Rafa Nadal just still want to play better than against the other. And because he gives you just about absolutely nothing. In the largest sand course in the world are allowed to play against the best clay court player in the world, which was a mega experience. That I really want to experience again. And the next time I will get there in more detail. For that I need tomorrow to work as hard as I possibly can. Thank you for your incredible support!
    2:6, 2:6, 3:6 against Rafael Nadal. I didn’t play a bad match. But many details were not good enough to make it a test for him. Most of them were real rookie-errors. Easy unforced errors. They happen because you want to play better on clay against Rafael Nadal than you want to play against anybody else. And because he absolutely doesn’t help you. No errors, no presents. It was a mega experience to stand on the biggest clay court in the world together with the best claycourt player in the world. I unconditionally want to make that experience that again. And the next time I want to come one step closer. This is a big goal and worth working for it as hard as I can. Thanks for your incredible support!

    • Rafa’s challenge to Roger almost a decade ago got Roger to work harder on his game, up to a point. The level the two of them played at once Rafa got going got many other players to work harder on their game. One who work hard to reach very high levels is Nole. There are others. Now the best thing that can happen to Thiem is to play Rafa often before Rafa retires.

      • Once more, now with more, I mean less bias. Now the best thing that can happen to Thiem is to play Rafa and Nole often before they retire.

  5. @rafaeli119

    @KayBurley SKYSports:Djokovic has never won the FO. Nadal has won it 8 of the last 9 years and was the 2011 champion. SkySports is WRONG. – 28 May

    Kay Burley

    Follow Follow

    @rafaeli119 thanks

  6. Kay Burley replied to your Tweet!


    @KayBurley SKYSports:Djokovic has never won the FO. Nadal has won it 8 of the last 9 years and was the 2011 champion. SkySports is WRONG. – 28 May

    Kay Burley

    @rafaeli119 thanks

    03:51 PM – 28 May 14

      • Ahoy Matey!!! No. 9 RG title for Rafaaaar off the starboard side!!!!

        Walk the plank Nole!!!! We’ll have no mutiny from your kind here!


      • Arrrrr, sure that scurvy dog Djoker could yet be keelhauled to Davy Jones locker by the Jolly Roger before he even casts eye’s on Capt’n Rafaaaar!

        Batten down the hatches me Matey’s!!!!!!

  7. Honestly I feel more relaxed now. The first 2 matches are always the trickiest for Rafa I feel. Now he has relatively good matches going into the quarters and by then he will be well “bedded” in and ……………………watch out!

    • He is certainly having a better start than last year! if you recall, he lost a set in both his first round matches. And last year he was the favourite! Memo to press: Keep putting the pressure on Nole.

      • He had a horrid start last year! Totally remember how I was on the edge this time last year. Definitely, Novak MUST be the favourite every year now on………….

    • I hope you are right. Sometimes I get the feeling the tricky earlier rounds prepare him for the stiffer competition in the second week like USO ’10, FO’11, Wim’10. But one match at a time.

      • @vmk1,

        This is exactly what I addressed in my initial post after seeing the last set of Rafa’s match. It’s a delicate balance, because we don’t want Rafa killing himself or wearing himself out in the early going. But we also know that when Rafa is tested, that’s when he finds his best form.

        I agree about one match at a time! Just like Rafa!

  8. just one off -topic comment: I am watching game, set and mats at the moment…I just love the outfit of Annabel Croft …her dress is simply beautiful… sorry guys…I couldn’t resist… 🙂

  9. I only got home in time to see the third set of Rafa’s match on the tennis channel replay. I hope to see it later tonight when they replay the matches again. I really wanted to watch the whole thing.

    One thing of concern is that Rafa is not taking advantage of break opportunities. When i tuned in it was Thiem up a break 2-1, but Rafa had so many break chances in that game. I hope that this is something he will work on as he moves ahead in this tournament. From what I saw, Thiem gave a good account of himself, but in the end was just outclassed by the King. He will learn a lot from this match. I thought Thiem might make it more competitive but it appears that Rafa was ready.

    I have mixed feelings about Rafa having it easy in the early rounds. On the one hand, it saves him from having to push himself and exert himself too much. But on the other hand, Rafa only gets better when he is pushed. That brings out his best. I don’t see Mayer giving him much trouble. He’s a good opponent in the sense that he will give Rafa rhythm. He’s not one of those big serving guys that are a nightmare to play. I like Rafa’s draw now. Maybe he won’t have it that tough in the early going and then will bump up against Ferrer and Murray in the second week.

    I can’t say too much more about Rafa’s game, just that I like the scoreline and am happy to see him looking good. He really did look very happy after the match. So he knew that he did well against a young kid with real potential.

  10. Lol @ 21 votes for Thiem to win the match. Another over-rated and over-hyped youngster. Yawn. It’s getting old. Gasquet, Gulbis, Raonic, Dimitrov and now Thiem. It seems the media is sick and tired of the Big 4. Well it’s kinda 2 now. However it’s still their time and the majors will be dominated by them for another 3-5 years. Stan won his major by extreme luck. Other than that the others won’t be breaking through any time soon. Keep looking guys.

  11. Yes, I remember all too well when everyone and his brother was touting Janowicz as the next big thing in men’s tennis. I remember some predicting he would be in the top ten and maybe even qualify this year for the WTF! So what happened? Reality, that’s what! The key to success in this sport is consistency over time. That is what I look for, along with the other requirements such as a good solid game, some mental toughness, physical fitness and that one great shot. But all too often everyone seems to jump on the bandwagon when one of the young guys has a big win or two.However, reality always seems to set it for them. Also, you don’t see them bringing it at the slams. That’s where you separate the men from the boys!

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