(23) Gael Monfils vs. (14) Fabio Fognini
Ricky: The 2010 Monfils-Fognini battle was the stuff of legend. The story is too long to recount here and also not relevant enough given that it took place four years ago, but it could have one effect: the atmosphere will be even more raucous than it normally is for your average Monfils match at Roland Garros. The Frenchman will be out for additional revenge after blowing match points against Fognini in an Indian Wells tussle earlier this season. Fognini has cooled off dramatically since a hot start to the year, so Monfils may have a slight edge in what we can only assume will be another uproarious, back-and-forth affair. Monfils 6-2, 1-6, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6.
Steen: Their last French Open meeting, in 2010, was an absolutely epic match. Fognini won it 9-7 in the fifth after they played in borderline darkness for several games one day prior to the eventual conslusion. Fognini also beat Monfils in a circus three-setter earlier this year in Indian Wells and won the most recent clay-court meeting between the two last season in Umag. This match will be close, but I feel like Monfils will be boosted by the crowd and if he doesn’t get into too many crazy antics, he can win this one. I’ll go with Monfils in a must-watch five-setter. Monfils 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.
Ricky: Gasquet has been a warrior through two rounds, refusing to lose even a set to either Bernard Tomic or Carlos Berlocq. The Frenchman got it done despite clearly not being 100 percent. As tough as Berlocq is, this will be a more difficult test for Gasquet with another match under his belt (not a good thing in his current state) and a more talented opponent on the other side of the net. Verdasco just took Gasquet to the woodshed in Indian Wells, and that was when Gasquet was healthy and on a surface that favors the world No. 13. Verdasco 5-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Steen: Gasquet seems to be healing from his back injury, as he made quick work of Carlos Berlocq after complaining about his back in the first round against Bernard Tomic. Verdasco, meanwhile, just survived after going two sets to love down against Pablo Cuevas only to win in five. He was shaky for large parts of that match, perhaps in part due to fatigue that could linger into this one. These two have met a bunch of times, with Gasquet leading the clay-court series 4-2. Given that and the fatigue factor, I’ll go with Gasquet in four unless his back flares up. Gasquet 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.
Ricky: Contrary to what his name, his nationality, and what several commentators have been saying this week suggest, Garcia-Lopez is not a clay-court specialist. So if you think this is going to be one-way traffic since Young had never won a red-clay match outside of the United States prior to this tournament, think again. Young just disposed of another Spaniard (Feliciano Lopez) who doesn’t absolutely love clay and at the very least he will be competitive with this one. A best-of-five, though, should favor GGL and his one-hander down the line will likely exploit Young’s backhand. Garcia-Lopez 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Steen: After upsetting Feliciano Lopez, Young has a good chance at being the last American left standing on the red clay. However, he will need to get past Garcia-Lopez, who is sky-high after his upset of Stan Wawrinka in round one and a win in four sets over Adrian Mannarino in round two. Both players have dropped sets this week and are prone to inconsistency, but GGL is the better clay-courter and his game will give Young trouble. Garcia-Lopez 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.
Ivo Karlovic vs. (19) Kevin Anderson
Ricky: Karlovic is straight up in form–and not just with his serve. The big guy is showing rare prowess from all areas of the court, as he upset Grigor Dimitrov in the first round then rolled over Andreas Haider-Maurer without even requiring a single tiebreaker. Karlovic beat Anderson last summer in Bogota and won each of his two sets before a tiebreaker. Anderson is in decent form, but Karlovic is also coming off a runner-up in Dusseldorf. The Croat is brimming with confidence. Karlovic 6-4, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6.
Steen: Karlovic and Anderson have split their head-to-head meetings, but they have never met on the slower surface of clay. Karlovic is in great form and is riding high from his round-one upset of Dimitrov, while Anderson his dispatched weak French competition to reach the third round. Given the difference in competition and the fact Dr. Ivo seems to be in better form, I’ll go with him in four sets. Karlovic 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.