Roland Garros Who Will Reach the Semi-Finals from Rafa Nadal’s Quarter?
Rafa Nadal was highly anticipated to make the Roland Garros semis this season after his fine clay court form in the lead up to the event, but after his withdrawal with wrist injury, an opportunity has arisen for one of the players in his quarter. The Tennis Review looks at who is most likely to take advantage and reach their first ever slam last four.
David Goffin (12)
Goffin reached the Roland Garros fourth round in 2012 as a lucky loser where he took a set off Roger Federer.
The Belgian has been having a strong 2016 campaign, reaching the Australian Open last sixteen and the semi-finals of the ATP 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami.
In Indian Wells, Goffin made a vital mental breakthrough, too. The 25 year old beat Stan Wawrinka in a tense match which saw him drop 5-3 leads in both the second and third sets before finally closing it out in a final set tiebreaker. That match was the first time Goffin, who led Djokovic 3-0 in the third at Cincinnati ’15, had been the mentally stronger one in a match versus a top player.
Goffin’s clay season has been a little disappointing considering his fine North American Spring form- he lost to Grannollers in the Monte Carlo last sixteen, was defeated by Zverev in the Munich Quarters, and lost to Lucas Pouille in his Madrid opener. The Belgian, though, did defeat Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-0 in Rome on his way to the last eight where Andy Murray defeated him.
Goffin is likely to meet Thiem in the quarters- the Belgian leads the head to head 4-2, and has won their most important match, the Australian Open third round earlier this season.
On Clay, the two are 1-1, splitting finals in Kitzbuhel in 2014 (won by Goffin) and Gstaad in 2015.
Goffin is the more experienced of the four players left in his quarter and has won the bigger matches. He has also had the tougher test so far at Roland Garros, a five set win over Nicolas Amalgro in round three. Goffin edged that match with his great clay court game featuring aggressive play, variety of shot and pace, and very fine hands.
If anyone is going to step up and make the breakthrough into their first Grand Slam semi-final, it is most likely Goffin’s experience and clay court prowess that will see him be the one.
Dominic Thiem (13)
Thiem is the general favorite among the four to likely face Djokovic in the semi-finals. The 22 year old has earned that status on the back of his clay court skills which have won him five ATP 250 clay court titles since Nice 2015.
Thiem defended the Nice title the weekend before Roland Garros started, and was also runner-up to Philipp Kohlschreiber in Munich this season.
Thiem has all the qualities needed to do well on Clay. He is aggressive, has great defence, and his powerful ground strokes allow him to dictate play. The forehand can be a very aggressive shot that can hit through his rivals, and his one handed single backhand can produce stunning winners from anywhere on court.
Thiem has never, however, won a big match in an important tournament, though his Buenos Aires win over Rafa Nadal– in which he saved a match point- suggests he has the potential to do it.
The 22 year old has had chances this season, particularly versus Nadal in Monte Carlo, but has had a problem converting break points, a disadvantage on clay, a surface on which breaks of serve are commonplace.
Thiem let multiple break points slip away at 5-5 in the first set of his third round match versus Alexander Zverev, and went on to lose the set on a tiebreak. He did not let it get to him, however, going on to win the next three sets by the same 6-3 scoreline.
Thiem is more than capable of overcoming his break point conversion weakness, and has been building up to a breakthrough at a major event, and they don’t get more major than Roland Garros, and if that breakthrough is going to happen, then now, with Nadal’s withdrawal and a very open quarter, is the time.
Ernests Gulbis, ranked 80
Unseeded Gulbis had not won back to back matches in the main draw of an ATP event in 2016 until he made the third round of this season’s Roland Garros.
The Latvian, who beat Andreas Seppi and 26th seed Joao Sousa, both in straights, in the first and second round, went through to the fourth round after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s withdrawal with a groin injury.
Gulbis is going to find it tough to get past Goffin and then possibly Thiem. However, beating Seppi and Sousa back to back and in straights suggests he is finding form and the 2014 semi-finalist, who held 2 match points versus Djokovic in Montreal last season, can go on a streak of hitting his rivals off the court.
The scene of Gulbis’ finest slam run to date might just be the place to inspire another one.
Marcel Granollers, ranked 56
Granollers upset 32nd seed Fabio Fognini in straights in the opening round.
Nicolas Mahut retired from their second round match two sets to love down, and then Nadal’s withdrawal meant Granollers was into his fourth Grand Slam last sixteen, his third in Paris (2012, 2014).
Granollers’ luck is likely to end in the last sixteen though. He trails Thiem 0-3. He can’t be counted out though-his luck has definitely been earned on the back of some hard work in his 13 year career. The former world No.19 has a wealth of experience, has wins over del Potro, Cilic, Soderling and Wawrinka, has been to the last sixteen before so will not be overawed, and has an aggressive game with fine net skills which could hurt Thiem if the Austrian is at all tight with the pressure of being the favorite in their fourth round match.
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