Quarterfinal Previews and Picks: Day 10
The editors of TENNIS.com preview Tuesday's French Open quarterfinals—and offer their picks.
(6) Samantha Stosur vs. (15) Dominika Cibulkova
What Cibulkova must do to win: Job No.1 for anyone playing Stosur is returning the kick serve with which she establishes control of service points—even if it practically bounces over the 5’3” Slovak. Cibulkova must also defend her own serve well and contain her nerves, as she did in beating Victoria Azarenka.
What Stosur must do to win: She needs to keep Cibulkova’s excellent athleticism under control by avoiding long corner-to-corner rallies. First-strike tennis works on all surfaces, even the slower terre battue. The U.S. Open champion must attack Cibulkova’s serve and break her early to plant a seed of doubt.
The Pick: Cibulkova in three sets. We like Cibulkova to wear down Stosur in a back-and-forth match. The No. 6 seed has been very up-and-down this year, and she’s prone to her own bouts of nerves. Meanwhile, Cibulkova must feel like she can clear any hurdle after exorcising some demons in conquering the world No. 1.
(10) Angelique Kerber vs. (21) Sara Errani
What Errani must do to win: The clay-court specialist scored a big win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in her last match, making just four unforced errors in a 6-0 first set. Wash. . . rinse. . . repeat. Her doubles experience can serve her well if she opts for change-of-pace net forays.
What Kerber must do to win: A lefty, Kerber has to make use of the kicker and wide slice serves to put herself into position to attack, and end points when the open court is available. The rising German should also use her natural shot inclination to target Errani’s backhand.
The Pick: Errani in two sets. This one is close to a toss up, but we're going with Errani in straights because she has a distinct advantage on a court this slow, and she’s brimming with confidence following outstanding wins over Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic—both former No. 1s and, more importantly, former French Open champs.
(3) Roger Federer vs. (9) Juan Martin del Potro
What del Potro needs to do to win: Take the first strike in baseline exchanges, maintain depth on his drives, and take some chances on his returns. The 6'6" Argentine cannot afford to get dragged into longer rallies, which favor his faster opponent, so he must employ his explosive shotmaking and try to make Federer defend his one-handed backhand from behind the baseline.
What Federer needs to do to win: Vary the spins and speeds of his shots to disrupt del Potro's timing, and sustain point-to-point intensity. Federer's slice backhand has been a key stroke in past meetings: He uses it to lure del Potro forward and make him bend for the low ball, which is an awkward play for the big man. Federer has lost a set in each of his last three matches and cannot afford similar lapses against the man who beat him in the 2009 U.S. Open final.
The Pick: Federer in four sets. This match favors Federer, who has more variety, is quicker around the court, and has won all nine sets they've played this season. Federer has struggled a bit with his return and consistency in recent rounds, but he has more gears to his game, and del Potro concedes he's playing with a left knee injury. Federer has reached the French Open semifinals in six of the last seven years and should continue that run.
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
What Tsonga needs to do to win: Facing the world’s best player and best return of serve, Tsonga must make a high percentage of first serves to avoid giving Djokovic too many opportune looks. The big Frenchman is not as quick around the court, so he needs to play with controlled aggression, move forward when possible, and try to dictate play with his forehand.
What Djokovic needs to do to win: Have a fast start. The top seed, who lost the first two sets to Andreas Seppi last round, cannot afford to fall into a big deficit against Tsonga, who is a capable closer and will have the crowd behind him. Possessing one of the best backhands in tennis, Djokovic should aim to work over Tsonga's weaker backhand wing and drag him into longer exchanges.
The Pick: Djokovic in four sets. Djokovic wasn’t sharp in his fourth-round win, but should be much more vigilant versus Tsonga. Ultimately, the Serb is the better mover, more balanced on both wings, and beat Tsonga in their lone clay-court meeting last month. If Djokovic can prevent Tsonga from establishing momentum and getting the vocal French fans into the match, he should prevail.