Three to See on TC Plus: Thiem goes for first-ever win over Nishikori

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Dominic Thiem has his work cut out for him against Kei Nishikori. (AP)

Before each day's play begins in Paris, we'll preview three must-see matches that you'll find on Tennis Channel Plus. Tennis Channel Plus features up to 10 courts of live action from Roland Garros beginning Sunday, May 27 at 5:00am ET. Catch up and watch all your favorite stars anytime, on-demand, with Tennis Channel Plus.

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1. Dominic Thiem [7] vs. Kei Nishikori [19]

This is just a fourth-round match, but the winner could be on a fast track to the final. Each of these two has had a fine clay-court season—Nishikori reached the final in Monte Carlo, and Thiem won the title in Lyon and beat Rafael Nadal on his way to the final in Madrid. Thiem has also been to the semis at Roland Garros the last two years, while Nishikori has never been past the quarters here, and has never been considered a dirt-baller of the quality of his Austrian opponent.

But will that matter on Sunday? What Nishikori has done is beat Thiem in each of their two meetings. Whoever wins, for fans of backhands—both the one-handed and two-handed—this match is a must-see. Winner: Thiem

2. Novak Djokovic [20] vs. Fernando Verdasco [30]

These two 30-something warhorses have been facing off since the dawn of the Big 4 age in 2005. Djokovic, naturally, has had the best of their rivalry—he leads 10-4, and has won the last five meetings dating back to 2010. Is there any reason to think that he won’t make it six in a row on Sunday?

Djokovic has been solid, if not perfect, so far in Paris, while Verdasco is coming off a surprisingly straightforward win over Grigor Dimitrov. Verdasco also leads Djokovic 3-2 in their matches on clay. I can see him threatening to make it 4-2 by ripping off a few forehands and winning a set, but the best-of-five format should favor the steadier—and better—player in the end. Winner: Djokovic

WATCH—Match point from Djokovic's win over Roberto Bautista Agut:

3. Madison Keys [13] vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu [31]

Keys likely assumed she would be facing Elina Svitolina, the No. 4 seed and one of the tournament favorites, in this match. Should she be pleased that she’ll get the 31st-seeded Buzarnescu instead? The Romanian is 30 years old, and has been sneaking up on people all spring. As of a year ago, she was ranked outside the Top 350, but over the last month she has reached the final in Prague and semifinals in Strasbourg. And in her first main draw at Roland Garros, she used her hooking lefty forehand to dominate Svitolina from start to finish.

Can this exciting late-bloomer make the same inroads on Keys’s bigger baseline game? Opportunity knocks for both of these players—for Keys, it’s a chance to make her first French Open quarterfinal; for Buzarnescu, it’s a chance to show she’s going to be a player to reckon with on a regular basis in the future. Winner: Keys

BONUS: Sloane Stephens [10] vs. Anett Kontaveit [25]

Stephens is the Grand Slam champion and the higher-ranked player, but should she be the favorite in this fourth-rounder? Kontaveit, of Estonia, appears to be a player on the rise, and maybe the player of the moment. She has been knocking on the breakthrough-win door for more than a year, and on Saturday she walked through it with her straight-set win over one of the tournament favorites, Petra Kvitova. But Stephens has earned her place in the second week as well, keeping her cool long enough to hold off Camila Giorgi 8-6 in the third set.

Stephens and Kontaveit have never played, but they’ll likely play again, in later rounds than this one at the majors. Consider it a preview. Winner: Kontaveit

—Tennis Channel Plus features up to 10 courts of live action from Roland Garros beginning Sunday, May 27 at 5:00am ET.

—Catch up and watch all your favorite stars anytime on-demand with Tennis Channel Plus.

(The availability of matches or events on TC Plus is subject to change.)

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