Un, deux, trois: Moutet pulls upset, French Kei'O, Pliskova on par

Un, deux, trois: Moutet pulls upset, French Kei'O, Pliskova on par

Three takeaways from Day 4 at Roland Garros.

Wednesday in Paris was nothing short of dramatic: more seeds fell short while others did quite the opposite. Day 4 at Roland Garros did not disappoint.

1. Pella takes painful loss; Nadal's draw continues to open

The 19th seed Guido Pella fell short in his second-round match against Corentin Moutet. He entered Roland Garros having the most clay-court wins among his peers, boasting 20 victories. The nerves may have gotten to the Argentine as this was his first time playing a Grand Slam as a seeded player. 

"Well, of course it wasn't my best match, but I think I did my best. I couldn't play my best tennis. I was struggling with my body a little bit, especially on the back side," Pella explained in his post-match press conference. 

The French wild card has only captured five clay-court wins at the Tour level in his career but that didn't seem to matter Wednesday as he battled his way to victory. Moutet was up 5-0 in the fourth set: he missed two match points on Pella’s serve at 5-2 and failed to serve it out twice, winning just one of eight points in those two games. After collapsing, the world No. 110 managed to pull himself together to break Pella for the ninth time and clinch the match.

With Pella losing and No. 15 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili going out in the first round, the two highest seeds Rafael Nadal could have faced in the fourth round are no longer in the picture. On Friday, Nadal will play 27th seed David Goffin, the only seeded opponent in his pathway to the quarterfinals. 


2. Kei Nishikori's noteworthy triumph 

Nishikori improved to 8-2 against Frenchmen at Roland Garros, picking up his second win this tournament after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. The seventh seed got some revenge in the process, as one of his two prior French Open losses to home hopefuls came at the hands of Tsonga in 2016. Nishikori was down a break to start the 3rd and 4th sets but Nishikori was quick in his counter. 

Tsonga used the crowd to apply pressure on Nishikori, but that didn't stop him from playing tough defense and firing back when he needed to. If Nishikori continues displaying high-caliber tennis, making compact returns and effectively using his drop shot, the Japanese has a great chance of reaching the Paris second week for the fifth consecutive year. In the third round, Nishikori will battle Serbian Laslo Djere; the No. 31 seed defeated both world No. 8 Juan Martin Del Potro and No. 11 Basilashvili earlier this clay-court season.


3. Pliskova on form; Czech's half takes a hit

World No. 2 Karolina Pliskova continued her bid for a first Grand Slam title against Kristina Kucova in the second round. In just under an hour, Pliskova dominated Kucova, 6-2, 6-2, in routine fashion. The Czech commanded the court with 25 winners and six aces, carrying the momentum she picked up by winning her biggest clay-court crown to date in Rome over Johanna Konta.

Konta's pathway towards a deep run opened up Wednesday when No. 4 seed Kiki Bertens retired in her second-round match with Viktoria Kuzmova due to illness. The potential Bertens-Konta match-up was highly anticipated as Konta edged the Dutchwoman in the Italian Open semifinals.

In addition to Konta and Kuzmova, other beneficiaries to Bertens' unfortunate retirement include Donna Vekic (fourth round) and a trio of notable stars who were potential quarterfinal opponents: 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza, 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens and ninth seed Elina Svitolina.