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Three to See, Roland Garros Day 10: Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas renew rivalry
Tsitsipas attempts to scale a steep head-to-head against a surging Medvedev, while doubles partners Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Rybakina face off.
Published Jun 07, 2021
Each day, we'll preview three must-see matches from the French Open.
Daniil Medvedev vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Two high seeds in top form, who have a history of bad blood, trying to reach a Roland Garros semifinal: that qualifies as a must-see match, wouldn’t you say? When we think of blockbuster contests in men’s tennis, we still think of the Big 3, but the younger guys have been around long enough that they’re starting to create their own. The last time Tsitsipas and Medvedev played, at the Australian Open, Tsitsipas was still recovering from his five-set win over Rafael Nadal two days earlier. This time, after straight-set fourth-round victories, the Russian and the Greek should both be fresh.
Looking at their head-to-head, you have to favor Medvedev: He’s 6-1 against Tsitsipas, and he won their only previous meeting on clay. Medvedev also seems to have shrugged off his well-publicized dislike of dirt; he was at his brutally-consistent best in his last match, against Cristian Garin. But Tsitsipas will come into this match with confidence as well; he’s the one who has had the breakout clay season overall.
Which takes me back to that head-to-head record: If their levels are fairly equal, Medvedev seems to have the edge in this matchup. He’s the guy who, at the end of a long rally, can put one more (really good) shot back into the court. Which means it will be up to Tsitsipas to take the initiative, attack the net, and make those rallies a little bit shorter. It won’t be easy. Winner: Medvedev
Alexander Zverev vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Davidovich Fokina has been the breakout performer on the men’s side at Roland Garros this year. So far he’s done his best and most exciting work on the outer courts, where he survived two crowd-pleasing five-setters. Now the 21-year-old will take his act to the big stage, in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Davidovich Fokina, who was born in Spain to Russian parents, plays with aggression and passion, and seems to like living on the edge; he used an underhand serve to save a break point in the final game of his win over Casper Ruud. As welcome as Davidovich Fokina’s run has been, it seems, on paper, as if it will come to an end against Zverev. The German is 2-0 in their head to head, and after losing his first two sets in this tournament, he has won 11 straight—that’s ominous efficiency, coming from the often-dilatory Zverev. Winner: Zverev
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Elena Rybakina
As of two days ago, many of us were looking ahead to a throwback showdown between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in this match. But as we know, there are no sure things on the women’s side at Roland Garros this year. Instead, we’ll see their Russian-born conquerors go head to head. Pavlyuchenkova and Rybakina have never played each other, but on paper they would seem to be closely matched. Rybakina is ranked 22nd and is coming off the win of her life, over Serena; Pavlyuchenkova is ranked 32nd, and is coming off a career highlight of her own: a 6-0 third set over one of the favorites to win this tournament, Aryna Sabalenka.
Both players like to hit with flat pace; Pavlyuchenkova may have more power, while Rybakina may be a little steadier. While Rybakina’s ability to hold her nerve against Williams was impressive, many of us have been waiting for a decade or more for the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova—who last reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2011—to storm through a Grand Slam draw. Is this the fortnight when it finally happens? Winner: Pavlyuchenkova