Each day, we'll preview three must-see matches from the French Open.

Advertising

Rafael Nadal vs. Jannik Sinner

Nadal and Sinner have been here before. Last fall, to be exact, when Rafa beat the Italian in straight sets in the quarterfinals in Court Philippe Chatrier. That match was closer than the scores indicated, as was their second meeting, in Rome a few weeks ago, which resulted in another win for Nadal, 7-5, 6-4. On both occasions, Sinner was able to dictate for long stretches of play by taking his forehand and two-handed backhand on the rise and powering the ball into the corners. On both occasions, Nadal was able to stay with Sinner until he finally began to misfire; then the Spaniard grabbed control from there. By the end of their match in Rome, Nadal was playing some of his best tennis of 2021. Is there any reason to expect anything different when these two quarantine practice partners meet again in Paris? No, no there isn’t. Winner: Nadal

Nadal defeated Sinner in three close sets at the 2020 French Open

Nadal defeated Sinner in three close sets at the 2020 French Open

Novak Djokovic vs. Lorenzo Musetti

Sinner may have the highest mountain to climb of the three Italians, but Musetti is probably the least likely to win. This is the 19-year-old’s first Grand Slam main draw, and as brilliantly as he has played, and as entertaining as he has been, he doesn’t yet have the lethal baseline weapons that Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, and Dominic Thiem have used to beat Djokovic at Roland-Garros in recent years. It also doesn’t help that Musetti is coming off a five-setter in his last round, while Djokovic has yet to be tested. In his first meeting with Djokovic, Musetti will make it fun, and will likely wow us with his multi-faceted backhand. And then Djokovic will win. Winner: Djokovic

Advertising

Sloane Stephens vs. Barbora Krejcikova

Here we have an intriguing contrast in styles, between two players who have been gaining momentum over the last three weeks. Krejcikova, a 25-year-old Czech better known as a doubles player, is coming off a title run in Strasbourg, is on an eight-match win streak, and has reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 33. She’s a shot-maker with a roundhouse two-handed backhand who never hesitates to change the direction of the ball or aim for the corners. Stephens is a former French Open finalist who is currently ranked 59th and unseeded, and who is coming off a confidence-building run of her own, to the semis in Parma. At Roland-Garros, she has improved with each match, and begun to construct the fortress-like mix offense and defense that made her such a formidable opponent to figure out here in 2018. Can Krejcikova crash through Stephens’ defenses? Can Sloane confuse and frustrate Krejcikova? It should be fascinating to find out. Winner: Krejcikova