Three to See: 2016 French Open, Day 1

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Sloane Stephens has reached the fourth round of the French Open each of the last four years. (AP)

Before each day of play at the French Open, we'll preview and predict three must-see matches. For full coverage of the season's second Slam, go to our tournament page

Petra Kvitova vs. Danka Kovinic 

The French Open gets off to an early start—it’s the only Slam to open on a Sunday—but not a fast one. Play is limited to eight courts, and none of the Top 3 seeds in either draw is in action. There’s only one player from France, Jeremy Chardy, scheduled for center court; instead, play there will begin with this matchup between a Czech veteran and a young, semi-upstart from Macedonia. Kvitova has reached the semis at Roland Garros, but—and this won't come as a surprise to any tennis fan—her 2016 campaign could get off to a bumpy start. In their only previous meeting, in Indian Wells earlier this year, Kvitova, the queen of the three-setter, edged the 57th-ranked Kovinic 7-5 in a third-set tiebreaker.

Winner: Kvitova

Viktor Troicki vs. Grigor Dimitrov

It may come as a jolt to some to see that the better-known Dimitrov is the unseeded player in this first-rounder. A slow-moving, two-year swoon has taken him from the Top 10 down to No. 36, and turned him into perhaps the draw’s most dangerous floater. In truth, though, Dimitrov has never been all that dangerous at Roland Garros; his career record there is 3-5, and he’s lost in the first round each of the last two years. Coming into Paris this year, he’s also lost in the first round in Madrid and Rome. Troicki has been moderately better at the French over the years, and moderately better of late. Head to head, Dimitrov leads Troicki 2-1, but Troicki won their last meeting, in a third-set tiebreaker in the Sydney final in January.

Winner: Dimitrov

Sloane Stephens vs. Margarita Gasparyan

Judging by her history in Paris, Stephens is a virtual lock to win this. After all, Sloane has reached the fourth round at the French Open each of the last four years—it’s what she does. Judging by her history this season, though, the outcome isn’t so certain. Stephens has lost in the first round three times, she went out early in her two red-clay tune-ups this spring and she’s never played the 21-year-old, 53rd-ranked Gasparyan. Still, Sloane is 17-5 on the season and has a green-clay title in Charleston, while Gasparyan has lost her last six matches. Sloane is in the wide open bottom half of the draw, where virtually every quality player has a chance to reach the final. We’ll see if she feels any pressure being there.

Winner: Stephens

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