Before each day's play at the 2019 French Open, we'll preview three must-see matches.
Novak Djokovic vs. Hubert Hurkacz
The world No. 1 will begin his quest for a second Djoker Slam on Chatrier, against a 22-year-old from Poland ranked No. 43. The 6’5” Hurkacz will be a new name to most, but he has had something akin to a breakout season in 2019. After starting the year at a Challenger event in Canberra, he beat Kei Nishikori to reach the quarterfinals in Dubai; beat Nishikori and Denis Shapovalov to reach the same round at Indian Wells; beat Matteo Berrettini and Dominic Thiem in Miami; and made the round of 16 before losing a close three-setter to Alexander Zverev in Madrid. So this isn’t the easiest opponent Djokovic could have drawn in the first round. He has never played Hurkacz, and it may take him a little time to adjust to the big man’s rangy style and heavy baseline thumping. Over best-of-five sets, though, Djokovic should eventually bring him down to size. Winner: Djokovic
On paper, this looks like an ideal way to start a Slam for a player who, like Serena, has withdrawn or retired from nearly as many matches as she has finished over the last four months. Since the Australian Open, the American is just 3-1, with two walkovers, and her clay-court preparation has consisted of a single two-set match in Rome. All of which means Serena could use a stress-free day to get some of the rust out. It may be possible for her to do that against Diatchenko, who is ranked 73rd and has spent her spring at lower-level events in locations like Saint-Gaudens and Cagnes-Sur-Mer. Both of those places are a long way from Chatrier, which is where Diatchenko will face Serena on Monday. The only other time they met, at the 2015 US Open, Serena won the first eight games before the Russian was forced to retire. Winner: S. Williams
Denis Shapovalov vs. Jan-Lennard Struff
Late in the day, little Court 7 will play host to a big-hitting matchup between the 20-year-old Canadian and the 29-year-old German. Shapovalov is ranked 30 points higher than Struff, and, being nine years younger, would seem to be on his way to a higher-profile career. But Struff has had the better clay season so far, recording wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas, David Goffin, Nick Kyrgios, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Shapo himself, in three sets, in Monte Carlo. Shapovalov is a flashy shotmaker, while at 6’5” Struff is a meat-and-potatoes slugger. The combination would seem destined to go five. Winner: Struff