Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Marin Cilic.
- We have two ATP and two WTA French Open quarterfinal matches Wednesday.
- Rafael Nadal should come through, but can Marin Cilic finally take out Juan Martin del Potro on clay?
- On the women’s side, expect to see two very competitive matches.
Tuesday’s hitter, Dominic Thiem, made things easy — and sweat-free — for any preview backers on Day 10. The Austrian romped past Sascha Zverev 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 to advance to his third consecutive French Open semifinal.
We got a touch lucky, though, which is never a bad thing, as Zverev was ostensibly hamstrung by some type of upper thigh injury. So, as a tennis fan, I was a bit disappointed by the limited quality of tennis on Philippe Chatrier on Tuesday morning. But, as a betting man, I’ll happily collect my winnings and look ahead to the two remaining quarterfinal matches — which will kick off Wednesday morning after the ladies finish up.
On Chatrier, the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, will take on Diego Schwartzman. To the surprise of nobody, Nadal is an enormous favorite (-3333) against the Argentine — with the over/under set at 27.5. Needless to say, I’ve got Nadal getting through this one. Schwartzman is a great pusher (and I use that term with love) on the clay, but Nadal has never been the type to muddle himself with unforced errors.
Schwartzman did take a set off Nadal at this past Aussie Open, on a fast hard court, but on the clay, I’m not sure I fancy his chances of nicking another set off Rafa. Despite the low total, I’d actually lean to the under, as I see a 6-1 or 6-2 set for Nadal sprinkled in there, but I’m not in a rush to bet it. More of a hunch. Schwartzman will fight, as we learned firsthand as our hitter last round. And I wouldn’t put it past him to keep a set or two competitive, especially with Nadal potentially looking to conserve some energy for the final two rounds of the tourney.
On Suzanne Lenglen, we should have a much closer match, with two of the bigger hitters on Tour, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic, squaring off. Let’s chew the fat.
Juan Martin del Potro (-182) vs. Marin Cilic (+140)
Wednesday, not before 9:30 a.m. ET
H2H: del Potro leads 8-2
Interesting match, this. Veeeery interesting match, despite the dominant head-to-head, which the Argentine actually leads 10-2 if you include two Davis Cup wins.
Over the years, this matchup has seen one-way traffic, with del Potro never having dropped a set to Cilic on clay (3-0; 7-0 in sets). He also had a 3-0 victory on the dirt at Davis Cup in 2012. And Delpo won that one in “light shootaround fashion,” 6-1, 6-2, 6-1.
As the numbers show, del Potro has dominated Cilic in the past. Still, despite it all, I think the Croat can compete.
For starters, I came away very impressed with Cilic’s resolve and fight in his fourth-round match against Fabio Fognini. Cilic led 6-4, 6-1 before the Italian stormed back. Fognini snatched the momentum and support from the crowd by winning the third and fourth sets to push the Croat to a decisive fifth set.
Cilic would not wilt, however, and played a nearly flawless fifth set to pump the brakes on the Fognini run and advance. A lot of players would’ve folded in that spot after a near-melt, but Cilic stood tall. It reminded me of Cilic’s 2014 U.S. Open run, when Gilles Simon pushed him to five sets in the fourth round. Cilic locked in after that scare and didn’t drop another set en route to his maiden Grand Slam title.
While I don’t expect Cilic to win this tournament (especially without dropping a set), I do think that a little adversity is good for the soul. That makes this match a little more intriguing than it might look on the surface.
Ultimately, the value lies with Cilic — although, it’s hard to bet against del Potro, who clearly has gotten over his groin issue. There are few players mentally stronger than del Potro. When push comes to shove, this match might be decided between the ears, rather than between the lines.
Despite all of his talent, Cilic can be his own worst enemy — overhitting at critical points in matches and getting stuck in his own head. So, as much as I think Cilic has value at this price, I don’t think I’ll back any side in this one (at least prematch). Given del Potro’s mental fortitude — and dominance against Cilic — I do give a slight edge to the Argentine, but I don’t think he deserves a price tag of -182. I actually make this closer to -130/-140.
Therefore, I’ll be watching the first set of this match closely. If Cilic comes out on the front foot and plays well on the return side, I’ll probably look for a spot to back him live (at the right price). I also think the over 41 games holds some value, as I see both men taking one of the first three sets to push this match at least four sets. I also expect a lot of “seven-sets,” as I like to call them, meaning 7-5 or 7-6 scorelines.
The pick: Pass (will look for a good live spot)
I’ll certainly provide banter and my live thoughts during the match on Twitter. If you want to keep up with me there, you can find me @scottipippen.
Simona Halep (-225) vs. Angelique Kerber (+205)
This quarterfinal starts at 8 a.m. ET on Suzanne Lenglen. (Pretty shocking that the No. 1 seed won’t play on the main court against a two-time Grand Slam champion.)
This will be a rematch of an absolute thriller from this year’s Australian Open, where Halep came through 9-7 in the third set.
Including Fed Cup, these two have split 10 career matches. They haven’t played on clay at the Tour level, but Kerber took both Fed Cup matches on clay. Both of those came in 2016, and Kerber won all four sets 6-2.
With that said, Halep is the better clay courter and should come through this match — if she can hold her head. Kerber doesn’t fancy the dirt, but she has played outstanding tennis in this tourney and will never go quietly. The line looks a tad high, but I would rather take a long look at the over 21 games.
Garbine Muguruza (-120) vs. Maria Sharapova (+110)
Bring your popcorn for this quarterfinal on Chatrier. These two have combined to win seven majors, including three at Roland Garros. Both players essentially had byes into the quarters, as Serena Williams retired ahead of her match with Sharapova, and Lesia Tsurenko retired with an injury down 2-0 in the first set against Muguruza.
Sharapova has won all three career clashes with Muguruza. Two of those came on clay, including a 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 win at the 2014 French Open. However, I will note that they haven’t played since 2014.
I like Sharapova here as an underdog. I’d also look at the over 22 games. –Stuckey