Roland Garros: Six First-Round Matches To Watch

With Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all landing in the same half of the Roland Garros draw, the second Grand Slam of the year is already bringing plenty of drama and promising epic clashes. 

But further down the draw, there are plenty of popcorn matches in the early rounds as heavyweights are set to meet rising stars and top players clash with unseeded threats. 

Here are the top six first-round matches to watch at Roland Garros – and a few potential second-round meetings to keep an eye on this fortnight in Paris. 

Six First-Round Matches To Watch

Alexander Bublik vs [2] Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev already shook up the draw by claiming the second seed position, but he’ll have his work cut out for him as he seeks his first victory at Roland Garros (0-4). The Russian got one of the toughest first-round challenges in the field as he will start against an unseeded Alexander Bublik.

Tennis fans will enjoy the clash between two talented players with unorthodox styles. Bublik will arrive in Paris at a career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of World No. 37, and has claimed wins over Matteo Berrettini, Alexander Zverev and Aslan Karatsev in 2021. 

Australian Open finalist Medvedev owns the 1-0 advantage in ATP Head2Head, but their lone meeting was back in 2016 at St. Petersburg, an indoor hard-court event. The Russian won comfortably 6-4, 6-0 on home turf, but could be in for a bigger battle in Paris.

[3] Rafael Nadal vs Alexei Popyrin
Defending champion Rafael Nadal will start his quest for a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title against Aussie Alexei Popyrin. The Spaniard will pit the weight of his 100-2 record at this event against Popyrin, who has reached the second round once in two appearances. 

But 21-year-old Popyrin has shot up the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2021, peaking at World No. 61 after claiming his maiden tour-level title in Singapore. Nadal, who was pushed to five sets in his opening match against John Isner in 2011, will be aiming to neutralise the Aussie’s own big serve to avoid a repeat in their first-round battle.

Nadal has a 1-0 ATP Head2Head lead, and will be contesting his second match of the season against Popyrin. The third seed claimed a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 victory last month at the Mutua Madrid Open on his way to the quarter-finals. 

Rafael Nadal

Lorenzo Musetti vs [13] David Goffin
The 2016 Roland Garros quarter-finalist David Goffin will get his first look at the fast-rising #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the first round. 

The 19-year-old will make his Roland Garros debut after turning heads elsewhere on French soil. He will arrive in Paris with momentum on his side after reaching the Lyon semi-finals (l. Tsitsipas). It was the third tour-level semi-final of Musetti’s career, and his second on clay (also 2020 Sardinia). 

Goffin won his fifth ATP Tour title on the indoor hard-courts of Montpellier earlier in the season, but has struggled to get going during this clay season. He reached the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo (l. Evans) with a win over Alexander Zverev along the way.

[15] Casper Ruud vs Benoit Paire
Casper Ruud will arrive in Paris at a new career-high World No. 16 in the FedEx ATP Rankings after capturing his second ATP Tour title in Geneva. As a result, the Norwegian will enjoy his highest seeding yet at a Grand Slam, but he could have his work cut out for him in the first round as he faces the mercurial Benoit Paire. 

Ruud has the 1-0 lead in their ATP Head2Head record after defeating the Frenchman last year in Hamburg 6-3, 2-0 (ret). Like his father, Christian Ruud, Casper has reached the third round at Roland Garros twice. But he’ll be looking to go one step further and book a place into the second week at a Grand Slam for the second time in a row (also 2021 Australian Open).

Jannik Sinner

[18] Jannik Sinner vs Pierre-Hugues Herbert
#NextGenATP Jannik Sinner has done anything but slow down since reaching his maiden ATP Masters 1000 final in Miami. The 19-year-old Italian posted a semi-final run in Barcelona (l. Tsitsipas) and it took Djokovic and Nadal to defeat him in the second rounds of Monte-Carlo and Rome, respectively. 

Sinner, who reached the Roland Garros quarter-finals last year (l. Nadal), will face home favourite Pierre-Hugues Herbert in his opening match. It will be the pair’s second tour-level meeting, with the Italian prevailing comfortably on the indoor hard-courts of Cologne a year ago. 

Jan-Lennard Struff vs [7] Andrey Rublev
Seventh seed Andrey Rublev has taken great strides on clay this year after reaching his first ATP Masters 1000 final in Monte-Carlo (l. Tsitsipas) and backing it up with quarter-final appearances in Rome and Barcelona. Last year, in only his second appearance at Roland Garros, Rublev powered his way into the quarter-finals before falling to Tsitsipas. 

Rublev will begin his Roland Garros campaign against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, and he’ll take a 2-1 ATP Head2Head lead into their third encounter of the year. The Russian triumphed on hard courts at the ATP Cup and on clay in Rome to improve his record against Struff, but both matches were battling, three-set marathons. 

Roger Federer, Marin Cilic

Two Potential Second-Round Matches To Watch:

[8] Roger Federer vs Marin Cilic: Federer, who landed in the same quarter as top seed Novak Djokovic, will start his Roland Garros campaign against a qualifier, and could meet big-serving Marin Cilic in the second round should he navigate past local wild card Arthur Rinderknech. It would be Federer and Cilic’s sixth meeting at a Grand Slam, and a rematch of the 2017 Wimbledon final and 2018 Australian Open final (both won by Federer). 

[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Sebastian Korda: Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who starts against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, has been one of the players to beat during the clay-court swing after lifting his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Monte-Carlo. He could meet Lyon semi-finalist Sebastian Korda for the first time in the second round, should the #NextGenATP American take down Pedro Martinez. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By :