1. Angelique Kerber v Garbine Muguruza (RG, R3)
A couple of days before Roland Garros, Angelique Kerber was forced to withdraw from Nurnberg with a back injury. There were concerns over her participation at the French Open but they proved to be futile. I’m so annoyed with myself for paying attention to those fears! Kerber has been in scintillating form through her first two matches; in the first round, I got to see Peak Kerber live as she defeated Timea Babos, 6-0 6-1. Babos didn’t play a bad first set as Kerber chased everything down and hit some super winners. Babos went away from the match halfway during the second set, but Kerber played an awesome match. In the second round, Kerber advanced past another potentially tricky opponent in Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-3 6-2.
Kerber faces another big hitter in Garbine Muguruza in the third round. The Spaniard won back-to-back matches for the first time since Dubai. You could see the relief and happiness on her face after she she finally saw off Camila Giorgi in the second round. Muguruza was cruising at 6-1 *5-1, but twice failed to serve out the match. There were definitely signs that Muguruza is struggling for confidence, but Giorgi left herself with too much to do and Muguruza broke to seal a 6-1 6-4 win.
Kerber leads the head-to-head with Muguruza, 3-0. Kerber won their first two matches convincingly. She was dropped a bagel set in their last encounter at the start of the year in Sydney, but rebounded to win, 0-6 6-1 6-4. Assuming Kerber’s back isn’t an issue, I think the German player will win this relatively comfortably. Muguruza is obviously capable of hitting big but Kerber will get a lot of balls back and likely frustrate the Spaniard. Furthermore, there has been definite intent from Kerber to be more aggressive in the last few months.
Prediction: Kerber d. Muguruza in 2 sets
2. Carla Suarez Navarro v Flavia Pennetta (RG, R3)
I like this match-up… Carla Suarez Navarro faces Flavia Pennetta as she seeks to reverse their current head-to-head record. Pennetta has won four of their six matches including their most recent one at the Tournament of Champions event in Sofia at the end of last year. 2015 has been a stunning year so far for Carla. Not just on clay, Carla has sustained a high level throughout much of the year. Clay has, unsurprisingly, been the place where she has peaked with quarter-final showings in Stuttgart and Madrid, and a final appearance in Rome. I watched her first match against Monica Niculescu on Court 1 and she played a smart match. She didn’t exert too much energy and despite a little bit of inconsistency which was to be expected in her first match, it was a comfortable win. She advanced into the third round after Virginie Razzano retired hurt, down 6-3 1-0 in their second round match.
Pennetta dropped a set in her first match of the week against Magda Linette but had no such problems in the second round, thrashing Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-2 6-0. Pennetta’s year has been up and down with a couple of superb wins against Maria Sharapova (IW) and Victoria Azarenka (Miami), a good run in Dubai, but patches of inconsistency too. She came into Roland Garros on a three match losing streak. This will be Carla’s first test and she could be vulnerable with only a match and a half under her belt. I’d fancy Pennetta to win a set, but Suarez Navarro has been so match tough this year that a loss would be a surprise.
Prediction: Suarez Navarro d. Pennetta in 3 sets
3. Lucie Safarova v Sabine Lisicki (RG, R3)
After Lucie Safarova and Sabine Lisicki both lost in the first round of the Australian Open, the pair have rebounded to reach the third round at the French Open. Lucie’s had an eventful week; in her first match she came through two tiebreak sets to beat, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 7-6(6) 7-6(9). It was a match that I watched live and blogged about HERE. Lucie needed eight match points and it seems that win did her confidence a whole world of good. In the second round, Lucie lost just two games (TWO!) to beat Kurumi Nara, 6-2 6-0. Lucie broke serve five times, saved the only break point she faced, hit 35 winners to 11 unforced errors, and lost just eight points on her serve. Basically, a perfect match.
Sabine benefitted from a withdrawal by Daria Gavrilova in their second round match. It was a shame to see Gavrilova struggling with the same injury that affected her in Rome. Lisicki won her first round match against Monica Puig in straight sets without any issues, 6-3 6-2. Lisicki leads the head-to-head with Safarova, 3-1. Lisicki won their last match in Wuhan at the end of 2014, 7-5 2-6 6-3. Safarova won their only previous match on clay at Roland Garros in 2009, 6-2 1-6 6-1. Both Lucie and Sabine are real confidence players and this could be a real momentum-swinger of a match. Although there were nerves, I thought Lucie’s baseline game was good against Pavs and that win over Nara was super impressive. This is a good match-up for Lisicki, but I have belief that Safarova can back up her fourth round showing at RG from last year.
Prediction: Safarova d. Lisicki in 3 sets
WTA RG R3 Predictions
Ana Ivanovic d. Donna Vekic in 2 tight sets
Ekaterina Makarova d. Elena Vesnina in 2 sets
Elina Svitolina d. Annika Beck in 3 sets
Alize Cornet d. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in 3 sets
ATP RG R3 Predictions
Teymuraz Gabashvili d. Lukas Rosol in 5 crazy sets
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Pablo Andujar in 4 sets
Tomas Berdych d. Benoit Paire in 3 sets
Stan Wawrinka d. Steve Johnson in 3 sets
Gilles Simon d. Nicolas Mahut in 3 sets
Gael Monfils d. Pablo Cuevas in 4 sets
Roger Federer d. Damir Dzumhur in 3 sets