Preview: Alcaraz Seeks Musetti Revenge, Roland Garros QF Return

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2023

Preview: Alcaraz Seeks Musetti Revenge, Roland Garros QF Return

Djokovic, Tsitsipas face unseeded upstarts

The Roland Garros men’s singles draw is down to 16 title hopefuls after three rounds on the Paris clay. The loaded top half of the men’s draw returns to action on Sunday with three of the Top 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings set to compete.

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz meets 17th seed Lorenzo Musetti on Court Philippe-Chatrier following Novak Djokovic’s matchup against Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas. On Court Suzanne-Lenglen, fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas meets Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner after 11th seed Karen Khachanov takes on Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego earlier in the day. looks ahead at Day 8 by scouting the Sunday schedule in Paris.

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[1] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. [17] Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)

The lone previous ATP Head2Head meeting between these young stars was a memorable one, particularly for Musetti. The Italian upset Alcaraz in the 2022 Hamburg final, recovering from five missed match points in the second set to claim his first ATP Tour title with a 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-4 triumph.

While the pair has not played a competitive match since then, both players have watched each other with great admiration in the 10 months since that final.

“I see a friend. I see that he started a way, a new generation,” Musetti said of Alcaraz. “He [won] the first Grand Slam title [of the younger generation], so I think it’s sort of inspiration for us, for me, Holger [Rune], Jannik [Sinner], and whoever is behind him, and trying to push him away and trying to get closer.

“I think that the match in Hamburg gave me a lot of confidence, especially on this side…. Of course it’s a complete different position, different status, but I think we will enjoy, in this case, our match.”

Alcaraz also expects an enjoyable matchup as he braces for the biggest challenge of his Paris run to date.

“He’s playing great. He has beaten really tough players. He’s a really talented player,” said the Spaniard.

“I remember the match in Hamburg. It was really, really tough. This is a match that I’m really looking for, I really want to play that match. I’m going to enjoy it, because it’s going to be a really fun match. I would say it’s going to be really good rallies, good shots between us, and of course it’s going to be a really fun match to watch, as well.”

Alcaraz has dropped just one set in reaching the fourth round, including a three-set domination of 26th seed Denis Shapovalov on Friday. It’s a stark contrast to his run through the early rounds last season in Paris, when he needed to save a match point to defeat Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round. A win on Sunday would see the 20-year-old match his best Roland Garros result by returning to the quarter-finals for the second straight year.

Musetti is also into the Roland Garros fourth round for the second time. The last time he reached that stage, he gave Novak Djokovic a scare by taking a two-set lead behind a pair of tie-break wins. But he faded physically after that and ultimately retired late in the fifth set after the Serbian wrestled away control of the match.

Once again facing a World No. 1 on the Paris clay, the 21-year-old will be ready to go the distance. After playing some of the best tennis of any player this fortnight in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win against 14th seed Cameron Norrie, Musetti will hope to take the initiative against Alcaraz in a matchup of two electric all-court talents.

[3] Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. Juan Pablo Varillas (PER)

Varillas won three five-setters to make history for Peru, becoming the first man from the nation to reach the Roland Garros fourth round since 1994. After knocking of 19th seed Roberto Bautista Agut and 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz in his past two matches, the 27-year-old’s task will be even tougher on Sunday against Djokovic.

The Serbian, champion at Roland Garros in 2016 and 2021, has not dropped a set this fortnight but played two marathon sets against 29th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in a 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 6-2 third-round win. 

“I don’t remember when I played last time three hours [for] two sets. Maybe against Nadal in one of our matches,” Djokovic reflected. “This was looking like if I lost one of the first two sets, it was looking like it was going to go four, five hours.”

Instead, the Serbian managed to get off the court in three hours, 36 minutes — though he did receive treatment to loosen up his upper leg following the third set.

Djokovic, who has won four tie-breaks across his three victories, downplayed any injury concerns after the match. Instead, his focus is on improving for the second week, a skill he has mastered in winning his joint-record 22 Grand Slam singles titles.

“I’m very self-critical, so I know that I can always do better and I can always play better. But I also try to remind myself, as also the people in my team try to remind me daily, that there are a lot of positives, that I have to try to stay optimistic and look ahead and be in the moment, try to make the most out of it,” he said. “I’m happy with where I am at the moment with my game. Can it be better? Certainly.”

[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. [Q] Sebastian Ofner (AUT)

Tsitsipas has yet to face a seeded player this fortnight, but he called his 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 third-round win against Diego Schwartzman his most difficult outing so far due to the Argentine’s solid play from the baseline.

After beating the former Roland Garros semi-finalist, he will now meet Ofner, who is through to the fourth round at a major for the first time. Incredibly, Ofner did not own a tour-level win this season until his run on the terre battue. But after a successful season on the ATP Challenger Tour, the Austrian entered Paris at a career-high of World No. 118 and has since rocketed up the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings to No. 80 behind his three victories.

Tsitsipas watched some of Ofner’s five-set win against Fabio Fognini and will not be taking the surprise opponent lightly on Sunday.

“I know that clay court suits him well. He can play well on this surface,” said the Greek. “He has had good results in the past on clay courts. He might not be the guy who you see very often in Masters 1000 tournaments and 500s in terms of going deep and playing and beating top guys, but I’m sure he’s on a good streak right now, he’s feeling good with his tennis… I’m going to approach it with seriousness and professionalism.”

If both Tsitsipas and Alcaraz advance, they will set up a quarter-final showdown — with Djokovic potentially awaiting in the semis.

[11] Karen Khachanov vs. Lorenzo Sonego (ITA)

Khachanov and Sonego will contest their fourth ATP Head2Head meeting and their first since 2019. Both men have advanced to the fourth round with wins of three, four and five sets. Sonego’s five-setter came in an upset of seventh seed Andrey Rublev in the third round, during which the Italian stormed back from two sets down to claim a 5-7, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 result. He also knocked off 30th seed Ben Shelton in the opening round.

The 11th-seeded Khachanov went five against Frenchman Constant Lestienne in the opening round and won a four-setter against Thanasi Kokkinakis in the third round. The 27-year-old is two wins away from his third consecutive major semi-final after reaching that stage at the US Open and Australian Open. He is also seeking his second Roland Garros quarter-final (2019).

Doubles Action

Sunday will also see four men’s doubles matches as teams bid for quarter-final berths. Fifth seeds Harri Heliovaara and Lloyd Glasspool meet 12th seeds Andreas Mies and Matwe Middelkoop in the lone seed vs. seed match on the day, while fourth seeds Austin Krajicek and Ivan Dodig meet Francisco Cabral and Rafael Matos.

On Court Simonne-Mathieu, two-time Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz meet Frenchmen Fabien Reboul and Sadio Doumbia, after 10th seeds Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers face John Peers and Marcelo Melo.

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