After almost an entire week featuring high-profile upsets across both the men's and women's bracket at the 2014 French Open, things calmed down a bit on Day 5.
Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Andy Murray each advanced for the men. Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Jelena Jankovic and Sara Errani had no issues on the women's side. No. 21 Kirsten Flipkens and No. 26 Feliciano Lopez were the biggest upsets in the women's and men's brackets, respectively.
And the organizers at Roland Garros breathed a huge sigh of relief.
While unpredictability is fun in theory, the practice is stressful. Tennis is entirely a star-dependent sport. We like the idea of Serena Williams losing until it actually happens. The collective thought process goes from "oh, this is fun" to "umm...what do we do for the next two weeks?" That's not an insult to the players remaining, just a pitfall of every individual sport. Do you think U.S. Open organizers threw a party when Tiger Woods announced he was withdrawing from the event?
Variety is the best flavor; Wimbledon tasted like an earwax jellybean.
With that in mind, let's check in on the singles matchups from Day 6 and make some predictions about how things will shake out.
|2014 French Open - Day 6 Singles Matchups|
|Court (Start Time)||Matchup||Winner|
|Court Philippe Chatrier (5 a.m. ET)||Agnieszka Radwanska  vs. Ajla Tomljanovic||Radwanska|
|Dmitry Tursunov  vs.Roger Federer ||Federer|
|Paula Ormaechea vs. Maria Sharapova ||Sharapova|
|Milos Raonic  vs. Gilles Simon ||Raonic|
|Court Suzanne Lenglen (5 a.m. ET)||Dominika Cibulkova  vs. Samantha Stosur ||Stosur|
|Marin Cilic  vs. Novak Djokovic ||Djokovic|
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  vs. Jerzy Janowicz ||Janowicz|
|Daniela Hantuchova  vs. Angelique Kerber ||Kerber|
|Court 1 (5 a.m. ET)||Radek Stepanek vs. Ernests Gulbis ||Gulbis|
|Taylor Townsend vs. Carla Suarez Navarro ||Navarro|
|Tommy Robredo  vs. John Isner ||Robredo|
|Pauline Parmentier vs. Mona Barthel||Parmentier|
Djokovic, Federer Continue Rolling Toward Inevitable Semifinals Clash
The luck of the draw is fickle. Most gave Maria Sharapova a negative-infinity chance to win in Paris when she was thrown in the same bracket as Serena Williams. Sharapova might be the favorite to win the whole shebang with Williams eliminated.
Same goes for those who saw Stan Wawrinka as a threat to Nadal's crown. Wawrinka's and other upsets ensured Nadal won't face a ranked opponent until at least the quarterfinals—if not the semis. It's funny how things work.
Mostly holding to form is the bottom half of the men's bracket, where Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer each face a gauntlet compared to their rival. There are only two non-seeded players on Djokovic's half and one for Federer—neither of whom happen to be their third-round opponent. Djokovic takes on the powerful Marin Cilic, while Dmitry Tursunov takes a try at unseating Federer.
History says neither have much of a chance.
Djokovic has faced Cilic eight times in his career, none of which has gone the Croatian's way. Each previous matchup has happened on a hard surface, in large part because that's where Cilic is most comfortable. He nearly knocked off Djokovic at Indian Wells this year before the second-ranked Serb took the final two sets.
Once the ninth-ranked player in the world, Cilic's inconsistency has him No. 27 coming into Roland Garros. His promising start to the season, in which he won two early tournaments before the end of February, has largely gone by the wayside.
With Djokovic having made at least the semis in each of the last three years and earned consecutive straight-sets wins coming into Friday, this shouldn't be much of an issue.
Federer has a more limited sample against Tursunov, but an equally impressive win rate. The Swiss has defeated Tursunov in each of their four previous matches, all of which (again) came on hard surfaces. In another twisty similarity, their most recent matchup? You guessed it, at Indian Wells. Their other three previous contests each happened more than a half decade ago.
I'd be shocked if either Tursunov or Cilic manages to force a fourth set.
Sharapova Continues Trek to Second French Win in Three Years
Goodbye Williams, hello contention for Maria Sharapova. The seventh-seeded Russian has a largely wide-open road to at least the semifinals after Serena and Venus Williams bowed out early on Wednesday. The entire top half of her bracket is filled with unseeded players, while the winner of Dominika Cibulkova vs. Samantha Stosur stands in her way in the fourth round.
"You always have to follow your path and concentrate on your work and who's ahead of you and not get worried about what's going on," Sharapova told reporters after her second-round match. "Obviously when you go on court you're aware of a lot of the upsets, not just among the women, but with the men as well. So it's great to get a win in that type of atmosphere."
To continue her increasingly inevitable run, Sharapova will have to defeat Paula Ormaechea. The Argentine defeated Monica Niculescu in an entertaining three-set match Wednesday to get her first crack at taking down Sharapova.
While a heavy underdog, this is the second straight year Ormaechea has managed to make the third round in Paris. As a qualifier in 2013, she took down 27th-seeded Yaroslava Shvedova and played strong tennis before falling to Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
We're probably looking at a similar result. Sharapova, while imperfect, cannot help but see how clear her path is to the final. Both top-seeded women have been eliminated. It's unfortunate that she finds herself on the same half as third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, but Sharapova holds a 10-2 all-time record against her biggest challenge and has won every match they've played on clay.
Sharapova is the unquestioned favorite here. She will need to clean up the unforced errors and make a more concerted effort for more accurate first serves—she struggled to put even half her serves in play in Round 2—but Ormaechea is the exact type of opponent to get back into a rhythm against. We probably won't go much longer than an hour here.
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