After eight days at Roland Garros in Paris, the 2014 French Open has already given fans some juicy upsets.
Nine matches featured at least one seeded player on Day 8, with three of them featuring an underdog emerging victorious. As predictable as the early rounds of Grand Slams can be, such upheaval is downright shocking by comparison.
|2014 French Open Men's Singles—Day 8 Results|
|(24) Fernando Verdasco||(12) Richard Gasquet||6-3, 6-2, 6-3|
|(18) Ernests Gulbis||(4) Roger Federer||6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3|
|(2) Novak Djokovic||(13) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga||6-1, 6-4, 6-1|
|(7) Andy Murray||(24) Philipp Kohlschreiber||3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 12-10|
|(8) Milos Raonic||Marcel Granollers||6-3, 6-3, 6-3|
|(6) Tomas Berdych||(10) John Isner||6-4, 6-4, 6-4|
|2014 French Open Women's Singles—Day 8 Results|
|Garbine Muguruza Blanco||Pauline Parmentier||6-4, 6-2|
|(14) Carla Suarez Navarro||Ajla Tomljanovic||6-3, 6-3|
|(7) Maria Sharapova||(19) Samantha Stosur||3-6, 6-4, 6-0|
|(18) Eugenie Bouchard||(8) Angelique Kerber||6-1, 6-2|
Clearly the biggest story of the day is the early exit of Roger Federer.
All but a lock to reach a tournament's final eight since his reign atop men's tennis began, the 32-year-old Federer fell to No. 18 seed Ernests Gulbis of Latvia. Following third-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka's loss to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round, Federer is the second of the top-four seeded men to bow out thus far.
Normally blessed with impeccable technique, Federer committed 59 unforced errors in his losing effort. Gulbis has every bit as much talent as Federer at this point in the all-time great's career, and the 25-year-old challenger was more consistent on Day 8.
Though Rog is out, Gulbis proved that he can go shot for shot with anyone he faces. Coming off the signature win of his professional tennis career, he advances to the French Open quarters for the second time, and he can advance even further if he keeps performing like he did in his fourth-round match.
On the women's side, eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber dropped to an opponent seeded 10 spots lower in Eugenie Bouchard. As with Gulbis, the female 18th seed put her ability on full display in the win, though hers powered her to a quick, dominant victory rather than a marathon.
After the breezy two-set victory, Bouchard has displayed more consistent success than any other women's tennis player in 2014.
Rounding out the day, No. 24 seed Fernando Verdasco dealt the 12th-seeded Richard Gasquet the third upset, while No. 7 seed Andy Murray avoided a fourth in a grueling five-set escape from No. 28 Philipp Kohlschreiber. Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych all came away with straight-set wins, which will give those top-10 players more energy moving forward than Murray will have.
The only other intriguing result in the women's draw came from Maria Sharapova's comeback victory over Samantha Stosur. The seventh-seeded Sharapova gave up the first set, then got stronger as the match went on. After blanking Stosur 6-0 in the third set for the win, Sharapova moves on playing strong tennis, with her earlier struggles behind her.
Spaniards Carla Suarez-Navarro and Garbine Muguruza Blanco each emerged in straight sets to finish off the women's slate.
|2014 French Open Men's Singles—Day 9 Predictions|
|(1) Rafael Nadal vs. Dusan Lajovic||Nadal|
|(5) David Ferrer vs. (19) Kevin Anderson||Ferrer|
|(23) Gael Monfils vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez||Monfils|
|(7) Andy Murray vs. (24) Fernando Verdasco||Murray|
|ESPN; Josh Cohen's predictions|
|2014 French Open Women's Singles—Day 9 Predictions|
|(23) Lucie Safarova vs. (27) Svetlana Kuznetsova||Kuznetsova|
|(4) Simona Halep vs. (15) Sloane Stephens||Halep|
|(6) Jelena Jankovic vs. (10) Sara Errani||Errani|
|(28) Andrea Petkovic vs. Kiki Bertens||Petkovic|
|ESPN; Josh Cohen's predictions|
After Sunday's excitement, Monday should feature its fair share of drama as well.
For the men, it will be more about the storylines heading into the quarters than any actual upsets. All four of the favorites should advance, but how they look in doing so will be more interesting.
Murray once again will be in the spotlight; after bad light pushed his and Verdasco's third-round matches to Sunday, they'll be playing without a rest day. How Murray holds up after his ordeal with Kohlschreiber will be worth monitoring.
Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer will get to show how formidable they are in a thinning field; effortless victories will make them appear even more bulletproof, while any sign of weakness could embolden future opponents seeking to topple these clay experts.
Count Gael Monfils among the ranks of potential upsetters after he dispatches Garcia-Lopez and moves on in front of a patriotic French crowd.
The women should offer more immediate madness in the draw.
No. 27 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova just took down No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova, the highest-ranked Czech player in the world (No. 6), and now faces Lucie Safarova, a clay specialist who has only advanced this far at Roland Garros once before. Kuznetsova is overachieving and is now playing a less accomplished opponent, so expect the success to continue.
The match between Jelena Jankovic and Sara Errani should be closer—all but certainly a three-setter—but Errani should have a slight edge. Her foot speed is killer on clay, which will allow her to control the match and force Jankovic to make mistakes. Jankovic might be all-around the better player, but Errani's stylistic advantage should allow her to advance this time.
The other two matches feature favorites clearly superior to their competition.
That's not saying the most for Andrea Petkovic over Kiki Bertens, but Sloane Stephens has a ton of natural ability. Unfortunately for the last remaining American at Roland Garros, she runs into Simona Halep, who has emerged from relative obscurity to become the best player in the field.
That might have been true even before the top three women fell. Now no one can match her pedigree or ability, not even Stephens.