The first day of the jam-packed fourth round kicks off this morning, and while the top men seem locked in, the top women...have been a little less than stellar. It'll mark the first time on Philippe Chatrier all tournament for No. 3 seeds Roger Federer and Vera Zvonareva as they go up against a couple countrymen for a shot in the quarters. I'll kick off my Sunday predictions with the duo, who largely flew under the radar during a busy last week.
Court Philippe Chatrier
(3) Vera Zvonareva vs. (14) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
I was worried another Russian by the name of Anastasia—Rodionova, to be specific—would upend Zvonareva on Sunday, considering the No. 3 seed was nearly bailed out by qualifier Sabine Lisicki in an exhausting second-round match. But Zvonareva got through that one handily, restoring my faith that she'll be just way too solid for her young compatriot.
Prediction: Zvonareva in two...something like a 75 62 scoreline.
(14) Stanislas Wawrinka vs. (3) Roger Federer
Familiar foes and good friends, there's not a lot these two don't know about each others' games. For Wawrinka, a shot at winning will all depend on how he recovered after that marathon match with Jo-Willy Tsonga in the third round, in addition to how well he's striking that beautiful one-handed backhand of his. Too bad there's another one-hander across the court that's just as good—as well as a forehand and serve that have been in peak form all tournament long.
Prediction: Fed in three. Nothing too complicated.
This should be a good one. Gasquet played great tennis against fellow darkhorse Thomaz Bellucci in the third round, finally putting together a solid showing at his home country's slam. Djokovic, meanwhile...well, I think we all know how he's been doing as of late.
While there was a slight chink in the armor after losing the second set in his match with Juan Martin del Potro on Friday, he came back yesterday and got the job done handily. Look for him to be too consistent—and too confident—for Gasquet to handle, crowd support or no crowd support.
Prediction: Djokovic in four.
(11) Marion Bartoli vs. Gisela Dulko
I'm kinda stunned Bartoli's still around. She was given a couple easy opening-round opponents—yet was forced to three sets in both matches. Then she comes up against rising clay sensation Julia Goerges in Round 3 and puts on one of the most bizarre performances I've ever witnessed—a mix of overtly annoying behavior, incredibly confident shotmaking and an unshakable desire to win.
It was a great match, and one that tells me all I need to know about this upcoming encounter with Dulko. If the Argentine's already going to be nervous, just wait until Barotli's lethal double-fisted attack—and the crowd's fervent support for one of their last French hopes remaining.
Prediction: Bartoli in two close sets.
Court Suzanne Lenglen
Fabio Fognini vs. Albert Montanes
I've only seen Fognini play a couple times, and one of them happened to be at this tournament last year in a very controversial second-round match against Gael Monfils. Showing some beautiful finesse and great nerve under pressure, Fognini gutted out that victory—so perhaps it's no surprise that he's backed it up again this year, taking advantage of Tomas Berdych's absence to put together a fine run.
I think the buck stops here though with Montanes—a scrappy Spanish veteran who likes to make his forehand a weapon on clay. While Montanes had a modest warm-up period on the dirt, he's played in many bigger matches than the Italian—which should give him an edge today.
Prediction: Montanes in four, maybe five.
Jelena Jankovic (10) vs. Francesca Schiavone (5)
Schiavone's performance during the first week was everything she could have asked for. The Italian constructed points well, mixed it up beautifully, attacked often yet defended when needed—essentially, the same brand of solid tennis that led her to last year's title.
Jankovic is, in many ways, a similar player to Schiavone—what she lacks in flair, she makes up for in keen court sense. This one is going to be a war of attrition, but I give the edge to Schiavone—she's forgotten what it's like to lose here.
Prediction: The defending champ in three grueling sets.
David Ferrer (7) vs. Gael Monfils (9)
A French conspiracy, I say! Monfils received a very, very comfortable draw, taking out a couple qualifiers and a wild card to advance to his fourth round of 16 appearance in Paris. The Frenchman has always played exceptionally well in his native France, but all good things must come to an end—and in this tournament, Monfils' demise will be brought about by the bull, David Ferrer. The Spaniard's performance against Sergiy Stakhovsky in the third round was blistering, and he will, without a doubt, keep up that same pace to thwart homeboy Monfils.
Prediction: Ferrer in straights.
(28) Daniela Hantuchova vs. (13) Svetlana Kuznetsova
This match...I don't even know where to begin. For Hantuchova, she could come out playing the same inspired tennis that she brought to the court in crushing top seed Caroline Wozniacki a couple days back. Or she could implode, the Slovak's periodic waves of self-doubt wreaking havoc on her smooth, beautiful game.
Kuznetsova's played fantastic tennis since the start of the tournament—always one who excels when pressure is low, when she's flying under the radar, when, at times, she hasn't played well leading up to a Slam, as is the case now. But I can completely see her coming up against Hantuchova and playing tight tennis, either caving in under millions of errors or having her short balls pounded into corners for winners.
I think I'll go with my heart on this one—while Sveta is one of my all-time favorites, it'd be great to see Hantuchova put together another great run in a Slam. She deserves it, but I'll be happy either way.
Prediction: Hantuchova in a tight two-setter.