RAFAEL Nadal plays a key part in Mark Stinchcombe’s (@markstinchcombe) French Open tips on Thursday. Take a look.
Nicolas Almagro v Rafael Nadal | Thursday 11:30
This will be the third time this pair meet this year after Nadal won 6-3 6-1 in Barcelona and 6-4 6-2 in Miami.
Rafa leads the head-to-head 12-1 but it’s probably not worth reading too much into previous meetings before this year with both players coming back from lengthy lay-offs in 2015.
However, it’s noticeable that both of Nadal’s victories have been by a comfortable eight and six games respectively. And if you delve into Almagro’s lost sets this year, there’s evidence he perhaps cannot compete fully in every single one.
In the previous round he conceded a set 6-2 to Alexandr Dolgopolov and in Rome he lost 6-1 against Novak Djokovic.
Looking back further there’s defeats of 6-2 against Juan Monaco in Madrid, 6-1 against Richard Gasquet in Estoril, 6-2 against Pablo Cuevas in Rio, 6-2 against Kei Nishikori in Australia and 6-2 against Stan Wawrinka in Abu Dhabi.
The handicap is 7.5 and something along the lines of 6-4 6-4 6-2 would be enough.
Andy Murray v Joao Sousa | Thursday 13:30
Murray leads Sousa 5-0 on the head-to-head, winning all 12 previous sets over the last two years and by an average of 3.5 games a set.
With Kyle Edmund pulling out of the tournament with a stomach injury, Murray already knows his potential 3rd round opponent in Nick Kyrgios and there will be no need to hang around here in a matchup he knows he has the better of.
Sousa fell to a 6-1 6-2 6-4 defeat in the opening round against Djokovic last year (11 games) and I would expect similar here.
Yen-Hsun Lu v Kevin Anderson | Thursday 15:00
Lu looks a big price worth chancing tomorrow. He’s already beaten Anderson in straight sets in Delray Beach this year (a venue where Anderson enjoys the conditions being a former winner and finalist) and leads the head-to-head between the two 2-1.
Lu played really well in his 1st round match serving 15 aces and hitting 72 winners in just four sets. Anderson’s main weapon is his serve, but he looked to be struggling in his last game as he hit six double faults in 18 service games and Lu could take advantage again.