The 2017 French Open continued on Monday as the men’s draw saw the completion of the fourth round of play. With those matches now history Andy Murray, Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka, and Kei Nishikori are all in the men’s quarterfinals on the top half of the draw. They defeated Karen Khachanov, Kevin Anderson, Gael Monfils, and Fernando Verdasco respectively. The results at the current French Open certainly are a sharp contrast to the Australian Open from earlier this season. While the Aussie featured enormous upsets in the first four rounds, any kind of significant upset has thus far evaded the Roland Garros 2017 draw.
In fact, of the top-eight seeds in the men’s draw seven are through to the quarterfinals. The one high seed that is missing from the final eight is Canada’s Milos Raonic. Raonic went out in the fourth round to Pablo Carreno-Busta on Sunday, the only result in the fourth round that saw a lower seed win. Raonic also suffered an upset in the fourth round last season, and it’s clear at this point that clay just isn’t his best surface. If he’s fit, then he promises to be a major factor at the All England Club in July, just as he was last season.
But that there weren’t any major upsets in the first four rounds doesn’t mean that there will not be any upcoming. Kei Nishikori is in the hunt for his second Grand Slam final, and he’ll face Andy Murray in the French Open quarters. Nishikori beat Murray in the quarters of last year’s US Open. The Scot has slumped in 2017 and a player of substance, like Nishikori, might be able to expose the World No. 1 as below par.
Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic will meet in the other quarter on the top half of the draw. Most would favor Wawrinka, but something seems to be clicking with Cilic right now. He certainly struggled through much of the opening months of the season, but he has been a model of efficiency in Paris over the last week and a bit.
He romped through the first four rounds with unusually efficient form, not allowing an opponent to win four games in any of the nine sets that he played. In the fourth round Cilic’s opponent, Kevin Anderson, tapped out down a set and a break in the second set. So far the 2014 US Open champion is 10-0 in sets played at Roland Garros this season. The Cilic/Wawrinka quarter is looking like a match to keep a close eye on and Cilic, who looks back to his best tennis, promises to be a major threat in next month’s Wimbledon draw.
On the bottom of the draw, the Rafael Nadal/Pablo Carreno-Busta match doesn’t have much-upset potential. Carreno-Busta has survived Raonic’s section of the draw, the section that was weak due to the Canadian’s preference for grass and cement surfaces. Carreno-Busta has turned into a fine player. However, he still doesn’t appear to have anything that will contend with Nadal.
The other quarterfinal on the bottom half of the draw could be one that features an upset. Novak Djokovic will face Dominic Thiem, the latter being the young Austrian with clear clay-court skills. Djokovic has not always played at a high level in Paris over the last week as Diego Schwartzman flirted with upsetting the defending champion. Furthermore, Djokovic’s surprise losses at Roland Garros over the years makes for a lengthy list. The upcoming quarter is a big match in the career of Thiem as he has a chance to prove that he is to be considered a big factor in the majors.
If the seeds help up, then we’d be looking at semifinals between Murray/Wawrinka and Djokovic/Nadal. Nishikori, Thiem, and Cilic promise to mix things up a bit. However, in the end, it is hard to picture a non-Nadal champion as Rafa has been sharper than even the razor-sharp Cilic has been.