Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych will all line up against home town favourites in Gael Monfils, Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon respectively. With all three French men going into their matches as underdogs, can any of them pull off an upset at the delight of the French crowd? With the tantalizing smiles and shot making of Gael Monfils and Jo Wilfried Tsonga to the endless persistence of Gilles Simon to never miss a ball we will see completely different approaches to the games. We must also mention a match that will probably be pushed under the radar in terms of media coverage and table talk which sees Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori face off against Russia's gritty journeyman Teymuraz Gabashvili who is most certainly a man in form.
Roger Federer vs. Gael Monfils
This head-to-head battle has provided us with more entertainment than almost any other out their on tour today. Roger Federer leads the match up 8-4 between the two men but Monfils has won their last two matches both of which have been on the clay, including a recent meeting between the two in Monte Carlo. Federer has won a clay title in Istanbul and managed to make the final in Rome in the lead up to this tournament only to lose out to Novak Djokovic. Even though their appear to be frailties for Federer on this surface these days, his form is very strong and with most of the pressure and the eyes pointed at the other half of the draw he may be able to slip under the radar. Federer hasn't been without his difficulties but will be phenomenally pleased to make it through his first three rounds without dropping set and this may prove to be decisive against Monfils. Gael in contrast has come through two five set matches in the last two rounds and was also pushed in his first round against fellow Frenchman Eduoard Roger Vasselin. A match of epic proportion against Pablo Cuevas and his ability to mount a comeback of spartan like proportions may well be the emotional and physical drain that sees the end of his progress. With the French crowd on his side anything can happen however this writer thinks Roger Federer will take this match comfortably
Prediction: Roger Federer to win in straight sets.
Jo Wilfried Tsonga vs. Tomas Berdych
This sees two players now of 30 and 29 respectively who have spent a lot of their careers in the top 10, face off for the second time this year. The past 12 months have seen the fortunes of these stars go in different directions. Tsonga won a masters series title in Toronto but apart from that, has suffered massively from injury and form which has seen him drop down to number 15 in the world. Tomas Berdych has been one of the form men of 2015 with a 32-9 record with his only defeats coming against top 10 players. Despite this, he is yet to win a title in 2015 and this does show Berdych's trouble in the big matches and against the very top opponents. Berdych leads the head to head 6-2 with their only meeting on clay being in Madrid this year which Tomas took with relative ease. Berdych is most certainly the better player on clay, his ground strokes are far more secure than Tsonga who can often be erratic. Having said all this, Tsonga is a man of big moments something that can not often be said for the Czech star. Tsonga has yet to drop a set this year and as it often boils down to in tennis, who is going to hold serve more consistently. For that reason, if Tsonga can get his serve firing down, the French crowd will be wildly on his side and we may see the pressure build on Berdych.
Prediction: Jo Wilfried Tsonga in five sets.
Stan Wawrinka vs. Gilles Simon
This is a match between one of the biggest hitters on tour from the back of the court against one of the least aggressive players who can often be accused of just pushing the ball. Both have had solid years with Wawrinka picking up two titles in Rotterdam and Chennai and Simon picking up the one in Marseille. What may surprise some people is that there are only four places in the ranking between the two, with Wawrinka at No. 9 and Simon at No. 13 in the world. Wawrinka has had a comfortable path through to the round of 16, only dropping the one set, while Simon was pushed all the way to a final set decider against French veteran Nicolas Mahut. A far from promising performance from Gilles. Simon also suffers from not getting any where near the support of his fellow countrymen at Roland Garros, his lack of flamboyance, has meant the French have never really taken to him and leads to often a flat atmosphere during is matches. The two have a head to head of 2-2 with their only meeting on clay being a five set epic match that Stan took in 2012 in the round of 32 at the French Open. The match up on clay does hugely favour Wawrinka as he is able to over power Simon who plays into Wawrinka's hands by pushing the ball back on such a slow surface. Having said this Wawrinka is known to have days where his radar is way off and can often beat himself through mistakes. Tomorrow this writer can not see this happening and expects to see two Swiss players in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Wawrinka in four sets.
Kei Nishikori vs. Teymuraz Gabashvili
What needs to be said, is that Nishikori should be winning this match if he wants to start establishing himself as one of the very top players in the world. At No. 5 in the world, a grand slam final under his belt and some sublime performances on clay the Japanese player has proved himself to be one of the favourites for this tournament. Nishikori won his first two matches in straight sets including a win against in form clay courter Brazilian Bellucci. He then benefited from the withdrawal of Benjamin Becker in the third round giving him extra rest and preparation for this match. On paper this match looks simple but in reality Gabashvili is a dangerous player to be playing. He has won 13 of his last 14 matches and is yet to drop a set in this years French Open; including straight sets wins against Juan Monaco and Feliciano Lopez it has been an incredible effort from the Russian. He has the ability to hit the ball very hard from the back of the court and this reason can cause anyone trouble. On the ATP tour they have met four times with Nishikori winning all but one meeting in which he retired in the first set. Despite Gabashvili's credentials for causing an upset this writer still thinks Nishikori is playing in a different league and for this reason expect the Japanese player to pick apart his Russian counterparts game.
Prediction: Nishikori in three sets.