Roland Garros Men’s Best of 5 Day 1 Including Pouille-Benneteau

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The French Open begins Sunday with a partial schedule of men’s and women’s matches. To preview the best matches on Sunday we have LWOS Tennis own Steen Kirby and Yesh Ginsburg, plus expert picker Eric Logan.

(16)Lucas Pouille vs. Julien Benneteau

Steen: Pouille leads the h2h 2-1 and although he’s not in the best form, this is far from Benneteau’s best surface or form. In years prior Benneteau would be the favorite but the young Pouille should prevail. Pouille by 4

Yesh: Julien Benneteau has never been at his best on clay (in singles, at least), and is far from his peak level of play. Pouille, on the other hand, is rising and looks to be a future star. Pouille in 3

Eric: Julien Benneteau has finally reentered the top 100- though not quite quickly enough to avoid needing a wildcard this week. However, his clay preparation has been lackluster to say the least, with a retirement coming in his last match. Pouille’s health is also somewhat suspect, with illness issues in the leadup to the tournament. Still, the younger Frenchman should get this. Pouille in 4

(23)Ivo Karlovic vs. (Q)Stefanos Tsitsipas

Steen: The young Greek qualifier Tsitsipas hasn’t won an ATP level match yet, but Karlovic is not a good clay court player and he’s in some of the worst form of his career. This is a tough test for the young gun but I’ll back him in an upset, because I have little confidence in Karlovic right now. Tsitsipas in 5 sets

Yesh: Tsitsipas is in his first Grand Slam and has finally cracked the Top 200. He’s never won even a Challenger title, though, and he’s certainly never seen a serve like Karlovic’s. Karlovic should breeze through this without even facing a break point. Karlovic in 3

Eric: The world #1 junior player is definitely one of the players to watch. Part of the one-handed backhand’s revitalization, he is likely to be a contender for big titles a bit down the road. Karlovic’s serve will probably be a challenge, but it is clay and Ivo is (as is often the case) struggling in the first half of the season. His experience will be needed here. Karlovic in 4

(26)Gilles Muller vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez

Steen: GGL has a 4-2 h2h edge, but they have never met on clay, and their form has diverged this season. The Spaniard is in terrible form having lost four straight matches, while Muller reached his first ever clay final at the tour level this season, posting his best results on the surface. Clay remains a challenge for serve and volleyers, and Muller in particular, but his serve should be steady enough to topple a struggling opponent. Muller in 4

Yesh: This is one of the underrated matches of the first round. Garcia-Lopez has good talent and Muller is not at his best on clay. The winner of this match should have an easy path to the third round, where Milos Raonic probably awaits. Garcia-Lopez in 5

Eric: Garcia-Lopez is having a really rough season, and barely made it into this event. Muller, on the other hand, is showing the best clay form of his life and somehow made a clay final earlier this year. The surface favors Garcia-Lopez and maybe if the clay is playing slow enough he can dent Muller’s big serve, but hard to go against Muller given current respective forms. Muller in 4

Mikhail Kukushkin vs. Tennys Sandgren

Steen: A strong run of matches in the USTA pro circuit on clay allowed Sandgren to secure his main draw debut in Paris. He’s still very limited in terms of experience at the tour level though, while Kukushkin is a steady veteran who is not at his best on clay. The quality of this match will probably be lacking, but the veteran Kukushkin should grind out a win. Kukushkin in 5

Yesh: The aptly-named Tennys Sandgren has finally earned his spot in a Grand Slam Main Draw, and he’s not going to let his chance go to waste. Kukushkin is a decent draw for him to win, and Sandgren has been pretty good on clay this year. Sandgren in 4

Eric: Mikhail Kukushkin isn’t much of a clay courter, but he definitely has the edge in experience over Tennys Sandgren. Sandgren, the USTA Wildcard winner and Donald Trump enthusiast, has enjoyed a rich vein of form lately, but at a level below that at which Kukushkin plays every weak. The Kazakh is very injury-prone and inconsistent, but I give him a cautious edge here. Kukushkin in 4 

(25)Steve Johnson vs. Yuichi Sugita

Steen: Johnson is at his worst on clay, but he’s had his best ever year on the surface, going 6-1. Sugita reached a Barcelona quarterfinal, his best ever ATP clay court result, but he’s also far from his best on the surface. Sugita’s form has tailed off since Barcelona, while Johnson looks fresh and is playing well enough to beat an opponent who is many spots below him in the rankings. Johnson in 3

Yesh: Steve Johnson has been quietly consistent for a few years now. Clay is not his best surface, but Yuichi Sugita isn’t comfortable on it either. The American should win this easily. Johnson in 3

Eric: Johnson is not at his best on clay (ignore successes in Houston, a clay court event that plays absolutely nothing like clay). Sugita made a real run at the Barcelona event as a lucky loser, but has shown no signs of replicating that run before or after. Sugita is a bit all-or-nothing, so this could be close or a no contest. But I think Johnson comes through. Johnson in 3

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