2016 champion and No. 1 player in the world, Novak Djokovic, and World No. 4 Dominic Thiem lead a group of 32 players contesting 16 men’s singles matches during Day 5 at the French Open. Thursday’s matches bring together an eclectic group of players who have traveled varying roads to the courts at Roland Garros.
Day 5 at the French Open
The Elite will Dominate
Three of the world’s top five players take the court in singles competition. Headliner Novak Djokovic is vying for his fourth consecutive Grand Slam championship. The Serb carries a 2019 record of 23-5 into the second round. Winner of ten of his last eleven matches on clay, look for Djokovic to handle World No. 104 Henri Laaksonen with relative ease.
Likewise, ranked number four in the world and carrying clay season momentum, Dominic Thiem should cruise. The Austrian wields too many weapons and too much guile to be seriously threatened by Alexander Bublik. Bublik has played only four ATP Tour level matches during the 2019 campaign to date. No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev brings and up and down 20-10 record during 2019 into his match. Zverev will face Swede Mikael Ymer. A feel-good story, Ymer nabbed his first tour level victory of the 2019 campaign in the first round. The magic won’t last as Ymer will not be able to match ultra talented Zverev.
Age is But a Number
Day 5 brings a wide age disparity to the tournament. 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic is the oldest player competing in the tournament. From Croatia, Karlovic became the oldest player to win a men’s singles match at Roland Garros since 1973. He knocked off fellow veteran 37-year-old Feliciano Lopez in the first round. Karlovic takes on 25-year-old Australian Jordan Thompson.
While Karlovic carries a birth certificate from the 1970s, four players yet to reach their 22nd birthday will also compete Thursday. American Taylor Fritz and Alexander Bublik of Kazakstan are both 21 years old. Even younger, Ymer and Eliot Benchetrit of host country France will compete as 20-year-olds.
Enter through the Open Door
Several players took advantage of great opportunities to move into today’s second round matches. Five of Thursday’s 32 contestants entered the main draw of this event from less conventional means. Benchetrit, Ymer, and Italian Salvatore Caruso all prevailed through three qualifying matches to reach the main draw. Each player then knocked out his first round opponent to reach the second round. Ranked only 273 in the world, Benchetrit narrowly escaped defeat in the second round of the qualies. He then captured the first main draw tour level win of his career in main draw round one. Benchetrit dominated top 50 opponent Cameron Norrie in straight sets while dropping only five games.
Preparing to square off against the world’s top player Thursday, Henri Laaksonen actually lost in the qualies. He found his way into the main draw as a Lucky Loser when American Sam Querrey withdrew before the start of the tournament. Finally, World No. 146 Antonie Hoang, playing in his home country’s biggest tournament, entered the main draw as a wild card before nabbing his first clay court win of the season in the first round.
The .500 Club
Casual observers figure that anyone who has been accepted to, then advanced in, a Grand Slam tournament must often win their matches. However, a close look finds several players scrapping their way to Thursday’s play. More than half of the contestants have a 2019 record that is no better than one match over .500. 11 of the players need to win in order to reach or keep their season’s record at the break even mark.
Even number ten seed Karen Khachanov and thirtieth seed Dusan Lajovic come into the second round below .500, carrying 11-12 and 12-13 season records respectively. While these seeds can win to get to even on the season, No. 26 seed Lucas Pouille and No. 28 seed Kyle Edmund both need to win multiple times before they reach .500. Four more Day 5 contestants need very deep runs in the Roland Garros draw in order to come out even or better for the season.
From World No. 1 to World No. 273, from ages 20 to 40, from players who can be most selective in choice of events to those scraping for any opportunity, today’s matches have them all. Starting at 11 AM in Paris, no matter the road taken, the score is 0-0. Play.