By Ros Satar, at Roland Garros

  • Novak Djokovic [1] v Hubert Hurkacz
  • Serena Williams [10] v Vitalia Diatchenko
  • Dominic Thiem [4] v Tommy Paul
PARIS, FRANCE – And we are off! The first full day proper after Sunday’s half day and the big names continue to make their presence felt.

 

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Novak Djokovic [1] v Hubert Hurkacz | First meeting

Still very much in the mix to achieve a ‘Nole-Slam’ for the second time in his career, Novak Djokovic will take to the newly remodelled Philippe Chatrier court for the first time, against one of the ATP Next Generation, Hubert Hurkacz.

The Pole put together a run through qualifying in the speedy air of Madrid, but the rest of his clay court season has not exactly been setting the world alight. Conversely after a quarter-final stumble in Monte Carlo, Djokovic came back with the title in Madrid, and the final in Rome that still puts him firmly in the mix here.

He seems to have made things harder for himself recently though – not quite back to the dominant Djokovic we have been used to seeing but in a strange way it works better for him when the chips are down, and he really wants it.

This should be a breeze for him, but it will be worth seeing if he can conserve his energy and get through his opener as efficiently as possible.

Prediction: Djokovic in three sets.

 

Serena Williams [10] v Vitalia Diatchenko | Williams leads H2H 1-0

Serena Williams in the semi-final of the US Open, New York 2018

Serena Williams in the semi-final of the US Open, New York 2018 | (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Conversely, eyes will be on Serena Williams for completely different reasons as the three-time champion looks to get through a match without a retirement or walkover for the first time in four attempts.

Williams had to withdraw in the third round in Indian Wells and a knee injury has ruled her out of Miami and Rome where she withdrew before her scheduled matches after racking up a win in the round previously.

Not one of the top eight seeds, there has been no obligation on Williams to appear in pre-tournament press, but there has been plenty on what she will be wearing from Nike when she takes to the court.

Having beaten Vitalia Diatchenko four years at the US Open, ironically by way of a retirement by the Russian. In normal circumstances you would expect Williams to breeze right through the early rounds.

This may not be as straight forward despite the fact that the Russian has not really been at all remarkable on the dusty-stuff.

Prediction: Williams in three sets.

 

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Dominic Thiem [4] v Tommy Paul | First meeting

Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open, ATP Indian Wells 2019

Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open, ATP Indian Wells 2019 | (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

We shift our gaze not to the King of Clay, but his heir apparent. The ‘Prince of Clay’ Dominic Thiem did so well to reach the final but just struggled to make any kind of impact in the final.

His form in Barcelona and Madrid made the build up quite exciting, so it felt like a bit of a fall from grace with his opening round exit from Rome, but if anyone is going to spoil the Djokovic/Rafael Nadal final line-up, it will be this fellow.

As his fellow chaser Alexander Zverev found out last year, making life hard for yourself in the early rounds on this surface is no fun when you get into the second week! Thiem’s natural flair on the surface make him a treat to watch – solid groundstrokes, tenacious and one of the more devastating single-handed backhands in the men’s game. He ably backs this up with a decent serve, and the way in which he builds his point is what sets him apart from his younger fellow players. That is why he still remains the most likely of whatever generation we want to label this pack to get a Slam.

Prediction: Thiem in straight sets.

 

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