Cilic, who has not reached the final of a Grand Slam tournament since the 2018 Australian Open, has struggled to maintain the high level of play that made him a mainstay in the top 10 from 2014-18. In 2019, he did not even reach the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam, for only the second time since 2012. Cilic will now face the unenviable task of playing Thiem, who is both confident after his performance at the U.S. Open and generally more well suited for clay court tennis.
Thiem has been a finalist at the French Open for the past two years, losing both times to Rafael Nadal. With his victory at the U.S. Open still fresh, Thiem is among the favorites to reach his third Roland Garros final, and, with Nadal having lost in the quarterfinals of the preparatory tournament in Rome, some think Thiem has a strong opportunity to challenge Nadal’s dominance.
Thiem’s defensive game is well suited to clay, and with early reports on court conditions suggesting that this year’s surface at Roland Garros will be faster than in previous iterations, the sudden swing from hardcourts to clay may play into the hands of those who thrived in New York.
COURT SIMONNE-MATHIEU | 8 A.M.
Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Tamara Zidansek
Garbiñe Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion, was returning to her prime, reaching the final at the Australian Open, before the pandemic halted play. She had a disappointing result at the U.S. Open, losing in the second round to Tsvetana Pironkova, but showed upon her return to clay at the Italian Open that she is still on an upswing.
During a run to the semifinals, she beat Victoria Azarenka and Coco Gauff before eventually losing in a tight three-set match against Simona Halep, the top seed at Roland Garros.
Tamara Zidansek, a promising young Slovenian player, has a limited history on the WTA Tour, but at the lower levels of professional tennis, her greatest successes have come on clay courts. She is the two-time reigning champion of the Bol Ladies Open, hosted in Croatia on red clay, and she won the doubles competition at the Palermo Open alongside Arantxa Rus in August.
Although she is faced with a nearly impossible task, Zidansek can make a good showing for herself. A good performance, even if it is a losing one, may give her the confidence that she can compete with established players on the biggest stages, and help her settle into her ascent on the tour.