Felix Auger-Aliassime - popcorn first-round match at Roland Garros

Roland Garros 2023: Popcorn matches from the men’s singles draw

Roland Garros is now underway and the men’s singles draw has produced some hotly anticipated clashes.

Here are five of the matches that we at Tennishead are most looking forward to.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (10) vs Fabio Fognini

Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is no stranger to going the distance in Grand Slams, has drawn a tough first round match against Italian favourite Fabio Fognini.

Last year, the former Junior French Open champion, reached the fourth round and was defeated in a close five set battle against eventual champion, Rafael Nadal.

The 22-year-old however has failed to make a success of the clay court season so far with early exits in both Madrid and Rome. With only one clay court win under his belt this season at a warm-up tournament in Lyon, he subsequently withdrew with a shoulder injury sparking concern for his upcoming title bid in Paris.

Fognini, a former top 10 player, who holds an impressive record of eight clay court titles and a previous quarter finalist at Roland Garros, is a nightmare draw for anyone hoping to go the distance in Paris.

Although ranked 130, the 35-year-old can rise to any occasion, recently defeating Andy Murray earlier this month in Rome.

Head-to-Head: The pair have met once before in 2019 where Felix Auger-Aliassime won in straight sets.

Roberto Bautista Agut (19) vs Yibing Wu

This will be the first meeting between Spanish hopeful, and former Wimbledon semi-finalist, Roberto Bautista Agut and rising Chinese star Yibing Wu.

In his 18th year on tour, Agut is no stranger to playing and defeating some of the biggest names in Tennis. Most recently ending Andy Murray’s run at the Australian open this year.

Wu however is quickly following in his footsteps by also defeating some major names on the men’s tour including Denis Shapovalov and John Isner.

The 23-year-old made history at the Dallas open this year as the first ever Chinese man to win an ATP title in the open era and to defeat a top 10 tennis player by overcoming then No. 8, Taylor Fritz.

Agut may be feeling more confident in the match up having reached the fourth round at Roland Garros twice before as Wu is finding his feet on the dirt in his maiden Roland Garros.

Dan Evans (20) vs Thanasi Kokkinakis

British hopeful Dan Evans is a dark horse and one to watch as a semi finalist in Barcelona this clay season, where he lost to eventual champion, Carlos Alcaraz.

The 33-year-old Brit may be favoured as the most in form player with wins over Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz this year.

However, 27-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis, who is ranked 107, is also no stranger to success, winning the doubles title with fellow compatriot Nick Kyrgios at the Australian open in 2022. His best Singles Grand Slam run also comes from Paris where he reached the third round in 2015.

The Australian’s biggest win came in 2018 when he defeated then world No.1 Rodger Federer during the 2018 Miami Open.

Although neither player has a particularly strong record on the dirt or at Rolland Garros, both players can rise to an occasion and unexpectedly produce upsets when it matters.

Head-to-Head: The pair have met once before in 2021 where Kokkinakis was triumphant in a close three set battle.

Sebastian Korda (24) vs Mackenzie McDonald

In an All American clash, Mackenzie McDonald will hope to continue producing shock results in his first-round match against Sebastian Korda.

McDonald produced the win of his career in Melbourne this year, defeating defending champion, Rafael Nadal, in straight sets.

The 28-year-old also reached the third round in Paris last year but was knocked out in the early stages of both Rome and Madrid this year.

Compatriot, Sebastian Korda, also had a stellar run in the Australian Open this year, before retiring in the quarter final.

This will be a difficult first round match to get through for both players.

Head-to-Head: Surprisingly the pair have never met before.

Cameron Norrie (14) vs Benoit Paire

Falling to Novak Djokovic in Rome earlier this month did not deter Norrie from what has been a successful clay season so far. The Brit also reached the semi-final in Lyon this week in final preparation for Paris.

With a first-round draw against French Wild Card, Benoit Paire, Norrie will have to overcome the former Lyon Open title winner and a Parisian crowd.

Head-to-Head: Norrie has won both meetings to date, most recently at the US Open last year. The two have yet to face off on clay.

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