Sunday, May 22, 2011

2011 French Open Women's Preview

It says as much as the state of women's tennis right now as it does about Kim Clijsters that many people are picking her to win the French Open even though she hasn't played a single match on red clay this year. It's a little bit hard to believe that four times a year someone wins one of these things yet looking at the list, no one looks capable of doing it. Let's take a closer look.

Caroline Wozniacki
1. Caroline Wozniacki – Caro just won her fourth title of the year today, so she comes to Roland Garros on a winning streak. Of the four majors, this one should be her best shot because her lack of power is less exploitable on red clay. Yet she's never gotten past the quarterfinals here. Even as the number one seed, it's hard to call her the favorite to win a major until she's actually won one.

2. Kim Clijsters – It's really a bit of a surprise that Clijsters is even playing here. A two-time finalist, she claims this is her worst surface. When she got hurt this spring, it seemed almost certain she would skip the French. Apparently someone reminded her that when you're the only woman capable of winning all four majors this year, you should have a damn good reason to not show up. There's no way of knowing how she'll play here. But count me among those who think she has a pretty good shot. If she loses here, it will most like be a combination of her rust and Maria Sharapova playing her best tennis in almost three years.

3. Vera Zvonareva – Zvonareva played her first major in 2002. Until last year at Wimbledon, she'd been to the semifinals only once. She still has only made it to the quarterfinals of the French Open once, way back in 2003. Plus, she's an unimpressive 5-3 on clay this year. There's always Wimbledon.

4. Victoria Azarenka – Fact one: Azarenka has lost in the first round at Roland Garros three of the five times she's played here. Fact two: she has retired from a match injured or ill three times this year alone. The only reason she's not the reincarnation of Jelena Jankovic is because Jankovic is still out doing her own crazy shit. It's a little disconcerting to note that the 3rd and 4th seeds have little chance of making the semifinals. But that's the case.

5. Francesca Schiavone – It would be easy to say Schiavone has been playing mediocre tennis so far this spring, but it's not like she was setting the world on fire when she got to Paris last year either. Then she won seven matches in a row. And it wasn't really just a fluke for her. She beat three top-ten players to win the tournament. An awful lot would have to go right for her to do it again. But with the draw she has, another trip to the semifinals isn't completely out of the question.

6. Na Li – After getting to the Australian Open final, Li went a dismal 1-5 until finally getting back on track in Madrid. However, she still hasn't beaten anyone inside the top 25 since January. Not the kind of momentum you want coming into a major. So, we've profiled six players so far and except for the one limping around on one good leg, there isn't a real contender in the bunch.

Maria Sharapova
7. Maria Sharapova – When I suggested two weeks ago that Sharapova was probably salivating at her only real chance to ever win this major, the notion was dismissed as being unrealistic. The last week she beat three players ranked inside the top ten to win what is arguably the biggest clay court tournament outside the French Open. And if it weren't for the fact that she is in Clijsters' quarter of the draw, I'd call her the favorite.

8. Samantha Stosur – Stosur can't be too unhappy with her spring, seeing how she avenged last year's loss to Schiavone in Rome last week. If she holds her nerve, she's got as good a shot as anyone in her half of the draw at making the final.

Just like with the men, there is a precipitous drop after the 8th seed. Here are the few worth noting.

Petra Kvitova
Petra Kvitova (9) – Every time I see her walk on the court, I momentarily think Mary Pierce has made a comeback. Kvitova is hindered mostly by her inconsistency. She won in Madrid and got to the final in Prague, but prior to those two tournaments she lost four out of her previous five matches. If she keeps playing the way she has this month, she should handle Li Na in the fourth round. Her vs. Azarenka is a toss up.

Jelena Jankovic (10) – Jankovic isn't really a contender, but it seems rude to just ignore her completely. If she gets to the fourth round, she at least has a shot at beating Schiavone. Anything more than that would be a pretty big surprise.

Svetlana Kuznetsova (13) – Sveta isn't so much a contender as a possible thorn in Caroline Wozniacki's side in the fourth round. And she's one of the three players in the draw that have actually won the whole thing here. Hard to see her winning seven matches, but five isn't out of the question.

Andrea Petkovic (15) – Petkovic will probably only live up to her seeding, but she'll be the most entertaining woman in the tournament without a doubt.

Julia Goerges (17) – I'll be honest. I had never even heard of this chick a month ago. Then she beat Wozniacki two weeks in a row on clay. It will be interesting to see how she performs on the big stage.
Julia Goerges

Ana Ivanovic (20) – I knew Ivanovic won here three years ago, but I had to look it up to make sure because it seemed like it couldn't possibly have been only three years ago. It didn't seem like anything could keep her from being the next great champion. But it's been one disappointment after another since then. It will be a huge success if she can just get to the second week here now.


Stosur d. Jankovic

Clijsters d. Kvitova


Clijsters d. Stosur (Three sets)

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