Serena Williams comes into Roland Garros on a terrific 24 match winning streak having won her last four tournaments in Miami, Charleston, Madrid and Rome. Last year, Serena went into Roland Garros as the heavy favourite but suffered a shocking first round loss to Virginie Razzano in what was the most dramatic match of 2012. All eyes will be on her first round match with Anna Tatishvili.
The first few rounds will be key for Serena to get through unscathed and the draw certainly looks reasonable with her 4th round opponent the first step up in quality; Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Roberta Vinci will be the prime candidates jostling for that last 16 spot to meet Serena. Pavlyuchenkova, who is being coached by Martina Hingis, has a really favourable draw and a 5-1 head-to-head lead over Vinci to boot so this could actually be a good tournament for her.
Angelique Kerber will start her Roland Garros campaign with one of the toughest first round matches against fellow German, Mona Barthel. Earlier this year in Doha, Barthel thumped Kerber in two easy sets. Since then, their form has swapped around and Barthel’s disinterest in recent matches makes me think she will be hard pushed to get past Kerber on this occasion. Kerber-Barthel should be great, but I am most excited to see Caroline Wozniacki take on Laura Robson in the showcase of the first rounders. Wozniacki has lost all four of her matches on red clay in 2013 and Robson loves a seed and a big stage. In my opinion, it is a plum draw for Robson and I had to stop myself from picking her to the quarters! Round three though is well within her grasp. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ekaterina Makarova are also in this section and meet in another crunching opening tie.
The clay court season has been a real trial for Agnieszka Radwanska who muscled together just one win from three tournaments on the red clay. She takes on Shahar Peer in the first round and could meet Venus Williams in the third round. Venus has been struggling with a back injury, which has really affected her serve. Venus plays Aga’s sister, Urszula Radwanska in the first round and judging by Venus’s performance against Laura Robson in Rome, an all-Radwanska third rounder is a real possibility.
Ana Ivanovic has been playing very well of late and she will be happy with her draw, one that offers up potential of a last four place. She takes on one of the stars of last year’s Roland Garros, Petra Martic in the first round. Julia Goerges could be a third round opponent, but she suffered a worrying wrist injury in Brussels. An Aga-Ivanovic 4th round match would be my tip. Although Radwanska has owned Ivanovic of late, I would discount their recent head-to-head…
Sara Errani moved up to number five in the rankings following another solid tournament in Rome and will now face a challenge to defend her incredible finals points from last year. To be honest, she has a great chance of recouping a lot of those points. First up will be Arantxa Rus, who has been in horrendous form of late and second will be either Ayumi Morita or Yulia Putintseva. Sabine Lisicki just scraped in as a seed and she is in prime position to meet Errani in the third round.
Errani’s 4th round opponent comes from an intriguing section that features Nadia Petrova and Carla Suarez Navarro. Petrova is first up against Monica Puig and may have to contend with the flourishing, Madison Keys in the second round. Suarez Navarro has drawn Simona Halep, who had a star-studded run in Rome; the pattern of their head-to-head suggests this is a 50-50 match, but I would back Suarez Navarro’s greater consistency to pull home the win.
The third quarter could see a hotly anticipated rematch of this year’s dramatic Australian Open final between Li Na and Victoria Azarenka. Li’s form through Madrid and Rome was certainly patchy and rather surprising as through the first four months of the season, she had emerged as the closest candidate to rival the top three. She plays Anabel Medina Garrigues in the first round and could play Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round, a potential rematch from the Stuttgart semi-finals.
Yaroslava Shvedova could await in the third round, who took out Li in Paris last year. Shvedova has reignited her form following a sorry start to 2013, but I still like the chances of the Argentine qualifier, Paula Ormachea. Maria Kirilenko and Klara Zakopalova headline the other part to this section, but both could be trumped by Kaia Kanepi, who is improving week-on-week. Her only weakness may be having endured the long rainy days in Brussels…
Victoria Azarenka restored some parity with a run to the final in Rome following an ill-tempered early exit in Madrid, which had seen her take to the court for the first time in two months. Vika will play Elena Vesnina in round one, a good solid test to kick things off. The Frenchwomen, Alize Cornet will be her first seed before a 4th round showing against Marion Bartoli beckons. This is the most open section in the whole draw and suggesting Bartoli and round four sounds absurd. Most recently, she suffered a straight sets loss to Camila Giorgi in Strasbourg; however I think in front of a home crowd, she will notch up a few wins. Kirsten Flipkens is the other seed in this section and will have to contend with the tricky Italians, Flavia Pennetta (round one) and Francesca Schiavone (potentially round two). Pennetta made the semi-finals in Strasbourg having coming through qualifying, meanwhile Schiavone will always be a danger at RG, having famously claimed the title in 2010.
Sharapova has had her fair share of cakewalks this year and this draw is rather cakey once more. She has drawn the weakest of all 32 seeds, Tamira Paszek, in round three, who will be hard pushed to get past Melanie Oudin in what will be a battle of the grass court queens. Perhaps, it will be Zheng Jie who profits from this as she showed an upturn in form with a quarter-final appearance in Brussels this week.
Petra Kvitova has struggled for consistency over the clay court season and will be vulnerable in a packed section. She plays Aravane Rezai, a blast from the past who won Madrid in 2010, but has been struggling badly since. Kvitova is projected to meet Lucie Safarova in the third round but I think it could easily be Jamie Hampton or Yanina Wickmayer, who can both pack a punch on their day. Hampton has never been extremely proficient on the clay but a recent run in Brussels has made me think otherwise.
The other section is likely to see a third rounder between Jelena Jankovic and Sam Stosur. JJ has a testing opener against Daniela Hantuchova, but overall it is all achievable for the former world number one. Drawing Stosur is actually good, because despite a beating to the Aussie in the Roland Garros semi-finals back in 2010, she has always dominated the head-to-head including a recent win in Stuttgart.
|Moo’s Final Prediction – S.Williams d. Sharapova|