2021 French Open Daily Previews

Saturday, Day 14

(31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Barbora Krejcikova: This an unbelievable opportunity for both player to win  a Slam in singles. First time meeting, first Slam final in singles. Who knows how both will handle the occasion. I think both are probably exhausted, physically and mentally, so it’s one last push. I would say Pavs is the favourite although I’ve written Krejcikova off the last three rounds. It’s going to be a nervy one!

Thursday, Day 12

(31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Tamara Zidansek: Unbelievable opportunity for both players to reach a Slam final. It’s a first meeting and a first Slam semi-final for both players. So much will come down to how the players handle the occasion. Tennis is such a mental game. Can’t deny that i’m rooting for Pavs who is probably the favourite based on career experience. Pavs as the favourite is a rather terrifying prospect. I think it’s pretty close to 50-50. Heart says Pavs, head says Zidansek

(17) Maria Sakkari vs. Barbora Krejcikova: A lot of what I said above applies here. I expect two very nervy matches. Krejcikova leads Sakkari, 2-0 in their head-to-head including a win this year in Dubai. I remember watching that match and Sakkari was surprisingly passive. It was an odd result which was later put into context when Krejcikova reached the final. Krejcikova has spoken about her nerves and anxiety but she’s managed to play through it rather marvellously. This will obviously be another step up. Honestly not a clue who wins this 😂😂😂. Naturally i’m leaning towards Sakkari but there’s no knowing how she handles the occasion as the highest ranked player left.

Wednesday, Day 11

(24) Coco Gauff vs. Barbora Krejcikova: A surprising Slam quarter-final on the face of it; however, both players have been two of the most in-form players during this clay court season with the pair combining for 28 wins on clay this year. Gauff won in Parma and Krejcikova won in Strasbourg. Unsurprisingly, it’s a first time meeting and a first Slam quarter-final for both players. I was really interested to read that Krejcikova was in a bad way mentally before her fourth round match which you wouldn’t have believed by the Stephens scoreline. If this becomes a grinding battle, I tend to favour Gauff who I think just won’t back down.

(8) Iga Swiatek vs. (17) Maria Sakkari: The two highest ranked players in the draw will collide in this quarter-final. Swiatek has been sensational and is very much looking like the favourite. Sakkari presents an interesting challenge with the pair having never played before. I see Sakkari as a bit of a disrupter and she’s always tended to cause some problems for the best players on tour. The improved serve has helped Sakkari score more free points at this tournament. I’d feel foolish going against Swiatek right now, she looks so secure. Intrigued to see what Sakkari can do here as the outsider.

Tuesday, Day 10

(21) Elena Rybakina vs. (31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: Ding, ding, ding, first time meeting! Not a clue who wins. I really want Pavs to win. She deserves a Slam semi-final to her name. It would be such a sweet moment having been 0-6 in Slams quarters up till now. You can’t ignore that record though and Pavs is surely going to feel it in what looks like a pretty decent shot at a Slam SF on paper. Rybakina hasn’t dropped a set this tournament and is kind of an unknown quantity having never reached this far at a Slam before.

(33) Paula Badosa vs. Tamara Zidansek: Both in uncharted territory. Both trying to reach new goals. So much will depend on how the pair handle the situation. I’m going for Badosa as I think she has managed the expectations brilliantly this week. There was talk about her being the favourite in this section after Osaka withdrew and it’s quite a feat that she’s stayed so focused and actually made it this far.

Monday, Day 9

(4) Sofia Kenin vs. (17) Maria Sakkari: Both Kenin and Sakkari came through thrilling third rounders in three sets. Kenin was rewarded for brave and bold hitting, impressively serving her way to victory against Pegula. Sakkari reset superbly after a terrible end to the second set to beat Mertens.

All three of Kenin and Sakkari’s matches have gone the distance and they’ve all been quite lopsided. Of the nine sets they have played, none of them have gone deeper than 6-4 and in their most recent match in the first week of the year in Abu Dhabi, Sakkari won the last ten games to win, 2-6 6-2 6-0. I’ve underestimated Kenin at this tournament… and I’m going to do it again 😂. I think the way Sakkari reset mentally against Mertens showed real growth and maturity and I think she’s ready for that next step to reach a first Slam QF.

Sloane Stephens vs. Barbora Krejcikova: Of the four matches on Monday, this is probably the one that I’m most on the fence for. I was very surprised to see that Krejcikova is the clear favourite with the bookies. I think you can see tension in Krejcikova’s face a lot of the time but she plays through it really well and was excellent in closing out Svitolina. Stephens is looking supremely comfortable on the clay and as a Slam champ, an RG finalist, we know what she’s capable of. I think I’d probably take Sloane here.

(8) Iga Swiatek vs. Marta Kostyuk: I’m intrigued by this match. Swiatek has looked in sensational form so far at this tournament. Kostyuk has been equally impressive and I sense that she will come out swinging and not be overrawed by the occasion. Yeah, I’d keep an eye on this one. It may look silly in hindsight but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kostyuk race out of the blocks and get a set.

(25) Ons Jabeur vs. (24) Coco Gauff: This will be the pair’s fourth meeting in the last year! It’s a huge match with both bidding for a first RG QF, for Gauff her first Slam QF anywhere. Jabeur has been very impressive considering she retired from her last tournament in Madrid with a leg injury. Gauff has played sooo many matches on clay this year and she is really thriving. I’m going for Gauff because of how well she has been competing and just continually toughing out these wins.

Sunday, Day 8

(20) Marketa Vondrousova vs. (33) Paula Badosa: The fourth quarter of the women’s draw has broken apart, as expected. However, this is a legit fourth rounder and actually my match of the day. And ding ding ding, it’s a first time meeting too. After escaping Kanepi in the first round, Vondrousova has cruised through the draw. Badosa, on the other hand, was one point from being on the plane to the next tournament as she saved a match point in her third round match to beat Ana Bogdan in what was arguably the match of the tournament.

Both have history in Paris and love the clay. Vondy reached the final back in 2019 and Badosa has now made it back-to-back last 16 showings. I still have my doubts about Vondrousova who has looked passive for much of the season. I think Badosa’s confidence is going to be sky high and she will be the player to take it on. I’m going for Badosa.

(15) Victoria Azarenka vs. (31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: I didn’t see this one coming! Azarenka and Pavs have rolled back the years to reach the second week of the French Open. Azarenka is here for the first time since 2013, Pavs 2011!

Azarenka came into the tournament with a cloud of uncertainty having battled a back injury picked up in Madrid (and I guess a reoccurrence from Doha). Azarenka stated in her first post-match interview that she’d been pain-free for three weeks and has looked in fine form, dismissing two big hitters in Tauson and Keys in straight sets. Pavs had Aryna Sabalenka, one of the favourites for the title in her path, and turned the tables on a recent Madrid loss to beat the Belarusian on Friday in three sets.

This is a bit of a feel-good match-up and I’m happy to see either prevail. While I think clay probably suits Pavs over Azarenka, it’s hard to ignore the head-to-head where Azarenka leads 5-1 with Pavs’s only win coming via retirement. Azarenka has been returning exceptionally well up till now and surprisingly solid on serve. Going for Vika.

(7) Serena Williams vs. (21) Elena Rybakina: Another first time meeting and completely uncharted territory for Rybakina who is into the second week of a Slam for the first time in her career. Rybakina is yet to be tested at this tournament with three dominant victories. Serena has had to work a lot harder which I think will of have been a benefit to her going forward. I’d take Serena. I like her going head-to-head with fellow big hitters and I think she will rise to the occasion on serve.

Sorana Cirstea vs. Tamara Zidansek: ANOTHER first time meeting! An unexpected last 16 match-up although can I share a rare draw success that I did have Cirstea to this stage. No data points on the match-up and it’s a toss-up with so much on the line. Tend to think Cirstea’s experience at Slams may be key.

Saturday, Day 7

(13) Jen Brady vs. (24) Coco Gauff: So many good matches on Saturday. I think this is probably the match of the day. The pair played last year in Lexington where Brady won, 6-2 6-4. I don’t remember that match at all! I had Brady in my draw. I’ve kind of swung around rom my TDC which I rarely do. Brady had a very noteworthy win over Ferro, battling through in three. Her level was patchy and I got a sense that she wasn’t feeling that confident although the win probably helped! Gauff has played so many matches on clay and won a lot of them. She’s a fantastic competitor. Could be a belter.

(18) Karolina Muchova vs. Sloane Stephens: Ring the bells! Ring the bells! It’s a first-time meeting between Muchova and Stephens and a really attractive prospect on clay. Muchova is becoming one of the best at coming in cold to tournaments and just toughing out the wins. Stephens enjoyed her best win in two and half years, beating Karolina Pliskova in straights. Stephens has still been patchy at times but the form is definitely coming back and she loves the clay.

I remember watching Stephens play a great match in Charleston against Ajla Tomljanovic and thinking she would win the tournament. Obviously she lost in the next round! I’m exercising more caution this time round. I think Muchova has more game and is the favourite. I’m still wary about the abdominal injury that Muchova picked up in Oz. If Stephens does get past Muchova then she’s going to be one to watch going into the second week.

(5) Elina Svitolina vs. Barbora Krejcikova: Svitolina faces her toughest test of the tournament against the in-form, Krejcikova who is riding a seven-match winning streak. Definitely tag this with an upset alert. I don’t have a strong opinion as to which way this one will go…

(4) Sofia Kenin vs. (28) Jessica Pegula: At the start of the year, Pegula led Kenin 7-5 4-1 at the Yarra Valley Classic. Kenin went onto win in three sets. So much has happened since that match and Pegula has come on leaps and bounds. I think this will be a big match for Pegula and I think she will be relishing the chance to complete the win this time round and demonstrate how far she has come. I’m going Pegula for the win.

(14) Elise Mertens vs. Maria Sakkari: Such a tough third rounder between two players who have had excellent years up till now. Feels weighty as I’d probably fancy the winner to be favourite to reach the quarters too. No real pattern in the H2H which Mertens leads 4-3. I think, simply, who plays better on the day wins. Sticking with Sakkari.

Friday, Day 6

(7) Serena Williams vs. Danielle Collins: Yes please, excited about this one! While there’s a underlying respect between both players off court, we KNOW they’re both going to bring the intensity onto court. Mega appreciation for Collins who is playing her first tournament since undergoing surgery for endometriosis in April. She dropped just the two games (!) in her second round win to snap Anhelina Kalinina’s 14 match winning streak with quite some force. Serena was pushed to three sets in the second round by Buzarnescu which I actually think was a good thing.

In their only previous meeting at the Yarra Valley Classic earlier this year, Serena won, 6-2 4-6 10-6. I think a lot will be determined by how well Collins serves in this match. If she can land a high percentage of first serves in then she’s in it to win it. I’m kind of astounded that Collins has clicked back in so quickly but I guess it’s just a testament to her strength and character. Serena seems to be building match-by-match and is the deserved favourite IMO.

(15) Victoria Azarenka vs. (23) Madison Keys: I can’t believe that Azarenka and Keys have played just once before. It was a retirement win for Azarenka in Miami back in 2018. There was a lot of uncertainty around Azarenka and Keys pre-tournament. Both players have struggled to build momentum this year, so much so that this tournament is the first time they have won back-to-back matches on clay and in Keys’s case, the first time this year. Azarenka has been struggling with a back injury. Tough one to call with not a lot of data points to go on. I think i’d go for Vika because of how well she can neutralise the play against big hitters and Tauson in the previous round would have been a good warm-up.

(3) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (31) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: This will be a rematch from the semi-finals of Madrid where Sabalenka was in devastating form, winning 6-2 6-3. Pavs has dropped just nine games en route to the third round. I’ve seen her lose so many early Slam matches that she’s eternally a flight risk for me at the start of Slams! Sabalenka too hasn’t dropped a set yet. Surely this is going to be a much closer match than Madrid? I like how Sabalenka is getting through the rounds, not peak but mostly drama-free, and I sense, perhaps, that there is a change in her presence, her outlook? Tough match for sure but tend to think Sabalenka will come through. 

Thursday, Day 5

(9) Karolina Pliskova vs. Sloane Stephens: Match of the day. I watched Stephens-Suárez Navarro and while Sloane’s level was patchy, I liked that she was engaged and dug in when two points from defeat. I also think she was hitting with more pop, admittedly not always going inside the lines! Pliskova had a good run to the final in Rome but that loss to Swiatek was a crusher. I don’t know if this is perhaps a bit out there but I like Stephens here? I feel Sloane is steadily on an upward trajectory, she likes clay and Rolly G, and this has historically been a good match-up for her (3-1 H2H). Yeah, i’m going for Sloane.

(5) Elina Svitolina vs. Ann Li: I know nothing about Li’s prowess on the clay but you have to sit up and take notice when someone wins 0 and 1 in just 46 minutes having not played since March! I’d tag this as one to keep an eye on as Li is still very much an unknown quantity which makes her dangerous. Svitolina should be too strong, too experienced on the clay. Overall though I don’t see Svitolina as a contender for the title.

(13) Jen Brady vs. Fiona Ferro: Uncertainty surrounded both Brady and Ferro heading into the French Open but they advanced to this intriguing second rounder. Ferro hadn’t played since retiring from Istanbul with an ab injury, while Brady withdrew from Rome due to a foot injury. Ferro is underrated IMO and had a great run at the French last year. I think I’d go for Brady with Ferro having played so few matches of late. Another one to keep an eye on though.

(32) Ekaterina Alexandrova vs. Barbora Krejcikova: This will be a rematch from last week in Strasbourg where Krejcikova beat Alexandrova in the quarter-finals, 7-6(4) 6-1. The pair won their openers in contrasting fashion. Krejcikova was a set and a break down before rallying to beat Kr. Pliskova in three sets, while Alexandrova cruised past Venus in less than an hour. Perhaps some fatigue for Krejcikova from all the matches but I’d still fancy her to get the better of Alexandrova on clay again.

Wednesday, Day 4

(15) Victoria Azarenka vs. Clara Tauson: Super intriguing match-up. Great to hear Azarenka is pain-free. think she is vulnerable though because of how few matches she has played and that was evident to see in her opener against Kuznetsova. I’m sensing Tauson is going to be a big match player who gets up for these occasions. I’ll take a gamble and go for Tauson.

(23) Madison Keys vs. Leylah Fernandez: I really like Fernandez and i’m interested to see what she can do here. While Keys has really struggled for form in 2021, she tends to get up for the Slams and from what I saw, I thought she played well in her first rounder against Dodin. I’ll go with my instinct (😬) on this one and stick with Keys.

(10) Belinda Bencic vs. Daria Kasatkina: Interesting dynamic with Bencic the higher ranked player up against Kasatkina who is much more comfortable on the clay. I think i’d go Dasha but I am nervous as she’s not had the most convincing clay court season.

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook.