Friday, 25 May 2012

WTA French Open: Preview and Predictions

There is so much to discuss so lets get straight down to dissecting the draw for the second Grand Slam of the year...

Victoria Azarenka
PROJECTED QUARTER-FINAL 1 - Azarenka (1) v Stosur (6)
Victoria Azarenka will play Alberta Brianti in the first round as she plays her first Grand Slam as the top seed.  She has looked in good form during the warm up tournaments for Roland Garros, but suffered convincing losses to Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams in Stuttgart and Madrid respectively.  Her draw looks very favourable; she is likely to pass, Caroline Garcia who ran Sharapova close last year and then Zheng Jie in the third round, who will first have to get past Alize Cornet, who has had a stunning run in Strasbourg.  Azarenka's first stern test is likely to come in the 4th round where she should meet either Dominika Cibulkova or Lucie Safarova.  I very much favour Safarova who has been playing very consistent tennis this year, and stayed well and truly under the radar by winning her home ITF tournament in Prague last week.

Sam Stosur will play the Brit, Elena Baltacha in the first round and has a tricky route through the draw.  She will have one eye on a potential third round match with Nadia Petrova; their last two matches were complete epics and the Russian player won their last one in Indian Wells earlier this year.  Sabine Lisicki and Petra Cetkovska are set to meet in the other section but both have dangerous customers to advance past first.  Lisicki could meet either Ekaterina Makarova or Sloane Stephens in the first round, meanwhile Cetkovska takes on Simona Halep, who has reached the final in Brussels and won their only encounter handily in Indian Wells.

Highlight first round matches - Cornet v Zheng, King v Voskoboeva, Lisicki v Mattek-Sands, Makarova v Stephens, Halep v Cetkovska, Petrova v Benesova

Dark horses - Lucie Safarova and Simona Halep

My QF Prediction - Victoria Azarenka v Sam Stosur

Ana Ivanovic
PROJECTED QUARTER-FINAL 2 - Radwanska (3) v Bartoli (8)
The most exciting potential early match-up comes in the top half of this section where if Agnieszka Radwanska and Venus Williams win their openers, they will meet in a star studded second round match.  Radwanska won their previous match in Miami but Venus has had a hold over the Pole in all of their matches before that.  Whoever wins will still have a mountain to climb to reach the latter stages of the tournament.  Svetlana Kuznetsova is a potential third round opponent; admittedly her form has been anything less than steady in recent months but no-one can deny her presence having won the title in 2009.  Sara Errani and Ana Ivanovic are destined to meet in the other third round match.  Errani has had a great season but I do not buy into her chances here.  She has never beaten a top ten player before and as strong as her clay court game is, she will have to be at her ultimate best to get past Ivanovic.

Marion Bartoli heads up one of the weaker sections of the draw with a first round match with Karolina Pliskova.  The Frenchwomen had a stunning run to the semi-finals last year but her recent form would suggest she is destined for a big drop in ranking points.  Her first projected seed is Anabel Medina Garrigues who has enough clay court credentials to worry most of the seeds in this draw.  Angelique Kerber, now the highest ranking German will be smiling at the prospect of her draw.  She opens up against Zhang Shuai and the first seed in her midsts is Flavia Pennetta, who had to retire in Rome with a worrying looking wrist injury.

Highlight first round matches - Radwanska v Jovanovski, Oudin v Larsson, Hsieh v Pennetta, Medina Garrigues v Soler Espinosa

Dark horses - Anabel Medina Garrigues

My QF Prediction - Ana Ivanovic v Angelique Kerber

Li Na
PROJECTED QUARTER-FINAL 3  - Li (7) v Kvitova (4)
Li Na kicks off her title defence with a difficult opener against Sorana Cirstea.  She played the Romanian in the third round of Roland Garros last year and despite obvious improvements in Cirstea's game, I think Li will progress.  Her next big challenge is likely to come in the third round against the rising German star, Mona Barthel.  I have been one of Barthel's biggest fans, but I do not fancy her chances against Li if they do in fact meet.  Barthel suffered a disappointing early loss in Strasbourg and Li's solid baseline game should not be underestimated.  Li's 4th round opponent is well up for the taking... the highest seed in the section is Vera Zvonareva, but injuries have plagued her season so do not be surprised to see her drop out early... of all the remaining names, I would back Carla Suarez Navarro to shine.

Petra Kvitova was struggling with an abdominal injury in Rome, but will be hopeful of her chances having been handed a straightforward-looking draw.  She plays the promising Australian prospect, Ashleigh Barty in the first round.  In the 4th round  she is projected to meet the winner of a third round clash between Francesca Schiavone and Jelena Jankovic.  The pair met at this stage last year and their matches always provide quality entertainment; however they have both struggled for form in 2012.  Schiavone has at least got some wins on the board in Strasbourg against an albeit disappointing line-up, meanwhile Jankovic has yet to record a win on the clay in warm-up tournaments.  Schiavone has an affinity with Roland Garros so I predict she will pick up some wins here...

Highlight first round matches - Li v Cirstea, Vinci v Arvidsson, Babos v Zvonareva, Schiavone v Date Krumm, Pironkova v Wickmayer, Lepchenko v Pervak, Barty v Kvitova

Dark horses - Carla Suarez Navarro and Varvara Lepchenko

My QF Prediction - Li Na v Petra Kvitova

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINAL 4 - Williams (5) v Sharapova (2)
Serena Williams
The biggest talking point from the womens draw is that the two in-form players on the clay are set for a quarter-final showdown in Paris.  It was almost written in the stars that Serena Williams, who won Charleston and Madrid, and that Maria Sharapova, who triumphed in Stuttgart and Rome would be paired in the quarters.  Serena will play Virginie Razzano in the first round before a potential clash in the third round with Julia Goerges.  The German player will need to be at her best to get past the Czech hard hitter, Lucie Hradecka in the first round, who came alive in Madrid reaching the semi-finals.  Serena's draw is challenging but the way she has played in recent months, I cannot see her stumbling.  She could face Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round who is ranked as the number nine seed, which is still a shock to see considering she was ranked number one in Australia

Maria Sharapova should have little problems in reaching the final eight.  Alexandra Cadantu will be her first round opponent before a projected third round meeting with Peng Shuai.  It is unlikely Peng will get that far following her injury struggles this year.  The two Russians of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Maria Kirilenko are the highest seeds in the remainder of this section.  Kirilenko pulled out of her first round match in Strasbourg with an injury, meanwhile Pavlyuchenkova has been miles below her best in a dour 2012 so far.  Last year, Pavlyuchenkova was inches away from making the semi-finals so perhaps a return to Roland Garros can rejuvunate her spirits.

Highlight first round matches - Vesnina v Watson, Hradecka v Goerges, Begu v Rezai, Peng v Paszek, Hercog v Morita

Dark horses - Melinda Czink and Lourdes Dominguez Lino

My QF Prediction - Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova

Roland Garros Final - S. Williams d. V. Azarenka
I am surprised in myself because I am going for Serena Williams to win the Roland Garros title.  I never normally go for the "so-called favourite", but I believe that Serena is in the perfect place to claim her second ever French Open.  I think she will come through her quarter-final with Maria Sharapova before stopping the reigning champion, Li Na in the semi-finals.   

Victoria Azarenka looks a clear favourite to reach the final from the top half.  She holds a significant edge over Sam Stosur who I would have had to go deeper in this draw, but the Belarusian's ability to dismantle Stosur's game leads me to believe she will pass her in the quarter-finals before reaching her second consecutive Grand Slam final.

Coming Soon... My ATP preview for Roland Garros and full draw predictions for both draws too :-)))

No comments:

Post a Comment