I’m guessing I don’t really have to remind you that the French Open, the year’s second Grand Slam, begins tomorrow. But just in case your mind is like a suitcase needing a heavyweight to sit on it to close, I’ll just jog your memory. THE FRENCH OPEN STARTS TOMORROW! That’s Sunday, May 27th.
According to the official tournament website, you can watch the event on ESPN 2, ESPN 3, NBC, and, of course, Tennis Channel. Click the above link to check out the very user friendly broadcast schedule Tennis Channel put together for us.
Okay, so that's where you can check out the French live and taped, and, of course, here is where you get my take on things, before, during and after they happen. Here’s my “before” on the women. Won't get the men done tonight. Will have to be a during I guess...
Anyway, as terrific as the tennis is likely to be when the men take the court, I’m willing to lay odds that Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic will be crowned Champion when it is all said and done. Sure there’s always a chance for injury, and there is always the possibility of an upset, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Of all the Grand Slam events, this one is least likely to produce upsets and surprise winners…at least on the men’s side.
The Women’s Draw on the other hand, is chock full of intrigue and possibilities. Can Maria Sharapova capture another Slam? Is Agnieszka Radwanska for real? How about Victoria Azarenka, or Serena Williams? Are they healthy and ready to challenge for the Cup?
|Victoria Azarenka preparing for|
French- photo courtesy of Dan
Istitene- Getty Images
Vika (Azarenka) is seeded No.1 and still the top-ranked woman in the world. She started 2012 the way Djokovic started 2011, winning the first four events of the year that she played, including the Australian Open, before losing in the Quarters at the Sony in Miami. Since Miami, she has lost in two Finals and withdrew from her last event, Rome two weeks ago.
Reviewing the Draw, it seems unlikely that Azarenka will exit before the quarters, but that is only if the shoulder injury she claimed in defaulting in Rome a couple weeks ago is either healed or was a convenient explanation for pulling out of Rome.
|Maria Sharapova at 2011 French|
Photo courtesy of KT at Flickr
One of those finals losses Vika suffered was to Maria Sharapova, who is ranked No.2 in the world and seeded second at Roland Garros. Sharapova is arguably the hottest player right now on the Women’s Tour. She has played in the Final of four of the five events she has played since the beginning of March.
In her last three events, Maria beat Vika in the Final of Stuttgart, Lost to Serena Williams in the Quarters of Madrid, and beat Na, Li (Lee Nah) in the Final of Rome last week. She was shaky enough in that win to give me pause about her chances if she runs in to Agnieszka (Aga) Radwanska, Serena, or Vika, but she has been right in the thick of things all year. As in boxing, you can’t rule out a slugger, and Maria is that…along with a screecher.
|Agnieszka Radwanska- Photo|
courtesy of AP
Aga Radwanska usually flies under the radar, and I don’t believe this time around is any exception to that rule. In four of Radwanska’s first six events of 2012, the sizzling Azarenka sent her home, she pulled out of one, and won the other. And then she won Miami, beating Sharapova in the Final, and lost in the semis of her next two events to…yeah, you guessed it, Azarenka.
I’m thinking that Aga just didn’t want to meet Azarenka again in Rome, where she lost to Petra Cetkovska in her first match, the first time all year she has lost to anyone other than Azarenka, and the first time she had lost in her first match. Aga bounced back to take the title in Brussels last week, but, again, you guessed it: Azarenka wasn’t there.
Radwanska has an outside chance at Roland Garros, but she would have to get past a much tougher draw than Azarenka has to reach the Semis, then face a possible matchup with Azarenka in the there. Did I say an “outside chance?” Wayyyy outside…
|Serena Williams gets ready for |
French Open- Photo courtesy of AP
If it weren’t for the facts that No.5 Seed Serena Williams won her only French Open title a decade ago, and one never knows how healthy she is, she would be my pick to win Roland Garros…but then she’d be my pick to win just about everything. How do you bet against the woman who has more than three times as many Grand Slam singles titles than anyone else in the draw except her sister…who hasn’t won anything since 2010, and a Slam since 2008.
After thrashing Azarenka in straight sets in Madrid earlier this month, Serena pulled out of Rome after winning her quarterfinal match, 4-0, Ret. Her reason for withdrawing from the semifinal match against Na, Li was “feeling a little pain” in her back. Serena generally has a pain, real or otherwise, somewhere, and will probably bring the pain, along with her 17-match win streak, to the French. Serena’s my odds on favorite.
Photo courtesy of www.desktopwp.com
But there are others I need to mention. Petra Kvitova is seeded fourth, but she has the proverbial snowball’s chance of winning this thing. Since her Wimbledon victory last year, she hasn’t done much winning. No.7 Seed Na Li and No.10 Angelique Kerber present as much of a threat as anyone outside of my four favorites (Serena, Azarenka, Sharapova, Radwanska).
Li is the defending French Open Champion and although she lost a tight one to Sharapova in Rome last week, she showed that at least her physical game is up to snuff. Whether she can figure out how to close the deal in a close one, we’ll have to see.
Photo courtesy of www.Zimbio.com
Kerber has some good wins this year (Sharapova, Wozniacki, Kvitova), indicating that she has enough game to compete with the big girls. However, she hasn’t had a break-out event yet, and although it isn’t likely, she couldn’t pick a better stage to announce herself.
|Caroline Wozniacki- Photo |
courtesy of www.Zimbio.com
Remember Caroline Wozniacki? She was the much maligned World No.1 who hadn’t won a Grand Slam, the Dane who fell a bit short of being great…Well Caroline is seeded ninth and no one even mentions her as a threat to win the event, but I’m giving her a dark-horse (as in midnight black) chance to win Roland Garros.
No.6 Seed Sam Stosur made it to the Final in 2010 and won the U.S. Open last year, but hasn’t beaten anyone of note this year, making to one semi and one final in 2012. She is as long a shot or longer than anyone else seeded in the top ten.
|Venus WIlliams- Photo courtesy|
Other than Serena, no American women figure to factor in the proceedings in Week 2. Venus Williams is the most valid threat to reach the second week of play, showing in Rome that she is regaining form by reaching the quarters before losing to eventual winner Sharapova.
|Christina McHale- Photo|
courtesy of Flickr.com
Twenty-year-old Christina McHale represents the most accomplished of the young American talents in the Draw, having reached the third round of the U.S. Open and the second round of Wimbledon in 2011. McHale is ranked 36th but is 29th in the WTA Tour 2012 Singles Race.
|Sloane Stephens- Photo courtesy of |
There are other young American women creeping into the WTA picture, including Sloane Stephens and Lauren Davis, both 19, and Jamie Hampton at 22. None is likely to make Roland Garros her coming out party, but they bear watching just the same. Vania King and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, both seasoned veterans, comprise the rest of the American contingent competing in Paris.
Well it's getting late so I had better get this published. Hope to be able to provide updates and analysis as the event progresses. Game, set, match...T. A.