Friday, May 22, 2009

French Open draw: Some tasty first round matches await

When I looked at the French Open draw this morning, I noticed more potentially interesting first round matches than I have seen in a while. Here are some I plan to watch, or at least follow:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Roberta Vinci: The 9th seed--on paper--should cruise through this match, but Azarenka has been struggling on clay courts, and Vinci is more than comfortable on them. This has also been an unusually good clay season for Vinci.

Sara Errani vs. Ana Ivanovic: The term "grinder" suits Errani completely. She is relentless from the baseline, and is willing to hang there for hours. Her tennis is no match for the 8th seed, but she can frustrate her.

Lucie Safarova vs. Sabine Lisicki: Safarova is a very talented player who just doesn't know how to string victories together. Her inconsistency could do her in, but there is another factor at work in this round. Safarova's talented opponent has experienced a shoulder injury and a serious illness, and has had no match play since Charleston. I don't know whether Lisicki is in any condition to compete in a major.

Dominika Cibulkova vs. Alona Bondarenko: These are two players who frustrate fans--Cibulkova because she is injured so often, and Bondarenko because she is so inconsistent. If they both show up in form, it could be a great match.

Tamira Paszek vs. Gisela Dulko: The fading phenom plays the under-achiever. Paszek has had her share of the problems lately, though she is still capable of causing some trouble from the baseline. Dulko is an excellent clay court player who doesn't always come through, usually because of service problems. It's Dulko's match to lose.

Li Na vs. Marta Domachowska: Clay isn't Li's surface, so--if Domachowska should happen to have one of her rare good days--the 25th seed could find herself in some trouble.

Virginie Razzano vs. Daniela Hantuchova: Razzano was simply terrible in Charleston, and clay is not her favorite surface. But it isn't Hantuchova's preferred surface, either. If Razzano brings her fighting spirit and Hantuchova can stay away from errors, this could be quite an entertaining match.

Samantha Stosur vs. Francesca Schiavone: Stosur is 2-1 against Schiavone, and, surprisingly, was the victor the one time they played each other on clay. Stosur is one of the few players to have a good first and second serve, but it has sometimes let her down since she returned to the tour. Schiavone is obviously winding down, but perhaps someone can convince her she is playing a Fed Cup match, and then Stosur will have her hands full.

Klara Zakopalova vs. Serena Williams: This match is of interest because Zakopalova defeated Williams in the first round of the Adalucia Tennis Experience. Williams was injured at the time. Right now, it is kind of difficult to discern the state of the 2nd seed's health, but it doesn't take much discernment to assume she will get to the second round.

Bad luck for Anne Keothavong, who drew number 1 seed Dinara Safina in the first round. Better luck, though, for Olga Govortsova, who is scheduled to play Vera Zvonareva; the Russian is expected to withdraw any moment.

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