Saturday, May 23, 2015

Top seeds all face vulnerabilities in French Open draw

Mannequins in front of a Paris boutique
There's something about the publication a fresh draw that excites tennis fans almost as much as actually watching the matches. The four quarters of the French Open draw lead to all manner of speculation, but I think the speculating is perhaps more of a fan passion than it is anything else. And a great one indeed, because it gives us something to do while we wait for the tournament to begin.

Top seed and two-time Champion Serena Williams presides over the first quarter. Her likely third round opponent will be Victoria Azarenka, a fact which is stirring up some conversation, but I don't really see Azarenka giving Williams much trouble in this tournament. There are two players in this quarter--one in particular--who have histories of really challenging Williams. Those would be her sister, Venus, and Jelena Jankovic. But neither of them poses much of a threat at this time, either. Sloane Stephens is part of that quarter, and I don't see her doing much damage. Only Caroline Wozniacki could give Williams a bit of a run, and they are "scheduled" to meet in the quarterfinals.

I read somewhere today that Petra Kvitova has an "easy" draw. I think not. The Kvitova quarter includes Irina-Camelia Begu, Timea Bacsinszky (okay, she's no longer "hot" but anything can happen, and especially with Bacsinszky), Karolina Pliskova, and 2009 chamption Svetlama Kuznetsova. Also lurking are Lara Arruabarrena, Belinda Bencic (also in a slump, but she kind of likes majors), Anna Schmiedlova, and Kiki Mladenovic. In other words, players who do well on clay are congregated in Kvitova's quarter. Genie Bouchard is there, too, and you never know, but the Canadian would have to get past some gutsy clay players first.

Next is Simona Halep's quarter, which isn't without danger to the Romanian star (whose greatest danger may actually be her own psyche). Caroline Garcia loves the big stage, and she's French, on top of that. When she's on, she's dangerous. Frenchwoman Alize Cornet can be dangerous, also, and then there are Elina Svitolina and the mercurial Mona Barthel. And--while she hasn't had a lot of great days this year--Roberta Vinci could have some in Paris.

Finally, there is the Sharapova quarter. The defending champion could meet 2010 runner-up Sam Stosur in the third round. If that happens, and Strasbourg champion Stosur has a good serving day and Sharapova has a bad one, it could be the end of the Russian's run. Both of those scenarios are quite possible. But Stosur isn't the only potential trouble-maker in that quarter. Carla Suarez Navarro, who must be practically itching with desire to beat Sharapova, is there, as are the unpredictable (but often threatening) Camila Giorgi, Charleston and Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova. Kerber is coming in with an injury, but she is not to be taken lightly. Oh, and add to this list the tour's latest ubiquitous pest, Daria Gavrilova, and  you can see that Pova has her work cut out for her.

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