Today, the French Open draw was revealed. Because Serena and Venus Williams are the top two seeds, the possibility of an all Williams final exists. However, with Justine Henin, a four time champion, a potential quarterfinal rival for Serena and Venus perhaps seeing Aravane Rezai or Nadia Petrova in the round of 16, the list of spoilers is extensive. Here’s a snapshot of the likely key match-ups which may eventually determine the victor.
After months of being a spectator, Serena rejoined the tour in Rome where she reached the semifinals. Despite an early exit in singles in Madrid, Serena got reacquainted with the surface by prevailing in doubles along with Venus. Serena’s first obstacle would come in the form of Marion Bartoli in the round of 16 since she would play a denizen. Still, Serena’s biggest hindrance lies in the quarters. Serena lost to Henin, the eventual champion, in 2003 and 2007. On the other hand, that match may not materialize as Henin could battle Maria Sharapova in the third round. Samantha Stosur, a semifinalist in 2009 and the titlist in Charleston this year, is another potential tough quarterfinal opponent for Serena.
Following Serena, Jelena Jankovic is the next highest seed in the top half of the draw. With players such as Dinara Safina, Yanina Wickmayer and Vera Zvonareva returning from injury on Jankovic’s side of the draw, she should have an uneven full path to the quarters. Agnieszka Radwanska or Ana Ivanovic could be Jankovic’s quarterfinal adversary. Since her glorious days at Roland Garros in 2008, Ivanovic has slipped. For the first time in months, Ivanovic showed true signs of life with a semifinal posting in Rome. Perhaps it will take Paris to completely get Ivanovic out of her slump.
Venus Williams and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova flank the bottom half of the draw. So far this year, Kuznetsova’s results have been mediocre. Consequently, for Kuznetsova, it is safe to deduce that a replay of 2009 is a long shot. In the first round, Kuznetsova faces a difficult opponent, Sorana Cirstea. Should she move on, Maria Kirilenko could upset her in the third round. Li Na and Francesca Schiavone could trouble Kuznetsova in the round of 16. Moreover, legitimate stumbling blocks in the quarters for Kuznetsova include Flavia Pennetta, Lucie Safarova, Alexandra Dulgheru and Caroline Wozniacki.
On the other hand, Wozniacki, the third seed, has been hampered by an ankle injury since Charleston. For that reason, Wozniacki has failed to make an impact after winning in Ponte Vedra Beach. In the third round, Wozniacki may see Dulgheru and Pennetta or Safarova in the fourth round. Considering the caliber of those rivals, it’s doubtful that Wozniacki has lasting power.
Elena Dementieva’s clay results have been abysmal. In the second round, Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues could hand Dementieva another disappointment. Down the road, Dementieva may encounter Victoria Azarenka or Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the round of 16. With the latter’s shocking win over Jankovic in the finals of Rome, Dementieva will need to raise her game if she has aspirations of earning at least a quarterfinal spot.
For Venus, losing to Rezai in the finals in Madrid, was undoubtedly a setback. Since reaching the finals in 2002, Venus has only gotten to the quarters in Paris. In the first round, Venus will need to overcome veteran Patty Schnyder. Then, Dominika Cibulkova, a semifinalist in 2009, could be a tricky third round opponent for the American. Besides Petrova and Rezai in the round of 16, Azarenka, Dementieva and Martinez Sanchez lurk for Venus in the quarterfinals.
The European clay season has been chuck full of surprises. With the exception of Henin’s triumph in Stuttgart, unseeded but the conspicuous favorite, every top seed has been taken down in the finals by a much lower ranked competitor. Before retiring in 2008, Henin owned the clay at Roland Garros. Despite her patchy performance the last couple of weeks, Henin’s experience gives her a huge edge over the field. The same applies to Serena who seems to peak at the majors. The French have been hungry for a homegrown champion. In 1983 year, when Yannick Noah hoisted the trophy, Rezai’s father visualized his daughter attaining similar success at Roland Garros. Who knows, Rezai could be the novice who breaks out of the pack to steal the trophy in Paris.