Monday, May 28, 2007

French Open women's preview

Part deux:

1. Justine Henin: She looks good for a win here, but I won't be picking her. Keep the Rolaids fully stocked, guys.
2. Maria Sharapova: A shoulder injury has limited her play since the Australian, and since then, she's racked up losses to folks like Serena Williams (that loss in the Australian final has got to be the stuff nightmares are made of), Vera Zvonareva and Aravane Rezai. This is a grueling two weeks of tennis, and she doesn't do well here anyway. However, it's hard to imagine her screwing up this cupcake draw, even on clay.
3. Svetlana Kuznetsova: After struggling since the U.S. Open, she's had a really strong year so far, except for one small thing: Four finals this season, and no trophies. She's the in-form player in her half, more solid than Ana Ivanovic, Mauresmo, and Sharapova.
4. Jelena Jankovic: Much has been made about Jankovic's turnaround after the beginning of 2006, and for good reason. She comes here knowing she can beat just about all her peers. Just about. Three times since the U.S. Open, she's played Henin and found herself with the chance to win. Three times, she's come away with a big "L".
So the good news for her is that she's not in the same quarter with Henin. The bad news is that she's in the same half. She can take care of Venus in round 3, Dementieva in round 4 and Vaidisova in the quarters. But beating Henin on clay at her favorite tournament?
5. Amelie Mauresmo: Most people, facing the idea of playing in their own Slam would say, "Home, sweet home." Mauresmo would probably say, "Oh, can't I play at Wimbledon instead?" She's never done well at the French, and don't expect that to change. She struggled through her entire clay warmup period, and with the possibility of meeting Lucie Safarova (who beat her in Australia) in round three, a tough opponent in Anna Chakvetadze and Sharapova floating in her quarter, it's not looking great.
6. Nicole Vaidisova: Roland Garros was the site of her big breakthrough last year at a Grand Slam, but she, too, is coming back from injury. If she's healthy, the quarterfinal between she and Jankovic could be really good.
7. Ana Ivanovic: Not bad being a 7 seed at a Grand Slam, but in terms of her young-gun contemporaries, she's an underachiever. Beating Kuznetsova last week is a nice start, but she needs success on a big stage. It's hard to think that she can beat Kuznetsova again if they meet in the quarters, though.
8. Serena Williams: The big-match Serena's back. One would say that after playing only 3 clay-court events, and withdrawing from Fed Cup with injury, Serena doesn't have much of a chance. She's already proven that those things matter little to her. But what she hasn't proven is her ability to play clay-court tennis -- with patience and placement over lacing the ball. She also has been unable to prove her ability to beat Henin at the French. And let's just own the fact that we look forward to that quarterfinal, just to see what new lows Henin can achieve in gamesmanship.
9. Anna Chakvetadze: A dangerous floater. She's doing better every year, but the only thing she's lacking is a big win against a good player. You couldn't ask for a better chance than Amelie Mauresmo at the French Open quarterfinals.
10. Dinara Safina: I sense in the quarterfinals against Williams, there'll be a racquet-breaking party. BYOR.

The stragglers
Anastasia Myskina: The company line is injury for her. The real deal is probably that you can only get so far by being a non-aggressive backboard.
Venus Williams: Venus is practically out of the conversation when it comes to women's tennis. If this were Wimbledon, you'd give her a free pass to the quarters, regardless of her draw. If this were five years ago, you'd give her a free pass to the quarters for the French. Even though she is returning from another injury, it's a little disturbing that she can't take out any top 10 players anymore. Oh, well. I sure hope she has something to fall back on in case tennis doesn't work out for her.
Elena Dementieva: Poor serving aside, she's got the kind of groundstrokes that could do some damage at the French. What she doesn't have is the ability to beat Jankovic in the fourth round.
Nadia Petrova: Last year, she was the in-form player coming into the French. She lost in the first round. She could give Vaidisova some problems in the fourth round.

The way it'll go down
Quarters: Henin v. Williams, Jankovic v. Vaidisova, Ivanovic v. Kuznetsova, Chakvetadze v. Sharapova
Semis: Henin v. Jankovic, Kuznetsova v. Sharapova
Final: Henin v. Kuznetsova
Winner: Dammit!

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