ICYMI: @RolandGarros Week 1 Recap, Predictions
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
It’s been a fascinating tournament thus far, and now the women’s draw moves to the quarter finals where eight players will battle to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Trophy.
There were plenty of upsets and controversy to talk about during the first four rounds, with the likes of Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki taking early exits. Victoria Azarenka may also feel her chance of a deep run at Roland Garros was cheated by a controversial call from the umpire following an over rule of a line call. The ball was called out, and corrected by the umpire but the debate was whether the call put Serena off her shot. The American had set point, and if the call did not distract her then it would have gone back to deuce. However, a decision was made to replay the point and consequently Williams went on to win the set. It sparked a debate on whether a review system should be brought in place for these decisions as well as hawkeye.
So let’s take a look back at what has happened so far at the French Open.
World number one Serena Williams went through the first week with her fair share of troubles. In the second round it looked like we may see a repeat of the Muguruza upset from last year only this time Ana Lena Friedsam was the one dominating play. The German’s big ground strokes were causing Serena all sorts of problems, but the world number one was determined to not allow herself to be upset at this stage again. Despite being a set and a break down, The American pulled through in three sets to set up an eagerly anticipated third round clash against Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian had proven in Madrid she is capable of toppling Serena despite eventually losing the match. It looked like this time Azarenka may do it when she raced into a set and a break lead, but like the previous round Williams came back to win in three sets. The top seed also needed three sets to overcome Sloane Stephens. Williams seemed hampered by an illness as she lost the first set 6-1, but she turned it around to win in three sets.
Caroline Wozniacki’s form on the dirt had her fans hoping for a decent run at Roland Garros. After dispatching an in form Karin Knapp in straight sets it seemed like Woz was on the way to the quarter finals. But what people did not expect was the sudden emergence of form from Julia Goerges. The big hitting German played some great tennis to eliminate the fifth seed in the second round, and make the round of sixteen. Her opponent at this stage would be experienced clay court specialist Sara Errani. The Italian is a former finalist here, so to see her make the last sixteen was not a surprise. Errani beat Riske, Witthoeft and Petkovic before meeting and beating Goerges 6-2, 6-2 in a routine match for the Italian.
Many people had Petra Kvitova down as one of the tournament’s favourites after her Madrid triumph, and keen to prove that right, Kvitova steadily made her way through the first week. She had a few hiccups in the opening few rounds, but form seemingly picked up in the third round with a straight sets victory over an in form Irina Begu. Timea Bacsinszky would provide on paper the sternest test on Kvitova’s route to the quarter finals. The Swiss’ inspiring comeback continued with a succession of straight sets victories including an impressive win over Madison Keys in round three. Round four vs Kvitova seemed destined to go three sets, and thus it did only it didn’t go to the Czech’s script. Despite winning the first set Kvitova only won three games in the next two sets as Bascinszky raced to quarter finals.
If anyone told you that Alison Van Uytvanck and Andreea Mitu would be battling for a quarter final place before the tournament, many (including myself) would have called you crazy. However, as proven over the years, in the WTA anything can happen. The early elimination of Eugenie Bouchard was not unexpected, but you would think the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Karolina Pliskova would be the ones to take advantage. Unfortunately for the fans of those two players, they were both sent packing in three sets to Schiavone and Mitu respectively. Bouchard’s loss to Mladenovic opened the draw for the French woman, but Van Uytvanck had other ideas. After dispatching Zarina Diyas, the Belgian made even lighter work of her French opponent. With a maiden grand slam quarter final at place, the two unseeded players competed hard but Van Uytvanck was too strong I the end. The Belgian through to her first grand slam quarter final
Simona Halep’s run to the final last year meant that many people had the Romanian down as one of the favourites heading in to the tournament. What we got instead was the first major seed casualty in the second round. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni was the welcome victor as Halep crumbled to a straight sets loss. The elimination of the third seed opened the draw for a surprise quarter finalist, and in the end it was 20 year old Elina Svitolina who took advantage. After coming through Wickmayer, Putintseva and Beck, the Ukrainian took to Phillipe-Chatrier to battle Alize Cornet and of course the partisan crowd. The Frenchwoman had a great battle against Lucic-Baroni in round three, and after being a set down she rallied back to win in three sets. It took six attempts but eventually Svitolina came through in a dramatic straight sets victory over Cornet.
Ana Ivanovic may have quivered a bit when she saw Caroline Garcia in her section of the draw. After all the Frenchwoman has beaten the 2009 champion three times in a row this year. Fortunately for Ivanovic the pressure of playing on Chatrier got to Garcia, as the 21 year old bowed out in three sets to Donna Vekic. In the meantime Ivanovic made her way through the draw, defeating Shvedova and Doi in three sets before ending Vekic’s run in the third round. The biggest test came in the fourth round against Ekaterina Makarova. The ninth seed had dropped only the one set in the first three rounds, but Ivanovic’s experience on this surface took its toll. The former champion pulled through in three sets to set up an interesting quarter final against Svitolina.
Maria Sharapova’s defence of the Roland Garros crown started as well as it could with three straight sets victories in the opening three rounds. The second seed overcame challenges from Kanepi, Diatchenko and Stosur before the biggest test thus far presented its self in the form of Lucie Safarova. The Czech got off to a flying start with a break, but Sharapova broke back and in the end forced a tiebreak. The Czech was not to be denied, as she stormed to a 7-3 win in the breaker. The second set stayed even until the very end, where Safarova earned match point. The first was fluffed with a forehand, but at the second time of asking the world number 13 took to match and in turn sent the defending champion out.
Carla Suarez Navarro’s build up to Roland Garros had many people excited about her chances of another deep run at the French Open. The Spaniard came through her first two rounds only having to play three sets after Virginie Razzano retired after one set in round two. However, an inspired Flavia Pennetta ruined the hopes of an all-Spanish round four clash with a straight sets victory over the eighth seed. Pennetta would meet Carla’s doubles partner Garbine Muguruza in round four, after the talented youngster overcame Petra Martic, Camila Giorgi and Angelique Kerber for the loss of only one set. Despite Pennetta’s quick start to both sets, Muguruza pulled through to comeback twice and win the match 6-3, 6-4. With the win, Muguruza has now defended her quarter final points from last year and will look to go at least one further this time around.
Quarter final matches:
(1) Serena Williams Vs (17) Sara Errani
Serena was seemingly jaded, and possibly ill against Sloane Stephens, but the world number one still found enough to overcome her challenging compatriot. Now she faces a more consistent but less dangerous player in the form of Sara Errani.
Errani has a good record on the clay and is one of the best movers on tour, but she does not possess the power to trouble Serena. The evidence is in the head to head which reads 8-0 in favour of the world number one, with only two sets dropped.
Anything other than a comfortable victory for Serena will be a shock, whether she is ill or not. Williams should overpower Errani en route to a straight sets victory.
Prediction: Williams In two
(23) Timea Bascinszky Vs Alison Van Uytvanck
Timea Bascinszky’s run to the quarter finals is yet another chapter in her inspiring comeback story, and now the Swiss is a huge favourite to get to the final four.
Alison Van Uytvanck’s run has been a huge surprise and it’s come as a result of an unexpected draw opening that the Belgian took great advantage of. She has showcased her talents over the past week and has established herself as a player to watch in the future.
However, Bascinszky should be too strong for Van Uytvanck at this stage. This is the best player the Belgian has faced in the draw so far, and I feel that will tell. The Swiss moves well and her backhand is excellent and that weapon will be key to a straight forward victory.
Prediction: Bascinszky in two
(7) Ana Ivanovic vs (19) Elina Svitolina
Former champion Ana Ivanovic will be the favourite for this match in many mind’s but her opponent Elina Svitolina has played some good tennis en route to the last eight. The Ukrainian is solid off both wings and plays a consistent game so it is unlikely that she will blast Ivanovic off the court, but if the world number seven is not on her game then Svitolina will be sure to take advantage.
The head to head however does not make for go viewing if you are a Svitolina fan. In six meetings, the 20 year old has only won one set against Ivanovic in Indian Wells last year. Apart from that one meeting, their matches have generally been routine victories for the Serbian, and that includes a straight sets win at Roland Garros this year.
Svitolina’s form will likely mean she will challenge Ivanovic this time around, but with the experience and head to head on the side of 2009 champion I believe that Ivanovic will find her way through this match in two tight sets.
Prediction: Ivanovic in two
(13) Lucie Safarova Vs (21) Garbine Muguruza
Much like a lot of these quarter finals, this match was not in the script. Muguruza and Safarova both came through tough draws to get to this stage, and this is a huge opportunity for one of them to make the last four.
Both players are aggressive and like to use power to overcome their opponents. Safarova is a leftie like her compatriot Kvitova, with a big forehand whilst Muguruza’s two handed backhand is her best shot. Muguruza will have the edge in terms of power, but Safarova is the more consistent player. This is their first meeting, so there are no previous matches to go by,
Muguruza is the better clay courter, but Safarova is right now the more consistent player. If the Spaniard plays to what she is capable of she will win this match, but if not Safarova will likely come through. In terms of prediction I feel both players will be nervy and will be up and down with their play. But with Muguruza’s power and ability on this surface I feel she will pull through.
Prediction: Muguruza in three
Semi Final Predictions:
Serena Williams def. Timea Bascinszky in two sets
Garbine Muguruza def. Ana Ivanovic in two sets
Barring a poor performance from Serena, she should get through a nervous Bascinszky in their clash. In the other semi-final I feel Muguruza will put on a great performance to make her first grand slam final.
Serena Williams def. Garbine Muguruza in three.
In the final I feel Garbine will start strong and race to a set lead, but as the prospect of being a grand slam champion starts to sink in, the pressure will eventually get to the Spaniard. Muguruza will crack as Serena ups her game and after a fairly close second set, Serena will run away with the third and prove why she is the best.