World number one Angelique Kerber has been anything but in number one form. The German has struggled to put together a run of results. Can she turn it around for the French Open? She has a tough opener against fellow lefty Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian always brings her best to the big events and will no doubt be a huge test for the German. If Kerber can pass that match, then she should be good to make the quarter finals. Roberta Vinci is the first projected seeded opponent, but she could have a lot of issues with Monica Puig in round one. Petra Kvitova is back as the 15th seed, and it is great to see her making her return to tour. It will be unfair to expect much though, as the in-form Sam Stosur should make it to the fourth round to face Kerber.
With Kerber’s struggles, there could be a chance for Svetlana Kuznetsova to make the semi finals again. The Russian is a former champion here but has a tough draw ahead. Christina McHale is first up, then possibly France’s Oceane Dodin, who will no doubt have the support of the home fans. Shuai Zhang is the first seeded opponent for Kuznetsova.
Clay has never been Caroline Wozniacki’s favourite surface, but the Dane will be hoping to find the form that got her to the world number one position years ago. The section is a fairly good one for the Dane, at least until the second round where she could face the in-form Kiki Bertens. The Dutchwoman impressed in Nurnberg again and is a former semi finalist here. It will not be a shock to see Bertens do well at Roland Garros again and set up a fourth round match with Kuznetsova.
The defending champion is Garbine Muguruza, and once again we do not know which version will show up. Despite struggling for most of the season last year, the Spaniard played close to her best at this tournament in 2016, and as a result went all the way. Can she repeat that success? It is a tough opener against Francesca Schiavone, then the winner of Monica Niculesu vs Ana Kontaveit will also be a test of where Muguruza is at with her game. Yulia Putintseva is the first seeded opponent.
French hopes will be heavy on Kristina Mladenovic’s shoulders. The 13th seed has been in good form this season, but will the pressure of a home crowd get to her? If we are going by game alone then Mladenovic should be safe to make the fourth round with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni being the toughest opponent in the third round. A Mladenovic vs Muguruza fourth round will be fireworks, and it looks like it will happen.
Dominika Cibulkova has not had a great clay court season, but often players can catch fire at the right time. Will the Slovak pick up her form for the French Open? She has a tough match against Lara Arruabarrena in the first round in a possible upset. That could open the door for Timea Bacsinszky to have another good run at Roland Garros.
Venus Williams has never won the French Open, but with the draw so wide open, the former world number one could make a decent run. She has a tough opener against Qiang Wang, then Daria Gavrilova as a potential third round opponent. The Aussie has been in good form recently. Can she translate it to the grand slam stage? I think she might, and it will be an unexpected fourth round against Bacsinszky that could be her reward.
A few weeks a go I would have labelled Simona Halep as the favourite to go all the way and win the title, but an ankle injury has put her participation in doubt. If the Romanian can fight through the pain then she should make the third round at least to face Daria Kasatkina. Elena Vesnina is the projected fourth round opponent for Halep, but the Russian could have a struggle against Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round. I think the Spaniard may get through that one and possibly go on to face Halep in the fourth round, depending on how bad her injury is. If the injury is serious then Kasatkina could make the fourth round for the first time.
Her Rome title win sets Elina Svitolina in good stead heading into Roland Garros. The Ukrainian is among the favourites in many peoples minds, but she has a very tough draw ahead of her. Svitolina opens against the streaky Yaroslava Shvedova, then she could potentially face another streaky player in Mona Barthel in the following round. Youngster Ana Konjuh is projected for round three, another tough match for the fifth seed.
Madison Keys has not played much this year due to injury, but she is always a dangerous opponent. Ashleigh Barty is a tough first round opponent, but things could get tougher in round three with Anastasija Sevastova waiting. The Latvian is possibly the favourite to go on to face Svitolina in the fourth round.
This quarter is arguably the most open of the lot with no former Grand Slam champions in the section. Karolina Pliskova is the second seed, but she has struggled on clay in the past. The Czech has a good draw to the fourth round with Lauren Davis being the toughest opponent on the road. From there it could get difficult though with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova projected for the round of 16. The Russian could have a tough match with Lucie Safarova, and the big serving Coco Vandeweghe is the first seeded opponent. Pliskova should be safe for the fourth round, but it is tough to predict who will join her there.
Johanna Konta’s section is arguably the softest of the draw on this surface. The Brit does not perform well on clay, so do not be surprised to see her exit early. It opens the door for France’s Caroline Garcia to make the second week if she can handle the home pressure. Agnieszka Radwanska would be the favourite to make it through this section, but her lack of form is worrying. Barbora Strycova could take advantage, but this is a wide open section, solook for an unlikely fourth round match to come out of it.
There are some tough matches to predict in there. Stosur’s form and clay court prowess may be too much for Kerber. Kuznetsova vs. Bertens is a tough call, but I am going with the Russian to edge it. Form says Mladenovic beats Muguruza, but the defending champion might step up to the plate again and the home crowd could put pressure on Mladenovic. Bacsinszky should have enough to beat Gavrilova, and Halep should make the quarter finals if her ankle is back. Svitolina’s good form should carry her past Sevastova. Garcia has a good draw to finally make a grand slam breakthrough, and Pavlyuchenkova will likely beat Pliskova on this surface.
Kuznetsova vs. Stosur is a close match, but the Russian has often had the advantage on clay in their head to head matches. I think Muguruza might have played her way into form by this point to beat Bacsinszky. Halep’s injury makes it difficult to back her going too deep, so I think Svitolina is favourite for the semi finals. Home hopes will end here with Garcia unlikely being able to handle the pressure and Pavlyuchenkova beats her.
If Muguruza makes it this far, she is playing well, so I see her overcoming Kuznetsova in the semi finals. Svitolina should be too solid for Pavlyuchenkova in the other semi final.
Muguruza def. Svitolina
This will be a first Grand Slam final for Svitolina and a third for Muguruza. Experience in this situation will play a factor and I think the Spaniard will defend her title. If she is on form, then it is difficult seeing Muguruza being stopped. That said, she could easily bomb out in the first round and destroy a lot of brackets.
Annabel Fogleman as Kiki Mladenovic (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
My Daughter Is Going as @KikiMladenovic for Halloween Tonight Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
My 8-year-old daughter Annabel has been watching a lot of WTA tennis with me over the years, and she’s met a few players while at Citi Open. She surprised me last month when she told me that she wanted to be Angelique Kerber for Halloween. I said, “That’s great, honey, but some people won’t know who you are. Don’t worry about that.”
I realized I unleashed a beast with my words when she did an about-face last week and decided to the be the tennis player she really loves the most: Kiki Mladenovic. Annabel cheered for her while watching the Olympics. She screamed for Mladenovic and #1 doubles partner Caroline Garcia while watching Singapore.
I tried to talk her down.
“Honey, no one will know who you are.”
That won’t stop a kid from wanting to be her all-time favorite for Halloween.
Annabel Fogleman as Kiki Mladenovic (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
Truth is, my daughter has a little French in her on my wife’s side and she likes to display it proudly. I took her to Guadeloupe last January and now she thinks that it’s perfectly acceptable to bring a baguette to the beach.
A lot of Baltimoreans will learn about world #42 Kristina Mladenovic for the first time tonight.
Recapping Tuesday and Wednesday at WTA Eastbourne 2016 Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Defending champion Belinda Bencic was dumped out of the Aegon International on Tuesday, suffering a second-round defeat to Russia’s Elena Vesnina.
Both sets of the near two-hour battle went to tie-breaks, after Bencic gave up break advantages in both sets. The 19-year-old then spurned two set points at 6-5 in the second, when given the opportunity to send the match to a decider.
Vesnina, who is ranked 53 in the world, had more guile in the bigger moments, and picked up the win on her fourth match point, to book a third-round meeting with qualifier Madison Brengle.
Home favourite Johanna Konta defeated Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko in straight-sets in front of the day’s biggest crowd.
The 11th seed, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals in January and has risen to 18th in the world, was not at her best but ground hard in a tough opening set which could have gone either way.
After nearly an hour, plenty of chances were presented to Konta when Tsurenko served at 5-5 in a marathon game full of unforced errors from both. The Brit didn’t manage to get the break, but proved tougher than Tsurenko in the tie-break, taking it 7-4.
A much different tale unfolded in set two, with Konta snaring a pair of breaks to race into a 5-0 lead, before wrapping up the match 7-6 6-1 on her second match point.
Konta will play two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round after the latter overcame Timea Babos in the opening match on Centre Court.
The Czech was made to work on her most prolific surface, but ultimately had too much for her Hungarian adversary, closing out a 6-4 7-6 triumph in one hour and 48 minutes.
Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska was given an easy path into the third round after Mirjana Lucic-Baroni was forced to retire.
The Pole was leading 6-4 2-1 before her Croatian opponent determined she could no longer continue. It had been an intriguing battle until then, with Lucic-Baroni’s hard, flat groundstrokes proving troublesome for Radwanska’s style, and the former perhaps should have taken command of the contest.
After slipping a break behind early, Lucic-Baroni levelled at 3-3, but couldn’t capitalise after taking the first two points of her Radwanska’s next service game. She then meekly conceded the set while serving at 4-5 with an error-strewn game.
Yet after being broken to start the second, Radwanska looked set to have to scrap further in her opening match of the week. However, Lucic-Baroni’s racket misfired again as she surrendered her serve, before retiring shortly after.
Former champion Caroline Wozniacki made short work of seventh seed Sam Stosur in a second round encounter that was cancelled on Monday. The Dane was potent on the Australian’s serve, breaking four times as she cruised to a 6-2 6-1 win in an hour and eight minutes.
Wozniacki was rock solid on serve, saving all four break points that she faced. She faced Monica Puig in the third round, after the Puerto Rican was handed a pass into the third round, when her opponent Ana Konjuh retired while trailing 6-1 5-3. Second seed and US Open finalist Roberta Vinci was upstaged by Ekaterina Makarova in three sets on Court 1. The Russian, who beat Heather Watson on Monday, came back from a set down to win 4-6 6-4 6-3 and set a last 16 date with Andrea Petkovic, who beat another Italian in Sara Errani. Eugenie Bouchard continued her good form, seeing off Irina Camelia-Begu in swift fashion. The Canadian eased to a 6-3 6-1 victory and will take on Radwanska on Wednesday, a match which will give a better assessment of where her level currently is. Karolina Pliskova made short work of Daria Gavrilova, but is due a tougher challenge next against Kristina Mladenovic, who beat Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets.
It was a busy day in Eastbourne with many first round matches that were canceled due to rain on Monday having to be played early on Tuesday, leaving many players having to pull double duty. However, a dry day has allowed the tournament to get back on schedule, and with good weather forecast for the rest of the week, the event should have no further scheduling dramas.
Britain’s Johanna Konta stunned two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova with a come-from-behind victory in the third round of the Aegon International in Eastbourne. Konta, who lives in the seaside town, fought back after disappointment in the opening set to record a 5-7 6-4 6-0 win in front of a partisan crowd. The win sees the 11th seed match her Eastbourne performance from last year, while Kvitova – whose movement looked poor in the closing stages – heads to Wimbledon with questions. After a steady start, Konta grabbed the initiative, racing into a 5-2 lead courtesy of some effective shot-making and inconsistency from her opponent. However, when the chance to seal the set presented itself, the Briton faltered, firing a set point long before losing five games in a row – in which she was broken three times – to hand the Czech the set.
There was enough evidence in that set to suggest Kvitova was not the grass giantess we have become accustomed to seeing. A performance plagued with errors kept Konta interested throughout, and after scraping out another break midway through the second set, the home favourite held firm, serving out the set 6-4 in a tense game which went to deuce.
Yet the grandstand finish didn’t materialise in the way anticipated. As Konta rose to the occasion, Kvitova began to tail away, becoming visibly disinterested and frustrated as the decider wore on. The former raced into an early lead and did not look back, knuckling down and allowing her adversary to make mistakes, particularly off the forehand wing. The tide never turned, as Konta served up a bagel and her first triumph over Kvitova.
Afterwards, Konta said: “There are not words big enough to describe the support you the crowd have shown me. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.”
Andrea Petkovic or Ekaterina Makarova will be next up for the Eastbourne local in the last eight, with the pair scheduled to finish their match tomorrow – which Petkovic currently leads 1-0 – after rain curtailed play in the early evening. Agnieszka Radwanska, the top seed, had far too much for Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, as she cruised to a 6-3 6-3 success in the second match of the afternoon. The latter appeared to be recapturing some form after comfortably progressing past Varvara Lepchenko and Irina Camelia-Begu, but came unstuck against the wily Pole, who executed her plan well, forcing Bouchard to play the extra ball regularly. Radwanska broke in the third game of the match, and held onto the edge before streaking to the set, winning the last eight points.
The second set was a more topsy-turvy affair with Bouchard taking first blood. However, the world number 48 lost the break immediately before dropping her serve again next time around. Unwilling to die down, she got through Radwanska in the following game. But a sloppy effort at 3-4 provided the world number three with a chance to close out the match on serve, which she did to 30. Dominika Cibulkova will play Radwanska in the quarter finals, after the Slovakian worked past Katerina Bondarenko in two hours on Court 1. The Ukrainian took early command of the first set with an early break, but couldn’t serve out the set as Cibulkova reeled off four games. But the 12th seed was not without nerves either, as Bondarenko broke to move the set into a tie-break, which she lost 7-3. A freer Cibulkova stormed through the first half of the second set, moving 4-0 up, and even though a brief fightback was staged, the diminutive player claimed a 7-6 6-3 win.
Caroline Wozniacki failed to build on her victory over Sam Stosur, losing out in three sets to Monica Puig in the first match of the day. The contest, which began 90 minutes later than expected following rain, looked to be going in the Dane’s favour when she won the first set 6-4. But she lost the momentum late in the second set, when Puig snared a break to move 5-3 up, before serving the set out to 15. The world number 41 won the first two games of the final set, but Wozniacki capitalised on a loose game from Puig make it 2-2. However, the 2009 champion rarely found things easy on serve, and the pressure eventually told. Puig broke in the often-crucial seventh game, and held steady thereafter to chalk up a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win in two hours and 15 minutes.
Puig will now face Kristina Mladenovic, after the Frenchwoman saw off Anna-Lena Friedsam in straight sets.
Elsewhere, Elena Vesnina built on her win over 2015 champion Belinda Bencic, with a 7-6 6-4 defeat of American qualifier Madison Brengle.
A rain-affected day leaves a scheduling headache for Thursday, with two third-round matches still incomplete. Doi and Pliskova will conclude their match on Court 1 before Petkovic and Makarova resume their battle.
Mladenovic and qualifier Puig are first up on Centre Court, before Radwanska takes on Cibulkova. Vesnina then awaits the winner of Doi-Pliskova, with Konta rounding off the action against Petkovic or Makarova.
2016 WTA Mallorca Preview Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
Wimbledon is fast approaching, and the WTA will take to Mallorca for their grass court preparations.
Location: Mallorca, Spain
Prize money: $226,750
Date: June 13th– June 19th
Top eight seeds (ranking)
Garbine Muguruza (2)
Jelena Jankovic (24)
Ana Ivanovic (25)
Kristina Mladenovic (32)
First round matches to watch
Muguruza (Photo: Mallorca Open)
Garbine Muguruza vs Kirsten Flipkens: it is always interesting to see how a first-time grand slam winner performs after winning a maiden major, and with Muguruza it is no different.
The Spaniard returns to her home country in preparation for Wimbledon where she made the final in 2015. She has traditionally struggled to adapt to the different conditions, but she found the formula at Wimbledon and seems much more comfortable on the grass.
Flipkens, though is a very solid grass courter and a former Wimbledon semi- finalist in her own right. The Belgian’s form is not great, but she might take inspiration by returning to the grass.
Kiki Mladenovic (Photo: Christopher Levy @Tennis_Shots)
Kristina Mladenovic vs Sabine Lisicki: On the subject of former Wimbledon finalists and players who suit the grass, Mladenovic has been drawn against Lisicki.
There is something about the grass that brings the German to life no matter how poor her form. Mladenovic, on the other hand, has found form in recent weeks after a poor start to the season.
Lisicki leads the head to head 2-1, but all their meetings have been on hard courts. This match will likely come down to who is in better form.
Top seed Muguruza is clearly the best player in the draw, but there’s some real danger in her section. An opening round match against Flipkens is one of them, and it doesn’t get any easier. Julia Goerges or Monica Puig will await in the second round for the winner. Laura Siegemund has also landed in this section, but her form has dropped as of late. Nao Hibino and Saisai Zheng will look to take advantage of that.
Ana Ivanovic’s ranking has fallen outside the top 20 and she will look to use this event as a good booster for Wimbledon, where she will be hoping to climb up a few places. Pauline Parmentier is her round one opponent, and then the Serb is expected to play a Spanish wildcard in the second round. Ivanovic will likely go untested until the quarter final where she is projected to play Caroline Garcia. The Frenchwoman scored a number of victories over the former world number one last year, but she is not a fan of the grass. Carina Witthoeft will look to send Garcia packing early.
Garcia’s doubles partner Mladenovic lands as the fourth seed and in good form. She will play the ever dangerous but inconsistent Lisicki in the first round. The Frenchwoman will be the favourite to make it out of this section after playing her way into form in recent weeks. Mariana Duque Marino or Alison Van Uytvanck will play Mladenovic in the second round. Eugenie Bouchard is the other seed in the section, but her results recently could lead to a first round exit to Danka Kovinic.
Jankovic is the second seed here, but has a tough draw ahead. Young star Ana Konjuh is not the ideal first round opponent, and the Croatian could cause the upset. Yulia Putintseva will bring her game and feistiness to this section, but she also has a tough drawn with Daniela Hantuchova or Yaroslava Shvedova being her round two opponent.
It is difficult to look past Muguruza here. She might have a post slam hangover, but the Spaniard has a strong mentality and will be motivated to win at home. Mladenovic will continue her good form into this week but will ultimately fall short.
Mladenovic, Bencic Win Washington Title; Interview Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Doubles World #8 Kiki Mladenovic paired with Belinda Bencic to win the Citi Open Women’s Doubles title in Washington DC on August 8, 2015. The French/Swiss duo didn’t drop a set all week, as I was reminded. They did get more today than anyone else threw at them all tournament, having given up no more than seven games in each prior match until today’s 7-6, 7-6 win.
They had a flight to catch to Toronto, so this is all they gave the press. Mladenovic is #4 on the Road to Singapore WTA Year End Championships. This is the 12th WTA doubles title for Mladenovic, who won the 2013 French Open mixed doubles title.
For Bencic, it was her 2nd doubles title and her first trip to Washington. She won her first singles title this summer in Eastbourne.
It was all fun and games for Team BelaKiki/KikiBela, but it’s back to serious dubs business for Mladenovic and her regular partner, Timea Babos.
2015 French Open Week 1 Women’s Preview and Predictions (@RolandGarros) Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
2015 French Open Women’s Preview
It’s finally time for the pinnacle tournament of the clay court season, the second grand slam of the year, The French Open.
First held in 1881, the French Open was originally held in Paris’ Stade Francais club, and only accepted French club members. It was until 1925 that the French Tennis Federation allowed overseas entrants. In 1928, it was decided that the tournament needed a new site and thus it moved to the Porte d’Auteuil, where it has stayed ever since. 40 years a later after seeing victors from across the world, the French Open became the first Grand Slam to embrace professionalism.
From then a whole host a champions lifted La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, with the likes of Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Chris Evert winning multiple titles in the following years. In the following decades, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Justine Henin and Serena Williams captured multiple French Open titles. Most recently Maria Sharapova lifted La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the second time in 2014, defeating Simona Halep in a classic final. Her previous triumph came two years earlier. Serena Williams won the title in 2013.
French Open Tier: Grand Slam Location: Paris, France Surface: Clay Prize Money: $15,980,135 Date: May 24th- June 7th 2015
Top 8 seeded players (Ranking)
1. Serena Williams (1)
2. Maria Sharapova (2)
3. Simona Halep (3)
4. Petra Kvitova (4)
5. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
6. Eugenie Bouchard (6)
7. Ana Ivanovic (7)
8. Carla Suarez Navarro (8)
The only main draw player out of the tournament is Kateryna Kozlova. All the top players are entered into the main draw.
(15) Venus Williams vs Sloane Stephens:
I am sure this stood out to everyone who has looked at the full draw. Venus vs Sloane, with a potential round four with Serena at stake? That is quite the Hollywood blockbuster.
Venus Williams has only played one clay court tournament leading up to the French Open, and that was Rome two weeks ago. The world number 15 made the round of sixteen before slumping to a 6-2, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Simona Halep. Clay has traditionally been the weakest surface for Venus, but she is a former finalist at Roland Garros 13 years ago. On that occasion she lost to her sister Serena in straight sets. The 34 year old lost to Anna Schmiedlova in a crazy second round last year, which also saw her sister lose that same day.
Sloane Stephens is still going strong in Strasbourg as I write this. The American is currently in the semi-finals with potential to go all the way and win it. The 22 year old was once touted the future of women’s tennis, but she has failed to live up to them expectations, and now finds herself ranked 41 in the world. After a good run in Strasbourg, Stephens will be full of confidence heading into this match. Stephens has made the fourth round in her past three French Open appearances, so she knows her way around Roland Garros.
These two have never met before even though they were touted to face each other in Miami two years ago. The match should be very forehand orientated, with both players looking to dictate from that wing. In an extremely packed section, this is the round one highlight and should produce a very interesting and potentially great match that could go either way.
(6) Eugenie Bouchard vs Kristina Mladenovic:
2014 semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard has failed to bring her 2014 form into this season, and as a result, the Canadian is in a mini slump. With semi-final points to defend it’s time for Genie to kick into gear, but unfortunately for the sixth seed she has drawn home crowd favourite Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round.
Bouchard’s performances in the biggest tournaments earned the Canadian a top eight seeding, but this year has thus far been a poor one for Genie. Starting from Indian Wells, Bouchard lost six straight matches. The losing streak was finally snapped in Rome, where Bouchard managed to defeat Zarina Diyas in straight sets. The Canadian lost to Carla Suarez Navarro in the following round, but she took the inform Spaniard to three sets, which was encouraging signs for the Genie army. Bouchard’s impressive run to the semi-finals was halted by eventual champion Maria Sharapova last year.
Kristina Mladenovic is still going strong in Strasbourg, as she guns for her first career title. The 22 year old is in good form, and in front of a home crowd when she faces Genie Bouchard, and that is why this match is so interesting. The Frenchwoman is no stranger to upsetting top players at Roland Garros as she dumped former champion Li Na out last year in the opening round. Mladenovic’s run to the third round last year is her best result at her home grand slam. If she is to go one further, she must upset Bouchard in the opening round.
This match is a must watch because of the sheer upset potential. Bouchard is not in great form, and Mladenovic is in good form. Couple that with the French crowd being completely behind the world number 54, Mladenovic could easily upset Bouchard like she upset Li Na last year.
(7) Ana Ivanovic vs Yaroslava Shvedova: To continue the upset trend, Ivanovic has been dealt a round one clash against the enigma known as Yaroslava Shvedova.
Ivanovic’s resurgence towards to the top of the rankings has stagnated in recent weeks. The Serbian has found herself 2-3 so far in the clay season, which is a poor record for a top eight player. Most recently, the former world number one lost to Daria Gavrilova in three sets in Rome. Despite the recent form, one would be a fool to count Ivanovic out. She is a former champion at Roland Garros, so she knows what it takes to go the distance. With a top eight seeding, the Serbian will look to go further than the round of 32 where she fell last year.
Shvedova fell a round earlier in 2014 to Pauline Parmentier, and the Kazakh’s recent form is not encouraging. However, Shvedova is a former two time quarter finalist at this event and with her known talents, she can beat almost anybody in the world on her day. The 27 year old has lost three straight matches on the clay, but she can peak at any time as shown by her 2012 run from qualifying all the way to the quarter finals. That run included a three sets win over then defending champion Li Na.
The potential of Shvedova to randomly peak against an out of a form Ivanovic makes this match very intriguing. The Kazakh has the talent to blast her opponent off the court, but of course she has to find some good form for that to happen. The head to head reads 1-1, so both players know how to beat the other. Look out for this one because it could be interesting.
Where do I start with this one? The world number one Serena Williams has been dealt with a tough section, which could see her play Victoria Azarenka and sister Venus before the quarterfinals. The path to round three looks relatively simple for the top seed, but when the round of sixteen beckons things will get very interesting. Only a few weeks ago in Madrid, Victoria Azarenka came within millimetres of defeating the world number one. Three match points on serve came and went, and soon a deflated Azarenka fell in the tiebreak. With a potential rematch on the horizon, the Roland Garros crowd will be relishing the opportunity to see the rematch.
The winner of that epic round three encounter could face either Sloane Stephens or Venus Williams In the round of sixteen. The American pair will compete in the pick of the opening round matches. The winner might be favourite to make the fourth round against Serena or Vika, but Barbora Strycova might have something to say about it. The 22nd seed has a crafty game, and could easily catch Venus or Sloane off guard. First, the Czech must defeat Tsvetana Pironkova and the winner of qualifier/Allertova in round two. Either way, Williams or Azarenka will have a difficult round four opponent.
Caroline Wozniacki comes into Roland Garros with no points to defend after around one defeat to Yania Wickmayer last year. However the fifth seed has shown improvements on her worst surface under the tutelage of Aranxta Sanchez Vicario, making the final of Stuttgart and the quarter finals in Madrid. Dangerous Italian Karin Knapp is the round one opponent, and then the Dane will be tested by a big serve in round two as she will face either Coco Vandeweghe or Julia Goerges. The projected round three is Jelena Jankovic, but the Serb pulled out of Strasbourg in the build up to Roland Garros so her condition is unknown. That could open the door for a qualifier or Irina Falconi to make the third round. With Wozniacki’s improvements on clay it’s difficult to see her not making the fourth round unless a Vandeweghe or Goerges zone in.
As well as Jankovic, Andrea Petkovic pulled out of Nurnberg this week citing injury, so the German’s condition is also unknown. Susan Rogers in round one or Cristina McHale in round two will look to take advantage of any potential injuries to the world number ten, but the biggest beneficiary will be former finalist Sara Errani. The Italian was runner up in 2012, and has proven hugely difficult to hit through on the clay. Alison Riske will test the defence of Errani in round one, as will Carina Witthoeft in round two, but the world number 17 should grind her way through. Petkovic’s unknown injury status will make Errani the favourite to make the fourth round and potentially face Caroline Wozniacki in a match between two of the best movers on tour.
After triumphing in Madrid, many people put Petra Kvitova as one of the favourites for the French Open title. But with Petra you never know, and with some dangerous seeds in her section such as Timea Bacsinszky, Irina Begu and Madison Keys, there’s potential upset in the early rounds. Kvitova opens against Marina Erakovic, before moving on to either Sylvia Soler Espinosa or Pauline Parmentier. Irina Begu’s recent good form was highlighted by a straight sets victory over Angelique Kerber in Rome, and a quarter final run in Madrid. Her great run in the Spanish capital was halted by her projected round three opponent Petra Kvitova. The Czech was successful in straight sets that time around, and you would expect the word number four to repeat that success here.
Round four will be interesting choose which way it goes. Bacsinszky vs Keys will be the projected and likely round three, but there are plenty of players who could spoil that party by defeating the American and the Swiss in the opening rounds. Belina Bencic, or Daniela Hantuchova could face Keys in round two providing she defeats Vavara Lepchenko in round one. Bacsinszky faces tough opposition in the form of Lara Arruabarrena whose good form as earned her a semi-final position in Nurnberg. The Swiss’ good form has somewhat faded, making her more prone to an upset. Despite that, she should at least make round three and potentially round four. Kvitova will rightfully be favourite to advance from this section, but there will be potential banana skins in there.
Section four is wide open for a surprise quarter finalist. The top seed in this section is Eugenie Bouchard, whose recent form and first round opponent makes her prone to an upset. If Mladenovic can capitalise on the Canadian’s poor form and the home crowd advantage, the section will open up hugely. A Mladenovic, Schmiedlova or Diyas could find themselves in the fourth round if they can successfully get through the opening rounds.
Perhaps the favourite to advance from this section is 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who re-discovered her grand slam winning form with a final run in Madrid. A leg injury that hampered her against Kvitova forced the Russian to withdraw from Rome, but with two weeks rest behind her Kuznetsova will be prime and ready for the French Open. An interesting round three against Karolina Pliskova stands out as one of the better potential third round clashes. The big hitting Czech is having her best season to date as she continues her climb towards the top ten. Kuznetsova on clay is a difficult task, but with the Russian’s known inconsistencies there is a good chance that Pliskova could make a quarter final run.
Simona Halep’s bid for her first grand slam title continues as she reaches the place where she made her first grand slam final. Maria Sharapova proved too much last year, but with that experience can the world number three take that final step towards Grand Slam success? To do so she may need to face the woman who spectacularly knocked her out of Madrid a few weeks ago, Alize Cornet. Providing Halep gets past Rodina and then the winner of Lucic Baroni/Davis, the Frenchwoman could be staring at a rematch, only this time in front of a home crowd. Cornet has a difficult round one against Roberta Vinci, and then Alexandra Dulgheru will provide a tough test in round two. With this being a grand slam you would expect Halep to have that extra motivation to get her through to round four.
Her opponent at this stage is projected to be Agnieszka Radwanska, but the Pole’s decline in form this year has seen her fall outside the top 10 for the first time in years. Radwanska could face a succession of Germans in round one and two with Annika Beck and Mona Barthel waiting in the wings. Things will get interesting for the Pole in the third round where Elina Svitolina could be waiting. The Ukrainian has Yania Wickmayer in round one, who upset Li Na at this stage last year. If Svitolina can get past the Belgian and her round two opponent, we could be treated to an intriguing round three match between two consistent baseliners. The winner will have a round four match against Simona Halep, who should prove too strong.
Ana Ivanovic hasn’t had the best of clay seasons so far, and drawing one of the WTA tours most erratic yet dangerous unseeded players may just make it worse. Former quarter finalist, Slava Shvedova will be gunning for the upset, and even if Ivanovic overcomes that test, she’ll have an even bigger one in round three. Caroline Garcia defeated the Serbian three times in a row in Mexico and Stuttgart. With that in mind, the Frenchwoman upsetting Ivanovic for the fourth straight time doesn’t seem unreasonable.
The recent good form of Carla Suarez Navarro saw Ekaterina Makarova lose her top eight seeding, but despite being the number nine seed the Russian has a good draw to possibly make the quarter finals. The first two rounds should provide no problem for Makarova, but the third round might give the world number nine her first real test. Shuai Peng is the projected opponent, but the Chinese player has struggled with injuries that have seen her not have much clay practice leading in to the tournament. That could open the door for Elena Vesnina or Kirsten Flipkens to make the third round. It would be surprising to see Makarova not make the fourth round, and with Ivanovic prone to an upset in the first three rounds, she could find herself the favourite to make the last eight. Makarova and Vesnina are frequent doubles partners.
Maria Sharapova will open her defence against Kaia Kanepi in what could be a tough first round match-up for the second seed. Kanepi is a former top 20 player, so if the Estonian can channel that form she will provide the defending champion a difficult test. From there, the Russain shouldn’t have a difficult test until round three where she could face Sam Stosur. Sharapova has a commanding head to head of 14-2 over Stosur, but the Aussie pushed the second seed to three sets last year.
Lucie Safarova is the likely fourth round opponent of Sharapova. The Czech faces the inconsistent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round, and then likely faces Kurumi Nara in round two. Sabine Lisicki is touted for the third round, but the German aggressive style leaves her prone to errors, especially against her first round opponent Monica Puig. The Puerto Rican has struggled this year, but if she can stay consistent she can frustrate an out of for Lisicki. Sharapova vs Safarova will be a good round four clash, which has potential to go three sets, but as Sharapova has shown over the years, she has the fight and determination to get through these difficult three set matches. I expect more of the same there.
Carla Suarez Navarro’s excellent final run in Rome has earned the Spaniard an eighth seed position, but that has not made for an easy draw with the potential of facing Flavia Pennetta, Angelique Kerber and doubles partner Garbine Muguruza. First, Navarro faces crafty Romanian Monica Niculescu. The Spaniard should have too much experience to fall for the spin variation that Niculescu provides. Virginie Razzano in round two could be interesting with the Frenchwoman no stranger to upsets at Roland Garros. In 2012, she knocked out Serena Williams in a dramatic encounter, but I don’t see it repeating against Suarez Navarro. Pennetta will likely await in round three, but with Carla’s recent form, anything less than a round four appearance will be disappointing.
From the round of 16 onwards it will get very interesting for the world number eight. Angelique Kerber vs Garbine Muguruza could be an interesting round three clash providing they can weave their way through some difficult round two clashes. Kerber opens against Timea Babos, before moving onto an Australian clash against either Casey Dellacqua or Alija Tomljanovic. Muguruza on the other hand faces a qualifier in round one and then the winner of the Camila Giorgi vs Tatjana Maria. The Spaniards recent form has been concerning, and it almost feels she needs a good run here with quarter final points to defend. The round two match I feel is key to her tournament, as Muguruza needs momentum and confidence for a good run. She can blast Kerber off the court as proven earlier this year, even though she eventually went on to lose the match. Either way it should be a fascinating round four against Carla Suarez Navarro for either Kerber or Muguruza.
Round of 16:
Serena d. Stephens
Wozniacki d. Errani
Kvitova d. Bacsinszky
Kuznetsova d. Schmiedlova
Garcia d. Makarova
Halep d. Radwanska
Suarez Navarro d. Muguruza
Sharapova d. Safarova
Serena d. Wozniacki
Kvitova d. Kuznetsova
Halep d. Garcia
Sharapova d. Suarez Navarro
Serena d. Kvitova
Halep d. Sharapova
Final: Serena d. Halep
With the tough draw, Serena will be tested early and therefore will be ready when the latter stages come around. I see either Serena losing to Azarenka or going all the way, and I chose the latter because it is the safer bet. That is unless Kvitova repeats her Madrid performance and defeats the world number one for the second straight time
Halep will get revenge of Sharapova for last year’s final defeat, but yet again she will fall at the last hurdle as Serena will be too much to handle.
The draw has opened up for a surprise quarter final run by Garcia, but Halep will prove too difficult to hit through on the clay. Kuznetsova will also have a good run.
So Serena will be the Queen of Roland Garros yet again according to my predictions, but it should be an interesting tournament none the less.
Kiki Mladenovic (Photo: Christopher Levy for TennisEastCoast.com)
Following the withdrawal of Kristina Mladenovic (playing with Timea Babos) due to lumbar spine injury, prior to the commencement of the Main Draw Doubles, the team of Medina Garrigues/Shvedova become Seed #5 moving to line 5.
Alternate team of Riske/Vandeweghe move into the draw on line 9.
CONNECTICUT OPEN PRESENTED BY UNITED TECHNOLOGIES – NEW HAVEN, USA
17-23 AUGUST 2014
RESULTS – AUGUST 17, 2014
Women’s Singles – First Round
 F Pennetta (ITA) d K Koukalova (CZE) 61 63
A Riske (USA) d C Dellacqua (AUS) 61 64
C Giorgi (ITA) d C Vandeweghe (USA) 63 61
E Makarova (RUS) d R Vinci (ITA) 63 63
Women’s Doubles – First Round
A Klepac (SLO) / S Soler-Espinosa (ESP) d  K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) 76(2) 64
D Jurak (CRO) / M Moulton-Levy (USA) d  H Chan (TPE) / J Zheng (CHN) 61 75
Women’s Qualifying Singles – Third Round
Qualifying – S Peng (CHN) d K Knapp (ITA) 63 63
Qualifying – I Begu (ROU) d [WC] C Garcia (FRA) 64 57 76(5)
Qualifying – B Bencic (SUI) d M Barthel (GER) 63 76(6)
Qualifying – S Soler-Espinosa (ESP) d K Kanepi (EST) 64 62
Qualifying – M Doi (JPN) d A Beck (GER) 76(4) 26 76(3)
Qualifying – T Bacsinszky (SUI) d F Schiavone (ITA) 62 75
USONP Men’s Singles Championship – Semifinals
 S Singh (IND) d  R Schneider (USA) 76(4) 61
 J Dadamo (USA) d  J Witten (USA) 63 36 63
USONP Women’s Singles Championship – Semifinals
C Whoriskey (USA) d  A Weinhold (USA) 64 61
M Gordon (USA) d  J Cako (USA) 61 62
CONNECTICUT OPEN PRESENTED BY UNITED TECHNOLOGIES – NEW HAVEN, USA
17-23 AUGUST 2014
ORDER OF PLAY – MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 2014
STADIUM start 12:00 noon
WTA – [Q] S Peng (CHN) vs E Svitolina (UKR)
WTA – [WC] S Stosur (AUS) vs K Nara (JPN)
Not Before 3:30 pm
WTA – B Jovanovski (SRB) vs  E Bouchard (CAN)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA –  C Wozniacki (DEN) vs [Q] T Bacsinszky (SUI)
WTA –  [WC] D Cibulkova (SVK) vs [WC] A Petkovic (GER)
GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
WTA – G Muguruza (ESP) vs  S Errani (ITA)
WTA –  C Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs [Q] I Begu (ROU)
WTA – [WC] K Flipkens (BEL) vs [Q] M Doi (JPN)
WTA –  A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / Y Shvedova (KAZ) vs S Peer (ISR) / K Piter (POL)
COURT 1 start 12:00 noon
WTA – B Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) vs [Q] B Bencic (SUI)
WTA – M Rybarikova (SVK) vs [Q] S Soler-Espinosa (ESP)
WTA – O Kalashnikova (GEO) / A Rosolska (POL) vs C Dellacqua (AUS) / S Voegele (SUI)
WTA – C Garcia (FRA) / M Niculescu (ROU) vs A Groenefeld (GER) / K Koukalova (CZE)
COURT 2 start 12:00 noon
USONP Women – M Gordon (USA) vs C Whoriskey (USA)
USONP Men –  S Singh (IND) vs  J Dadamo (USA)