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Roland Garros Women's Preview







2012 Daily Tennis News Wire -
Women's Look Forward: Roland Garros

So which means more in forecasting the results of the French Open? Recent clay results? In that case, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are the favorites. Success last year? Look to Li Na. Best overall form? Victoria Azarenka is the obvious choice. A true clay game? Maybe Francesca Schiavone gets the nod.

Welcome to Roland Garros 2012, which seems to be completely beyond prediction.

One thing that won't surprise you is that almost everyone is here. As expected, Daniela Hantuchova and Andrea Petkovic are out -- but every other potential seed is here, including even Vera Zvonareva, who certainly isn't in good shape right now. The seeds are just what was expected: Azarenka #1, Sharapova #2, Agnieszka Radwanska #3 despite being very, very weary, Petra Kvitova #4 despite being in horrid form, Serena #5, former finalist Samantha Stosur #6, defending champion Li Na #7, and Marion Bartoli #8.

It's not exactly what you would call a balanced draw. Sharapova and Serena are in the same quarter, which is truly unfortunate; the other seeds in that half are Li and Kvitova. In the top half, Azarenka could face Stosur in the quarterfinal, while Radwanska would face Bartoli.

The first seed Azarenka might face is #31 Zheng Jie, then either #15 Dominika Cibulkova (a former semifinalist here, although her clay results seem to have fallen off lately) or #22 Lucie Safarova. Stosur's path runs through #27 Nadia Petrova (another former semifinalist), then #12 Sabine Lisicki or #24 Petra Cetkovska. Radwanska will have to deal with struggling former champion and #26 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, then former champion and #13 Ana Ivanovic or #21 Sara Errani, who is having a fine year; that is a very tough section, at least on paper. Bartoli's path runs through clay specialist and #29 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, then fast-rising #10 Angelique Kerber or #18 Flavia Pennetta.

In the bottom half, Li's first seeded opponent would be #30 Mona Barthel, then #11 Vera Zvonareva or, more likely, #17 Roberta Vinci. Kvitova starts against #32 Monica Niculescu, who has not had a good clay season, then #14 Francesca Schiavone (who finally came to life at Strasbourg) or #19 Jelena Jankovic. Serena will face #26 Julia Goerges in the third round, then #9 Caroline Wozniacki or #23 Kaia Kanepi. Sharapova's path runs through #26 Peng Shuai, then #16 Maria Kirilenko or #22 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Frankly, the big Serena/Sharapova quarterfinal seems very likely.

The same cannot be said of some of the other quarterfinals; several of the seeds could be sorely tested early on. Radwanska faces Venus Williams in round two. Li opens her title defense against Sorana Cirstea. Barthel's second round match could be against Christina McHale, who is no fan of clay but who just missed seeding. Zvonareva opens against Timea Babos, then clay specialist Carla Suarez Navarro. Schiavone's second round opponent is likely to be Yanina Wickmayer. Jankovic could face Ksenia Pervak in that round. And Goerges opens against Lucie Hradecka, the Surprise of Madrid.

The Rankings

We have to start with the statement that we've been using for the last month and more: This is going to be a funny week. The French Open starts a week later this year than last. And that means that it's not just one event coming off. Roland Garros of course goes away -- but so do Birmingham and Copenhagen. That's not a big deal to a lot of players -- the top-ranked player at Birmingham 2011 was Kaia Kanepi, then #17, and she lost her opener -- but Caroline Wozniacki won Copenhagen, over Lucie Safarova; Mona Barthel and Petra Martic were semifinalists. The title at Birmingham went to Sabine Lisicki, over Daniela Hantuchova; Peng Shuai and Ana Ivanovic were semifinalists.

And, of course, Li Na won Paris, over Francesca Schiavone; Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli were semifinalists; Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Victoria Azarenka, and Andrea Petkovic were quarterfinalists.

Obviously that puts a lot of players in a lot of danger. Li Na is a mere #12 in safe points. Francesca Schiavone is below #30! Amazingly, Marion Bartoli is still #8, and Andrea Petkovic #15. But Petkovic isn't playing, and will surely end up lower. Kuznetsova also looks likely to fall.

Even with Sharapova having a semifinal to defend, we have a contest for #1. But not exactly a hot one. Sharapova needs at least a final, and that will be enough only if Azarenka loses by the fourth round. If Azarenka makes the final, Sharapova cannot pass her no matter what.

Agnieszka Radwanska also has a theoretical shot at #1, but she needs a title and a fairly early loss by Azarenka.

Azarenka, Sharapova, and Radwanska will certainly stay Top Five. We would guess that Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams will, too -- the only player with a reasonable shot at them is Samantha Stosur, and even she is more than 400 points back.

Azarenka, Sharapova, Radwanska, Kvitova, Serena, Stosur, and Caroline Wozniacki are sure to stay Top Ten, and Marion Bartoli is almost sure. Anqelique Kerber is a good bet as well. That leaves one spot, currently help by Li. That last spot is pretty wide-open; the three strongest contenders are Li, Ana Ivanovic, and Vera Zvonareva. With Zvonareva hurting, Ivanovic may be the leading candidate.

Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova are likely to lose their Top Twenty spots, with Flavia Pennetta the player most likely to pass them. The last Top Twenty spot is hard to call; Lucie Safarova has a slight lead, but it is truly slight.


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