Saturday, 24 May 2014

Roland Garros Preview: Can Sharapova wreck the Serena party?

Going into the French Open, we have 2 clear favourites, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. It's an absolute pity that these 2 are drawn in the same quarter, but it makes for an exciting quarter-final match. Let's take a look at the top 5 contenders for this year's Roland Garros.

1. Serena Williams

Although she suffered a shock loss in Charleston and withdrew from Madrid, Serena righted the ship in Rome when she claimed the title, losing only a set along the way. Already leading the tour with 3 titles, Serena goes into Paris as the hot favourite again, leaving her closest competitors behind. The only problem Serena faces is staying healthy throughout the fortnight. She was bothered by her back in Melbourne, and her thigh in Madrid. If she can stay healthy, I cannot see anyone stopping the American.

2. Maria Sharapova

3 clay court events, 2 titles. Not too shabby for someone who was struggling to win matches in the beginning of the year. Sharapova summons back her clay form as she successfully defends majority of her points going into Paris. Still, a cruel draw will have to see her defeat Serena Williams in the quarter-finals to have another chance at winning the title. Nevertheless, Sharapova is the clear 2nd favourite in the draw, and an upset of Serena (not by Maria of course) will propel Sharapova as the top favourite. Maria needs to pray hard that someone beats Serena before she faces her though.

3. Ana Ivanovic

Look who's back! Ana Ivanovic turns back the hands of time and is playing like her fearless 2008 self. She is the only player to take a set of Serena in Rome, and is consistently reaching the latter stages of tournaments. She is in an unfortunate section of the draw though, as she needs to overcome Simona Halep if she wants to advance beyond the quarter-finals (I'm not counting Kvitova as she's almost a non-factor). There's hope for Ana though, with Simona having to deal with some niggles and pains in Rome. If Ana can learn from her recent defeat against Simona (she already beat Halep in Fed Cup), I think she has the potential to reach the finals.

4. Simona Halep

The maturing Simona Halep proves that her game can translate well to any surface with a final appearance in Madrid. What impressed me with Simona is that she doesn't panic, goes around doing what's she good at. Even though Sharapova showed that Halep can be overpowered, it only takes a player to have an off day for Simona to claim the win. Now at her highest ranking of 4, the future is bright for Simona. With almost nothing to defend here, the Romanian looks set to climb greater heights.

5. Agnieszka Radwanska

I'm picking Radwanska over former champion Li Na as the Pole will almost be assured of a semi-final place with her soft draw. Compared to the volatile Li who has a tougher route, Radwanska will have a no nonsense passage to the semi-finals. Even though her path will probably end there in the hands of Sharapova or Serena, there's no taking away the most consistent clay court season that she has played in her career. Agnieszka has only lost to quality opponents this clay court season, and will bode well for her grass court swing after this.

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