Serena and Venus Williams enter Roland Garros ranked 1 and 2, respectively, for the first time in 7 years, but that doesn't mean they are the top two favorites. Serena can never be counted out at a major, because when she wants it she goes and gets it, but it's no mystery that the American struggles mightily on the red dirt. In her illustrious career she has only won the French once, while Venus has never won it. Older sis has the best record of any woman on tour this year, at 26-4, but those four losses have been strange. Blowouts at the hands of Jelena Jankovic and Kim Clijsters, and unforced error-filled disasters against Aravane Rezai and Li Na. Justine Henin is probably the most-picked 22nd seed in Major history, while Svetlana Kuznetsova, the defending champ, could repeat or get double-bageled in round one. once again with the ladies, it's anyone's guess.
So much for being the top seed, right? Serena's quarter is LOADED. Serena's chances are already greatly diminished on clay, but with a stacked quarter to get through, the tennis gods were not on ReRe's side at the draw ceremony. Here lies Justine Henin, 4-time FO winner, Sam Stosur, 2009 semifinalist, playing incredibly well this year and Maria Sharapova, 2009 quarterfinalist. Henin has obviously proved herself as the best clay-courter in women;s tennis, but she's had to win ugly a lot this year, and with motivation on her side, Sam Stosur could very well defeat the Belgian in their potential 4th round match. Of course, Henin will have to get by Sharapova, who won in Strasbourg this week, but that doesn't seem to be much of an issue. Serena will have her hands full with Shahar Peer, seeded 18th, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a big hitting Russian that could give Williams trouble. Here's your first surprise of the women's draw.
Early rounder to keep an eye on: Sharapova vs. Henin
Quarterfinals: Stosur def. Williams
Jelena Jankovic headlines a tricky 2nd section that won't be easy to conquer. Agnieszka Radwanksa is a surprise 8th seed followed by Dinara Safina, who's comeback from back surgery hasn't gone as planned, causing the Russian to fall out of the top 8, to number 9. Vera Zvonareva, Alisa Kleybanova and Yanina Wickmayer all pose serious threats to make a deep run. Jankovic enters Roland Garros having had a solid clay-court campaign, reaching the finals in Rome, beating both Williams; along the way. Radwanska has been off the radar and isn't playing well enough to make any noise, and the same goes for two-time runner-up Safina. Zvonareva was impressive in Charleston, while Kleybanova can outhit anyone when she's hot. WIckmayer is tricky to figure out, but was trounced by Jankovic in Rome. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 Roland Garros champion, also lies in the 2nd section, and impressed in Rome, but she's not ready to be a contender again. It's evident that JJ will have a difficult time reaching the semis, but she won't have to see Radwanska, Safina, Zvonareva or Kleybanova till the quarters, and once she's on a roll she's hard to stop.
Early rounder to keep an eye on: Kleybanova vs. Ivanovic
Quarterfinals: Jankovic def. Kleybanova
There isn't really a nice way to put this. The 3rd quarter of the women's draw sucks. Sure, the 2009 French Open winner, Svetlana Kuznetsova, is here, but Kuzzie is so sporadic it's anyone's guess what she could do. And Caroline Wozniacki, seeded 3rd, comes in with zero confidence, with just 3 wins in her last 4 tournaments and a serious ankle injury. While Kuznetsova is underplayed, Wozniacki is overplayed, and it's coming back to hurt her. Obviously, one person from this section is going to reach the semis, but none have the current form needed to do it. So it's safe to go out on a limb and pick someone out of a hat. Fine, you wouldn't be too smart to go with Misaki Doi of Japan, but perhaps Elena Vesnina, a powerful Russian with years of experience on her side, wouldn't be too far of a limb? She'll have to get by Wozzi, Kuzzie, Li Na, Francesca Schiavone, Lucie Safarova and Flavia Pennetta, and that's no easy task, but there isn't a safe choice.
Early rounder to keep an eye on: Polona Hercog vs. Safarova
Quarterfinals: Vesnina def. Safarova
Like her sister, Venus got the short end of the stick with the extremely deep draw she'll have to get through. Elena Dementieva isn't playing her best tennis right now, but as a former French Open finalist and the best groundstroker in women's tennis, she'll always have a chance. Victoria Azarenka, Aravane Rezai, winner in Madrid, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, winner in Rome, and Nadia Petrova all have the game to knock off Venus or Elena. Rezai did it just last week with her straight set win over Williams and Martinez Sanchez's crafty serve and volley game sets her apart from hers peers. Azarenka reached the quarters here last year and Petrova is a one-time semifinalist. Venus could meet Petrova in the 3rd round, while Azarenka and Sanchez are slated to face in that same round for a shot at Dementieva. Whoever comes out of this section triumphant, one thing is assured: It'll be quite the thriller.
Early rounder to keep an eye on: Martinez Sanchez vs Azarenka
Quarterfinals: Dementieva def. Petrova
Semifinals: Jankovic def. Stosur, Dementieva def. Vesnina
The two best women on tour that have yet to win a major will square off in the final that is guarenteed to be exciting. Both have reached a major final and lost, and a Grand Slam crown is long overdue for both. But more for Dementieva. Time for the WTA's resident screacher to lose that "best to never win a major" title.
Finals: Dementieva def. Jankovic