The Curse Of Winning Roland Garros

Henin. Ivanovic. Kuznetsova. Schiavone. Li.

All these women have won the French open title in the past few years. But all have one thing in common. All have failed to deliver two weeks later in Wimbledon.

Justine Henin

Justine Henin with her biggest weapon.

Henin is known by many for her superb one handed backhand, the variety in her game and the mental toughness which she possesses. She has been ranked number one in the world and has won seven grand slam titles, four of which came from Roland Garros. The only missing grand slam is Wimbledon. She’s come close many times, making the finals in 2001 and 2006. She followed her 2007 Roland Garros win with a surprising semi final loss to Marion Bartoli.

It was this tournament which brought her back from retirement in 2010, hoping she’d follow Roger Federers success at claiming his first French Open title in 2009. However it was the quarter final match against Clijsters which gave her an injury which ended her season.  It would be this injury which would force her to retire again in January 2011.

Ana Ivanovic

Ivanovic celebrates a hard earned victory.

In 2008, the whole tennis world seemed to be glued and obsessed with the Serb sensation Ana Ivanovic. She had everything, the big game, the confidence and the beauty which rivaled Maria Sharapova. Her dreams would come true in 2008 after she defeated Dinara Safina in the final of the French Open which would earn her a first grand slam and the world number one ranking.

But in Wimbledon, the pressure of her new status seemed to show as she struggled to get past her second round match against Natalie Dechy and then lost in the third round against then wildcard Jie Zheng. This loss would be the first of many as Ivanovic continued to lose match after match. Her ball toss was gone and her confidence had evaporated as she fell as low as number 65 in the world. However, the end of the 2010 season seemed to show some hope as she battled back into the worlds top 20.

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Svetlana Kuznetsova wins her second grand slam title in Roland Garros 2009.

In 2009, many eyes were on world number 1 Dinara Safina to win her first grand slam. In the final, it was Dinara who struggled as Kuznetsova sent blow after blow of winners to earn a seocnd grand slam title. In Wimbledon, Kuznetsova faced German up and comer Sabine Lisicki in the thrid round. This would be a bad day for the Russian as she lost her match and left the court in tears.

Francesca Schiavone

Schiavone beats Stosur in the French Open final in 2010.

The veteran stunned many tennis fans world wide as she took a surprising win in the 2010 French Open. However it was two weeks later when the Italian would face a shock. Her first round opponent Vera Dushevina came back from a set down to win in three sets against the French Open champion. Although she failed to deliver in Wimbledon, she delivered in the following grand slams with quarter final performance in the US Open and Australian Open and has made the final of this years Frenchh Open.

Li Na

Li Na during her French Open win against Francesca Schiavone.

Chinese player Li Na has already achieved so much, particularly for her country. She reached the Australian Open final for the first time in her career and was the first Chinese player to do so. Li Na came as a somewhat underrated force in the French Open. But she soon delivered as she battled past the likes of Kvitova, Azarenka and Sharapova for a place in the finals. She faced the defending champion Francesca Schiavone which she would win in straight sets, making her the first female Asian player to win a Grand Slam.

Two weeks later in the current Wimbledon championships, Li Na came in as one of the favourites to win the title. However many underestimated the ability of the German wildcard Sabine Lisicki. Coming back from injury, Lisicki was thrilled to be playing again in the tournament which she reached the quarter finals two years ago. The first set went to Li Na and Lisicki took the second. The final set would then become nail biting as Lisicki kept pulling huge serves and Li Na was beggining to feel the pressure. In the end, Lisicki would pull off a surprising win against the Chinese, breaking over a billion hearts in the process.

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Wimbledon 2011: Women’s Draw

The women’s field welcomes the return of the Williams sisters. But it also has the absence of Kim Clijsters. Since the absence of the sisters, many new players have stepped up to the challenge such as french open winner Li Na, Wimbledon semi finalist Petra Kvitova, number 2 seed Vera Zvonereva and former winner Maria Sharapova.

But will the sisters be able to live up to their previous form? Can Zvonereva and Kvitova successfully defend their outstanding results last year? Can Li Na make another final? And can Sharapova finally win another major since her injury?

Quarter 1: The Number One Seed

Wozniacki is still on the search for her first grand slam. She faces a possible third round match up against the Australian Jarmila Gajdosova who may give her problems. Also rising German player Julia Goerges awaits her in the fourth round. Things get more interesting the bottom section of this draw with Sharapova as a likely contender against Wozniacki. Before she reaches the quarters, Sharapova will have to face Sam Stosur in the fourth round, which really could go either way. However Sharapova is the favoured player on the grass.

Quarter Final: Wozniacki Vs Sharapova

I’ll be really unimpressed if Wozniacki doesn’t reach this far. Harsh words, but none of her competitors really has the grand slam experience she has. Sharapova, like any day, will rely on the winners to defeat the world number one.

Semifinalist: Sharapova

Quarter 2: The New Champion and The Defending Champion

Li Na comes into this grand slam after winning the french. The Chinese player has enjoyed great performances in this years grand slams. Her second round match up is likely to be a huge challenge with Sabine Lisicki who recently won the AEGON classic and is also a former wimbledon quarter finalist. I really can see this match going the distance just like Lisicki’s match against Zvonereva in the french. Ivanovic also is in this section of the draw with a first round match up against Melanie Oudin. With her disappointing performances at this year’s majors, it’s hard to see her going far in the tournament. Another major name is the defending champion Serena Williams. Her first round sees her facing Aravane Rezai who has faced a decline from her success last year. Marion Bartoli also lies in Serena’s section for a fourth round match up. Bartoli has a big win in Eastbourne this week, but will have difficulties with Serena Williams as her opponent.

Quarter Final: Li Na Vs Serena

It’s hard to predict this quarter as it’s filled with many variables. This quarter could end up as the surprise. But Li Na and Serena seem the most likely. Nerves shouldn’t be a problem for Li but Serena will be questionable. Her performance in the 2007 Australian Open after returning from injury stunned everyone. I’m favouring Li but I could be wrong.

Semifinalist: Li Na

Quarter 3: The Open Quarter

In my opinion, this will be the quarter to watch as it’s filled with tough competitors. Francesca Schiavone begins her first round against Jelena Dokic which could be an interesting match up. Dokic has reached the final at ‘s-Hertogenbosch while Schiavone lost in the first round last year after her success at Roland Garros. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is also a huge threat to whoever wins this match. Petkovic is also in this and in my opinion will go far into this tournament. In the bottom half we have Victoria Azarenka who’ll face an in form Daniela Hantuchova in the third round. Other names which are found in this section include Nadia Petrova, 2010 quarter finalist Kaia Kanepi and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Quarter Final: Petkovic Vs Hantuchova

I swear i’ll laugh if I get this one right as this one is so unpredictable. It’ll be the third consecutive grand slam quarter final for Petkovic while it will be the first in a while for Daniela Hantuchova. Hantuchova has confidence from her win against Venus and shows that she’s moved on from her problems with her mentality. However, I see Petkovic breaking through in this match with a dance into the semis.

Semifinalist: Petkovic

Quarter 4: Venus Williams And The Women Defending A Lot Of Points

Believe it or not, but this quarter contains three of last year’s semi finalist (Petra Kvitova, Vera Zvonereva and Tsvetana Pironkova). Kvitova’s nerves will be put to the test as she now defends her success last year. Her biggest competition is Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round who has struggled with the grass courts in the past. In the other section contains the dreaded Venus Williams. No one wants to verse her so early in the tournament, especially in Wimbledon. Jankovic is unfortunately the victim of the draw as they clash in the third round. Zvonereva then awaits the winner in the fourth round. The Russian is also defending her run to the final last year but comes in with a win over Serena Williams in Eastbourne. This is another section of the draw to watch and it will be interesting who progresses in the end.

Quarter Final: Kvitova Vs Zvonereva (or Venus Williams)

Despite Venus being a five time champion, I reckon Zvonereva is in the better form and has improved in the past year.

Semifinalist: Zvonereva

Semi finals:

Sharapova Vs Li Na

Possible repeat of the french open semi final. Sharapova will be competing in a surface she’s more comfortable in and hopefully in less windy conditions. Both women can potentially win this match but surprisingly I predict a Sharapova win.

Finalist: Sharapova

Petkovic Vs Zvonereva

Quite a surprising semi final, but Zvonereva has the edge over the Petkorazzi.

Finalist: Zvonereva

Final:

Sharapova Vs Zvonereva

An all Russian final is what I predict. Both will be filled with nerves so there could be a painful amount of errors. Zvonereva is having a great season and has improved so much, but the grand slam experience and the hard hitting from Sharapova will win her the title.

Winner: Sharapova

Although this is my prediction, i’m not 100% confident with it. The Williams sisters will likely smash the competition. Also the women’s field is always filled with surprises.

 

A Look At The First Week Of Roland Garros 2011

There’s nothing more exciting than the first week of a grand slam. For me, this is mainly due to the busy schedule and the amount of matches that are available during the day. The first week of this year French open has been entertaining and yet surprising. The bets placed on players have now been questioned, particularly in the women’s draw. We’ve seen the top two seeds and last year’s runner up in the women’s field defeated. We’ve also seen the king of clay Rafael Nadal struggle to win his matches. The second week will be the business part of the tournament and it will sort out the champions from the tennis players. Before that happens, let’s look back at the memorable moments of the first week.

In the women’s draw, there have been some stunning upsets and some new stars born. I would like to go back to the very first match between Razzano and Gajdosova. This was a very sentimental match as both women have lost their husbands in the past few weeks. Jarmila Gajdosova divorced her husband weeks before the tournament and Virginie Razzano sadly lost her husband to a brain tumor. It’s unfortunate that these two had to meet each other in the first round but I would like to congratulate both women, particularly Razzano on coming back after losing so much.

Virginie Razzano bravely returns after the death of her husband.

Another memorable moment was the match between Lisicki and Zvonareva. Lisicki, a former Wimbledon quarter finalist, is returning from injury and a slump in her ranking and has given the world number three a run for her money. In this match, Lisicki has impressed and shown the potential of what she can bring to the game. It was a close and it was a long match. In the end Vera clinched the match after coming back match point at 5-2 down in the third set. A devastated Lisicki had to be taken off the court on a stretcher due to injury. I hope in the future that Lisicki can get fitter so she can really perform to her ability.

Zvonereva defeats a devastated Lisicki.

We’ve also seen a number of upsets in the women’s draw. Sharapova and Zvonareva were lucky to find themselves coming back to win their tough second round matches. However, Clijsters, Stosur and Wozniacki weren’t so lucky. Clijsters had a convincing lead in her match against Arantxa Rus, but she failed to maintain the lead and ended up losing the match. Meanwhile, the 2010 runner up Sammantha Stosur started off on a bad note by losing the first set. She looked like she was coming back after a quick second set win and an early break in the third set. Dulko continued to play consistently as Stosur began to play numerous unforced errors which in the end cost her the match and possibly, her place in the top 10.

Clijsters digs deep but loses her second round match.

Finally, we’ve seen the world number one Caroline Wozniacki demolished by Daniela Hantuchova. This is an upset that many didn’t see coming. Hantuchova in the past has a history of blowing big leads, but today she kept her level and kept her calm when it really mattered to achieve her equal best place in the tournament. All these upsets have caused the draw to be more open than it was before. This year we could see someone unexpected to win the whole thing, just like Schiavone last year. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the womens field in the next week.

Hantuchova celebrate victory.

We now move to the men’s draw where it’s been more consistent with the top players. We’ve still seen upsets from Berdych, Melzer and Tsonga in the early rounds, but the main competition and threats still remain in play.

Federer has been an underrated pick to win this year. With the focus now on Rafa and Novak, we now see Roger playing under the radar for once. Roger is now into the fourth round without dropping a single set. Nadal on the other hand had an unfortunate first round match up with John Isner. The match required him to fight hard as he faced defeat two sets to one down. In the end, he was able to claim victory over marathon man and big server John Isner. The second round match up was against compatriot Pablo Andujar who has taken fans by surprise by challenging Nadal on his dominant surface. He had great energy and self belief and has now made my list of favourite tennis players. Nadal has progressed now to the third round where he will meet Croatian Antonio Veic who knocked out Nickolay Davydenko in five sets. With the tough competition ahead in his draw, Nadal has to recover his form quickly to what we all expect from him for him to win the tournament.

Nadal celebrates a hard earned win.

Andy Murray has also been an underrated force in this tournament. Despite not being as strong on clay as his other three competitors, his draw has completely opened up with the defeat of number eight seed Jurgen Melzer. Murray will surely make the semis unless he plays terribly. He may not win the championship but he’ll be progressing far into the second week.

Finally, the red hot favourite player of the season and the big favourite to win is Novak Djokovic. Novak is coming in with a huge streak (not sure the exact number as every source tells something different). He’s coming in with a victory against Nadal on clay, which is reasonable for him to be picked as the favourite. But today, Djokovic now faces his biggest challenge in his third match encounter. Argentinean player Juan Martin Del Potro is his biggest threat to making the finals and ending his streak. The match currently stands at 6-3 3-6 and will continue later today. Whoever wins in my opinion will be in the final and likely to win the whole thing as well. For now, the epic battle will continue on court Suzanne Lenglen today.

Thumbs up from Djokovic.

The man who may end it all.

This concludes my look at the first week of Roland Garros. It’s been a really entertaining week and definitely worthwhile for me staying up in the cold to watch the matches. Tomorrow I will make a new analysis with some revised predictions on who will be the winners of the 2011 French open so be sure to follow my twitter account and subscribe to my blog. For now, enjoy the tennis and good luck to the players.

French Open Womens Draw Analysis

Unlike the mens draw, the womens seem more unpredictable. There always seems to be a surprise in each grand slam.

Stosur and Schiavone return one year later after their grand slam breakthroughs, can they match the result they achieved last year? Wozniacki comes in as number one but still without a grand slam. Sharapova comes back with a win in Rome, can she bring home her first grand slam since her injury. Clijsters returns to Roland Garros since 2006 but this time with an injury. There’s many stories to be told in the womens draw so lets predict who will win this years french open.

Quarter 1: Wozniacki

Wozniacki faces a possibly difficult opener against Kimiko Date Krumm. Her biggest threats to the quarter final are Daniela Hantuchova, Aravane Rezai and 2009 french open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. Wozniacki Vs Kuznetsova can go either way, but really depends on how Kuznetsova is on the day. Samantha Stosur is on the other half of the quarters with some great players in her section. However none of them seem to be good enough to challenge Sam to the quarters.

Prediction: Kuznetsova Vs Stosur

Quarter 2: Zvonareva

Zvonareva has been a surprise package in the past year reaching great results in the last three grand slams. She faces a tough match against Sabine Lisicki in the second round and Nadia Petrova in the third. Despite this, Zvonareva seems to be a shoe in for the quarters, provided she plays well. The bottom section contains last years champion Francesca Schiavone. There doesn’t seem to be much players that will be able to challenge her until the fourth round when she could either meet Flavia Pennetta or Jelena Jankovic. This could go either way but I still believe Schiavones fight will bring her through.

Prediction: Zvonareva Vs Schiavone

Quarter 3: Azarenka

Azarenka comes into this tournament in great form and with her highest ranking. Her challenge will come in the fourth round where she could possibly be matched up against 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic seems to be getting her game back in the past year and even though she faces Makarova (who knocked her out of Australian Open) in the second round, i’m sure she’ll do well in Roland Garros. The top section features Chinas best hope Li Na. The draw wasn’t friendly to her this tournament as she faces Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round. Also Patty Schnyder, Dominika Cibulkova and Petra Kvitova are all in her section of the draw which is unfortunate. Li Na has a mountain to climb on her way to the quarters.

Prediction: Azarenka Vs Li Na

Quarter 4: Clijsters

Clijsters comes in this years tournament returning from injury and it could hold her back in this years tournament. Her section contains players such as Andrea Petkovic, Jarmila Gajdosova, Virginie Razzano and Maria Kirilenko. If Clijsters plays well, she will surely go through the quarters. In the other half contains Maria Sharapova. Sharapova comes into this years french open in the best form since her return from injury. Her toughest competition on the way to the quarters are Yanina Wickmayer and Agnieszka Radwanska. If Sharapova continues her dominant and aggressive style, she’ll be unstoppable.

Prediction: Clijsters Vs Sharapova

Quarter Finals:

(Winner in bold)

Kuznetsova Vs Stosur

Zvonareva Vs Schiavone

Azarenka Vs Li Na

Clijsters Vs Sharapova

Semi Finals:

Stosur Vs Schiavone

Azarenka Vs Sharapova

Final:

Schiavone Vs Azarenka