Sunday, 25 May 2014

Roland Garros 2014 - Women's Singles Preview

Play has begun on Day One at Roland Garros for the 2014 French Open, and as Serena Williams begins her title defence, it is time to assess the chances among the women for this year's crown.

The clay courts have brought familiar names to the fore in preliminary tournaments, but it was Maria Teresa Torro Flor who won the Marrakech tournament, her first WTA title and in her first final.

Stuttgart hosted a top class field including six of the worlds top ten, and the 2012 French Open champion dominated.  Maria Sharapova defeated top seed Aga Radwanska in the quarters and Sara Errani in the semis before finally eclipsing another former Roland Garros queen Ana Ivanovic in the final, after dropping the opening set.

Oeiras became the favourite city for Carla Suarez Navarro when she as top seed defeated Sveta Kuznetsova to hold that trophy aloft.  Sveta won the French Open in 2009 and unsurprisingly seems to find another level of form at this time of year.

Madrid was the destination for the next Premier event, and Serena Williams headed another talented field.  She and 2011 Roland Garros winner, and second seed, Li Na, both reached the quarters and appeared set for a finals shoot out.  However, Serena succumbed to a leg injury and withdrew before her match with Petra Kvitova, and Li Na lost to Sharapova.  Maria proceeded to knock over Radwanska (again) and Simona Halep in the final to make it 2 Premier titles in succession and have her odds slashed for Roland Garros.  For her part, Halep impressed in forcing Sharapova to three sets following her wins over Ivanovic and Kvitova.

Then another Premier tournament, this one in Rome, and the time was right for Serena to announce her presence, now recovered from her leg injury.  Typically the announcement came complete with another title, with wins in the semi against Ivanovic and the final over Errani.  Errani, a Roland Garros finalist in 2012, had been inconsistent in 2014, but now was finding some ominous touch, prevailing in matches against Li Na and Jelena Jankovic before succumbing to the Williams power.

So now Paris and the clay court Grand Slam tournament.

Ideally, Maria Sharapova should be drawn in the opposite half to Serena Williams, because without doubt these two, finalists at Roland Garros last year, are the form players leading into the 2014 French Open.  Yes Maria lost to Ana Ivanovic in the third round in Rome but Ana has also been one of the top players of the clay court season so that loss needs to be placed in perspective.

Sadly Serena is drawn to meet Maria in the quarters, and that spells disaster for Maria, given that the last 15 clashes have gone to the American.  I cannot see any other trouble on Serena's side of the draw, with Radwanska the likely semi final opponent.

The fun could come on the other side, with Ana Ivanovic dangerously sitting in the quarter featuring Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova.  I predict Ana will defeat Petra in the fourth round and Simona in the quarters.
The other trouble is facing Li Na, and it comes in the form of Sara Errani.  As much as I would like to see Jelena Jankovic win through, Errani has the form to defeat both her in the fourth round and Li Na in the quarters.

So in short, Serena Williams will defeat Agnieszka Radwanska in one semi while Ana Ivanovic will take out Sara Errani in the other.
Serena will use the final to avenge her loss to Ana at the Australian Open earlier this year.

One thing is for certain - my selections are not :)

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