Saturday, 31 May 2014

Sharapova Emerging from the Carnage

As we near the end of the third round in the men's and women's singles at Roland Garros 2014, already the women's draw has been rattled by a constant series of upsets that at the same time has brought to the fore some relatively new faces in the game.

Whilst it is devastating to her legion of fans, and not in her own original plans, the second round exit of Serena Williams probably only delays ultimate major success for the world number one in 2014.  Just two years ago, Serena lost in Melbourne in the fourth round and Roland Garros in the first round, only to dominate the second half of the year including winning the final two majors.

However now is not about her, but about the 20 year old Spanish girl who took Australians on a thrilling ride earlier this year by firstly winning the WTA event in Hobart (her first tournament win) as a qualifier, then a week later making it through to the final 16 at the Australian Open in Melbourne.  Garbine Muguruza is now in Paris and proving that she has the potential to become a top ten player and soon.  Defeating Serena Williams, and with a 6-2 6-2 scoreline, is a pretty useful entry in ones developing CV.

Muguruza most recently backed up her huge result with another straight sets win and will start favourite in the fourth round against a fellow unseeded opponent, maybe Germany's Mona Barthel.  All of the seeds in this section of the draw - the Williams sisters, Roberta Vinci and Sabine Lisicki - were sent packing by the end of the second round.

The quarter final opponent for Garbine, should she be successful next match, will be the winner of the Sharapova/Stosur contest, and despite the welcome turn around in Samantha's form, no one is game to bet against Maria, who not long ago destroyed Paula Ormaechea 6-0 6-0 in the third round.

Before reassessing my predictions for the women's singles, let's take stock of the top seeds to have fallen so far.

1 - Serena Willams - 2nd Round
2 - Li Na - 1st Round
3 - Agnieszka Radwanska - 3rd Round
9 - Dominika Cibulkova - 3rd Round
12 - Flavia Pennetta - 2nd Round
13 - Caroline Wozniacki - 1st Round
16 - Sabine Lisicki - 2nd Round

All that carnage has been of most assistance to Sharapova who, with no barrier of Serena, is a raging favourite to repeat 2012.  She historically has a huge edge over Stosur so should reach the quarters, defeat whichever unseeded opponent she meets there, and then I'm not altogether sure who her semi final victim will be.  I'm leaning toward Carla Suarez Navarro, but would not be surprised if Eugenie Bouchard slipped through. But really no one presents a major threat to Sharapova's third consecutive final appearance at Roland Garros.

I maintain my belief that the other semi final will feature Sara Errani and Ana Ivanovic - both have carried their fine form into the early rounds here and with no Li Na with which to contend, the path is certainly less treacherous.

Revised prediction: Sharapova to defeat Ivanovic in the final.  The two met once before in a Grand Slam tournament final - 2008 Aus Open, the same year Ana won the French Open.

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