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Tenaciously Tennis


Serena Williams: After Three Set Battle, a Champion Sheds Tears at Wimbledon

After a yearlong injury layoff, Serena Williams is finally back and feeling thankful for every minute she gets on court. Having played at Eastbourne last week, during which she beat last year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova before falling to runner-up Vera Zvonareva, the 2010 Wimbledon champion looked shaky upon return. Shaky, but determined.

Seeded 7th at Wimbledon given her grass court success at the All England Club last year, the four-time champion shed tears of joy after serving an ace to take the match against France’s Aravane Rezai 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Of the tears and her win, Serena said, “I usually don’t cry… but it’s just been so hard. I never dreamt I would be here right now. And then to win. I just wanted to win at least one match here.”

She continued, “It’s been a disaster year, but I’ve been praying. To be able to come back at Wimbledon is pretty awesome. I didn’t expect to play. And I didn’t expect to even do anything. So I’m just excited. I’ve never cried with joy for anything.”

While she’s simply amazed to be into the second round, opponents beware: this is an especially determined Serena who isn’t taking her time on tour for granted at all. Maybe she never has in the past, but going forward she certainly never will.

It’s great to see a 13-time Grand Slam winner given a second chance to succeed doing what she loves most after such life-threatening events, and it’s beautiful to appreciate the tears of a champion in just the first round.

For a video of Serena’s win and post-match reaction, see below.

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2011 French Open Predictions: WTA Tour

With the first matches of the 2011 French Open underway, here are some last minute predictions on who will hoist the title with a number of key players, including Serena and Venus Williams, out with injury. Maria Sharapova looks confident as ever, breaking back into the top ten. Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki’s consistency might just prove enough to win her a title in the weakened field. Last year’s winner Francesca Schiavone also has a chance, although she faces a tough first round against the American sweetheart, Melanie Oudin.

Caroline Wozniacki’s Section: This tough first section features a lot of talented players, many of whom have seen a recent drop in the rankings. As typical of her game, Wozniacki has proven tremendously solid in her last few clay tournaments, winning in Brussels and Charleston. She’ll take that same consistency to Roland Garros, and hopefully make that next leap by getting to her second Grand Slam final. At least, it seems highly likely that she can break past last year’s finalist Sam Stosur this year, for a spot beyond the quarters. Quite notably, Stosur had a strong clay season, making it to the finals against Sharapova in Rome before falling to the Russian in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

Ones to Watch: Again, this top section is laden with a multitude of talent, including Daniela Hantuchova, Shahar Peer, Aravane Rezai, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Julia Goerges, Tsvetana Pironkova, and Marion Bartoli. I’ll go with Kuznetsova to make a strong showing from these players.

Bottom Line: This is Wozniacki’s tournament to win on the women’s side. She’s proven she has the capability, it’s just a matter of translation to the Grand Slams at this point, especially when the field is relatively wide open. The bottom section of the draw, however, is very heavy, trying to prevent her from hoisting that maiden title.

Vera Zvonareva’s Section: Here’s another heavy section of the draw, featuring last year’s surprise champion, Schiavone. After a strong stretch on clay, however, the no. 3 seed Zvonareva hasn’t been looking as sharp on the clay court circuit thus far. It looks like Schiavone might have the chance to put together some of last year’s confidence to produce the magical, fairytale story that won her a first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. In the end, however, I’m going against her from winning again.

Ones to Watch: Another heavy part of the draw, this section holds players, including Sabine Lisicki, Nadia Petrova, Alize Cornet, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Jelena Jankovic, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Flavia Pennetta, Peng Shuai, and Melanie Oudin (who gets Schiavone first). Of these names, Jankovic, who made the semifinals last year before falling to Stosur 6-1, 6-2, stands out most. Look for her to make the upset against Schiavone in the fourth round.

Bottom Line: Zvonareva battles through her section and the tough Pavlyuchenkova. There she’ll meet Jankovic in the quarterfinals (the winner over 2010 champion Schiavone).

Victoria Azarenka’s Section: The number four player in the world looks poised to go deep at this year’s French Open, having dropped her first round match against Gisela Dulko last year. Her biggest competition comes with Australian Open finalist Na Li and Serbia’s resurgent Ana Ivanovic.

Ones to Watch: Ivanovic, the champion in 2008, obviously has the talent to win on the biggest courts. As of late, however, she seems to have returned to a slump in play, falling early in Rome and Madrid. As the no. 20 seed, however, look for her to find some of her form to get a match against Azarenka in the fourth round. Petra Kvitova, the no. 9 seed, also looks ready to roll in this section, potentially defeating Li to do much better than last year’s disappointing first round loss. Additionally, Kvitova’s fresh off a win in Madrid against Azarenka, beating the Belarussian, 7-6(3), 6-4 and also making the final in Prague more recently. Also, props to American Sloane Stephens for battling her way through to the qualifying. A personal favorite, she meets up with Elena Baltacha first.

Bottom Line: Azarenka advances to the quarterfinals over Ivanovic, meeting Kvitova (the winner over Li).

Kim Clijsters’ Section: Since winning the Australian Open, Clijsters hasn’t played much tennis. Meanwhile, Sharapova has just the opposite experience, claiming her biggest career title since succumbing to a shoulder injury in 2008 with a title in Rome over Stosur. Look for Sharapova to defeat Clijsters, who may lose earlier due to her ankle injury, in the quarterfinals.

Ones to Watch: But before we go claiming a Sharapova victory, it’s important to note the wide range in talent that appears in this section of the draw. Players of particular note include: Yanina Wickmayer, Sania Mirza, Agnieszka Radwanska, Andrea Petkovic, Jarmila Gajdosova, Bojana Jovanovski, and Maria Kirilenko. Look for Wickmayer to give Sharapova trouble, while Petkovic has the potential to defeat the injured Clijsters.

Bottom Line: Sharapova keeps stringing the wins together on clay to defeat Clijsters in the quarterfinals.

In the Quarterfinals: Given the above predictions, we’ll see Wozniacki take on Stosur; Zvonareva against Jankovic; Kvitova versus Azarenka; and Sharapova versus Clijsters.

In the Semifinals: Look for Wozniacki to defeat Stosur; Jankovic to beat Zvonareva; Azarenka to win against Kvitova; and Sharapova to defeat Clijsters.

Despite Loss, Jovanovski Poised for Future Success

Bojana Jovanovski has proven that she’s one to watch in the coming months.  Ranked 58th, she recently gave world number two Vera Zvonareva a fight in the Australian Open’s second round. With powerful strokes on both sides and a strong fighting spirit, Jovanovski handled herself like a future top ten player. She lost to the Wimbledon and US Open finalist in three sets, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

As the youngest player in the top 100 at age 19, Jovanovski came into the Aussie Open with some solid wins  to begin 2011. She advanced to the semifinals at Sydney, beating Kaia Kanepi, Aravane Rezai, and Flavia Pennetta (all ranked inside the top 30) in straight sets. Jovanovski lost to the eventual champion Na Li of China.

If she can improve her fitness and get more experience as the season progress, the third-ranked Serb — after Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic — will be an even greater threat.

Watch below for a fun interview of Jovanovski from Brisbane earlier this year.

Australian Open 2011 Predictions: WTA Tour

Note: Please see my most recent predictions for the WTA tour’s 2011 Australian Open here.

Serena Williams is out of her second consecutive major, and that means only one thing: the draw opens up substantially. Who can rise to the occasion with the favorite out of the mix? Will it be Kim Clijsters, who comes fresh off wins at the US Open and the year-ending championships, and has done well so far in 2011? There’s also Caroline Wozniaki trying to prove her number one ranking by her maiden Grand Slam title. Last year’s finalist Justine Henin must be mentioned, while Venus Williams plays after a knee injury kept her off tour. The Australian Open this year is bound for some surprises. Here’s a breakdown of the brackets.

Caroline Wozniacki’s Section:

The top seed should make it to the fourth round with Wozniacki’s toughest competition being Dominika Cibulkova. The 29th-seed recently scored a straight sets win over the Dane in Sydney. In the bottom of that portion of the draw, Yanina Wickmayer could very well defeat Marion Bartoli with confidence inspired by her finals showing in Auckland. Bartoli, however, does enjoy a 2-0 head-to-head record over Wickmayer.

In the bottom half, last year’s finalist Henin looms as the 15th-seed with Svetlana Kuznetsova as a potential third round match. The reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone also looks promising to advance. Henin, however, has won seven of eight matches against the Italian.

Ones-to-Watch: Australian Jarmila Groth recently won the Hobart tournament and may pose trouble for Wickmayer in the first round. The two met only once in 2009 with Wickmayer pulling through in three sets. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Wimbledon semifinalist, who has been struggling since the result, also appear in Wozniacki’s bracket.

Bottom Line: Wozniacki has some tough tests, but I believe she’ll advance to the quarterfinals over Wickmayer. Henin shouldn’t have a problem against Schiavone.

Venus Williams’ Section:

Here’s home to the fourth-seed, Venus, who faces a couple tests before the fourth round. In the third round, Andrea Petkovic could push her. The two have never met, and Petkovic looks confident with a recent string of wins in Brisbane. In the fourth round, however, Venus potentially meets Maria Sharapova. The head-to-head makes the Russian’s  possible success slim as Venus leads 5-3 in their head-to-head. She’s also won the last three matches in straight sets.

It’ll be a toss-up between 2010 semifinalist Na Li and the ever spirited Victoria Azarenka in their probable fourth round match.

Ones-to-Watch: The other seeded players, Kaia Kanepi (no. 20), Aravane Rezai (no. 17) and Daniela Hantuchova (no. 28) also appear here.

Bottom Line: Venus will likely defeat Sharapova, while Li can take out Azarenka in a battle.

Kim Clijsters’ Section:

Possibly the most open part of the draw belongs to Clijsters, where she’ll no doubt benefit. Competition comes in the form of Nadia Petrova and Ana Ivanovic. Clijsters, however, should get through to the quarterfinals unless Ivanovic can out-perform her in the fourth round. It’ll be an interesting match between Clijsters and Dinara Safina in the first round.

With a struggling Jelena Jankovic as the seventh-seed (she’s lost eight of her last matches, including six straight) at the top, the section looks perfect for an up-and-comer to make a move. Agnieszka Radwanska (no. 12), although she’s battling some injury, might do well. Jankovic can also squeak through the bracket as she has before. One never knows with the former world number one.

Ones-to-Watch: Personal favorite Patty Schnyder could meet Ivanovic in the second round. Greta Arn, the surprise winner of Auckland, also appears in this section, facing the 26th-seed, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, in the first round.

Bottom Line: Jankovic looks like a big question mark, while Clijsters should sail through to the second week.

Vera Zvonareva’s Section:

One of the strongest sections of the 2011 Australian Open on the WTA tour, this bracket is home to the second-seeded Zvonareva and home-favorite Sam Stosur (no. 5). These two names stand above the rest, although there are some, such as Petra Kvitova (no. 25), Shahar Peer (no. 10), and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (no. 16), who serve as fierce competition.

In a potential fourth round match, Kvitova, who won Brisbane — but lost in a walkover at Sydney — would face Stosur. The Australian hasn’t been quite up to form as she lost to Kuznetsova in Sydney’s second round.  Israel’s Peer would probably face the victor. Zvonareva lost to Flavia Pennetta — also of this bracket — early in Sydney. Zvonareva should, however, shake off the loss to make a run to the quarterfinals.

Ones-to-Watch: American Melanie Oudin might make a move in her section of the draw, where she’d face Zvonareva in a potential third round match. There’s also Maria Kirilenko (no. 22) and Anna Chakvetadze.

Bottom Line: It looks like Zvonareva and Stosur get through to the quarterfinals, but not without some strong tests from a number of good competition.

In the Quarterfinals: With the above predictions, the quarterfinals will showcase Wozniacki against Henin; Venus against Li; (potentially) Jankovic against Clijsters; and Stosur versus Zvonareva.

In the Semifinals: Watch for Henin to face Venus and Clijsters against Zvonareva in the final four.

Unseeded Kvitova Secures Big Win Over Azarenka

The twenty year old Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic has advanced over the Belarussian Victoria Azarenka in compelling fashion, winning 7-5, 6-0. Her year, which has been otherwise unspectacular, has taken a huge turn with the win. Kvitova is now in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the third time in her career. Her other best Grand Slam results include the fourth round at the French Open in 2008 and at the US Open in 2009.

With one career title to her name already, and these compelling results at the majors, I see Kvitova making a big run in the near future. She’s already taken out Jie Zheng of China, a player seeded 23rd and well known for the fantastic run to the Australian Open semifinals this year. Up next, she plays Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 7-5, 6-4, another up and coming young star.

In the fourth round match, I think Wozniacki’s defensive game and experience will prove a little too much for Kvitova. I see the number three seed edging out Kvitova in a tight third set.

As for Azarenka’s loss, it was a good effort as she’s been having a difficult year with injuries. Her play is improving, which is a great sign. I think she’ll be completley back in action for the US Open; don’t expect a loss before the second week.

Also posting wins include Serena Williams over Dominika Cibulkova, Agnieszka Radwanska over Sara Errani, and Na Li over Anastasia Rodionova.

In doubles, the third-seeded team of Nadia Petrova and Sam Stosur beat Svetlana Kuznetsova and Aravane Rezai. Vania King of the US and Yaroslava Shvedova defeated the 14th seed of Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer to make it to the sweet 16.

Wimbledon Predictions – The WTA Tour

Should I even be looking at anyone besides the Williams sisters given their track record at Wimbledon? Probably not. But, then again, anything can happen, and it’s always fun tracking the draws of a Grand Slam. There’s a strong showing this year with the Belgians back, others making big moves, a certain Russian looking good, and a slew of other players vying for the breakthrough feeling Francesca Schiavone captured at the French Open. So, without further ado, here are my predictions.

The First Quarter:

Notables – Serena Williams (1), Dominika Cibulkova, Lucie Safarova (25), Daniela Hantuchova (24), Maria Sharapova (16), Na Li (9), Anne Keothavong, Svetlana Kuznetsova (19), Sara Errani (32), Agnieszka Radwanska (7)

This section of the draw belongs to the younger Williams sister and Sharapova. With Michelle Larcher de Brito along the way, Serena faces a loud opponent, but should dismantle her easily. In the fourth round, the decibels will drop, but the competition will get much fiercer with Sharapova in her future. I see that match being an excellent display of tennis. It’s too bad it’ll need to come so soon. Of the two, I’m going with Serena to win in three sets. Sharapova brings the intensity and the grass court experience from the pre-Wimbledon warm-up, but Serena’s healthier, and she has the career edge with a 5-2 record against the Russian. In fact, the only times Sharapova prevailed over Serena was during her momentous 2004 Wimbledon final win and in the tour championships later that year. Fast forward a few years, and it’s a completely different setting. On the bottom half, I see Radwanska making it to the fourth round, where she’s likely to face Na Li of China. There, Li’s recent win over Sharapova will show itself, and she’ll make it to the quarterfinals to face Serena.

The Final Four: Serena plays and beats Sharapova, while Radwanska loses to Li in two lopsided sets.

The Second Quarter:

Notables – Caroline Wozniacki (3), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (29), Jie Zheng (23), Sorana Cirstea, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka (14), Flavia Pennetta (10), Aravane Rezai (18), Alexandra Dulgheru (31), Kimiko Date Krumm, Sam Stosur (6)

This is a difficult part of the draw. So many strong players appeal to the avid tennis fan that I can hardly make a decision. Going based on the seeding might not work. Therefore, I’m going to go with my gut. Wozniacki should make it to the third round, where I suspect she’ll meet Pavlyuchenkova. I think the Russian will put up a stronger fight than in the past, despite her poor record against Wozniacki. She’s lost each of their three meetings. Regardless, I see the Dane advancing. In the fourth round an even tougher test awaits her with the feisty Azarenka back on track. Although she lost to Makarova last week, I don’t see her being stopped by Wozniacki. She’ll win in three sets to make it to the quarterfinals, proving she belongs back in the top ten. I’m also seeing something interesting happening with Cirstea and Kvitova, whichever one passes their first round battle. In the bottom half, I like Rezai and Sam Stosur to advance to the fourth round. Sam’s experience should pay off, although her loss at the French might still be effecting her. I put Rezai as wanting it a little more than Stosur.

The Final Four: Azarenka surprises Wozniacki, and Rezai tops Stosur in three sets (although that’s a serious question mark).

The Third Quarter:

Notables – Kim Clijsters (8), Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Maria Kirlenko (27), Justine Henin (17), Patty Schnyder, Nadia Petrova (12), Yanina Wickmayer (15), Vera Zvonareva (21), Alyona Bondarenko (28), Jelena Jankovic (4)

The battle of the Belgians is bound to take place in the fourth round. There, I put Henin a notch above Clijsters, who was out of the French Open with injury. Henin wants it more — this is the reason she’s back, and she will go down fighting her hardest. Along the way, she needs to watch out for Petrova (unless Schnyder takes her out first, which I really hope will happen!). In the bottom section, I’m betting that Alison Riske of the United States continues her exceptional streak at Wimbledon. If she can take out Wickmayer in the first round, I see her fighting her way in a string of three set wins to the fourth round, where’ll probably meet up with Jankovic. At that point, she’s likely to be too tired out and mentally fatigued for the experienced Serb, who by the way won’t have problem making it there with a pretty open draw as it stands.

The Final Four: Henin dismisses her compatriot Clijsters in three sets. In the bottom half, Riske (who I hope can take out Wickmayer) reaches the fourth round before falling to Jankovic in another serious showdown that goes the length.

The Fourth Quarter:

Notables – Francesca Schiavone (5), Yaroslava Schvedova (30), Kateryna Bondarenko (34), Marion Bartoli (11), Shahar Peer (13), Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, Melanie Oudin (33), Alisa Kleybanova (26), Ekaterina Makarova, Venus Williams (2).

I like this section a lot. There’s a lot of potential for a strong showing by a few surprises, although ultimately there’s no picking against Venus to make the quarterfinals. The top section is a much easier pick. I don’t see Schiavone channeling the champion spirit that won her a Grand Slam. I do see her making the fourth round, where she’ll face Bartoli. Remember her? She made it to the Wimbledon final a few years ago (although it really feels like decades. I have a feeling we’ll see a quarterfinal rematch with Bartoli losing to Venus eventually. In the bottom section, Ivanovic is likely to fall to the Israeli peer in the first round. Another disappointment for the former world number one. Hopefully, Oudin gets her game back to take out Peer in the third round. If so, she’ll no doubt meet Venus. However, the older Williams sister will face a tough challenge in Makarova, the winner over Azarenka a few days ago.

The Final Four: Schiavone falls to Bartoli in two sets, while Venus ousts Oudin.

Second Week Predictions:

  • Sharapova screeches to a halt against Serena in three. Serena sends off Li in two sets.
  • Azarenka raises her game to defeat Rezai in two sets.
  • Henin handles Jankovic easily in the hopes of finally realizing her dream to hold the Wimbledon trophy up high.
  • Venus comes away with another win against Bartoli.

In the semifinals, Serena beats Azarenka in a repeat of the Australian open semifinal, although much quicker this time. In the bottom half, I’m having difficulty deciding between Venus and Henin. Both want to make it so badly. I think Venus’ experience will pay off, and she’ll stop Henin in three close sets to prevent deja vu of this year’s Australian Open final.

As for the men, I’m waiting on predicting the champion of the event until I feel strongly one way or the other.

Click here to look at the complete women’s draw.

Two of the Last Men Standing – An Unlikely Pair

With the final sixteen decided, only one man is left for both the United States and France. While unseeded Robby Ginepri now represents the US, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stands for his country. Tsonga’s latest win also means he’s the last Frenchman standing, period. The US is fairing slightly better, however, with Serena and Venus Williams joining Ginepri in the fourth round.

The latest casualties for the US include some of the biggest names: Andy Roddick and Mike and Bob Bryan. Roddick, according to an Associated Press article, “lost to Russian qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Roddick threw rackets and argued with the umpire, but the fits of temper failed to produce a turnaround against an opponent ranked 114th.” To be honest, this poor showing on the clay was to be expected. Roddick did not play before coming to Paris, and it is not surprising in the least that he’d fall so soon.

On Tsonga’s side, losses by Marion Bartoli and Aravane Rezai have left him alone. With Gael Monfils exiting the day before, he has the weight of his country to deal with in the coming rounds.

Predictions: I see Ginepri falling in three sets to Novak Djokovic in the next round. Ginepri has done well to make it this far, but his play during the two sets he lost against Juan Carlos Ferrero was unsettling. After playing exceptionally for the first half of the match, the American looked unstoppable. However, he quickly lost his accuracy, and it went to a fifth. He won’t have that sort of mental lapse of luxury against the world’s number three, who is a good clay court player in his own right.

As for Tsonga, I call him getting past Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in four and finding a tough match against Andy Murray later on.

Bartoli and Tsonga Succeed in Separate Ways; Rezai Anxiously Rests

There’s a lot going on for the French players at Roland Garros this year: epic matches, angry words, problems with officials. A lot of this conflict, however, is being resolved.

Marion Bartoli in her own form of conflict resolution took the higher road in her recent media debate with compatrio Aravane Rezai with the following statements:

“I think it’s really important to stay with what I said. I said it’s obvious Rezai had some really great results in the past few weeks,” said Bartoli. “I think there is nothing negative that I said about her or game or whatever.

“I have no animosity against Aravane. It’s good we have as many French players. If others, Alize, could come back, that would be a driving factor for me. I take it as a motivating factor. It helps me focus, practice, and try and improve every day. I think that’s the most important.

“I have absolutely no animosity whatsoever against Aravane, and I’m delighted she won Madrid. The further she goes, the happier I am.”

These statements are heroic. They present a mature tennis player, who wants nothing more than her compatriot to succeed. This in many ways sheds a new light on the often misunderstood Bartoli and should endear her to more fans in the future. I know it worked for me.

Tsonga, too, has succeeded in his own way. His: being the last Frenchman standing on the ATP tour with his recent win over Thiemo De Bakker 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4. Yet again, Tsonga has played a difficult match. But for him to keep continuing to win is to be applauded. We’ll see how far he can go with the weight of France on his shoulders.

Rezai, too, has her own battle to fight. This time being tied at 7-all in the third set of her match against Russia’s Nadia Petrova before play was stopped. It’s a difficult place to stop, no doubt. Maybe she can take a few pointers from Gael Monfils, who was in the same situation just days ago. However, Rezai might want to try winning, contrary to her compatriot’s result. While she’s at it, it’d be a good idea to send some good press along to Bartoli, whose words were sincere and apologetic.

Things Get Heated On and Off the Red Clay of Roland Garros

With players verbally attacking one another, others quitting, upsets occurring, and poor decisions being made by French Open officials, this year’s event at Roland Garros proves to be highly dramatic. Who’s involved in the fray so far? We have Marion Bartoli and Aravane Rezai engaged in some bad blood over media coverage, American Sam Querrey feeling discouraged after a first round loss to veteran Robby Ginepri and pulling out of the doubles event, and the curious cases of the French throwing the French under the bus. Yup, that’s right. Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, and Gael Monfils were forced to play (or made to stop playing) to both players’ chagrin. What a tournament, and it’s still only the first week!

Let’s take a look at each case.

1. The Case of the Verbal French Cat Fight:

Rezai openly said that Bartoli is jealous of the spotlight being given to her, despite her lower ranking. “Marion is a difficult girl. She already attacked me two years ago when I reached the final in Istanbul,” said Rezai. “If she has a problem with me, I don’t know, because I did nothing. That’s a bit of a shame, but that’s her education. I mean, she attacked me many times in the press. She reportedly said:

“I don’t have the same education as the one she has. I think I have respect for players. I do what I have to do. I get on with many people. But with Marion, it’s very difficult. She has difficulties getting included with the other girls.”

Well, Bartoli has every right to get angry in my opinion. She’s the one to have made it to a Grand Slam final, she’s ranked higher, has the experience, etc. But the fact of the matter is she simply doesn’t have the “it” factor. Without that, she’ll be pushed aside by the up-and-comers. She’s different, she’s no younger, beautiful teenager. She uses two hands on both sides and a highly unorthodox father. Her destiny is, and will probably remain, relative anonymity. In the meantime, let the cat fight ensue. It’s interesting stuff.

2. Querrey’s Poor Attitude

Contrasted to the first French fiasco is an American’s problem, not with anyone else but himself. Querrey, after losing to Ginepri, pulled out of the double’s event, too. Basically, just when things were looking up for American men’s tennis, just when there seemed to be someone else to count on besides Andy Roddick, we’ve taken another step back. Sure, we have the giant John Isner, but only one guy isn’t enough. Querrey needs to find himself again and fast. For the sake of his career and the country’s tennis future.

3. French Men Fried

A final example of the drama intensifying the clay Slam is the poor treatment of French players Tsonga, Monfils, and Gasquet. Both Tsonga and Gasquet wanted to started later, but to no avail. Instead, they were forced to play under difficult physical conditions.

Tsonga said in a recent statement: “Frankly, I was a bit disappointed because I was playing on a Sunday. I had asked not to play on a Sunday, absolutely, because I had practiced in such a way that I thought I wanted to play on a Monday or Tuesday, to be totally fit. But they imposed it on me.”

While Tsonga won in five, Gasquet lost in five. Maybe not the best idea? Monfils, too, has problems of his own. According to an Associated Press article, “Local favorite…Monfils of France survived three match points in a thrilling second round match against Fabio Fognini that was suspended because of darkness at the French Open on Wednesday.” Regardless of whether or not Monfils wanted to keep playing, it just shows that the French might not be filling at home at their own tournament. Maybe a move to another venue would be better after all….

French Open Predictions – Which WTA Star Will Reign Supreme at Roland Garros?

With the French Open almost upon us, it’s time to make predictions. First, let’s take a look at the draw for the WTA tour. The big stories to keep in mind during the first few days at Roland Garros include: Serena and Venus Williams’ inconsistent play on clay, Maria Sharapova’s recent success, Jelena Jankovic’s time to possibly shine, and Justine Henin’s title in Stuttgart and desire to win another Grand Slam on her best surface yet. All of these players are real contenders for the title, and it will fascinating to see how their stories play out in the coming days.

Let’s take a look at each quarter of the draw.

The First Quarter:

This part of the draw includes the following seeded players: Serena (1), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (29), Shahar Peer (18), Marion Bartoli (13), Maria Sharapova (12), Justine Henin (22), Jie Zheng (25), and Sam Stosur (7). This is a heavy part of the draw featuring a group of hard-hitting powerhouses. While Serena will most likely sail through to the fourth round, she’ll could have  a potentially tough time handling Pavlyuchenkova, the Russian. Serena could then face Israel’s Shahar Peer afterward.

In the bottom half, there will be an interesting match-up between Sharapova and Henin. While Sharapova comes fresh off a win at the Strasbourg tournament on clay, Henin recently won at Stuttgart and plays her best on Paris’ red clay. I see Henin coming through in three. Her next opponent: most likely Stosur, who’s done well for herself this clay court season, including a win at Charleston. If she continues with the same consistency, she could find herself in a rematch of the Stuttgart tournament against Henin. If so, I take Henin in two close sets.

Therefore, I predict that it will be a match-up of Serena and Henin in the quarterfinals.

The Second Quarter:

Here, the seeds are: Jankovic (4), Alyona Bondarenko (27), Daniela Hantuchova (23), Yanina Wickmayer (16), Dinara Safina (9), Vera Zvonareva (21), Alisa Kleybanova (28), and Agnieszka Radwanska (8). This section holds considerably less firepower than the first half of the draw. In fact, I see only one real contender – Jankovic, who beat both sisters in Rome, but then failed to take home the title. Depending on the health of Safina, last year’s finalist, we could see a match-up between her and Jankovic in the quarterfinals.

The Third Quarter:

In the third quarter the following seeds appear: Svetlana Kuznetsova (6), Maria Kirilenko (30), Francesca Schiavone (17), Na Li (11), Flavia Pennetta (14), Lucie Safarova (24), Alexandra Dulgheru (31), and Caroline Wozniacki (3). Much like the second quarter, there are not many real contenders, except, of course, for last year’s champion, Kuznetsova. While the Italians Pennetta and Schiavone will be tricky opponents, the Russians should see herself back at the quarterfinals, although not without her three set scares. Her opponent once there: Wozniacki. That is if her physical condition holds up well enough.

The Fourth Quarter:

This side gets a little heavier with the following seeds: Elena Dementieva (5), Katerina Bondarenko (32), Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (20), Victoria Azarenka (10), Aravane Rezai (15), Nadia Petrova (19), Dominika Cibulkova (26), and Venus (2). I see plausible winners in Dementieva, Martinez Sanchez, and Venus. The other seeds are strong players, who just might pull the upset. Moreover, players such as Anastasija Sevastova and Melanie Oudin are lurking in the background, which will make things even more interesting in this last quarter. Regardless, I believe Dementieva will beat Oudin in a potential third round match and will end up in the quarterfinals. However, she’ll need to get through a tough opponent in the Rome winner, Martinez Sanchez. I see Dementieva’s experience allowing her to win in three. There, she should meet Venus in the quarters.

To recap:

Serena will face-off Henin in the first; Jankovic will play Safina in the second; Kuznetsova and Wozniacki will meet in the third; and Dementieva will attempt to fend off Venus in the fourth.

The results:

Henin takes out Serena in three; Jankovic wins against an ailing Safina in two; Kuznetsova advances; and Venus prevails to complete the semifinals. Next, Henin defeats Jankovic and Venus wins over the reigning champion Kuznetsova. Henin takes out Venus in two sets and wins her first Grand Slam after a brief retirement.

To look at the full draw, click here.

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