Finally, Grand Slam No. 2 gets underway Sunday, May 27, 2012 in Paris.
Thankfully, it marks the end of the ever-increasingly dull, dusty and predictable clay court season for the men.
While watching men play tennis on clay is second only to watching the grass grow, the women have presented far more entertainment on the clay in terms of survivors—overlooking the shrieking, sliding and assault of injuries.
Of the two, most look to Serena Williams to conquer the clay this season. The fact remains, however, that Serena Williams has not done so for a decade. The last time the younger Williams sister won the French Open title was in 2002. It turned out to be her only trip to the final, falling short in each of her other nine attempts.
Sharapova, on the other hand, has never yet made a final on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros.
The reason pundits and fans find Williams the most probable champion is because there is no viable clear-cut favorite on clay. Roland Garros has crowned highly improbable champions every season since Belgian Justine Henin first retired in 2008.
In 2008 Serbian beauty Ana Ivanovic stepped up large to claim the French Open crown and the No. 1 spot for the ladies. She quickly faded after leaving Paris when her game fell apart and her ranking slowly sank of sight.
Next up, Svetlana Kuznetsova skyrocketed from the field in 2009 to steal the championship away from fellow Russian Dinara Safina who also lost the final in 2008. But like Ivanovic before her, Kuznetsova could find no more magic after leaving the grounds of Roland Garros in 2009. Since winning in Paris, Kuznetsova has disappeared, her ranking slowly receding.
The feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone refused to lose in 2010 as she wrestled the championship away from a revitalized Samantha Stosur. The Aussie, after defeating the former French Open winner Justine Henin, followed by Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic, could not quell the determination of Schiavone to seize the championship—her first at age 29.
But in 2011, Schiavone was the one who suffered defeat from an improbable source—Li Na of China who was also winning her first major. Like the three champions preceding her, however, Li Na suffered from post-French Open syndrome. Her game suffered and her ranking fell.
As the 2012 French Open gets underway, everyone in the field feels she has a chance to claim the crown in Paris. Considering the recent history of this slam, everyone does.
The draws are complete and the fate of the ladies is written for 2012 as play gets underway on Sunday.
French Open Quarter No. 1
Victoria Azarenka enters the French Open as the No. 1 seed.
Having won the Australian Open earlier this season, winning the French Open would cement Azarenka’s claim to the No.1 ranking.
Fighting recent shoulder injuries, Azarenka enters the 2012 French Open with that tiny question mark regarding her injury status. Certainly the lady from Belarus proved her fire and determination to win earlier this season.
Azarenka’s draw is favorable with no major bumps in the road anticipated until the quarterfinal match where she will undoubtedly face Samantha Stosur, seeded No. 6 in the draw.
The quarterfinal match will be a good one, with each lady possessing the perfect game to win the title. But, which one will show up with the determination and will to win?
Expect Azarenka to emerge from her quarter of the draw into the semifinals.
French Open Quarter No. 2
Agnieszka Radwanska, if she survives her quarterfinal match, would be Azarenka’s semifinal opponent.
But the No. 3 seed has some serious work ahead of her if she expects to emerge from her quarter of the draw.
Radwanska can look forward to a match with Venus Williams in the second round. This is a prospect no one on tour wants.
Even getting by the oldest Williams sister, Radwanska could meet former French Open champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova in the next round.
Waiting in the fourth round may be another former French Open champion, Ana Ivanovic who has been improving her play and her ranking in 2012.
Should Radwanska survive round four, she can anticipate another tough match with either new German sensation Angelique Kerber or the No. 8 seed Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli.
Nothing in this quarter of the draw is easy—nor is selecting the lady coming out it alive.
Expect Kerber to emerge from this quarter of the draw, advancing to the semifinals.
French Open Quarter No. 3
The No. 4 seed and 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova also has a massive task ahead of her to win her quarterfinal match and advance into the semifinals.
The first real hurdle comes in the fourth round where Kvitova may face former 2010 French Open champion and 2011 finalist Francesca Schiavone, who has proven she has the game to win on the clay.
Should Kvitova survive her fourth round encounter, her opponent in the quarterfinals would be either defending champion Li Na or the always tough Russian Vera Zvonareva, seeded No. 11 in this year’s French Open.
Kvitova has not looked especially in-form on the clay so far this season but her game has real potential for clay. 2012 may allow her to peak at Roland Garros.
Expect Kvitova to win her quarterfinal match and advance to the semifinals.
French Open Quarter No. 4
Maria Sharapova’s quarter of the draw is ultimately the most competitive.
There appear to be no major bumps in the road for the Russian through the fourth round—but the major problem awaits in her quarterfinal match.
In the top half of Sharapova’s quarter sits the co-favorite to win the 2012 French Open title, Serena Williams.
The French Open draw is fairly brutal for the American. She is fated to meet German Julia Goerges in the third round and former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round.
Should the younger Williams sister survive, she and Sharapova would meet for the privilege of advancing to the semifinals.
In what many thought should be this year’s final, Sharapova and Williams will do battle in the quarterfinals.
Expect Williams to win this quarterfinal match with Sharapova and advance to the semifinals.