French Open 2016: Early Predictions Post-Australian Open

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2016

French Open 2016: Early Predictions Post-Australian Open

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    Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka during the trophy ceremony of the 2015 French Open.
    Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka during the trophy ceremony of the 2015 French Open.Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

    As soon as the 2016 Australian Open ended, post-Grand Slam withdrawal began. The gap between the Australian Open and the French Open is the longest non-Slam stretch in every calendar year.

    Of course, it's too early to make sound predictions about who will win or what will happen at the 2016 French Open, but speculating is such fun.

    Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will roll into Roland Garros pursuing elusive milestones. Djokovic is trying to win his first French Open title and a possible calendar-year Slam. Williams hopes to win her 22nd Slam title and tie Steffi Graf for most in the Open era.

    Both face tremendous pressure.

    They can count on top seeding. Djokovic and Williams have such huge points leads that they will retain their No. 1 rankings.

    However, the No. 2 slots held by Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray are less secure. The two have slim leads over the No. 3-ranked players. Also, there are simply too many ATP World Tour masters and WTA Tour premier events between now and the French Open to know who will be sitting on the opposite side of the draw from Djokovic and Williams. 

    Injuries and the draw, of course, will play a part in determining what happens at Roland Garros. These early predictions are based on players' past performances, current rankings and momentum.  

    For those already suffering from post-Slam withdrawal, the following are early predictions for the 2016 French Open.

Stan Wawrinka Exits Early

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    Stan Wawrinka hits a backhand during the 2015 French Open.
    Stan Wawrinka hits a backhand during the 2015 French Open.David Vincent/Associated Press

    Stan Wawrinka went on a magical run at the 2015 French Open. He upset Djokovic while wearing buzzworthy plaid shorts.

    Wawrinka dominated Djokovic in the way the Serbian has been running through the tour over the past year. Still, Wawrinka is consistently inconsistent. He's steadied his game enough to avoid the first- or second-round stunner, but he won't make it to the money rounds. Wawrinka will be out by the fourth round.

Serena Williams Rebounds

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    Serena Williams smiles after winning the 2015 French Open.
    Serena Williams smiles after winning the 2015 French Open.Michel Euler/Associated Press

    Williams lost in the final of the Australian Open for the first time. She was 6-0 in Aussie finals prior to her loss to Kerber. 

    Although Williams has won most of her Grand Slams on hard courts, she claims clay as her favorite surface. It took her a decade to win her second French Open title. But as she's gotten older, Williams has become a better clay-court player. She's won two French Open titles in the past three years. 

    Williams owns an apartment in Paris. Perhaps her second home will produce her 22nd Slam.

Angelique Kerber Gone in First Week

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    Angelique Kerber hits a forehand at the 2015 French Open.
    Angelique Kerber hits a forehand at the 2015 French Open.Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Kerber has had little success at the French Open. In fact, she's performed worse there than at any other Grand Slam. 

    Her best result at Roland Garros came in 2009 when she reached the quarterfinals. Last year, she lost in the third round. She lost in the fourth round the two previous years. 

    With a Grand Slam title and newfound confidence, Kerber may do better. But first-time winners are often overwhelmed by the added attention. Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic and Marin Cilic all experienced slumps after winning their first Slams.

    Most likely, Kerber will have a Wawrinka-like post-Aussie result. After winning his first Slam, the 2014 Australian Open, Wawrinka suffered a first-round exit at the French Open.

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza Get Santina Slam

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    Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza celebrate winning the 2016 Australian Open doubles title.
    Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza celebrate winning the 2016 Australian Open doubles title.Aaron Favila/Associated Press

    Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have won the last three Grand Slam women's doubles titles. They hope to win what they are calling the "Santina Slam."

    Mirza was runner-up in 2011 when she teamed with Elena Vesnina. Hingis was a French Open finalist twice (1997, 1999) in singles; it's the only Grand Slam she didn't win. 

    Last year, Hingis and Mirza reached the quarterfinals where they lost to Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova. Mattek-Sands and Safarova went on to win the title. Safarova made it to the finals in singles, where she lost to Serena Williams. 

    When asked about their failed attempt at a French Open title, Hingis told TennisNow.com's Richard Pagliaro"[Clay] is also probably our worst surface, so far, together. But we're going into that season kind of with new motivation. We can do better, we hope, we can get better on the clay as well." 

    Early prediction: The Santina Express conquers the clay.

Rafael Nadal Falls Short Again

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    Rafael Nadal waves to fans after his quarterfinals loss at the 2015 French Open.
    Rafael Nadal waves to fans after his quarterfinals loss at the 2015 French Open.David Vincent/Associated Press

    Rafael Nadal took a wild card into next week's Argentina Open in Buenos Aires. Still reeling from his first-round loss at the Australian Open, Nadal told the ATP World Tour staff, "I asked for this wild card after the bad result in Melbourne and I hope that Buenos Aires will once again be the start of a good run for me. I will try my best to make sure it is."

    The French Open has been good for the King of Clay, who is a nine-time winner at Roland Garros. However, Nadal's woes of late have not been surface-specific. Last year, he failed to win any of the major French Open clay-court tuneups.

    More trouble awaits this year. Nadal will fail to reach the semifinals.

Match-Fixing Will Remain Hot Topic

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    Tennis officials take questions about match-fixing during the 2016 Australian Open.
    Tennis officials take questions about match-fixing during the 2016 Australian Open.Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

    The match-fixing scandal that overshadowed the 2016 Australian Open won't go away. In fact, ongoing investigations are likely to yield more anecdotal evidence, triggering scandalous headlines.

    On Feb. 1, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that 40 players had been flagged for suspicious matches in 2015. A blacklist of players reportedly flagged for questionable matches is circulating.

    Unfortunately for tennis players and fans who wish this story would just go away, it's sticking around.

Novak Djokovic Wins His First French Open

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    Novak Djokovic during his loss in the finals of the 2015 French Open.
    Novak Djokovic during his loss in the finals of the 2015 French Open.Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Djokovic's win at the Australian Open put him in the company of such names as Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson. However, despite his recent success, Djokovic remains linked to these names: Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker and Pete Samprastennis greats who never won a French Open. 

    This year, Djokovic finally leaves that exclusive club and wins his first French Open.