French Open 2011 Schedule: 5 Key Storylines to Watch Wednesday
Four of the eight semi-finalists have been determined for the 2011 French Open thus far (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Francesca Schiavone and Marion Bartoli). This means that the champions of the event are just a few days away from being crowned.
The other four singles quarterfinal matches are set to be played on Wednesday in Paris. The following is a look at five key storylines for Day 11 at Roland Garros.
1. How "Off" Is Rafael Nadal's Game?
Five-time French Open Champion (2005-2008, 2010) Rafael Nadal has only lost one match at Roland Garros in his previous six appereances. That loss was against Robin Soderling, who Nadal will face in this year's quarters tomorrow.
As a player that knows what it takes to take out Nadal at the French Open, Soderling should provide a great measuring stick for the world's No. 1, who has uncharacteristically shown signs of vulnerability early on in Paris.
Nadal has even talked about a surprising lack of confidence in this tournament during his press conferences. He has, however, looked much better throughout the last two matches, appearing closer to the player we have seen in the past on a clay court surface.
A lot could depend on the conditions of the match, but if Nadal is not 100 percent, Soderling will be able to show it quickly. He has the ability to hit players off the court, something he did two years ago in his fourth-round win over Nadal.
If the Spaniard is fully on his game, however, he won't let Soderling affect him too much. In their 2010 championship match, he was able to dominate Soderling in capturing his fifth title at Roland Garros.
2. Will All Four Men's Top Seeds Advance to the Semis?
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have already punched their tickets into the semifinals of the 2011 French Open. With Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in action on Wednesday, it presents a rare opportunity for all four top seeds to advance to the semis of a grand slam event.
Even though Nadal is a five-time champion of the event, Murray clearly has the better chance of making it to the next round. His opponent is unseeded Juan Ignacio Chela, a player who Murray has handled pretty easily in the past.
Nadal has the blockbuster match against Robin Soderling, as the two will be meeting at Roland Garros for the third straight year. The king of clay is certainly the favorite in that match and while it seems very likely the top four seeds will indeed make the semis, Soderling has the best chance of not letting that happen.
3. Can Sharapova Avenge Her Australian Open Loss to Petkovic?
Maria Sharapova is a three-time grand slam champion and one of the stars of the WTA tour. Even though she's had major shoulder problems, that's why it's incredible to think that her quarterfinal appearance in this year's French Open is her first quarterfinal birth at a grand slam event since 2009.
In order to move one step closer to achieving her career grand slam on Wednesday, Sharapova will have to defeat the player that knocked her out of this year's Australian Open. That would be German Andrea Petkovic, one of the real young up and coming stars in the women's game.
Sharapova did win the last match between the two players in the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson Open after losing the first set. That should give her some confidence heading into their match tomorrow as she looked lost on the court in the Australian Open until it was too late.
4. Can Victoria Azarenka Handle the Pressure?
Even though women's No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka has never reached a grand slam semi-final in her career, she became the favorite to win this tournament in the middle of last week after top seeds Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters bowed out early. Her form has been better than any player from start to finish of this tournament, but the pressure is clearly on now.
Azarenka is a player that has not done well under pressure thus far in her young career, even having a tendency to retire from matches. Add that history to a tough-witted, experienced opponent in Li Na, her match Wednesday could be a huge one in her young career.
Sure, Azarenka is the better clay court player, but Na's savvy could become a huge factor, especially if the match is close. Na was a runner up at this year's Australian Open, while Azarenka has not yet come close to winning a major.
5. Andy Murray's Ankle
World No. 4 Andy Murray overcame a two-set deficit and an ankle problem to knock off Victor Troicki over two days. While he gets one of the best quarterfinal matchups he can ask for in Juan Ignacio Chela, his ankle issue can become a factor.
After the match, Murray said he felt fine and that the ankle let him play the way he needed to on Tuesday, you never know if it will act up again. It's especially an issue when you consider that Murray will be playing for the third straight day on Wednesday.
Chela plays a similar style to Murray, but without as much firepower. Chela is also an older player who's played two long five-set matches heading into the quarters, so Murray's young legs should help him as well.
If Murray is anywhere near full health, he should come away with an easy three or four set victory. However, if the ankle acts up, the 2011 French Open could yield one of the more surprising semifinalists in recent grand slam history.