Roland Garros 2013 Women’s Draw Preview and Analysis – French Open 2013

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For the full draw, please click here: French Open 2013 Women’s Draw

The draw for the 2013 French Open has yielded a number of fascinating early round match ups, as well as potential blockbuster quarter-finals. The big news is that Victoria Azarenka has been drawn in Maria Sharapova’s half, with Agnieszka Radwanska seeded to take on Serena Williams in the last four.

If you are also interested in the Men’s Draw, you can read all about it here: French Open 2013 Men’s Draw

Serena, the overwhelming favourite to win this year’s tournament, will get her campaign underway against world number 83 Anna Tatishvili. Following that will be a clash with either a qualifier or promising French teenager Caroline Garcia, who gave Sharapova an almighty scare in Paris two years ago. In the third round, Serena is seeded to face Sorana Cristea, but the Romanian has struggled to win consecutive matches on clay this season, and she could well lose out to Johanna Larsson or Monica Niculescu in the second round. Given that Serena has a commanding winning record against all of the aforementioned players, it would be a surprise if she lost a set before the fourth round.

At that stage, she could run into one of two formidable competitors: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Roberta Vinci. Although Pavlyuchenkova suffered a setback by losing in the first round of the Italian Open a couple of weeks ago, she won tournaments in Monterey and Oeiras in April and, guided by new coach Martina Hingis, pushed Azarenka to the limit in Madrid. Vinci, meanwhile, was champion in Katowice early on the clay court season, and was contesting the semi-finals of the Brussels Open at the time of writing. While Serena will still be the heavy favourite against either woman, both are capable of causing her serious problems, especially if she has an “off” day midway through the tournament.

In one of the standout matches of the first round, troubled 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki will take on British number one Laura Robson. The Dane has managed only one win on clay this season, and will be entering Paris severely short of confidence. In contrast, Robson recently earned the biggest scalp of her career when she demolished Agnieszka Radwanska in Madrid. Having split from her demanding coach Zeljko Krajan, the Londoner looks to be enjoying her tennis more than ever, and will feel she has a real chance against Wozniacki. Even if the winner of that match makes it past either a qualifier or the erratic Bojana Jovanovski in round two, however, a tough opponent will likely await in the third round. Svetlana Kuznetsova may be one of the most inconsistent players on tour, but she won the French Open in 2009 and loves to perform on a big stage. She will play 22nd seed Ekaterina Makarova in her opening match, the woman who brought Azarenka’s winning streak to an end in Madrid at the beginning of the month.

Angelique Kerber is the eighth seed at this year’s French Open, but the injury-stricken German will not take a quarter-final spot for granted. She was forced to pull out of Rome with an abdominal strain, and faces a dangerous floater right off the bat in Mona Barthel. If she can beat her younger compatriot, she will benefit from a relatively soft section in which 29th seed Varvara Lepchenko is the most accomplished player. That said, Kerber v Wozniacki/Robson/Kuznetsova/Makarova would be an evenly-matched fourth-rounder, with the winner almost certainly taking on Serena.

Predicted quarter-final: Serena def. Makarova

The second quarter of the draw is headed by Agnieszka Radwanska, seeded four but struggling with injury and a loss of form of late. She pulled out of the Brussels Open with a sore shoulder, and before that had won only one match on red clay in 2013. The Pole shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through her first two matches, but in the third round she could run into either Venus Williams or younger sister Urszula Radwanska, who meet in the opening round. Although it is always great to see Venus compete, even her most ardent fans accept that she is well short of vintage form, hindered by illness and injury in recent seasons. Agnieszka has beaten her sister in three of their four meetings, and she thrashed Venus at last year’s French Open, but a rematch with either woman would be a highlight of the round.

Ana Ivanovic may has lost some steam following an early exit in Rome, but the former world number one and 2008 Roland Garros champion has been one of the most impressive players on clay this season, reaching the semi-finals in Madrid and pushing Sharapova hard in Stuttgart. The Serb has a potentially tricky opening match with Croatia’s Petra Martic, but she will be confident of finding a way past the other women in her section, especially given that 24th seed Julia Goerges recently sustained a painful-looking wrist injury.

Ivanovic will certainly fancy her chances against an off-key Agnieszka Radwanska in the last 16, and she could have a chance to go even further if she hits peak form. Seeded to meet the winner of that match is Sara Errani, whose road to the top of the game began in earnest with a runner-up finish at last year’s French Open. The Italian is likely to sweep past the slumping Arantxa Rus in the first round, but she will be matched for feistiness in the second round if she faces the intense Kazakh Yulia Putintseva. The other notable players in this section range from the powerful but erratic – Sabine Lisicki and Nadia Petrova – to consistent clay court specialists such as 20th seed Carla Suarez Navarro. It’s also worth looking out for rising American star Madison Keys, who thumped Li Na in Madrid and seems to enjoy paying on the dirt.

Predicted quarter-final: Errani def. Ivanovic

Speaking of Li Na, the Chinese has been handed one of the toughest openers of any top seed. She will play Anabel Medina Garrigues, the Spanish veteran who pushed Serena to a 7-5 third set in Madrid. Assuming she lovercomes that hurdle, an equally tricky opponent awaits in the second round in either Lourdes Dominguez Lino, another highly competent clay courter, or Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the resurgent American with a bombastic game. As if that wasn’t enough, Yaroslava Shvedova, the 27th seed, is also in Li’s section. The Kazakh rose to prominence by reaching the quarter-finals of last year’s French Open as a qualifier, and although her form in 2013 hasn’t been promising, she will surely be motivated by the return to the scene of past glory, as well as the need to defend a hefty amount of ranking points.

Heather Watson, now the British number two, makes her return from a bout of glandular fever in Paris, and has a winnable opener against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele, with the victor likely to take on Kaia Kanepi in the second round. Kanepi has been slowly climbing the rankings again after being sidelined for several months with an achilles injury, and will be keen to repeat the success she enjoyed at last year’s French Open, when she dispatched Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the quarter-finals. Should she reach the third round this year, the Estonian will most probably play 12th seed Maria Kirilenko.

Victoria Azarenka isn’t being talked up as a major French Open contender, despite being the third seed and despite suffering only two losses this year. But the Belarusian, who missed several tournaments in March and April after suffering an ankle injury, could benefit from flying below the radar. After a potentially challenging opening match against Elena Vesnina, Azarenka’s path to the quarter-finals appears to be relatively easy. The highest ranked player in her section is the off-form Marian Bartoli, and the likes of Alize Cornet, Kirsten Flipkens and even 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone are unlikely to be consistent or powerful enough to stop Azarenka, provided she plays with an even temper and keeps her unforced errors in check. A clash with Li in the last eight would be a much tougher prospect, but Vika has won the pair’s last five matches, including the Australian Open final earlier this year.

Predicted quarter-final: Azarenka def. Li

There are some intriguing first round clashes in the penultimate section of the women’s draw. Jamie Hampton, one of the most promising of the young American players, will take on 25th seed Lucie Safarova, while Jelena Jankovic, who has been posting some encouraging results lately, will face Daniela Hantuchova. Petra Kvitova is the eighth seed and will be heavily favoured to get past Aravane Rezai in the first round, but she could find her second match with Shuai Peng more of a conundrum.

Elsewhere, Sam Stosur, who memorably defeated Serena on her way to the final in 2010, will play Kimiko Date-Krumm in what promises to be an entertaining first round match. The slated Stosur-Kvitova fourth-rounder would be an absorbing contest between two of 2011’s Grand Slam champions, but nothing can be taken for granted with either player, each of whom is as capable of mental collapse as she is of producing lights-out tennis.

Finally, Maria Sharapova’s bid for a second straight title in Paris will begin with a first round match against Su-Wei Hsieh, ranked 42 thanks to a successful end to 2012 but far short of that standard this season. Although Sharapova is unlikely to be upset by Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard in round two, she could well be tested by the youngster, who reached her first tournament semi-final in Brussels at the weekend. In the third round, Zheng Jie could potentially cause some trouble for Sharapova if the Russian is short of her best form.

Sloane Stephens seems to have been attracting attention for the wrong reasons in recent weeks, so the American will be aiming to make her tennis do the talking at Roland Garros. Seeded 17th, she has a decent path to the third round, where she is likely to face Dominika Cibulkova. That would be an interesting psychological battle two players who mental strength has been questionable this season, but also an excellent opportunity for both to make the second week of a major tournament. Cibulkova beat Azarenka in the fourth round last year and therefore has a lot of points to defend, while Stephens, who made the round of 16 twelve months ago, needs a good result to rekindle her belief that she belongs in the top 20.

Predicted quarter-final: Sharapova def. Kvitova

Sharapova’s half of the draw is undoubtedly the most star-studded, but not all of those stars have been shining brightly during this clay court season. Li Na could tap into her world-beating form and make a second straight Grand Slam final, and Stosur and Kvitova are always serious threats, but it seems foolish to pick against Sharapova, who has been incredibly consistent since she hoisted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen last year. Azarenka will represent a significant challenge should the two meet in the semi-finals, but Sharapova has beaten her in both of their clay court meetings and is never more motivated that at the latter stages of a Grand Slam.

But it would be a huge surprise if Serena Williams were not waiting for the defending champion in the final. The top seed is in the form of her life; not only is she unbeaten on clay this year, she utterly dominated the field in Rome, losing only 14 games in the entire tournament. Serena has stated that the biggest roadblock to a second Roland Garros title is “the lady in the mirror,” referring to her troubled history at the event. Yet it would be astonishing if the woman many regard as the greatest of all time suffers another shock defeat in the French capital. She has been more focussed than ever following her stunning loss to Virginie Razzano last year, and is determined to prove to the world, and to herself, that she can triumph in Paris 11 years after her maiden victory.

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