French Open Monday Preview – Can Schiavone pull off an upset over Azarenka?

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While Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are continuing their easy progress through the draw, we could be headed for yet another showdown between the world’s top two ranked players. But Sharapova has some stiff competition to get over before she can think about playing Williams. Here’s our preview of the women’s fourth round matches on Monday at the French Open

(2) Maria Sharapova vs. Sloane Stephens (17) H2H Sharapova leads 2-0 (1-0 on clay)

The one thing that Sloane Stephens and Sharapova probably have in common is that they both would be hoping they do not run into Serena Williams in any draw in the near future.  Sharapova has been almost unbeatable this year, except when she plays Serena while Stephens would be hoping not to cross Serena on the court after crossing the American in a series of recent interviews off the court.

After a dismal 7-9 record since Melbourne, Stephens has regrouped well to reach the fourth round in Paris and a loss to the defending champion won’t be anything to feel disappointed about. Stephens likes playing on clay and can move well on the surface. If she can find a way to engage the Russian in long baselines rallies and move the erstwhile ‘cow on ice’ side to side, she could have a chance to win. Otherwise, Sharapova will have too much firepower for the young American to match just yet.

Prediction – Sharapova wins in straight sets

(18) Jelena Jankovic vs. Jamie Hampton H2H Hampton leads 1-0 (First meeting on clay)

Anyone who saw Jamie Hampton take on Victoria Azarenka in the third round of the Australian Open in January knows just how well the young American can strike the ball. Unfortunately for Hampton, her back, which let her down in that match against Azarenka, will always be susceptible to breaking down. Hampton comes in riding a wave of confidence – saving match points in the first round against Luce Safarova and scoring her first top 10 win over Petra Kvitova in the previous round – to reach the second week at a slam for the first time.

Her opponent, the former world no. 1 Jelena Jankovic – is no stranger to second weeks at slams – this being her 17th time in the fourth round of a major. The Serb’s third round win over Samantha Stosur in a high-quality match will give her plenty of confidence too. Jankovic is playing well again and seems to be enjoying her tennis more than in the last few years. And she will be likely have too much consistency for the big hitting Hampton.

Prediction – Jankovic wins in straight sets

(3) Victoria Azarenka vs. Francesca Schiavone H2H – Azarenka leads 2-1 (2-0 on clay)

Azarenka found the going tough in the third round against the Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. She will likely find the going even tougher against the former champion Francesca Schaivone. The Italian has returned to the scene of her greatest triumph and certainly has the experience to unnerve her opponent. Azarenka, who is known to get testy when things don’t go her way on the court, will need to be patient to win this one. Schaivone has won 18 of her last 20 matches at Roland Garros and loves playing on clay. She’s had a terrible run this season until she got to Paris and it seems like the memories of her past successes are willing her on for another deep run before calling it quits.

Prediction – Schiavone in three sets

(12) Maria Kirilenko vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands H2H – Kirilenko leads 1-0 (First meeting on clay)

Before Maria Kirilenko broke into the world’s top 20, she made a name for herself for her on-court fashion sense. Her opponent on Monday, the 28 year old American Mattek-Sands made a name for herself for her lack of tennis fashion sense. But both have matured into fine players, who rely more on their court craft to win matches. A place in the quarter finals awaits the winner here, which increases the stakes. It’s likely that whoever manages the pressure better will get win this match.

Prediction – Mattek-Sands In three sets

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