French Open Main Draw Starts Tomorrow
Tomorrow tennis fans everywhere will live and breathe the year’s second Slam, fan-favorite French Open. While most Americans will set their DVRs and hope no one spills before they have time to watch, European Countries will be excited with the matches scheduled for Opening Day and the opportunity to catch the action in real time.
A Look at the Men
On the men’s side, no one has won more titles at Roland Garros than World #1 Rafael Nadal. His 10 titles don’t give the full picture; he also holds the record for the most consecutive wins in the Open Era with five titles from 2010 to 2014. The odds makers are giving Nadal 2 to 5 odds for the win, with 21-year-old Madrid Open titleholder and World #3 Alexander Zverev their second choice at 10 to 1 odds. Opening day shouldn’t hold many surprises, but here’s a few to watch.
Troicki vs Dimitrov
Will Dimitrov hold his nerve against fiery and volatile Troicki? Dimitrov is coming into the French on a three-match losing streak. In a recent interview, Dimitrov admits he “hasn’t found my game right now”, evidenced by his losses. For Dimitrov to prevail, he’ll need to find a way through on the red dirt. He’s hoping not to repeat his 2016 first round match-up with Troicki where he lost in five sets.
Berankis vs A. Zverev
It should be ‘business as usual’ for Sasha Zverev when he meets 27-year-old Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis on Suzanne-Lenglen on Sunday. Zevrev comes into the French Open in top form, showing both power and finesse on clay. His recent win at the Madrid Open, taking out Thiem in straight sets, combined with his Italian Open performance taking the second set 6-1 from Nadal, gives him the confidence to make a deep run. And, don’t forget, according to the odds-makers, he favored to win the tournament behind Clay Court King Rafa Nadal. Despite odds-makers’ confidence, Zverev had the unfortunate luck of landing in the same quarter as Madrid finalist Thiem and returning 2017 finalist Stan Wawrinka.
Nihsikori vs Janvier
This may qualify as a ‘don’t blink or you’ll miss it’ match. Receiving a wildcard into the French Open, 21-year-old Maxime Janvier’s game won’t stand up to a healthy Kei Nishikori. But, here’s why we’re watching: World #21 Nishikori has struggled with injuries but when healthy, is a threat on any surface. While this first round win should come easy for Kei, his lower ranking will force him to find a way through a lot of tough competitors. His unwillingness to play a more aggressive style may take a toll on his rebuilt wrist.
A Look at the Women
If the odds makers are to be believed, Elina Svitolina or Simona Halep should walk away with a win. Rounding out oddsmakers’ Top 5 are Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams. Jelena Ostapenko, last year’s titleholder, didn’t make the list, but we all know she’s a player to never rule out. After all, how many people predicted her 2017 Rolland Garros win?! Here’s a few matches worth watching.
Cornet vs. Errani
Known for her defensive play and fast court coverage Italian Sara Errani enters this Slam in WTA Rankings as #74. More than 30 places higher sits her opponent, Alize Cornet, a Frenchwoman who the crowd will surely get behind. Don’t let the rankings gap fool you; Errani is a former Top 10 player while Cornet hasn’t yet broken that barrier. In Cornet’s aggressive baseline style where she swings hard and paints the lines, she’ll attempt to push Errani back. With a 60% first serve and plenty of double faults, Cornet will have to make each shot count. With Errani’s comfort level behind the baseline, this shouldn’t be too daunting. Combine that talent with her prowess at net learned through her many doubles titles, you’ll find Errani a worthy opponent once the point begins. Don’t expect much on the 5’5” Italian’s serve. Errani still holds the record for the slowest serve at a club level player 45 mph. It will likely take three sets for the Frenchwoman to move through, but my guess is we’ll see Cornet in the second round.
Ostapenko vs. Kozlova
This should be an easy match for Jelena Ostapenko to reacquaint herself with Philippe-Chatrier Stadium, the very same stadium where Ostapenko won her first (and only) Slam. It should be a routine outing for World #5 as she meets Kateryna Kozlova on the opening day of the Main Draw of the French Open. Yet, Kozlova’s success at the WTA Taiwan Open shows she’s a capable opponent, noted for moving exceptionally well and strong defensive play. The mercurial Ostapenko will need to keep a sharp mental focus to knock out Kozlova in straight sets – perhaps the best strategy Coach David Taylorfor his lively player.
Also In Action
We rarely see first rounds for seeded players yield dramatic upsets; and, that should be the case on Sunday when Venus Williams, Elina Svitolina and Sloan Stephens start their run at Roland Garros. With the outcome nearly preordained, I know I’ll still watch!
And, For All the Club Players Who Love Doubles …
On Thursday, Tournament organizers announced that Serena & Venus Williams were given a wildcard entry for doubles. The competition will be fierce and they’ll need to move through top talent in the form of Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Latisha Chan, Jelena Ostapenko & Elena Vesnina, and Miami Open winners Ashleigh Barty & Coco Vandeweghe.
The men’s doubles entries show some interesting pairings. For this tournament, the Bryan Brothers will change to a singular ‘brother’ as Bob Bryan will miss the French Open, not fully recovered from a hip injury. Mike Bryan will be playing alongside fellow American Sam Querry. It’ll be a disadvantage for Mike as he loses the familiarity of Bob’s game, but few players have the huge serve his partner Sam will bring to the game. Defending Champions Ryan Harrison & Michael Venus have chosen not to play together. Instead, look for Ryan Harrison & Vasek Pospisil to join and create a formidable presence. Michael Venus will try to repeat last year’s success teaming up with Raven Klaasen.
Doubles action begins May 29.