Thursday, May 23
Serena more likely to win than Venus
PARIS -- Following is a brief rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of the top 16 seeds in the French Open men's and women's singles draw. Prefix denotes seeding:
1 Lleyton Hewitt (Australia). World No. 1 and already a master tactician at age 21, Hewitt has yet to prove he has mastered clay and confesses it is his weakest surface.
Jennifer Capriati (U.S.). Always a fierce competitor, the defending champion has been consistent throughout the clay-court season with three semifinal appearances. She can knock most opponents off on any given day and is a good bet to retain title.
2 Marat Safin (Russia). Runner-up in Hamburg on clay last week and a former world No. 1, the mighty Safin has all the tools to win at Roland Garros. His fiery temperament could prove his undoing.
Venus Williams (U.S.). Doubts remain about fitness after she suffered a freak wrist sprain last week, but she will be keen to avoid a repeat of her first-round exit last year. Having already bagged a clay-court title this year, a fully fit Williams is likely to destroy opponents with her powerful groundstrokes.
3 Tommy Haas (Germany). Haas's highest Grand Slam seeding to date reflects his recent improvement. A big serve and powerful groundstrokes saw him into the final of the Rome Masters earlier this month and he could prove a threat.
Serena Williams (U.S.). The athletic American has been in tremendous form in the run-up to the French, reaching two finals in the past two weeks. After claiming her first clay-court title at the Italian Open on Sunday, she is one of the favorites to lift the Roland Garros crown.
4 Andre Agassi (U.S.). Many pundits' favorite for his second French Open crown. The highest profile player in the sport has all the weapons, and confidence, to succeed again in Paris. May run out of steam, though.
Kim Clijsters (Belgium). Runner-up last year, she will be attempting to go one better this time round. A gritty baseliner, her Hamburg final victory over Venus Williams proved she has the tools to go all the way. A sore shoulder, however, could lead to an early downfall.
5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Russia). Champion here in 1996, Kafelnikov has one eye on retirement and the other on Russian Davis Cup glory. Unlikely to fulfil his potential here.
Justine Henin (Belgium). She can outwit most opponents with her lethal one-handed back hand shot and, along with Serena Williams, Henin is the in-form player in the run-up to the French. Triumphed at the German Open and was runner-up to Serena in Rome. Has all the weapons to succeed on clay.
6 Tim Henman (Britain). Henman's game is best suited to grass, but he has improved leaps and bounds on clay, reaching the Monte Carlo semifinals earlier this year. Will find it tough to win seven matches on the surface, though.
Monica Seles (U.S). Three-time champion but never the same force after she was stabbed in Hamburg in 1993. Now aged 28, she will find it difficult to last the distance.
7 Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil). If fit, "Guga" as he is known to his legion of fans, would be a hot favorite. Three-time champion here, his title defense will be hampered by recent hip surgery and lack of match practice.
Jelena Dokic (Yugoslavia). Dokic has put in the hours on court to make a serious bid to win her first Grand Slam title. Winner at Sarasota, she has the temperament to go all the way.
8 Roger Federer (Switzerland). Victory in the Hamburg Masters last weekend has given the Swiss dynamo a lot of confidence going into the French Open. A first Grand Slam title will almost certainly prove a step too far this time round, however.
Sandrine Testud (France). Has never fulfilled her potential at Roland Garros and has been in indifferent form all season. Will be lucky to survive the first week.
9 Thomas Johansson (Sweden). The newest Grand Slam champion surprised everyone when he triumphed at the Australian Open in January but clay is not his strong surface. He has never progressed beyond the second round in six appearances.
Silvia Farina Elia (Italy). The 30-year-old achieved her best Grand Slam result by reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros last year. Not expected to improve on that showing.
10 Sebastien Grosjean (France). A solid baseliner, Grosjean would love nothing more than to win his home Grand Slam. A semifinalist last year, he is France's best chance for victory.
Amelie Mauresmo (France). The baseliner lost in the first round last year to the dismay of the home fans. Although Mauresmo grew up on clay, she has only once made it past the second round in seven attempts.
11 Juan Carlos Ferrero (Spain). Patchy performances this season are a far cry from the clay dominance he displayed in 2001 but back-to-back semifinal showings in his only two appearances here make Ferrero a danger to anyone.
Daniela Hantuchova (Slovakia). The promising 19-year-old has been making inroads all year and claimed her first title with a shock victory over Martina Hingis at Indian Wells. Consistently reaching the quarterfinals on clay, she could be the surprise package of the tournament.
12 Pete Sampras (U.S.). Winner of a record 13 Grand Slam titles, only the French has eluded him in a glittering career. He is unlikely to put that right on clay this time around.
Meghann Shaughnessy (U.S). Having reached the fourth round last year, she has not achieved any result of note in her French Open build-up. Likely to be an early casualty.
13 Andy Roddick (U.S.). The rising American, Roddick lost to Hewitt in the third round on his debut last year when he retired injured. Whether he can last seven grueling matches on clay remains a doubt.
Elena Dementieva (Russia). The 20-year-old has failed to live up to potential following her semifinal appearance at the 2000 U.S. Open. Not expected to make waves this year having failed to play impressively on clay so far.
14 Jiri Novak (Czech Republic). Quiet and workmanlike, Novak is a competent, steady clay-courter. Reached the Australian Open semifinals this year and is not cowed by anyone.
Iroda Tulyaganova (Uzbekistan). Tulyaganova lost in the first round on her Roland Garros debut last year but has steadily climbed up the rankings. However, she could be an early casualty because of her lack of big-match experience.
15 Guillermo Canas (Argentina). The gritty baseliner reached the fourth round last year before Hewitt edged him in five. Has the ability and determination to improve on that finish this year.
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (Spain). Three-time former champion, she says she still enjoys being on the tour despite turning 30 last year. But her game is on the decline, and she is unlikely to be able to keep pace with the young pretenders.
16 Younes El Aynaoui (Morocco). Fourth-round finishes in 1995 and 2000 are the stylish Moroccan's best showings at Roland Garros and, without a big shot, he is unlikely to improve on that this time.
Barbara Schett (Austria). Dumped the mighty Venus Williams out of the 2001 French Open in the first round. Having reached the fourth round in the past two years, her two-handed backhand shot could see her through to the second week.