Shriver's QF picks! Serena, Henin, Petrova, Clijsters
Pressure eases on Mauresmo
By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com
PARIS -- For Amelie Mauresmo the pressure's slightly off. She's had trouble just getting through the second week and living up to the potential of her seeding in her home country. So she's done that and has that off her shoulders.
Former WTA Tour pro Pam Shriver is providing ESPN.com with in-depth analysis throughout the French Open. Shriver, a tennis analyst for ESPN, was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play. She won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.
Her match with Serena Williams is the match of the tournament so far, at least on the women's side. The last time they played, Mauresmo won in one of two losses on clay for Serena this year.
So Mauresmo has the game to beat Serena. They both move well. Both have power. Serena has a little more power and a slightly better serve. Mauresmo is slightly better on clay. So, on paper it looks like an extremely close match.
Who will be able to produce the more positive play when it gets tight will be the key and based on recent Grand Slam play, it's hard to go against Serena. Her streak will inevitably end, and it might be here at the French, but so far she's found a way to win.
For being the No. 1 seed, Serena's had a tough draw: Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters. It would not surprise me if any of the next couple of matches go against Serena because she's playing against opponents who are more comfortable on clay and have a lot of big wins lately. But I'm picking Serena to win in a very close match.
Let's look at the other matchups:
Justine Henin-Hardenne (4), Belgium, vs. Chanda Rubin (8), United States
Chanda Rubin beat her on Miami on a hard court, a surface that Rubin is more comfortable on than clay. Rubin's been digging out some close matches, but she's not playing at the level of Henin-Hardenne when Henin-Hardenne is on her clay-court game.
Henin-Hardenne will run down enough balls to win this in straight sets because Rubin is going to have to have her best day on her forehand and do everything else well to have a chance. Henin-Hardenne is too stubborn and too experienced on clay and will get to the semifinals for the second in time in three years.
Nadia Petrova, Russia, vs. Vera Zvonareva (22), Russia
Big surprise that these two are playing instead of Jennifer Capriati and Venus Williams. Instead of an all-American quarterfinal it's an all-Russian matchup. Nadia Petrova and Vera Zvonareva are leading a very talented group of Russians, who are going to be around a long time.
Petrova is playing better than Zvonareva. Her backhand is phenomenal, her forehand is also a weapon and she moves well. The biggest difference is on the serve -- Petrova's serve is much better. Petrova is not really 76th in the world anymore after defeating Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati. Petrova is playing as well as any of the top players right now.
Petrova's playing on the big court for her first major quarterfinal. Really, both women are in uncharted territory and the question is who is going to handle it better. If they both handle it well, Petrova is the better player.
Conchita Martinez (24), Spain, vs. Kim Clijsters (2), Belgium
The only surface that Conchita Martinez has a shot against Clijsters is clay -- at this point in both of their careers. Martinez had a nice break in the last round -- an unhealthy Lindsay Davenport, while Clijsters started off against Maggie Maleeva like she'd forgotten how to play tennis. You put all that together, and you feel like Martinez has a chance.
But at the end of the day, Clijsters has an amazing opportunity to get to her second French Open final because of the loss of expert winners like Davenport, Capriati, Venus and earlier Seles. Clijsters cannot ask for anything more in a draw than what's happened here. She's still haunted by what happened in Australia when she lost a 5-1 lead to Serena Williams. So she's still got some tests to get through to the final. But she won't have this good of a draw again in a long time. To have the next seed be No. 22 doesn't happen often in women's tennis. And don't hold your breath for it to happen again anytime soon.