French Open: Andrew's TV-reports (preview + Days 1 to 15)
ROLAND GARROS (Paris, France; red clay; Grand Slam)
1. UK TV-alert
2. Notable main-draw absentees
3. First-round draw
4. Andrew's wishes
5. Nicole Vaidiová preview
6. Daniela Hantuchová preview
7. Anna Chakvetadze preview
8. Maria Sharapova preview
1. UK TV-alert
The French Open will be televised on BBCi from 09:50 BST each day of the tournament (digital viewers press Red or select the appropriate Freeview-channel - 301 or 302).
Sunday 27th May to Sunday 3rd June, 10:00-19:00, BBCi
Monday 4th to Wednesday 6th June, 11:00-19:00, BBCi
Thursday 7th June, 13:00-19:00, BBCi
Friday 8th June, 12:00-19:00, BBCi
Saturday 9th June: Women's final 14:00-16:30, BBC Two
Sunday 10th June: Men's final 13:45-19:00, BBCi
Sunday 10th June: Highlights of men's final 16:00-17:30, BBC Two
2. Notable main-draw absentees
#6 Martina Hingis (hip-injury)
#16 Tatiana Golovin [DF] (right-ankle injury)
#19 Vera Zvonarëva [EF] (left-wrist injury)
#37 Peng,Shuai [s] (left-ankle injury)
#105 Karolina prem [DF] (elbow-injury)
#137 Iroda Tulyaganova [EF] (lost in qualifying)
#510 Magdaléna Rybáriková [DF] (too low / groin-injury)
#650 Jelena Dokić [EF] (too low, and plays very infrequently these days)
unranked Monica Seles [EF] (left-foot stress-fracture)
This is shaping up to be my worst Grand Slam for four years, with all eight of the /active/ members of my Eternal Fanship currently struggling with injury, and only four of them left in the main draw! :-(
Vera is believed to be contemplating wrist-surgery which would keep her out for the rest of the year! ':-(
Monica's amazing record of being the only player in the Open Era (since 1968) to win three consecutive French Opens is now under threat from Justine Henin!
3. First-round draw
3.1 Top quarter
* Elena Vesnina v JUSTINE HENIN  (davai Elena!)
* Aiko Nakamura [s] v Tamira Paszek (ganbatte Aiko!)
* Tamarine Tanasugarn v Casey Dell'Acqua [WC]
* MARA SANTANGELO  v Agnieszka Radwańska
* Roberta Vinci v SYBILLE BAMMER  (forza Roberta!)
* Yaroslava Shvedova v Olga Savchuk [Q] (davai Yaroslava!)
* Pauline Parmentier [WC] v Mariya Koryttseva [Q]
* Sandra Klösel v LI,NA 
* Yuliana Fedak v DINARA SAFINA  (davai Yuliana!)
* Melinda Czink v Tzipora Obziler
* Timea Bacsinszky [Q] v Zheng,Jie (hopp Timea!)
* Yvonne Meusburger v FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE 
* SÉVERINE BRÉMOND  v Michaëlla Krajíček (both nice, but I don't like Michaëlla's new hairstyle so allez Séverine!)
* Olivia Sánchez [WC] v Shenay Perry
* Milagros Sequera v Virginie Razzano
* Tsvetana Pironkova v SERENA WILLIAMS  (aide Tsvetana!)
I'm very pleased that Henin and Serena are in the same quarter (the one without any Fanship-interest for me), because they are the two form-players of 2007 so far, and it would be one 'H.E. double hockey-sticks' of a quarter-final, especially after their controversial French Open 2003 semi-final!
But hopefully that quarter-final will instead be Vesnina v Pironkova! :-P
3.2 Second quarter: Vaidiová
* JELENA JANKOVIĆ  v Stéphanie Foretz [WC]
* Catalina Castańo v Emma Laine [LL]
* Ashley Harkleroad v Aleksandra Wozniak (go Ashley!)
* Alizé Cornet [WC] v VENUS WILLIAMS  (allez Alizé!)
* MARION BARTOLI [18,S] v Aravane Rezaď (both nice - peut la meilleure le gagner!)
* Jarmila Gajdoová v Andrea Petković [Q]
* Mathilde Johansson [WC] v Anna-Lena Grönefeld (allez Mathilde!)
* Angelique Kerber v ELENA DEMENTIEVA 
* NADIA PETROVA  v Kveta Peschke [Q]
* Anastasiya Yakimova v Stéphanie Cohen-Aloro [WC]
* Nuria Llagostera Vives v Anna Smashnova
* Akiko Morigami [s] v TATHIANA GARBIN  (ganbatte Akiko!)
* SAMANTHA STOSUR  v Jamea Jackson
* Maria Kirilenko [DF] v Maria Elena Camerin (both nice, but my loyalty is to Kirilenko)
* Akgul Amanmuradova [Q] v Vania King
* NICOLE VAIDIOVÁ [6,EF] v Emmanuelle Gagliardi (pojďme Nicole!)
3.3 Third quarter: Hantuchová
* ANA IVANOVIĆ [7,DF] v Sofia Arvidsson [LL] (ajde Ana!)
* Sania Mirza v Alberta Brianti (go Sania!)
* Tatiana Poutchek v Youlia Fedossova [WC]
* JULIA VAKULENKO  v Ioana Raluca Olaru [Q] (davai Julia!)
* Varvara Lepchenko v ANABEL MEDINA GARRIGUES  (davai Varvara!)
* Elena Likhovtseva v Chan,Yung-Jan (davai Elena!)
* Olga Poutchkova v Eleni Daniilidou (davai Olga!)
* DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [12,EF] v Jelena Kostanić Toić (poďme Daniela!)
* SHAHAR PE'ER  v Kaia Kanepi (kadima Shahar!)
* Edina Gallovits v Vasilisa Bardina
* Vera Dushevina v Camille Pin
* KATARINA SREBOTNIK  v Anastasia Rodionova (dajmo Katarina!)
* MARTINA MÜLLER  v Rossana de los Ríos [Q]
* Dominika Cibulková [Q] v Sun,Tiantian (poďme Dominika!)
* Anastasia Myskina v Meghann Shaughnessy (davai Anastasia!)
* Ekaterina Bychkova v SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA  (davai Ekaterina!)
3.4 Bottom quarter: Chakvetadze, Sharapova
* AMÉLIE MAURESMO  v Laura Granville
* Caroline Wozniacki v Nathalie Dechy
* Flavia Pennetta [DF] v Nicole Pratt (forza Flavia!)
* LUCIE AFÁŘOVÁ [25,DF] v Yulia Beygelzimer (pojďme Lucie!)
* AI SUGIYAMA  v Eva Birnerová
* Romina Oprandi v Meilen Tu
* Anne Kremer v Ágnes Szávay [Q]
* ANNA CHAKVETADZE [9,EF] v Alicia Molik (davai Anna!)
* Martina Suchá v PATTY SCHNYDER  (poďme Martina!)
* Zuzana Ondráková v Kateryna Bondarenko (pojďme Zuzana!)
* Karin Knapp v Victoria Azarenka
* Iveta Beneová v ALYONA BONDARENKO  (both nice; my loyalty is to Iveta)
* GISELA DULKO [29,DF] v Hsieh,Su-Wei [Q,S] (Ąvamos Gisela!)
* Julia Schruff v Alla Kudryavtseva [Q]
* Lourdes Domínguez Lino v Jill Craybas
* MARIA SHARAPOVA [2,EF] v Emilie Loit (davai Maria!)
Mauresmo could make me dislike her even more by taking down Lucie, Anna and Maria back to back, but Mauresmo is far from her best after coming back from appendicitis, and always chokes at Roland Garros. No one enjoys being embarrassed by a 16-year-old, so it would be so sweet to see her humiliated 6-2 6-0 in front of her home-crowd by Wozniacki in the second round.
4. Andrew's wishes
4.1 Second round: Top half
Nice winner, nice loser:
+ Ashley Harkleroad d. Alizé Cornet [WC]
+ Elena Vesnina d. Aiko Nakamura [s]
+ Roberta Vinci d. Yaroslava Shvedova
+ Mathilde Johansson [WC] d. ELENA DEMENTIEVA 
The Land of Sweet Demise:
+ Maria Kirilenko [DF] d. SAMANTHA STOSUR 
+ Timea Bacsinszky [Q] d. FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE 
Routine wins for:
* NICOLE VAIDIOVÁ [6,EF]
* (1r: MARION BARTOLI [18,S] v Aravane Rezaď)
* SÉVERINE BRÉMOND 
* Yuliana Fedak
* Tsvetana Pironkova
* Akiko Morigami [s]
4.2 Second round: Bottom half
Nice winner, nice loser:
+ DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [12,EF] d. Olga Poutchkova
+ LUCIE AFÁŘOVÁ [25,DF] d. Flavia Pennetta [DF]
+ Sania Mirza [DF] d. ANA IVANOVIĆ [7,DF]
+ Anastasia Myskina d. Ekaterina Bychkova
+ Martina Suchá d. Zuzana Ondráková
+ Varvara Lepchenko d. Elena Likhovtseva
The Land of Sweet Demise:
+ Caroline Wozniacki d. AMÉLIE MAURESMO 
+ Dominika Cibulková [Q] d. MARTINA MÜLLER 
Routine wins for:
* ANNA CHAKVETADZE [9,EF]
* GISELA DULKO [29,DF]
* Iveta Beneová
* SHAHAR PE'ER 
* JULIA VAKULENKO 
* KATARINA SREBOTNIK 
4.3 Third-round wishes (in draw-order)
+ Elena Vesnina d. MARA SANTANGELO 
+ Roberta Vinci d. LI,NA 
+ Yuliana Fedak d. Timea Bacsinszky [Q]
+ Tsvetana Pironkova d. SÉVERINE BRÉMOND 
+ Ashley Harkleroad d. JELENA JANKOVIĆ 
+ (1r: MARION BARTOLI [18,S] v Aravane Rezaď) d. Mathilde Johansson [WC]
+ Akiko Morigami [s] d. NADIA PETROVA 
+ NICOLE VAIDIOVÁ [6,EF] d. Maria Kirilenko [DF]
+ Sania Mirza d. JULIA VAKULENKO 
+ DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [12,EF] d. Varvara Lepchenko
+ SHAHAR PE'ER  d. KATARINA SREBOTNIK 
* Anastasia Myskina v Dominika Cibulková [Q] (may the better win!)
+ LUCIE AFÁŘOVÁ [25,DF] d. Caroline Wozniacki
+ ANNA CHAKVETADZE [9,EF] d. AI SUGIYAMA 
+ Iveta Beneová d. Martina Suchá
+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [2,EF] d. GISELA DULKO [29,DF]
4.4 Fourth-round wishes
+ Elena Vesnina d. Roberta Vinci
+ Yuliana Fedak d. Tsvetana Pironkova
+ (1r: MARION BARTOLI [18,S] v Aravane Rezaď) d. Ashley Harkleroad
+ NICOLE VAIDIOVÁ [6,EF] d. Akiko Morigami [s]
+ DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [12,EF] d. Sania Mirza
+ (3r: Anastasia Myskina v Dominika Cibulková [Q]) d. SHAHAR PE'ER 
+ ANNA CHAKVETADZE [9,EF] d. LUCIE AFÁŘOVÁ [25,DF]
+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [2,EF] d. Iveta Beneová
4.5 Quarter-final wishes
+ Yuliana Fedak d. Elena Vesnina
+ NICOLE VAIDIOVÁ [6,EF] d. (1r: MARION BARTOLI [18,S] v Aravane Rezaď)
+ DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [12,EF] d. (3r: Anastasia Myskina v Dominika Cibulková [Q])
+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [2,EF] d. ANNA CHAKVETADZE [9,EF]
4.6 Semi-final wishes
+ NICOLE VAIDIOVÁ [6,EF] d. Yuliana Fedak
+ MARIA SHARAPOVA [2,EF] d. DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [12,EF]
My Passion says Daniela, but my Reason says Maria because in reality the other semi-final would be Henin v Janković. Besides, a Maria v Nicole showdown is long overdue, and what better occasion than a Grand Slam final?
4.7 Final wish
+ NICOLE VAIDIOVÁ [6,EF] d. MARIA SHARAPOVA [2,EF]
5. Nicole Vaidiová preview
Last year, Nicole came here as a promising 17-year-old, having just won Strasbourg (her sixth and latest WTA singles-title). She enjoyed a trailblazing French Open, upsetting world #1 Amélie Mauresmo and Venus Williams back to back to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final.
This year, Nicole comes in having reached a career-high ranking of #7 on 14th May (when retired #5 Kim Clijsters was removed from the rankings), following a year with five WTA Tier I/II semi-finals (but no more WTA finals), plus her second Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.
But she has been pulling out of tournaments left, right and centre with a right-wrist injury, and hasn't played since sealing a whitewash-victory for Czechia over Slovakia in World Group II of the Fed Cup on the eve of her 18th birthday.
When she pulled out of Strasbourg, Nicole said, "My wrist is still bothering me and it is not enabling me to compete at 100%. I will continue my daily rehab with my medical team in an effort to get ready for the French Open."
It's a lousy time for Nicole to be injured, and her ranking looks set to plummet out of the top ten as the points from Strasbourg and the French Open 2006 come off. She's already down from #7 to #10 after Strasbourg (too late to affect her French Open seeding), and could drop as low as #15 after the French Open unless she can pull off a miracle. :-(
5.1 First round
Emmanuelle Gagliardi is currently ranked #110, and has played a mixture of WTA Tour and ITF Women's Circuit tournaments this year, with a positive 17:13 win/loss ratio, but nothing too scary (her highest victim being #79 Ekaterina Bychkova).
Gagliardi has even less power than the young Tatiana Golovin who beat her at Wimbledon 2004 - the last time that I saw Gagliardi play. Normally, Nicole would eat her for breakfast, but with Nicole's wrist-injury meaning that she cannot play at 100%, there's a big question-mark over Nicole's prospects against anyone at the moment.
So if Nicole doesn't reach the second round, it will be 100% because of her wrist-injury and nothing to do with Gagliardi's modest abilities.
5.2 Second round
Vania King (presumably no relation to Billie Jean King) is one of the dying breed of young Americans, none of whom seem to be worthy successors to Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport or the Williams sisters.
King had a stunning run to the Bangkok Tier III title last October, with six 6-1 sets in her first four matches! But she's had a disappointing 2007 so far, with an 11:12 win/loss record and a highest victim of #59 Jelena Kostanić Toić.
Akgul Amanmuradova is a dangerous floater. She's very tall, with a big serve, and looks just like the first four letters of her surname! ;-) But her 2007 results are even more modest than King's (highest victim #90 Jarmila Gajdoová).
A healthy Nicole would have no trouble in her first two rounds.
5.3 Third round
My dream match-up would be Nicole v Maria Kirilenko, but sadly Little Maria's slump has gone from bad to worse this year, and she comes into Roland Garros on a losing-streak of 6 matches, although she did score a 6-1 6-2 win over #28 Flavia Pennetta and a 6-2 6-3 win over #15 Shahar Pe'er early in the year.
The /likely/ opponent is Samantha Stosur. I don't know how much she serves & volleys on clay, but she beat #4 Amélie Mauresmo at Rome a couple of weeks ago, and is an altogether more dangerous opponent for Nicole than the other six players in this 16th - although Nicole does have a 3:0 head-to-head, with comprehensive victories in their last two meetings.
5.4 Fourth round
Nicole faces a steep difficulty-gradient if she has to play Nadia Petrova - the powerful and muscular player who won WTA Paris in February and was runner-up to Tatiana Golovin at Amelia Island, but who retired at Rome with low-back pain two weeks ago.
Petrova leads their head-to-head 3:1, and their last meeting was a 6-1 6-2 blow-out at Linz last October. Nicole's lone win over Petrova came in the Bangkok 2005 final: 16-year-old Nicole won her fifth WTA singles-title while 23-year-old Petrova had yet to win one - but now Petrova has won seven titles to Nicole's six!
The form-player in this quarter is recent world #4 Jelena Janković, who has won the titles at Auckland, Charleston and Rome this year. Many people are talking about Janković like they expect her to win a Grand Slam. I can only assume that she's developed her game radically from the low-power counterpuncher she's been every time /I've/ seen her play - most recently when she was the beneficiary of Venus Williams's unforced errors at Wimbledon 2006.
Nicole leads their head-to-head 4:2, but Janković has won two of their last three meetings - most significantly in 3r US Open 2006, where Janković went on to reach the semi-finals where she choked even more dramatically than Nicole did on the verge of reaching what would have been her first Grand Slam final.
I think Janković made a major blunder by playing Strasbourg this week instead of resting between Rome and the French Open, and she paid the price as she withdrew with gastrointestinal illness after reaching the semi-finals. So she might not be 100% by the start of her French Open campaign.
Another possibility is a rematch of last year's French Open quarter-final between Nicole and Venus Williams. Venus has an impressive 19:5 win/loss record for 2007 so far, but she seems unable to keep the unforced errors at bay when it matters most, and she lost to #59 Aravane Rezaď at Constantinople this week.
The other likely quarter-finalist is 2004 runner-up Elena Dementieva, who won Constantinople when Rezaď retired from the final. Dementieva has an impressive 16:7 win/loss record for 2007 so far, despite missing March and April with a career-threatening stress-fracture in her rib. Nicole won their latest meeting: at the Australian Open 2007.
While I fantasise that the pretty Yuliana Fedak will come through, Nicole would likely be facing the winner of a quarter-final between the two form-players of the year so far: Serena Williams and Justine Henin.
I pick Henin to come through that one because clay is her best surface and Serena's worst, and Serena seems to have fallen off from the awesome form that won her the Australian Open and Miami, as she has been struggling with a groin-injury in recent weeks: she retired against Chan,Yung-Jan at Charleston, and lost to Patty Schnyder at Rome.
Nicole has a 0:2 head-to-head against each of Henin and Serena, so defending her semi-final is the best that can be hoped for at this stage. I can only pray that her wrist will have healed in time for the start of her French Open campaign.
6. Daniela Hantuchová preview
French Open: Six to watch [Teletext 497] (Friday 25th May)
DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ Reached the fourth round last year and has been one of the season's most consistent performers.
Well, her red-clay season hasn't exactly been consistent! After losing to both Lucie afárová and Nicole Vaidiová as Czechia whitewashed Slovakia in the Fed Cup World Group II, Daniela suffered a disastrous 6-1 6-3 loss to another Czech, Zuzana Ondráková, in the first round at Berlin.
But then Daniela reached her first-ever claycourt semi-final on the WTA Tour at Rome, where she beat Constantinople-finalist Aravane Rezaď 4-6 6-1 6-2, Anna Chakvetadze 6-2 6-3, and claycourt-specialist Anabel Medina Garrigues 7-6 7-5. But that match took almost 2˝ hours on Friday night, and Daniela had to play her semi-final on Saturday afternoon, losing 6-4 6-2 to her victim in the Indian Wells final: Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Daniela pulled out of Strasbourg with a left-leg strain, so I hope that's just a precaution after her gruelling Roman exploits, rather than something serious that could jeopardise her French Open campaign.
6.1 First round
Jelena Kostanić Toić is an awkward player with a vicious command of spin, who has often beaten members of my Eternal Fanship, but Daniela has never played her.
She beat Samantha Stosur at the Australian Open, which was a big surprise to me as Stosur always does well in Australia. Her recent results haven't been so impressive, as she has lost three of her last four matches, and has a negative win/loss ratio of 12:14 for 2007 so far.
If Daniela is healthy, and doesn't have one of her off-days as at Berlin, she should come through this one fairly comfortably.
6.2 Second round
Olga Poutchkova may be capable of flashes of brilliance, but she's had a terrible claycourt-season, losing her last two matches 6-2 6-2 to Julia Schruff at Prague, and 6-1 6-2 to Michaëlla Krajíček at Rome.
So I guess we'll be stuck with the manly Eleni Daniilidou, a dangerous floater who famously beat Justine Henin at Wimbledon 2005. Daniela is 2:2 head-to-head against Daniilidou, winning their last meeting 6-7 6-3 6-3 at Doha this year. But Daniilidou has lost her last four matches, including a 6-0 6-2 thrashing by Martina Müller at Berlin, so even cute little Olga might have a chance against her.
6.3 Third round
Daniela beat claycourt-specialist Anabel Medina Garrigues 7-6 7-5 in a 2˝-hour match at Rome, and in fact has a 3:0 head-to-head against her, courtesy of two hard-court wins.
But Medina Garrigues just beat Amélie Mauresmo in the Strasbourg final, which reduces Daniela's chance of beating her here to about 50%.
Is it too much to ask for the attractive Varvara Lepchenko to come through instead? ;-)
6.4 Fourth round
Two members of my demi-fanship - Ana Ivanović and Sania Mirza - could meet in the second round, which is a shame because I slightly prefer Sania, but Ana deserves a good French Open after her recent form which brought her, at Berlin, a second Tier I title.
Sania's year so far has been much more modest than Ana's, with Tier IV semi-finals at Hobart and Pattaya City. She suffered a serious knee-injury at Doha that required an operation, and only came back at Fes two weeks ago, losing in the first round there and again at Constantinople.
So it's only realistic to consider a Daniela v Ana fourth round. They've never met before, but I think it would be a tall order for Daniela to beat Ana, who seems well on her way to becoming one of the very top players in women's tennis, and is already up to #7 in the rankings.
Julia Vakulenko might just spring another surprise, though: she beat Kim Clijsters at Warsaw (prompting Clijsters to announce her retirement), and at Berlin she beat Mauresmo and Dinara Safina back to back to reach the semi-finals! There she retired with a right-forearm injury, and also pulled out of Rome.
Daniela won her only meeting with Vakulenko 6-0 7-6 at the US Open 2003, but was frustrated by Vakulenko's moonballing which would be even more effective on clay, and Daniela's eyes filled with tears after she failed to close out the match at the first opportunity - it was her next Grand Slam since that infamous emotional meltdown against Shinobu Asagoe at Wimbledon.
I do think Daniela has a chance to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final since the Australian Open 2003 and complete the full set of Grand Slam quarter-finals, but I've got to stop here or I'll never get this finished on time!
7. Anna Chakvetadze preview
Anna isn't firing on all cylinders at the moment, as she's been struggling in the claycourt-season with a right shoulder-strain.
At Warsaw, she should have crucified Jill Craybas easier than 7-6 7-5. Beating Tathiana Garbin 6-2 6-2 was a much more convincing scoreline, but then she retired at 6-7 (1/7) 1-3 against Jelena Janković, following a dramatic loss of form in the tiebreak.
At Berlin, playing with a patch on her shoulder, she struggled past Samantha Stosur 3-6 7-6 7-6, then lost 6-4 6-4 to Lucie afářová, who is also one of the most promising young players on the WTA Tour.
At Rome she beat Yan,Zi 6-1 6-3, but then lost 6-2 6-3 to Daniela Hantuchová. Daniela is one of the most flairsomely-talented players on the WTA Tour, just as Anna is, but I was surprised by that scoreline as I believe Anna's game is better suited to clay than Daniela's.
I just hope that Anna's week off will have helped her shoulder to heal, and that she'll soon be back to the level she was at last autumn and earlier this year. Her recent results would have been okay this time last year, but they are disappointing by top-ten standards.
7.1 First round
Alicia Molik was becoming a formidable top-ten player when her career was cruelly interrupted by an inner-ear infection in 2005. Her results have been much more modest since she came back in May 2006. She did beat four top-32 players early in 2007, but has lost seven of her last eight matches (the one she won was 7-6 2-6 7-6 against #292 Leanne Baker at Strasbourg).
Molik on this form should be easy pickings for a healthy Anna. They've never played each other before.
7.2 Second round
Anne Kremer is one of the veterans of the WTA Tour at age 31, with a win over Monica Seles at Eastbourne 1999. Her 2007 results aren't too shabby at 19:12, but they've mainly been against low-ranked players in qualifying for WTA tournaments.
Ágnes Szávay, on the other hand, is barely out of juniors, and lacks big-match experience. She too has been playing mainly qualifying on the WTA Tour this year, but with a more impressive win/loss record of 18:7. She also won the ITF $75k at Zagreb a couple of weeks ago - a timely confidence-boost ahead of the French Open!
Again, either of these players would be easy pickings for a healthy Anna.
7.3 Third round
Ai Sugiyama is another 31-year-old veteran, but a much higher-ranked one at #26. She's a very plucky competitor, and playing against her can be like pulling teeth. But she's lost four of her last five matches - most recently a 6-0 6-2 loss to Shahar Pe'er at Rome, so that has to be encouraging for Anna. They've never played each other before.
7.4 Fourth round
This is where the going gets tough. Anna is seeded to meet Amélie Mauresmo, which is kind of annoying because if Anna had moved up to #9 one week earlier, she'd have been seeded eighth and avoided this draw.
Anna trails Mauresmo 0:3 head-to-head, but every match has been tougher than the one before.
But Mauresmo is off-form after coming back from appendicitis, losing to Julia Vakulenko in 3r Berlin, Samantha Stosur in 2r Rome, and Anabel Medina Garrigues in the final of Strasbourg. And she always underperforms at Roland Garros.
Perhaps the greater danger, then, comes from Lucie afářová, who upset Mauresmo 6-4 6-3 at the Australian Open, then enjoyed a trailblazing run to the final of WTA Paris, upsetting Nicole Vaidiová, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Justine Henin back to back.
Lucie's results have been more modest since WTA Paris, and her 6-4 6-0 semi-final loss to Victoria Azarenka at Estoril was particularly disappointing. But she did beat Anna 6-4 6-4 at Berlin - their only meeting so far.
Anna could be in for a repeat of her Australian Open quarter-final against Maria Sharapova, which she lost 7-6 7-5. Maria leads their head-to-head 3:0. They first played each other - and I first saw Anna play - at the French Open 2005, which Maria won 6-1 6-4, but Anna's game has improved almost beyond recognition since then.
Due to serious injuries to her right shoulder and left hamstring, Maria hadn't played since Miami until Constantinople, where she lost in the semi-finals to Aravane Rezaď.
So Maria's place in that quarter-final is far from guaranteed, the greatest danger coming from Patty Schnyder, who beat Maria at Rome 2005. Schnyder was having a poor 2007 until Rome, where she beat Serena Williams to reach the semi-finals. But she pulled out of Constantinople with a right-thigh strain.
Anna is 1:1 head-to-head against Schnyder after her 6-4 6-1 thrashing of the Swiss in the fourth round of the Australian Open. But clay is Schnyder's best surface, while Anna's claycourt-season is below par so far.
8. Maria Sharapova preview
Maria comes into this tournament with a similar lack of preparation as last year, having been sidelined since Miami with a right-shoulder injury and a left-hamstring injury. But this time she did play Constantinople, beating Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 7-6 and Agnieszka Radwańska 6-2 3-6 6-0, but losing 2-6 4-6 to Aravane Rezaď in the semis.
So I have low expectations for Maria coming in here - all I hope is for three or four matches so that she goes into the grasscourt-season with adequate match-play.
Maria: "Roland Garros's decision to treat all women-players as equal is a recognition of the status of women's tennis and our players, and a real tribute to all those who have campaigned with such passion and commitment for equality since the founding of the WTA Tour. Roland Garros, which last year took the important step of awarding equal pay to the winners, deserves congratulations for this decision to extend equality to all. This is the message we want to be sending as a sport to the world, and Roland Garros has demonstrated leadership by making this decision."
Sharapova a doubt for French Open [CEEFAX 480->485] (Wednesday 9th May)
World number two Maria Sharapova has pulled out of next week's Italian Open through injury, casting doubt on her place at this month's French Open.
The 20-year-old Russian has a shoulder injury and has not played since losing to Serena Williams in Miami in March.
"My body is slowly getting better but in no way will I be ready to play in Rome," she told her website.
"I just want my fans to know that I am doing everything possible to be ready to play at the French Open."
SHARAPOVA A DOUBT FOR ROLAND GARROS [Teletext 495->496]
Sharapova out of Rome [Teletext 496]
Maria Sharapova is doubtful for the French Open later this month after pulling out of next week's Italian Open with a right shoulder injury.
The 20-year-old Russian, who also missed the event last year with a foot problem, has been sidelined since competing in Miami in March.
She told her official website: "My body is slowly getting better, but in no way will I be ready to play (in Rome)."
Russians hope to continue love affair with French Open
By Gennady Fyodorov
MOSCOW, May 23 (Reuters) - Paris and the French Open have always had a special place in the hearts of Russian tennis fans.
World number two Maria Sharapova leads the Russian contingent.
Although the US Open champion has not had a good build-up to the clay-season, pulling out of several high-profile tournaments with a shoulder-injury, she is in confident mood after reaching the fourth round last year.
"I have the same goal in every tournament, that is to win it," said Sharapova, 20, who will have an added incentive to do well as she could overtake Justine Henin as world number one if the Belgian flops in Paris.
Nadia Petrova, who won three titles on clay leading up to last year's French Open, Dinara Safina, who upset Sharapova on her way to reaching the quarter-finals in 2006, and newcomer and world number 10 Anna Chakvetadze, also have a chance.
Henin set to meet Serena in Paris [CEEFAX 492] (Friday 25th May)
Maria Sharapova, who has been sidelined with shoulder and hamstring injuries, faces a potentially tricky first-round match against France's Emilie Loit.
Henin to face Vesnina [Teletext 496]
Second seed Maria Sharapova, who has only just recovered from injury, will meet Emilie Loit.
Penpix of leading women's French Open contenders
PARIS, May 25 (Reuters)
2-Maria Sharapova (Russia)
Lives: Bradenton, Florida
Plays: Right-handed, double-handed backhand
Grand Slam titles: Two (US Open 2006, Wimbledon 2004)
French Open record: 2006-fourth round, 2005-quarter-final, 2004-quarter-final, 2003-first round.
Still chasing her first title of the year. Started 2007 strongly by reaching the final of the Australian Open, which she lost to Serena Williams. Went on to reach the semi-finals in Tokyo but has struggled since, losing the number one ranking to Henin.
Missed her two scheduled claycourt-stops in Charleston and Rome due to shoulder- and hamstring-injuries. Warming up this week in Istanbul to get some matches on clay before the French.
Last year proved a career-best season for the Russian, her victory at the US Open in September being her fifth title of the campaign.
Increasingly strong on both wings, and with an ever-improving mental conviction on court. Clay, however, is not her best surface and there is a question-mark over her form.
May 25 (Reuters)
Russia's Sharapova, who enjoyed the view from the top while Henin was struggling, feels more at ease on faster surfaces and has never gone beyond the quarter-finals in Paris, and her recent form has not suggested she might do any better this year. [boo!]
A Roland Garros Women's Preview
Written by Claire Mayer
Friday, 25 May 2007
M. Sharapova: She hasn't excelled at the French Open but hasn't exactly failed at it either. Her game isn't that suited to clay but she's slowly adapting to it. An injury having kept her off the courts since Miami, her lack of preparation could be an issue, and her actual participation is yet to set in stone. She'll try to overpower weaker opponents, but as the tournament progresses they will be less forgiving towards her serve. A good draw could see her through to the QF, a bad draw could be a synonym for a R3 exit.
8.1 First round
Maria has a 2:1 head-to-head over Loit, with a 6-0 6-1 thrashing in 2r US Open 2006. But far more relevant now is her loss to Loit in 2r US Open 2003 (3-6 4-6), given Maria's struggles this year, that Maria is playing on her worst surface, and that she'll have the most hostile crowd in tennis against her when she plays the Frenchwoman.
Loit has had some impressive results this year, highlighted by winning the Tier III title at Acapulco. She did have a 3-match losing-streak going into Strasbourg, but there she had two wins including a scary 6-1 6-0 thrashing of Lilia Osterloh, before falling to Amélie Mauresmo in two tight sets.
I don't see this match going anything like their US Open 2006 encounter - any kind of win will do just to get through this one.
8.2 Second round
Jill Craybas did well early in the year, with a semi-final at Auckland, and winning the $75k ITF Midland. But she's been losing much more than she's been winning since then - she's lost four of her last five matches, so she shouldn't be such a scary prospect for an off-form Maria (they've never played each other before).
Lourdes Domínguez Lino is a claycourt-specialist, but far too weak to be a threat to a healthy Maria on any surface. She did have a 6-3 6-2 win over #22 Marion Bartoli at Charleston, but she lost /twice/ at Rome: once in qualifying, and again as a lucky loser in the first round. Her win/loss record for the year is a negative 11:13.
8.3 Third round
I only want to think that Gisela Dulko will live up to her seeding and come through here, but she comes into the French Open on a 3-match losing-streak, even though clay is her best surface.
But Gisela did win her first-ever WTA singles-title at Budapest just a month ago, and was also runner-up at Pattaya City back in February.
Gisela is Maria's pigeon: in their two meetings, Maria has won 6-0 6-1 and 6-1 6-1. But they've never met on clay.
8.4 Fourth round
Patty Schnyder looks a serious threat to Maria: she beat Maria at Rome 2005, and although Maria leads their head-to-head 4:1, they've all been very tough matches.
Schnyder was having a disappointing year, but it all turned around at Berlin where she beat Martina Hingis 6-4 6-0 to reach the quarter-finals; at Rome she beat Serena Williams 6-3 2-6 7-6 to reach the semi-finals. Clay is her best surface and Maria's worst. But Schnyder pulled out of Constantinople with a right-thigh strain.
The seedings say Amélie Mauresmo, but Mauresmo is off-form after coming back from appendicitis, losing to Julia Vakulenko in 3r Berlin, Samantha Stosur in 2r Rome, and Anabel Medina Garrigues in the final of Strasbourg. And she always underperforms at Roland Garros.
So Maria could be in for a repeat of her Australian Open quarter-final against Anna Chakvetadze, which she won 7-6 7-5. Maria leads their head-to-head 3:0. They first played each other at the French Open 2005, which Maria won 6-1 6-4, but Anna's game has improved almost beyond recognition since then, and she's now a member of my Eternal Fanship.
Anna isn't firing on all cylinders at the moment, as she's been struggling in the claycourt-season with a right shoulder-strain. I just hope that her week off will have helped her shoulder to heal, and that she'll soon be back to the level she was at last autumn and earlier this year.
The other likely quarter-finalist is Lucie afářová, who upset Mauresmo 6-4 6-3 at the Australian Open, then enjoyed a trailblazing run to the final of WTA Paris, upsetting Nicole Vaidiová, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Justine Henin back to back.
Lucie's results have been more modest since WTA Paris, and her 6-4 6-0 semi-final loss to Victoria Azarenka at Estoril was particularly disappointing. But she did beat Anna 6-4 6-4 at Berlin.
Order of play:
Dr. Andrew Broad
Last edited by andrewbroad; Jun 11th, 2007 at 08:25 AM.
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