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tennisIlove09
May 10th, 2006, 12:49 AM
No clear favorites heading into French Open
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Matthew Cronin / ********************
Posted: 23 hours ago // front-end hack to remove postedTime from Rumors page until a better way can be determined if (document.URL.indexOf("/name/FS/rumors") != -1) document.getElementById("postedTime").style.display = 'none';
if(fanid.length > 0 && typeof(nflDefaultLeague)!= "undefined") { leagueId = nflDefaultLeague; //find teamId of default league (if exists) for(var i=0; i < teamsInfo.length; i++){ if(teamsInfo[i][4] == leagueId){ defaultTeamId = teamsInfo[i][0]; } } var fantasyLeaguePlayerJsPath = 'http://msnfantasy.foxsports.com' + '/nugget/200002_' + leagueId + '|||' + fanid; } An hour or so after she wasted Venus Williams in the quarterfinals of Warsaw, Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova was insisting that the clay-despising Kim Clijsters was a strong contender for the French Open crown


How right she was.

Two days later, Clijsters won her first clay court title in nearly three years, taking down none other than Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-2 in the final.

The victory by the Belgian highlighted what has become a very obvious fact: The French Open is wide open this year.

http://msn.foxsports.com/id/5586828_36_2.jpgSvetlana Kuznetsova will look to avenge two painful defeats the last two years at the French Open. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/ / Getty Images)

With two-time defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne struggling to keep her form while dealing with a fragile body, no one looks like a clear favorite or even close to it.

"It's very open," Kuznetsova said by phone. "The favorites are Justine, Kim, Amelie (Mauresmo), Elena (Dementieva) and Nadia (Petrova), but there are other players who have a chance, too."

Kuznetsova is one of those, despite having choked away match points at the French Open to eventual champ Anastasia Myskina two years ago, and to Henin last year. Both were tearful defeats that were extremely painful to watch.

The 2004 U.S. Open champion has the legs, the forehand and the proper clay court breeding to win in Paris, but has yet to show the nerves.

"I was very close both times," Kuznetsova said. "I don't think it was all mental, but I need to focus better this time. I think I can win it because I've come close before. I believe in my game more now."

It's been an odd year on the Sony Eriksson WTA Tour. It began with once-upon-a-time choke artist Mauresmo winning her first Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open and having a great follow-up stretch that included two more titles.

Then the Russians who had been sputtering came on strong, with Dementieva, Maria Sharapova, Petrova and Kuznetsova winning crowns.

With the injured U.S. women failing to win any titles in the first four-and-a-half months of this year (which has to be at least close to an Open-era record), it's the Russians, the Belgians and the French fighting it out for dominance on clay.

Venus finally came back last week after three months off (again) and pulled off a tremendous three-set victory over her archrival Martina Hingis in the second round of Warsaw, but she's still way too rusty to be considered a serious threat to win Paris. She didn't have enough steam to bang with Kuznetsova the day after, and another three weeks of training may not be enough time to get her lungs open and strokes smooth in time for the French.

Veteran Lindsay Davenport has been out since March and is questionable to even play in Paris, let alone compete for a title even she admits she has little chance of winning.

The last three American women to win Roland Garros Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati and Serena Williams are hurt and have not set return dates.

Seles hasn't played in three years and is likely to retire. Capriati hasn't played in a year-and-a-half and may go away, too.

And the struggling actress Serena?

Still refusing to have surgery on her bad left knee while issuing cagey statements on a hopeful late summer return, which would mean that even if the out-of-shape, seven-time Grand Slam winner does come back in August, she will have played all of four tournaments in a year's time.

Without the Americans in the mix, you pretty much take almost what Kuznetsova said about French Open favorites to the bank.

The women are playing two significant clay court tournaments before the granddaddy of dirtball tournaments, Berlin this week and Rome next week. If anyone other than Mauresmo, Henin, Clijsters, Petrova, Dementieva or Kuznetsova doesn't win those titles, it will be a sizable shock.

Myskina can't find her range, former Roland Garros champ and last year's finalist Mary Pierce hasn't played in three months due to a foot injury, and the lanky Sharapova doesn't have enough strength in her thighs or enough innate ability to slide to win big titles on clay.

The baby teens are promising yet still raw. Serbian glamour girl Ana Ivanovic is inconsistent, tall Czech Nicole Vaidisova doesn't move well enough to do much on clay, Dinara Safina is far more mentally erratic than her brother and kewpie doll Maria Kirilenko (the other Maria's best friend) is lacking in weaponry.

So you have to look at the French-loving Henin (who has bagged two crowns this year) Petrova (two clay titles in '06), Mauresmo (if you can't stand watching her shake with nerves at home) and two-time French finalist Clijsters (even if she doesn't like what sliding does to her knees and thighs) as four of the big five for Spring time in Paris.

And the fifth one? Kuznetsova, who just last summer was seen sitting on the floor of an L.A. parking lot at midnight after another horrific loss in what at the time, appeared to be a never-ending slump. But it's way over now and the 20-year-old is feeling mentally chipper and has taken control of her life, which usually means that a player will be in charge of her on court successes, too. "I making decisions for myself and my own career now," she said. "I'm feeling very good. I know better what to do now. I'm improving all the time and hopefully when I get to the French Open, I still will feel like I can win it."

Slumpsova
May 10th, 2006, 12:56 AM
let's wait and see when some fans coming here and complain about why Sveta didn't mention Maria, Kim, Lindsay, Venus, Patty, Anne Keothavong as the favourites :rolleyes:

tenn_ace
May 10th, 2006, 12:56 AM
And the struggling actress Serena?


:haha:

tenn_ace
May 10th, 2006, 12:57 AM
let's wait and see when some fans coming here and complain about why Sveta didn't mention Maria, Kim, Lindsay, Venus, Patty, Anne Keothavong as the favourites :rolleyes:

she did mention Kim ;)

Slumpsova
May 10th, 2006, 12:59 AM
she did mention Kim ;)


oops :p

new-york
May 10th, 2006, 12:59 AM
well, that's cool like that, i mean, we don't know what to expect & hopefully we'll have things we would'nt expect.

tenn_ace
May 10th, 2006, 01:01 AM
Kuznetsova, who just last summer was seen sitting on the floor of an L.A. parking lot at midnight after another horrific loss in what at the time, appeared to be a never-ending slump.


wow it was that bad :sad:

~Rachel~
May 10th, 2006, 01:07 AM
clay-despising Kim Clijsters

:shrug:

~|Naomi|~
May 10th, 2006, 02:03 AM
:shrug:

Kim dislikes clay, she has often said it is her least favourite surface. But she has never said she can't play on it, just she doesn't like to:p

mike/topgun
May 10th, 2006, 11:02 AM
fair article, decent analysis of the current wta tour condition
5 big favourits for the french crown...some fans would add Hingis to the list, but i'm not sure she's ready

mauresmofan
May 10th, 2006, 11:38 AM
I agree with that analysis. No clear favourites and it'll be interesting to see the draw.

~Rachel~
May 10th, 2006, 11:39 AM
Kim dislikes clay, she has often said it is her least favourite surface. But she has never said she can't play on it, just she doesn't like to:p

Fair enough :) I just thought 'clay-despising' was a bit strong considering her record at the French Open, she can't hate it that much :lol: