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May 27, 2007


Packed Field Eyes Parisian Grand Slam Glory


PARIS, France - It's only fitting that one of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's all-time greatest players chases history the year that this very tournament makes history. On March 17, the French Tennis Federation announced that for the first time, women would receive the same prize money as men at Roland Garros, meaning that gender equality had finally been achieved at all four Grand Slam tournaments. The move was welcomed by the stars of the Tour, including world No.1 Justine Henin.

"There is no tournament that I feel closer to than Roland Garros, which makes the decision to treat the woman as equals very special to me personally," Henin said. "Equality is a principle as important as any, and the fact that all four Grand Slams are now equal sends an incredibly powerful signal. I commend Roland Garros and the French Tennis Federation for taking the final and critical decision that is worthy of their status as leaders in our sport."

This fortnight may not only be history for its prize money implications; Henin, who has dominated the terre battue in recent years, will try to become just the second player in the Open Era to win the Roland Garros singles title three years running, having won here in 2003, fallen second round in 2004 then compiled back-to-back title runs in 2005 and 2006. She would become the first player since Monica Seles between 1990 and 1992 to win the clay court major three years running. But despite coming into this event head and shoulders above the rest of the field in the rankings, the 24-year-old Belgian will not take her opponents lightly.

Of the rest of the Top 8 seeds, perhaps the greatest threat comes from Jelena Jankovic, who has gone from rags to riches in the span of one year. Jankovic went into Rome last year on a 10-match losing streak; since then she has won a whopping 83 matches, captured titles this year at Auckland, Charleston and where it all began in Rome, and has steamrolled into the world's Top 5 in recent weeks. Although she is 0-5 against Henin, all five of their encounters have gone to three sets, including three already this year. Jankovic won't have to wait too long for another shot; the No.4-seeded Serbian superstar is on Henin's half and the pair could meet in the semifinals.

Also among her highly-seeded challengers are No.2 seed Maria Sharapova, who reached her second career clay court semifinal just last week; No.3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was a runner-up at this event last year and has reached another pair of high-profile clay court finals in the last few weeks at Berlin and Rome; No.5 seed Amélie Mauresmo, who will try to bring her fans the home Grand Slam they've been wanting for seven years now; No.6 seed Nicole Vaidisova, who will try to repeat her dream 2006 fortnight, where she unexpectedly reached her first major semifinal; No.7 seed Ana Ivanovic, a winner at the Tier I event in Berlin a few weeks ago and the newest addition to the world's Top 10; and last but not least No.8-seeded Australian Open and Miami champion Serena Williams, who has proven this year that she can never be counted out.

Others to watch for include former runners-up Elena Dementieva and Venus Williams and 2004 Roland Garros titlist Anastasia Myskina.

Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur will be hard-pressed to defend their title here; the top seeds might face Australian Open champs Cara Black and Liezel Huber, Chinese Taipei's Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung or two-time major winners Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, among other emerging doubles partnerships.

Regardless of who stands in the eventual victors' path, there’s sure to be heated competition all fortnight long at Roland Garros 2007.
 

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