The location for 2016’s second Grand Slam is the shimmering red clay at Roland Garros, named after the French Aviator and WWI fighter pilot who boasted such achievements as first solo flight across the Mediterranean Sea as well as inventing the first forward-firing aircraft machine gun. Similarly the WTA ladies will be aiming to achieve seven consecutive victories on the way to lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen this year, writing their name in the Tennis annums forever.
Who’s got a chance?
Below are the winners of all of this season’s WTA clay court events:
Volvo Car Open (Premier) – Sloane Stephens
Claro Open Colsanitas (International) – Irina Falconi
Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Premier) – Angelique Kerber
TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup (International) – Cagla Buyukakcay
GP SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem (International) – Timea Bacsinszky
J & T Banka Prague Open (International) – Lucie Safarova
Mutua Madrid Open (Premier Mandatory) – Simona Halep
Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Premier 5) – Serena Williams
It’s difficult to single out the one Rafael Nadal “chosen one” of clay on the women’s side of the draw. The closest would of course be Serena Williams, three time overall winner and defending champion, her victory at Rome last week signals she is in contention and probably the favourite as is often the case, though her absence in Madrid and generally understated clay season this year might pave the way for a new champion this time round.
Australian Open champion Kerber who dominated early 2016 has been unexceptional on clay. She successfully defended her title in Stuttgart, but more recently has not performed so well, we’re not ruling her out (never rule out Kerber), she might however struggle against some of the clay court specialists. Who are these specialists you ask? Sara Errani springs to mind. She has reached the QF without fail for the last four years. Her lack of power and her poor clay season could prevent her from going the distance. Carla Suarez Navarro, the ever present Spaniard knows her way around a clay court. Her lack of consistency and failure to go deep into slams ultimately keeps her away from the favourites. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic and Francesca Schiavone are the only previous winners in the draw other than Williams. Out of the three Kuznetsova would be most likely to regain the title given Ivanovic’s wild inconsistency and Schiavone’s struggle to remain in the top 100.
The Dark Horses
If we look further down the draw, there are a few hidden gems that might just rock the boat at Roland Garros. Laura Siegemund has taken to this year’s clay court season like a duck to water. A finalist in Stuttgart, beating Vinci, Halep and Radwanksa en route. She has spent most of her career ranked between 200-400 in the world but in recent months her ranking soared to a career high of 38, watch this space! Voted as WTA’s April breakthrough performace, Turkey’s Cagla Buyukakcay won her maiden WTA title in Istanbul. Her admittance to the French Open is dependent on her beating Klara Koukalova (22nd seed) in qualifying but she is certainly odds on to make it to the main draw. Finally the US sensation Irina Falconi who was this year’s winner in Bogota also made the third round at the French last year. Her and the others’ performances will be entirely dependent on the draw which will be released on Friday 20th May, here’s hoping they get a favourable draw, or if not can crush some seeds.
Who won’t be there at all?
Nineteen year old Belinda Bencic; world number 8 has pulled out through injury pushing fellw Swiss Timea Bacsinszky up to eighth seed. World number 10 Flavia Pennetta is retired. Maria Sharapova is still provisionally suspended following the whole Meldonium drama. Caroline Wozniacki’s damaged right ankle will keep her off the French clay. Barbora Strycova, Monica Niculescu and explosive Latvian youngster Jelena Ostapenko have all snuck into seeded spots as a result of withdrawals whilst Keys and Errani have captured 15th and 16th seeds respectively, meaning they avoid the titans until at least the fourth round.
Despite gazing into our crystal ball, realistically anything can happen at a slam. All we know is it’s going to be a hell of a ride. Who are your predictions to make waves or even win the title? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook and stay tuned for updates and results.
Appréciez la balade – Volleta