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Friday, May 20, 2011

Pre-French Open: First Round Frenzies

So it begins. The French Open draws have been announced and fans everywhere can finally sink their teeth into the dramatic journeys their favorite players will face on the dirt of Roland Garros. As always, some big names have easier draws than others, but this year (more than ever) the field is open and lesser known novices as well as fallen veterans will be looking to sneak their way through the bracket.

While the first round should be warm up for the seeded stars, the randomized draw has given us some exciting match ups. Will there be a few early exits? Here are some first rounds to watch:

Wozniacki v. Date-Krumm 
Don't laugh. Now the odds of good old Kimiko winning this match are very, very low, but you can never count her out. A former top 5 players, Date Krumm has seasoned court sense and power to match. Wozniacki should be able to dull her sting with long rallies and world class defense, but you never know what can happen if the Dane's forehand crumbles and Date Krumm hits her marks. Still, Wozniacki has youth and momentum on her side.
Prediction: Wozniacki in 2.

Peer v. Martinez Sanchez
As the no. 19 seed, Peer should be able to overcome her first round with ease. Should. But the Israeli has hit a bit of bad luck with the draw this year, matching up against last year's Rome champion, Martinez Sanchez. Peer was clubbed by Wickmayer at Indian Wells and has failed to find her footing since, dropping out in the first round of Madrid to Kleybanova and in the round of 16 to eventual Rome champion, Maria Sharapova. I would be hesitant to expect a straight set win from her against any decent clay courter, but against Sanchez, I expect even less.
Prediction: Martinez Sanchez in 3.

Oudin v. Schiavone 
Little miss "Believe" is taking on last year's French Open champion, and while the match should be a routine win for Schiavone, I'm not completely sold. The last time these two met was in the Fed Cup finals and it was Oudin who came out on top. Schiavone has a lot to live up to this year and should be a little nervous, but as a veteran player she will know how to handle the emotions. The former "Russian Slayer", on the other hand, has done little since her 2009 US Open quarterfinal run. Does she really believe she can make it to the second round at Roland Garros?
Prediction: Schiavone in 3.

Larsson v. Ivanovic
The wow factor of this first round lies less in the match up and more in the Serbian. Ivanovic is a former French Open champion and an immediate exit would put a good sized hole in her self-confidence (remember her first round loss at the US Open??) On a normal day, a match against Larsson would look to be quick and routine, but Ivanovic isn't in top form. She has been nursing a left wrist injury and has openly complained about it to the media. Do we have excuses already, Ana? Hopefully she finds her biting forehand and good movement. Hajde!
Prediction: Ivanovic in 2.

Petkovic v. Jovanovski 
Rising star, Petkovic, has a lot of people pulling for her as one of this year's dark horses. The German has played some fantastic matches since the Australian Open, including a win over world no. 1 Wozniacki in Miami. Rome and Madrid, however, were not Petko highlights as she fell out early in both. She is currently in the finals at Strasbourg and is showing some clay promise, but will that be enough to topple the expected hot-shot new Serbian? Jovanovski hasn't showed us too much this year, but she has the fire power and carefree confidence to swing big and win bigger. Possibly the future of "the Serbian trinity," I think Jovanovski could put up a fight if she comes to play.
Prediction: Petkovic in 3.

Of course, there are other matches to look out for. Will Kvitova keep up the hype and take down Arn? Yes, I think so. And how about Wickmayer v. Niculescu? Is the Belgian going to bounce back from a sudden back injury? Maybe not.  The frenzy of the early rounds clearly shows how open this tournament may (and probably will) turn out to be.

Tomorrow look out for tournament predictions, Quarterfinalists --> Champion.

-Kedzie Teller, ITB Senior Editor


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