The draw for the 2009 French Open is out and here’s my analysis of contenders. I would just like to mention that despite all the facts, I'm sure we all deep inside feel that the women’s field is wide open.
Dinara Safina is my top favorite to win the title. She is coming to Paris with back-to-back titles in Rome and Madrid, plus the Stuttgart final before that (and all the three tournaments mentioned are played on clay). And not only that, the world No.1 Safina was last year’s runner up at the French Open.
The Russian is in impressive form, but she shouldn’t give herself the luxury of making matches longer than they should be (although she’s great at coming back from behind), in order to be fully fit as long as it takes to claim her first Grand Slam.
The first opponent at the French Open won’t be easy for Safina, as she’s meeting Anne Keothavong who reached the semifinals of this week’s Warsaw Open. Other big names such as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Alisa Kleybanova, Zheng Jie, Victoria Azarenka, Carla Suarez Navarro and defending champion Ana Ivanovic are also in her quarter.
Serena Williams still hasn’t won a singles match on clay this season. The world No.2 dropped openers of Marbella, Rome and Madrid, and hence it’s hard to put her as the favorite. However, knowing her impressive resume which includes the 2002 French Open title, and her ability to show her best at majors, the younger Williams sister can never be written off.
To make things more interesting, Serena Williams is playing Klara Zakopalova in the first round, the player she lost to in Marbella in April. Serena is looking at another potential tough match in the fourth round against Flavia Pennetta.
Venus Williams has won seven Grand Slam singles titles, and although she has never been victorious at Roland Garros, she played the final in 2002, and just like her sister Serena, she’s a threat anywhere and anytime.
Williams is the top seed in her quarter of the draw. Her first-round opponent will be fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. In the second round Williams could meet Sabine Lisicki, who beat her en route to the title in Charleston last month.
Elena Dementieva started the year with a bang with back-to-back titles at Auckland and Sydney, as well as the Australian Open semifinals. All the talk about Dementiva has somewhat silenced recently. The 2004 French Open runner-up reached two semifinals last month, and even though she could be able to claim her first Grand Slam title at 2009 French Open, I don’t really see that happening.
Dementieva is in the same quarter of the draw with Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki.
Jelena Jankovic is one of the best claycourters out there, mainly because of her exceptional movement. The Serb reached the French Open semifinals in the past two years. It would be a shame if she finished her career without a Grand Slam title, and Roland Garros trophy is something within her reach, but having in mind her recent troubles with form and confidence, she’s not likely to win this time.
Svetlana Kuznetsova is my second favorite, just after Safina. We can say that she recently revived her career with the win in Stuttgart and the Rome final the following week. Kuznetsova reached the French Open semifinals last year, and was a finalist in 2006.
The Russian is in the same quarter of the draw with Serena Williams and Flavia Pennetta, as well as Patty Schnyder and Agnieszaka Radwanska.
Ana Ivanovic is defending her title at this year’s French Open, but we all know that since winning her maiden Grand Slam title there were few bright moments in her career, plus, she’s coming off a knee injury. Therefore, Ivanovic is not high on my list for this one.
However, the Serb claims that she's ready for Roland Garros: "Thankfully the pain and inflammation in my knee has gone away so I have been able to practice this week. My timing is pretty good at the moment and I'm optimistic about my chances of success in Paris."
Feel free to add your favorites in the comments below, discuss my picks, and write your thoughts. I’m sure you noticed I skipped to mention some players, especially the young stars, and a couple of veterans, because the article is already too long, but that doesn't mean we can't talk about them in the comments.
Cheers to two beautiful weeks of tennis! (photos: Ralf Reinecke, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour)