Who is the one to beat in women’s tennis? French Open 2011 prediction

Marine of Tennis Notebook has become a regular contributor to Women's Tennis Blog. Now she's making French Open predictions. Do you agree with her?

As we are nearing Roland Garros, tennis enthusiasts are starting to make first predictions about who has got what it takes to win the title. What is interesting about this debate is that there is some hesitation about who to pick as a favorite. The reason is quite simple: No.1 player in the world has won all kinds of tournaments … apart from a Grand Slam.

When Kim Clijsters became a No.1 in 2003, "a No.1 player without a slam" was a new phenomenon in WTA. Her accomplishment was a beginning of the debate which starts off regularly when someone happens to be (un)lucky enough to make it to the top spot "slamless".

The debate opened again with JJ achieving that, and has become pretty intense during the time when Dinara Safina became No.1. We all know what pressure of expectations and constant criticism did with Safina and even though things changed with the arrival of more self-assured Caroline Wozniacki, many people still frown at the No.1 without a Grand Slam crown.

The question "who is the best player in WTA" has become somewhat difficult to answer and therefore it nowadays produces mixed answers, although people tend to select the same couple of names.

So, who is the best player nowadays and who is the most likely to win Roland Garros 2011?

Here are my picks:

1. Caroline Wozniacki– Her performance has shown that she is a No.1 for a reason. Wozniacki goes far or all the way in most of the events she enters and even in Grand Slams rarely leaves before quarterfinals.

2. Kim Clijsters (if healthy) – As she gets older she gets better. Unlike in the past when she was struggling with nerves, nowadays she can stay calm under the pressure and raise her game when she has to. Good example are her three great wins over an old rival, Justine Henin.

3. Ana Ivanovic (??) – Well, I say this with a question mark because her performance can be still quite unstable – at one moment she is up there with the greatest and the next we see her doing poorly. As a former winner she probably has the most self-confidence (and thus highest chances) on clay.

4. Dark horses: Samantha Stosur, Francesca Schiavone, Svetlana Kuznetsova

All had achieved a great success at Roland Garros, although Stosur did not go all the way to win it. However, their performance is rather unpredictable as they all have had ups and downs during this season.

Just a short note: To ease the pressure off slamless No.1s, I would like to remind everyone of the recent occasions when players achieved their career peaks late in their careers, like Francesca Schiavone winning the 2010 French Open and the Morocco victory of Alebrta Brianti (she won her first WTA title at 31). Marine also has a nice post about it, entitled "Golden Oldies". (photos: © Neal Trousdale)

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25 thoughts on “Who is the one to beat in women’s tennis? French Open 2011 prediction

  1. Sam

    Ana Ivanovic is more of a drak horse, as should be JJ.

    Vera? I think she can go all the way, Vika and Aggie have had good performances of late.

    A rising star like Kvitova? or even Petko?

    That being said, I am not saying anything till I see a draw! Ahaha

  2. Mirjana

    It's really difficult to pick a favourite, besides Wozniacki, all the others have shown some pretty unconsistent form. As I said before, Caro is number 1, but I doubt she'll win it. I don't get her strategy- she's playing too many tournaments ahead of Slams, when she should just take a break and focus on the most important- winning Slam. I agree about Ana, we all saw her performances in America and Slovakia- if she plays like that, she'll deffinitely go very far. Andrea is playing good too, but she just doesn't have it in her head. As for Kim, even if she plays, she's more focused on Wimbledon.

  3. Patricia

    It's a difficult question… I really hope for Kim for getting healthy and for starting at RG. She has to win the French-Open and later Wimbledon for making her collection complete.

    I don't really think Caro's gonna make it. Mentaly she's not on this level right now. Maybe next year…

    I would pray for Sammie getting back to her old form. She's got the potencial to keep it up again.

    Go Sammie! Go Kim!

  4. Marine

    I think Caro wants to get all the critics and doubters off her back as soon as possible. I think she probably plays a lot because she wants to polish her game. Her schedule is pretty hectic though! I think that if she manages to stay calm under the pressure this time it could work out. However, there are some players who, when they are at their best, could be a threat. I think Stosur is probably the biggest threat for her. I still don't get how could she lost to Schiavone last year after her great matches against S.Williams and Henin.

  5. Bojana

    I really hope Ana Ivanovic can win it this time. I've just watched her semi-final match against Jankovic at RG 2008, and they both played unbeleivable, but Jankovic isn't in the form right now, so I'll pick Ana as my favourite. I wish Ana could play as good as she played back then….
    And btw, Jankovic was so much agressive then than she is now… What a pitty.

  6. mg

    I don't think Jankovic was much agressive then than now…I actually think opposite.When Sanchez was her couch, defense was her main strategy,and in many matches it went great thanks to great form JJ was in.She didn't make many errors,had much strength and energy and she made her opponents constantly move and doing so make mistakes and get tired.Today it seems that JJ is stuck without real strategy.It seems like she doesn't actually have idea how her game should look like-defense,offense,she goes from one to another but not really knowing why.She starts matches playing good,very agressively,wins a set,and then goes complitely in defense and loses at the end.I was not a fan of always doing defense that Sanchez brought but having no strategy is a problem.That's why I doubt JJ'll win,even though her shots are getting better-she seems so confused sometimes.As for Ana…who knows what can happen in her head. :) I doubt Kim will play RG. Caro…I think not.Too many matches and wins will get her tired,cause no matter how perfectly fit she is,it still affects,especially in her mind.When she should be at highest motivation,she'll come already satisfied.I just think nobody can get away from that,no matter what saying,it's just human nature(and Roger,Rafa and Novak(this year)are not humans,of course :D).And I think it isn't good for such a young girl,she's only 21,to test her body that much all the time,she rarely has a break and she already had some serious problems with leg. :O

  7. Helen

    Concerning the #1 versus slam argument: What makes a singles slam very important are the UNIQUE conditions that the winner has to perform under in order to win: the large field of 128 players, the event runs for two weeks and the winner has to beat 7 opponents (no small task). It takes great game, mental toughness and peak physical form to hang in there for so long and land in the winner's circle.

    Lesser tournies have smaller fields and run for a couple of days, if a #1 player CAN NOT win a slam under the highest and most difficult requirements of the tour then she is indeed lacking. If given a choice, most any player would choose a slam title over the #1 ranking.

    Stars of this era: Kim, Justine, Sharapova, Kuznetsova and the Williams Sisters are great champions because they have accomplished this feat on multiple occasions. Even more highly regarded are those precious few of any era who have won every slam at least once: Serena, Chris, Steffi, and Navatilova.

  8. Petar

    In my opinion Ana can win RG but it all depends of the draw…she needs to play her aggressive game and she can beat all the top girls….Kim won't win RG because she is not so good on clay…I also know that Wozniacki won't win it because she is one lucky girl who benefited from the absence of Serena and Venus, injured Sharapova, Kim is playing only big tournaments, Jankovic is always good but never the best, Ivanovic is sometimes uo sometimes down, so Wozniacki is no 1…in my opinion Azarenka is so much better than Wozniacki but she was injured in critical moments and just couldn't do it….I think that Azarenka is black horse….J am with all my heart with Ana and J hope she will win…GO ANA

  9. Jun

    I really hope Ana can go all the way this time. Damn that tummy of hers. I think the players to watch out for are Caro (even tho she's been relatively inconsistent recently, Aga who could make a good run provided especially if she gets a good draw, and Petko who shows tremendous improvement tourney after tourney and of course Vika who is slowly turning out to be Caro's main rival. I dont wanna sound cynical but I don't think Fran could defend her crown.

  10. JohnnyB

    Maria Sharapova, Andrea Petkovic and Viki Azarenka are my 3 favorites to win the French Open. Here's a long shot – Sabine Lisicki, the hardest hitter on tour and back from injury! I like Galina Voskoboeva and whoever is lucky enough to be her partner in doubles.

    The comments on JJ and Ana just show your Serb bias. I don't see anything in their recent performances to indicate they are ready to win big.

  11. Causar

    I'd like to see Andrea Petkovic makes a big deal here
    she starts to play great tournament after tournament
    in fact, I love her personality, she's a nice girl

    Also, I wanted to see Ana get her title back in Roland Garros
    And don't you ever forget about Vera Zvonareva, I watched her played in Stuttgart and I think she's pretty good on this surface though most peoples said she's uncompetitive on it
    I don't think so

    As for Caro, like others have said, she got no chance
    And one more, I don't think Kim will play here, not just because she's injury but the fact that this surface was her less favorite one will influence her spirit to comeback, maybe she'll prefer the grasscourt

  12. Marine

    Helen, I don't agree that the conditions of Grand Slam are unique. In fact, I would say they are a bit easier than in the smaller events. OK,the field is big and everyone tries hard to win, however, they also have a day off between matches which eases off the pressure a bit. Grand Slams are in the end of the day also just tournaments and there is no guarantee that you will see the best tennis there for various reasons. The winners of GS are not highly appreciated, the only exceptions are the Williams sisters and Kim. Many of those who won a slam (e.g.Kuznetsova) are rarely tipped for a winner when it comes to Grand Slams anymore. The issue of no 1. without Grand Slams is an issue which is a result of the media hype.

  13. Tanmayee Yenumula

    This is quite a difficult decision since the women's game is so unpredictable, but here is my list of favorites:
    1. Caroline Wozniacki: She is the world #1 and has won many, many tournaments. Also, the absence of top players coupled with her consistency and mental strength make her the favorite.
    2. Kim Clijsters (if healthy): She has won the last two Grand Slams consecutively. If she is healthy, it will be a battle between Wozniacki (who is no doubt improving every day) and Clijsters.
    3. Maria Sharapova: Despite clay being Maria's worst surface, her height and power allows her to strike more winners than others. Also, she has pretty decent results at Roland Garros within the past couple of years.
    4. Vera Zvonareva: Vera is still emotional so I do not list her higher up, but she has been extremely consistent and has a decent chance at he first Grand Slam.
    5. Victoria Azarenka: Coming off injuries from last year, Azarenka has been playing fantastic and has a great chance at winning the tournament where she was once a quarterfinalist.
    Dark Horses: Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Dominika Cibulkova, Petra Kvitova

  14. Cheri Britton

    I don't think Caroline is going to win this year even if Kim and the Williams sisters aren't there. She, like Andy Murray, has a great tennis game but not quite enough weapons, and also like Andy, those she has aren't used often or early enough.

    At some stage during the tournament, she'll likely face one of those players who has an offensive game and who is playing well. Someone like Petra Kvitova, Julia Goerges (who just beat her), Dominika Cibulkova, Sam Stosur or Victoria Azarenka.

    Caroline's got a great defence and fitness, but when playing one of these players in form, it's not enough, as they tend to dictate play. As Caroline said when she lost to Goerges, she couldn't quite believe how many of Julia's aggressive shots were going in.

    My tip to win is Victoria Azarenka (for what it's worth) with Petra Kvitova or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as dark horses.

  15. Bróna

    If I had to predict the winner right now, I think I'd go with Victoria Azarenka. Her performances in the last two months have indicated that she's finally ready to break through and win a slam. There was something about the way she won in Miami that showed maturity that hasn't seemed to be there before. I'd love to see her do it.

    Even though Wozniacki is number 1, I don't think she'll win RG because clay is not her best surface. Although, that said, of all the players, she is probably the most confident and this could just pull her through any tough matches so she could do it.

    Clijsters, if she plays, has to be up there among the favourites, undoubtedly, but how much the ankle injury has affected her plays a huge role. In the last 2 seasons Zvonareva and Jankovic struggled enormously after suffering similar injuries and considering that Clijsters' biggest strength is her movement, the ankle injury could affect her chances significantly.

    My dark horses are Jankovic, Petkovic, Sharapova, Goerges and Stosur and I'll be interested in how Safina, Ivanovic and Kuznetsova do. It will be an extremely interesting tournament!

  16. Helen

    @Marine

    Thanks for posting an excellent article. There's plenty of room on this topic (and others) for differing opinions, it makes for interesting debate. :)

    I can't believe how good most of these comments are, they're really thoughful!

  17. P!nky

    JJ is my pick to win, others are Azerenka, Li, Wozzy. Long shot, and for no aparent reason, Mirza

  18. Gregoire Gentil

    People tend to confuse their wish and an objective analysis!

    My deep wish is for Caroline. Go Caro!!! Give to your fans what they are waiting and cheering so much, yourself holding in your hands the Suzanne Lenglen trophy!

    Trying now to have an objective analysis, to my mind, Wozniacki has 2/3 chance to win. I pretty agree with Cheri Britton above.

    She has the fitness that no other player has, and she has the confidence that frighten all her opponents.

    The other players know that to beat her they need to have all the super power shots in and during twenty or thirty games to beat the "wall". Petkovic made it once in Miami, but take a look at Stuttgart, she managed to do it until 4-1, and then she literally exploded.

    So, the risk for Wozniazcki is to face a "flying" Petkovic, Görges, Kvitova, who play her A game, in a third or fourth round. Passed those rounds, those dangerous girls won't resist the pressure. The draw will be key for Caroline.

    My dark horse is Azerenka if she avoids Wozniacki in her draw. Vika has not beaten Caroline for more than two years and she is too fragile, plus Caroline knows her way too much.

    Though I do like very much those players, I don't believe into the serbs (Ivanovic, Jankovic), Kuznetsova, Sharapova, or Stosur.

    If Clijsters can play at Rome and have some good matches before Paris, she can be a factor.

    There is an interesting article about Wozniacki and her chance for Paris here:
    http://blog.oregonlive.com/tennis/2011/04/caroline_wozniackis_future_starts_–_and_maybe_ends_–_now.html

  19. Marine

    @Helen, oh, thank you! I'm glad that you like it and I also enjoy this debate. This is one of a few tennis blogs with 99% nice and reasonable people who really just want to have fun and discuss tennis without offending each other.

  20. Marine

    @Gregoire,
    I read the article and this is the typical attitude of the US press: or you win the 'big' ones or you're nothing :-P
    Also, the writer kind of opposses himself because he described Ivanovic as a no-hoper even though she HAS done it the 'right' way: won a slam and then got to the no.1 position. Yet, still not good enough :-D…
    The article only confirms what I've already assumed- no.1 without a slam is an issue for the media, not for the players themselves.

  21. Jacob

    Hi guys! I think Caroline will win, and if she does i will be vey happy for her. Maria Sharapova has been playing really well lately so i hope she will go far too! Im an Aussie so im hoping Sammy will get far!

  22. go caro

    I hope that Caro will win, but if not, I am sure that she WILL win a slam one day. Being number one was a big goal, and not many have achieved it, and not for so many weeks. Other tournaments, apart form the slams, have great players too. Well done Caro, GO

  23. fyoto

    there is going to be a surprise winner at RG.Kim will not win,Azarenka will not win,Sveta will not win.
    The person who will win RG2011 will be a total surprise and nobody is talking about her because nothing is expected from her.

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