First conclusions are going to be drawn tomorrow as far as the 2017 Roland Garros is concerned. Indeed, the first half of third rounds are going to be played, meaning that we will finally learn who will be the first names to reach the second week of the Grand Slam!
On the WTA side, the situation is open as ever. With no big favourites for the title, the road is open for mostly everyone to make a historical, deep run. If someone can argue that this is inevitably going to lower the quality of the matches, I would say instead that this openness of the field makes the competition even more entertaining. And hopefully, this opportunity for everyone to get a big achievement is going to motivate players to bring their best tennis out there on court.
Literally, every player has a chance to reach the semifinals, or even the final. My job consisting of picking five names to watch out for is hard, since I would take mostly all of the ones left in the draw. But, you know, listing the players left would be quite boring and, I’d say, utterly useless. Hence, after a long decision, here are my five names to watch out for, ahead of the third round.
Actually, most of the times life’s happenings prove me wrong, so I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them exit the tournament in the following round, but I’ll try anyway.
Seven former Slam champions entered Roland Garros. All of them were drawn in the first half. Three of them – Angelique Kerber, Francesca Schiavone, Petra Kvitova –have already exited the tournament. The other four are still in. Among them, there’s Samantha Stosur, 2011 US Open champion.
However, Stosur’s love for clay is declared and demonstrated. Back in 2010, she reached the final here in Paris, defeated by Francesca Schiavone, and in three other occasions – 2009, 2012, 2016 – she reached the semifinals.
The pressure of the big amount of points to defend is clearly quite high, and the Aussie definitely suffers from pressure. Proof of this is the fact that she never passed round four in her home Slam, the Australian Open. However, her feeling with clay, and Paris especially is something to be taken into consideration. Stosur herself declared in an interview last week, following her title in Strasbourg, that she always plays well in Paris.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands awaits her in the following round. Not the easiest of opponents, though definitely favourable for a Slam third round. If she manages to overcome her, the draw has suffered from the loss of #1 seed Kerber, so the opportunity for a deep run is massive.
Another former Slam champion, the Russian fought hard to overcome local Oceane Dodin in the second round, managing to win the match in three sets. Already a champion here, her draw would comfortably lead her to the quarterfinals. Chinese Shuai Zhang awaits her in the third round. The Chinese #32 seed is definitely struggling to win matches and not-addicted to clay courts. In the following one, the seed left is Caroline Wozniacki.
Despite her 6-0 6-0 win against Abanda in the second round, the Dane never loved clay courts. Her best result in Paris is the quarterfinals in 2010, and among her 25 titles only four were conquered on clay, the most recent being the Brussels Open in 2011.
Sveta definitely has a big chance, but questions remain on her mental stability. Serving for the set at 5-2 and eventually winning it 7-6(5) – as it happened against Dodin – is not something you can always do.
Honestly, the only reason why I put her in the list is because she is the defending champion, and she has been able to overcome two tricky rounds against Francesca Schiavone and Rome quarter-finalist Anett Kontaveit, who defeated the Spanish in Stuttgart a month ago.
Her draw continues to be quite a nightmare. Yulia Putintseva, who reached quarter-finals last year, awaits her in the third round. The Kazak player is one of those who can make you go crazy, with a tricky game and a – let’s say – tricky attitude on court. And possibly, her fourth round would be against either Kiki Mladenovic or last year’s quarter-finalist and clay court lover Shelby Rogers. A nightmare, then. But she made it once last year. Why would she not be able to do it twice?
What a big question mark. In her first round, she played one of the worst matches I have ever seen in my life against Jennifer Brady. Mladenovic injured her back in the previous days, and she entered the court not at her best. She eventually said that, had it not been the French Open, she would not have taken to the court. However, the American was not able to capitalize on Mladenovic’s poor performance, and choked a 3-0 lead in the third set ending up losing it 7-9, after I would say five hundred unforced errors.
In the second round, Mladenovic eased past former finalist Sara Errani in straight sets, showing improvement in her movement, even though her serve was not at its best.
As far as her physical conditions are concerned, it is tough to say she will go far in the tournament. But she is crowd favorite, and she is playing her home Slam. Motivation should not be underestimated.
The last name is the Swiss – Timea Bacsinszky. Quite under the radar, she lost only five games in her first two matches – even though Sara Sorribes Tormo and Madison Brengle are not the scariest opponents. Third round is going to see her facing Lucky Loser Ons Jabeur, a Tunisian player who ousted Dominika Cibulkova in the second round. The Tunisian owns an incredibly entertaining game, which matched to Bacsinszky’s one guarantees a popcorn match. However, her consistency seems far from the top players’ one, and apparently it should not be tough for the Swiss to prevail. Eventually, then she could face Venus Williams, if she manages to ease past Elise Mertens.
As I said at the beginning, it is tough to list only five names. I decided not to include, for example, Jelena Ostapenko, Yulia Putintseva, Caroline Wozniacki, even Australian Open finalist Venus Wiliams. You see, I could have easily listed them all!
Once again, I would not be surprised if the five listed above exit the tournament in the third round. But, it is tennis, and we have to deal with it!