Roland Garros: Day 4 Preview

Lucie Safarova took Venus Williams to three sets in Rome; can the Czech lefty close out a win this time around?

Published May 27, 2009 12:00

Roland Garros: Day 4 Preview
Lucie Safarova

PARIS, France - Second round matches get underway at Roland Garros on Wednesday. Former Grand Slam champions in action include Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova, whose return from injury will be given a thorough workout by Nadia Petrova. Young pretenders taking to the courts include Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and swashbuckling Spaniard, Carla Suárez Navarro.

(3) Venus Williams (USA) vs. Lucie Safarova (CZE)
Williams leads 2-0

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus toiled for three sets to get past Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round, and there's every chance she'll have to do the same today. Indeed, the last time these two played was just a few weeks ago on the clay at Rome, and the match went the distance. Safarova is tall and left-handed, so her serve is a huge weapon, and she has the rangy power to trade strokes with the 28-year-old American. Currently the Czech is ranked No.46 but a couple of years ago she appeared to be destined for greater things; with four quarterfinals under her belt so far this year, and an impressive first round win over Sabine Lisicki, she might view this match as an opportunity to step things up a notch or two. To do that, of course, she'll be required to keep her unforced error count lower than that of her illustrious opponent.

(11) Nadia Petrova (RUS) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Sharapova leads 5-1

To date Sharapova has had the edge over her older compatriot, and by rights this should be Petrova's chance to improve her side of the ledger. But, not for nothing is Sharapova a three-time Grand Slam champion; the French Open is the only major missing from her collection, and yet among this year's main draw players she arrived in Paris with the best career win percentage on clay (55-15, or .786). She would not have returned to action last week in Warsaw if she didn't think her shoulder was ready, and her grafting three-set first round win over Anastasiya Yakimova was exactly the sort of match she needed to get back into the swing. Of course, two-time Roland Garros semifinalist Petrova is no slouch on clay either, and her biggest weapon, her serve, has been firing on all cyclinders - she owns the best aces per match percentage on Tour this year, serving nearly six each outing. Neither player will leave anything on the court.

Court 1
Julie Coin (FRA) vs. (27) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Tied at 1-1

A year ago Coin was contemplating retirement. She'd had a noteworthy college tennis career in the US, and her share of success on the ITF Circuit, but in her mid twenties was still struggling to crack the Tour. Then, at the US Open - her Grand Slam main draw debut - she upset Ana Ivanovic in the second round to become the lowest-ranked player (No.188) to ever defeat a reigning world No.1. So the Frenchwoman decided to give tennis another chance, and here she is, 26, ranked No.70 and finally making her main draw debut at her home Grand Slam. Calf strains kept her out of Marbella and Barcelona, but she had a good first round win over Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives here, and with the French crowd behind her, stands a real chance against Pavlyuchenkova. The 17-year-old Russian, winner of three junior Grand Slam titles on hardcourts, announced herself as a star when she reached the semis at Indian Wells, but her claycourt season has been a little quiet.

Court 17
Lucie Hradecka (CZE) vs. (22) Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)
First meeting

Suárez Navarro came to notice as a qualifier at Roland Garros 12 months ago, when she upset Amélie Mauresmo on her way to the quarters. The young Spaniard's progress through the rest of 2008 was only steady, but she drew attention to herself again at the Australian Open by beating Venus in a thrilling second round match, her single-handed backhand again drawing superlatives from the commentators. The encouraging thing about her run to the last eight in Melbourne was the fact it came on hardcourts, because her prowess on clay is the main reason the 20-year-old is Spain's next big hope. Certainly she gave fans plenty to cheer on her runs to the final at Marbella and semis at Barcelona, but she didn't make much impact at the bigger claycourt events, so needs to get back on track. Meanwhile, Hradecka is an enigma: at 23, she is making her Grand Slam main draw debut, but reached the final at Strasbourg last week. A handy doubles player, she has the variety to make things interesting.

More to watch...
Defending champion Ana Ivanovic, seeded eighth this year, plays Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn on Chatrier. Top seed Dinara Safina faces fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko first up on Lenglen, while among the home contingent, Strasbourg champion Aravane Rezai tackles up-and-coming qualifier Polona Hercog of Slovenia on Court 1. On Court 2, ninth seed Victoria Azarenka's second round opponent is Kristina Barrois of Germany; Hungary's Agnes Szavay, the No.29 seed, goes up against Elena Vesnina of Russia on Court 4, while No.20 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia plays Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens on Court 6. Seeded Chinese stars Zheng Jie and Li Na are also in action, against Michelle Larcher de Brito and Timea Bacsinszky respectively.

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