Roland Garros: Day 3 Preview
Published May 26, 2009 12:00
PARIS, France - Two players who have held the No.1 ranking make their first appearance at this year's French Open on Tuesday, as the first round matches in the bottom half of the draw are played out. Both Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams have plenty to prove after a troubled few weeks, though - as does France's own Alizé Cornet, who so far hasn't been able to find the form that made her claycourt season so memorable last year.
(5) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) vs. Petra Cetkovska (CZE)
Jankovic has now made it to the fourth round or better at 11-straight Grand Slams, including back-to-back semifinal appearances at Roland Garros. But, while that's the very consistency that carried the 24-year-old Serb to the No.1 ranking late last year, her failure to go all the way to a major title, or at least final, had much to do with her subsequent overthrow by Serena Williams. Having dipped to No.5, she is first to admit her confidence has taken a hit, and although winning the claycourt title at Marbella last month helped, it's hard not to view her quarterfinal runs at Stuttgart, Rome and Madrid as disappointing. Maybe a slight lowering of expectations is exactly what she needs to force a breakthrough on the big stage, and in that context Cetkovska should provide a perfect first round test. The Czech made the last 16 here last year, and has scored Top 10 wins over Marion Bartoli and Elena Dementieva since then. So she has the talent to give Jankovic trouble, but the Serb should have too much class.
(21) Alizé Cornet (FRA) vs. Maret Ani (EST)
This time 12 months ago Cornet was busy building a 24-8 season record on clay, had just reached the final at Rome, and in the glare of the spotlight was about to make a very respectable run to the third round at her home Grand Slam. But, while clay has been the surface the now-19-year-old can thank for her spectacular rise into the Top 20 - nearly 69% of her career match wins have been recorded on the red (or green) dirt - it has been a source of misery of late. The French teen is 1-6 on the surface this year, and instead of knocking on the door of the Top 10 has slipped out of the Top 20. Whether or not the Roland Garros pressure-cooker is the place to rebuild her confidence remains to be seen - the native of Nice has lost all four Fed Cup matches played on French clay this year - and it may not help that Amélie Mauresmo has already made her exit. Still, her draw could have been tougher: At the age of 27, Ani is still seeking her first Grand Slam main draw win.
Klara Zakopalova (CZE) vs. (2) Serena Williams (USA)
Williams leads 2-1
So far, 2009 has provided a snapshot of Serena's brilliant but mercurial career. One minute the 27-year-old is winning the Australian Open and rising to the No.1 ranking for the fourth time; the next, she is slumping to four consecutive losses for the first time ever. Needless to say, injury has had quite a lot to do with the American's recent run of ill fortune, but the upshot is that the 2002 French Open champion arrives in Paris as something of an unknown quantity. In the past that has been no barrier to success, certainly, but the danger today is she faces the player who inflicted the first of those four losses, in the first round at Marbella. Though her ranking has dropped to No.100 in recent weeks, Zakopalova beat Zheng Jie for her sixth Top 20 win on her way to the quarters at Warsaw last week, then lost a tight three setter to Daniela Hantuchova. She could be in the mood for a repeat performance.
Virginie Razzano (FRA) vs. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK)
Hantuchova leads 3-2
Last year Hantuchova missed the European claycourt swing due to a stress fracture in her foot. But, while the injury itself healed sufficiently to allow a return at Wimbledon, the consistency that had restored the Slovak to the Top 10 went walkabout, resulting in a drop from the Top 40 earlier this year. The upside has been that Hantuchova has had no points to defend on clay, and the climb back up the rankings has begun. Three good wins got the 26-year-old to the semis at Warsaw last week, and although she duly became a victim of eventual titlist Alexandra Dulgheru, her losses before that in Stuttgart, Rome and Madrid were all to members of the Top 10. However, she won't relish the prospect of Razzano, for the Frenchwoman won the last two times the pair played, most recently on Dubai's hardcourts (Razzano went on to reach the final). What's more, with three consecutive third round finishes at Roland Garros under her belt, Razzano appears to thrive at her home Slam.
More to watch…
On Lenglen, seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova plays French wildcard Claire Feuerstein, who is ranked No.236 and making her Grand Slam debut. Elena Dementieva, the runner-up at Roland Garros in 2004 and seeded fourth this year, opens her bid for a first Grand Slam against South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers on Court 1, while No.30 seed Samantha Stosur and Francesca Schiavone do battle on Court 2. Jelena Dokic, a quarterfinalist at the French Open in 2002, faces Croatia's Karolina Sprem. No.18 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues lines up against the player she beat for the Fès title a few weeks ago, Ekaterina Makarova of Russia; Yanina Wickmayer, who beat Makarova in the final at Estoril, plays Urszula Radwanska.