French Open Thursday: Doubles Reunion
Published May 26, 2016 12:10
Thursday, Second Round
 Serena Williams (USA #1) vs. Teliana Pereira (BRA #81)
Head-to-head: First meeting
Key Stat: Serena Williams improved to 62-1 in first-round matches at Grand Slams with her win on Tuesday.
Serena Williams' potential road to the Roland Garros title got easier on paper when No.5 seed Victoria Azarenka, her rival and potential quarterfinal opponent, was knocked out of the draw on Day 3 by Karin Knapp of Italy. But the 21-time major champion was more concerned about working her way through the draw than monitoring other results on Tuesday. "In order to get the warm weather you have to last to the second week," Williams joked after her 42-minute victory over Magdalena Rybarikova on a chilly afternoon in Paris. On Thursday the American will bid for her 56th career Roland Garros win against a very talented clay-courter in Brazil's Teliana Pereira. The 27-year-old world No.81 has amassed 16 wins and two titles on clay over the last two years, but she's gone 0-4 in that span against players in the Top 25. She'll face the challenge of a lifetime when she faces the game's greatest player on the world's biggest showcourt. How will she respond?
Pick: Williams in two
 Kristina Mladenovic (FRA #30) vs. Timea Babos (HUN #45)
Head-to-head: Mladenovic leads, 3-1
Key Stat: Mladenovic and Babos won three doubles titles together in 2015 and qualified for the WTA Finals.
A pair great friends and former doubles partners will duke it out in a no-holds-barred battle for supremacy on the singles court on Thursday. 23-year-old Timea Babos is blossoming as a singles player in 2016, winning 21 matches to best her previous career high by nine, and reaching semifinals in Shenzhen and Rabat. Mladenovic has struggled to live up to expectations at times this season, but the Frenchwoman has demonstrated the ability to put bad patches behind her at Grand Slams in the recent past. She has been to at least the third round at the last four majors, a feat that Babos has never accomplished in her own budding career. Can rising Babos pull an upset and knock off her good friend on her home soil on Thursday? Or will it be big-match Mladenovic who seizes the energy of the moment to prevail?
Pick: Mladenovic in three
 Timea Bacsinszky (SUI #9) vs. Eugenie Bouchard (CAN #47)
Head-to-head: Bascinszky leads, 1-0
Key Stat: Bacsinszky is 11-2 on clay this season and has not lost to a player ranked outside the Top-10 on the surface.
Eugenie Bouchard snapped a long losing streak against the WTA's elite in Rome when she knocked off Angelique Kerber to register her first Top 10 win on clay since the 2014 French Open. Will Bouchard's renaissance continue in Paris against red-hot Bacsinszky on Day 5? Already having registered seven more wins in 2016 than she did in all of last season, the 22-year-old Canadian believes she is on the right track. "I feel like it's kind of my first year on tour again," Bouchard said on Tuesday after defeating Germany's Laura Siegemund in straight sets. "I try to see it as a positive thing, like I'm going to try to prove to myself how well I can play and prove that I do belong at the top. Nobody's going to hand it to you." Bacsinszky, a semifinalist in Paris last year, will look to wear Bouchard down like she did when the pair met for the first time at Indian Wells this spring. Her world-class defense, variety on the clay and fighter's mentality should give her chances to repeat that result.
Pick: Bacsinszky in three
Opportunity knocks in a tiny section of the top half of the draw, where not a single seeded player stands between rising Russian Daria Kasatkina and her first round of 16 appearance at a major. 19-year-old Kasatkina has turned heads all season with her athleticism, maturity and court sense, now maybe it's time for her to turn the corner at a Grand Slam? Standing in her way on Thursday her will be a heart-and-soul veteran that is the only player in history to have ever defeated Serena Williams in the first-round of a major. Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano accomplished that tremendous feat right here in Paris in 2012. In her 18th appearance at the French Open, does the 33-year-old have more magic to summon?
Pick: Kasatkina in three
Around the Grounds: Other than defending champion Serena Williams,14th-seeded Ana Ivanovic is the highest-seeded player remaining in top quarter of the draw. She'll meet Japan's Kurumi Nara in the day's first match on Court 1. No.9 seed Venus Williams will bid to reach the third round at Roland Garros for the first time since 2010 when she meets American qualifier Louisa Chirico on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
By The Numbers
5 - Number of former Roland Garros Girls' Singles champions in action today (Mladenovic, Razzano, Cornet, Svitolina and Kasatkina).
-Chris Oddo, wtatennis.com contributor