World No. 1 Rafael Nadal goes for five straight French Open titles, while women’s No. 1 Dinara Safina seeks to prove she is the real deal among a field including former No. 1s Venus and Serena Williams, and struggling Serbs Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic beginning today at Roland Garros.
Ivanovic won the title last year before a hand injury and a bout of self-doubt threw her game into a spiral, but the Serb thinks she is a better player than in 2008.
“I’m more mature,” Ivanovic told reporters. “Comparing my game to last year, it’s improved. There are some areas that I’ve added to and I feel really confident on the court. I have a very good opportunity to do well again here, and I love playing here on clay.”
Nadal has beaten Roger Federer in the last three finals, and in the semifinal the year before that, and the world No. 1 and No. 2 could again be on a collision course after Federer beat Nadal in the Madrid final. Novak Djokovic narrowly lost to Nadal in the Madrid semis, and Britain’s Andy Murray looks to enter the claycourt mix with the help of new claycourt coach Alex Corretja.
“I know I have to play well if I want to go deep into the tournament,” Murray offered as some deep insight into doing well at Slams, speaking to reporters at Roland Garros. “I can come through matches when I’m not necessarily playing my best, whereas on clay I have to play tough tennis from the start and play my best to win.”
Matches of interest on the men’s side at the start of play Sunday include last year’s last-American-standing Wayne Odesnik vs. (7) Gilles Simon, Murray vs. veteran Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela, former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt vs. the giant-serving (26) “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic, (10) Radek “The Worm” Stepanek vs. former Roland Garros champ Gaston Gaudio, the explosive Ernests Gulbis vs. American Sam Querrey, and a guaranteed grinder in (31) Nicolas Almagro vs. Argentine Agustin Calleri.
On the women’s side Sunday, matches to watch include Italian Sara Errani vs. the slow-starting defending champ (8) Ana Ivanovic, Germany’s Anna-Lena Groenefeld vs. former No. 1 (16) Amelie Mauresmo, and (11) Nadia Petrova vs. American wildcard Lauren Embree.
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