In light of world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki’s inability to win a Grand Slam title, and the Williams sisters on the sideline, the 2011 French Open women’s draw is WIDE OPEN. No Americans are in that wide open window, but we’ll talk about that later.
Kim Clijsters is back from injury and seeded No. 2. It will be interesting to see if the Belgian can quickly up her game to the physical and mental rigors of the red clay. Clijsters will start against Belarus’ Anastasiya Yakimova, and is looking at a possible third-rounder against No. 25 seed Maria Kirilenko, and fourth round against No. 7 Maria Sharapova, facing a Russian “Maria” onslaught.
The top-seeded Wozniacki will start against the ageless Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm, who The Woz struggled to beat in three sets a couple years ago at Wimbledon. Wozniacki’s tough road to the semis would likely include face-offs against No. 28 Daniela Hantuchova, No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova, and No. 8 Sam Stosur or No. 17 Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges. A couple seeds in the top quarter have tough starts: No. 19 Shahar Peer vs. Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (the more names, the tougher the player), and No. 8 Stosur vs. Czech Iveta Benesova, who played the Aussie tough the other week in Rome. And Stosur will be feeling the pressure to defend big points.
Defending champ Francesca Schiavone is the No. 5 seed and Vera Zvonareva the No. 3 seed in the second quarter. Schiavone starts against American Melanie Oudin (6-16 win-loss this year and has never won a match at the French), and Zvonareva against Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez Lino. Neither player has a particularly difficult draw and they should emerge to play each other in the quarters — but since this is the 2011 WTA tour, that will probably not happen.
Other first-round matches of interest in the second quarter are No. 26 Nadia Petrova vs. Anastasia Rodionova, and No. 18 Flavia Pennetta getting a dose of Americana, opening against Varvara Lepchenko, then likely playing another American in the second round in the form of Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The third section of the draw is a bit of a snoozer. No. 4 Victoria Azarenka and No. 6 Na Li are the top seeds slated to meet in the quarterfinals. Also in the mix are No. 20 seed and former French Open champ and former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who is playing like none of the previous-mentioned labels; and No. 9 Petra Kvitova, the only other player in this section to possibly make some noise.
Clijsters is making a French Open appearance for the first time since 2006.
For a preview of how the American women will do without the Williams sisters this year, just check the major news wire headlines like “US braced for French Open mauling” and “At French Open, U.S. players are nearly irrelevant,” and you get the picture.
The WTA says the 2011 French Open is the first time in the Open Era that there are no seeded American women. And 32 women are seeded in the draw. The top-ranked American is Mattek-Sands at No. 36.
So an American won’t be raising the trophy this year in Paris, but keep an eye on Clijsters, who has shown the ability and confidence late in her career to come off the couch from injury and drink everyone’s milkshake.
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