Who will win Roland Garros?

Over the last 9 Grand Slam tournaments there have been 6 different winners on the ladies tour; Serena Williams, Angie Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens, Jelena Ostapenko and Caroline Wozniacki. The ladies game is so open at the moment which is fantastic so let’s have a look at who could be there?

Simona Halep 💪🏻

The world number one has a lot of pressure on her shoulders. She has been playing some good tennis over the last few weeks but the real pressure will come in the second week as it will increase match by match but staying in the moment is vital for the Romanian.

Caroline Wozniacki 😕

The world number two has not been in great form for a while. Her clay court season has been sat at 2 wins and 1 loss for every tournament she plays. She usually does get to grips with Roland Garros quickly and adjusts but that consistency in matches can just disappear at times. Watching Caro win the Australian Open was a beautiful moment for her and tennis but I don’t see her pushing for this one.

Garbine Muguruza 🤨

I don’t really know what to expect from Garbine. I said in a piece not long ago she can turn up with little momentum and still do well. Even in her defeat against Gavrilova in Rome a week ago she hit her ground strokes well just her game plan seemed confused. Contender? I think so but she needs to start matches good!

Elina Svitolina 😎

Watch out for Elina. Her game is looking solid right now. She seems composed and confident and her wins against Kasatkina, Kontaveit, Kerber and Halep have put her in a contenders bracket for Roland Garros. She doesn’t have that big Grand Slam experience but it will only come with performances on the big stage. I think she will be one to watch out for. Her attitude and commitment in her match against Halep was exceptional.

Jelena Ostapenko ☹️

Defending champion. Do I think Jelena will defend her title? No.

I don’t really see what Jelena has done since winning the title to convince me that she will replicate that. Her attitude has been a problem in matches and she just seems contempt with this game style which is a bit hit and miss!

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Karolina Pliskova 🧐

You wouldn’t usually put Pliskova’s game down as a clay court game but her form on clay since the beginning of last year has been very good. Pliskova plays a style of tennis which on its day is difficult to stop. She does move better now but I think there are better players on clay but I wouldn’t rule her out going far here.

Petra Kvitova 🏆

Form player this year. I’ve always enjoyed watching Petra but it has emotion and feeling attached after her horror attack. The issue with Petra is consistency and sometimes there is those random performances where things just go wrong. Since making the semi-final of Roland Garros in 2012 she hasn’t been back in the second week. Surely this is her year?

Angie Kerber 🤩

Don’t count Angie out, she turns up at the big stage and her game suits all surfaces and this year she has built up her ranking once again especially after a write off 2017 season. Seeded at 12 she could face a tricky draw and likely to face a top player in an early round.

Maria Sharapova 🏅

I don’t think Maria will win Roland Garros but I think she will provide a challenge especially following her run in Rome where she played her best tennis since returning over a year ago. The experience and stubborn style of tennis will be tough and if you are going to beat Sharapova you will have to bring you’re A game if she plays as she did in Rome.

Vika Azarenka 😎

Vika is on route around the world now with her son however she was quickly knocked out by Osaka in Rome. Vika has a presence which is so infectious and the crowd gets behind her. I hope Vika puts on a good performance and should be looking at the second week.

Serena Williams 👑

Where else do I end? Serena is playing her first major since giving birth. Since returning to the tour in March a plan and programme has been put in place to work on things that need improving and as her coach Patrick says she plays to win. Just the fact of playing Serena Williams can be a daunting prospect.

Who takes it? I don’t know, what I do know is it will be a fortnight full of stories, surprises, emotion and at the end achampion!

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Zverev – No.1 in the race, Grand Slam pressure & 2018 improvement

Alex Zverev is in the form of his life. The 21 year old recently picked up his 3rd Masters 1000 title in Madrid and came close to picking up a fourth leading Nadal 3-1 in the final set of Rome before a rain delay. With a recent win/loss of 16-2 this has seen the German rise to number one in the race for London and will be seeded number two at Roland Garros but now he needs to do it in a major.

Alex Zverev has never made it past the 4th round of a Grand Slam reaching that stage at Wimbledon last year. His Roland Garros record isn’t great with a win/loss of 2/2 so there is some pressure on the German to perform on the biggest stage!

At just the age of 21 year his game has come on leaps and bounds this year and it is scary how good he has been and despite the level he is currently playing at there is still room for improvement which is even more scarier.

So let’s have a quick look..

Forehand

This is his bread and butter shot. He is comfortable with this shot and there is nothing wrong with comfort but maybe he does need to let loose on it at times.

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You may look at this and think there is a lot of lines and two Zverev’s but it will all fall together. The yellow lines are what Zverev goes for. The inside out forehand on the left he backs off and flattens it out usually cross court or down the middle but the red line is showing an option of going back inside which we don’t see much of but could?

The second forehand is a more defensive position but he can hit it behind the baseline, on or in front using the height and top spin to create angles and open up the court which he has improved a lot. Could the next step be to hit the forehand up the line?

The backhand is more of a you know what you are going to get shot.

AZ 1The backhand does remind me of the way Novak and Andy hit theirs. Once they get a moment and the ball sits up they can go for the winners down the line and cross court!

He is good at picking off these winners but also isn’t afraid to get involved in those crosscourt backhand rallies where he is so dangerous.

I do feel like the pressure is there to perform at a major. It’s an odd one as in the group of players trying to break into the very top he has got there but unlike Thiem, Dimitrov etc… he hasn’t done it at a Grand Slam yet.

Pressure? Of course but he won’t play Nadal until the final at least which does give him some let up but with Novak hanging around the draw further down than usual there are most likely going to be many early obstacles for everyone!

The boys looking to halt Rafa at Roland Garros

No Federer or Andy and Stan and Novak aren’t near challenging yet so who is a real challenge to Rafael Nadal on the clay?

It has been an intriguing clay court season so far which has seen some much needed performances from players needing it and two who have shone are Dominic Thiem and Alex Zverev.

Dominic Thiem’s March didn’t go to plan after picking up an ankle injury this meant he had to skip Miami and put his clay court preparations on the back foot. His performances in Monte Carlo weren’t great however you can’t complain as it was a first tournament back and then in Barcelona the same before he started to perform in Madrid with some incredible wins, one of which against Rafa and now he looks like that win has given him belief in Paris.

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Alex Zverev made all the headlines for the wrong reason early in the season with stories going around about a split with his coach but he has got on with his tennis impressively!

Performances have been very good, the way he approaches matches reminds me of Andy Murray in the way that he confidently goes about his game but with the respect of what his opponent can offer!

Madrid saw him pick up his third Masters 1000 title and on clay, he hasn’t done it yet at a major so really there is a lot of pressure to recreate his current form on a big stage.

Can they? Of course they can! I think Zverev has better game management which is where Thiem needs to improve in early rounds as sometimes he can get stuck in battles he shouldn’t have to battle too much in but then is almost flawless against top players but can take it out of him.

Garbiñe Muguruza – 16/8 win loss, odd game plan & lack of confidence 🤔?

Garbiñe Muguruza is not a two time Grand Slam champion by fluke. The Spaniard is having a tough year but it just hasn’t changed all season!

She will go into Roland Garros on a win/loss of 16/8 with no momentum generated at all this season and three retirements to her name but a title in Monterrey following the sunshine double.

Against top 25 ranked players she is 2/4 for the season and lost three matches against players ranked outside the top 50.

I watched back her match against Gavrilova and I didn’t really find a game plan, I found parts of a number of different ones trying to gel together but it was messy.

The best part of her game came from the backhand which was hit with pure frustration and became a weapon. Her defence was a bit shaky, net play was odd especially the overheads and drive volleys I didn’t get it and I’ll take a look.

The first one is messy, the drive volley is straight at Gavrilova who panicked but Garbiñe made it difficult for herself the open court is there. Gavrilova as I said panicked and should have looked up the line or cross court and pulled the angle but hit straight at Muguruza who put away.

This one here was odd. Down break point and the drive volley with panic in it was messy. Game plan went out the window and she hit the drive volley out and that sealed her fate.

I don’t think the confidence is there at the moment and hasn’t been majority of the season. The title win in Monterrey felt more like a relief than an achievement.

However I wouldn’t rule her out at Roland Garros. She produced one of the great upsets against Serena a few years ago in Paris and I think the longer turn around between matches helps her.

Is Petra the favourite for Roland Garros?

No one has won more titles in Madrid than Petra Kvitová. 2018 celebrated 10 years as a WTA tournament fight from Kvitová was incredible but does this make her the favourite for Roland Garros?

Petra has been in magnificent form all year winning four titles (2 on clay) and generally is looking fit and ready for a challenging few months.

Petra’s bread and butter is the grass courts and I’m super excited to be going to see her in Birmingham in June but with the way she is moving from the back of the court and her confidence this does make her a danger on clay.

Her best at Roland Garros was a run to the semi-final in 2012 where she made it to that round without having to play a top 60 ranked player, this was her only appearance in the second week here.

With 7 top 10 wins this year and after her first round exit in Australia she went on a 14 match win streak and her form hasn’t dipped too much.

Petra’s style is very much go for it and there are those performances where it goes horribly wrong with the ground strokes failing to get past the net which is a danger to her chances but is something we’ve seen and she has pulled through on but her performance a while ago in Charleston against Kristyna Pliskova was a worry!

I do say Petra is one of the favourites. Matches against Halep in-particular would be interesting on clay. Halep leads their head to head at 3-1 with one win on clay at Madrid in 2014 but they haven’t played for almost 2 years.

Her recovery and rise again has been outstanding and to win another major which I do think she will this year would be an incredible for her and an amazing chapter in her career which came close to being ended and could have lost her life.

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CHAMP10N

In this sport, some things are just meant to be. After a tough 3 years after winning his 9th Roland Garros Rafal Nadal etches his name onto that famous trophy for a 10th time which is incredible!

After making the final in Australia all talk turned to that Roland Garros title aiming for number 10 but Nadal always saying 9 is his favourite number but he might be re-evaluating that right now.

Over the past three years he has struggled with injuries and form but as well as celebrating another major for the Spaniard also celebrate and praise his work ethic and commitment to always trying to be a better player. When things got tough after Grand Slam No.14 you couldn’t fault him if he decided to hang up his racket at this point but he wasn’t done and I have a feeling he isn’t done yet.

Even the best can go through that period of having a lack of confidence which shows despite title after title they are human and you can see what it meant to him to win once again and in style, the forehand was immense but his consistency throughout the fortnight in Paris was special dropping just 35 games in 7 matches which is his lowest number of games dropped during his run to 10 titles!

VAMOS!

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Go big and go home (with your first title)

Jelena Ostapenko was never at Roland Garros to make up the numbers. The Latvian was ranked at 47 in the world and 19 when the tournament began now she will be ranked as high as 12 and just turned 20 and what a way to celebrate than with your first career title which is just one of the four majors in the world so no big deal!

Jelena’s style of play is what helped propel her to an unthinkable title in which she hit 299 winners in 7 matches which is unheard of in tennis, Nadal hit 118 in his first 5 matches!

Every match Jelena arrived with a ‘go big or go home’ style of tennis and she did go big from the first to last match and went big, went home but with a Grand Slam title.

There was never any pressure on Ostapenko. With respect she never came into Roland Garros with much expectation on her which brings pressure and as the tournament went on and on she continued to play more freely seeing off Puig, Stosur, Wozniacki, Bacsinzky and Halep on her way to winning the title.

She wasn’t phased by anything and the crowd got behind her and her explosive style of tennis as she went from strength to strength with no fear and this could be the start of something major.

I still don’t feel there will be too much pressure on her which we have seen in the past from young players in her position. She seems to be a young lady with her feet on the ground coached by her mother and former top 20 player Anabel Medina the future does look good for the Latvian who no matter was thrown at her these last couple of weeks in Paris played with a smile on her face!

Well done Jelena!

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Photo credit – Getty Images