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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Roland Garros bound Simona Halep must forget Rome thrashing!

Going into Sunday’s final against Elina Svitolina you would have said Halep was playing her best tennis since Melbourne however the final was not what we expected.

The world number one was flat and lifeless with all respect. The first set which she lost was over within 19 minutes and it looked like the semifinal against Sharapova had taken it out of her.

That win was big, her first over the Russian on clay and of course Sharapova defeated her in the final of Roland Garros back in 2014 so it had some meaning.

If I were Simona I’d just let it go, there is no point in looking back. People will speak about it during Roland Garros but it’s just noise and disrespectful! Let’s talk about the positives!

Her game against Sharapova was top drawer and even in the 6-0 6-4 defeat she suffered to Elina in Rome she fought so hard in set two.

She went down 3-1 quick and it was almost 5-2 as well but she made the 4th seed work for it. At 3-1 she could have lay down her tools and it could have been over in less than quarter of an hour but that fight needs to be recognised and appreciated.

So forget the defeat, of course they will pick up on things from the week to improve as there should never be a week where you are happy with how you play as when you’re happy it becomes sloppy.

Tests will follow for Halep, she’s passed many but now forget Rome and head off to Roland Garros!

Foro Italico thoughts ahead of Roland Garros

The final big warm up before Roland Garros sees the top players from the world head to the Foro Italico in Rome to finish off their preparations and aim to reign supreme in one of the worlds most beautiful cities.

I have been a bit quiet on everything this week as I have been in Barcelona for the week hence why I am doing a round up of findings from the week but there will be a number of exciting pieces coming out ahead of what is set to be an exciting Roland Garros but Rome first!

Why Stan?

When I heard Wawrinka was in Rome I was surprised, he lost in straight sets to Steve Johnson and it would be unfair to even look at the performance but I thought he would go straight to Geneva to practice and defend his title there? It’s good to see Stan back and it will take a while to get rhythm which could take a few months especially with three surface changes over the next 7 weeks so finding comfort on the knee is priority.

Sharapova’s best form since returning

100%! The former world number one has found some of her best tennis in Rome. The slow court has allowed her time on the ball something she hasn’t been getting over the last few weeks on clay.

Courts at Roland Garros can be similar but it does depend on conditions and watering which we have seen before. I think it’s good for Sharapova in this form but honestly I don’t see her contending for the title. The FFT denied Sharapova a wildcard last year so I don’t think they will be rushing to put her on Chatrier or Longlen.

Dom heading to Paris? Nope…

After what has been a good clay court season for Dominic Thiem the Austrian suffered an early exit in Rome so you’d have thought he would head to Paris to begin preparing but is instead going to play in Lyon at a 250 event and I don’t know why.

He isn’t short of match practice just a bad defeat and his performances in Monte Carlo and Madrid so soon after injury were very good so I hope going to Lyon doesn’t burn him out.

Worried for Woz?

Caro’s form has been consistent in the way that in all of her clay court tournaments she has won two matches and lost the third but when she has lost it is a thrashing.

Caro surprisingly has never found consistency on clay despite her game being well suited. Roland Garros is statistically her worst major with a win percentage of 64% but was her best performance last year making the quarter finals.

Caro does have points to defend and as second seed she should definitely be in the second week but has struggled against big hitters these last few weeks like Kasatkina and Bertens.

Kei good but good enough?

Kei Nishikori has also played one of his best tournaments of the year. Finalist in Monte-Carlo and quarter finalist in Rome he has come into form however that form dramatically dropped against Djokovic which is a concern!

Can he do it over 5 sets? I don’t think right now he is up to it physically. It is good to see him playing some stunning tennis but after set one it became a fatigued performance and he was a passenger which is a concern over three sets let alone best of 5 tournament.

Novak in form!

We haven’t been able to say it much this season but Novak has shown great form over this week. Frustration was a big part of his performance against Nadal and it was great to see that frustration!

You might think well frustration shows something is up but it’s good to see Novak with that spark in his personality and game on the court again. His performance against Rafa was better.

Physically he was moving better and hitting the ball harder with control. More challenges will follow but I will be greatly surprised if he doesn’t make the second week of Paris.

Madrid Madness! Del Po stunned, Sharapova + Halep out, Thiem announces himself and business as usual for No.1

Well, Wednesday has proved a manic day in Madrid. As the week goes on the draw shortens and nothing like it has done today with big names out, future stars shining and the usual suspects up to their tricks!

Thiem has announced himself!

Dominic Thiem had to do it this week, no excuses. He has now set up a meeting with Nadal and it will be a good marker to see how far he is away from Rafa as right now he is his biggest challenger on this surface.

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Down a set and a break with Coric serving for the match the Austrian produced some inspired and hard fought tennis something we haven’t seen as he continues to return from this ankle injury a few months back but it was there and with the win announced his arrival on the clay court season.

Del Po out!

Usually he is the man you can rely on in tight situations and when he found himself 4-0 up in the third set tie-breaker that did look like that however Lajovic who deserves a lot of credit won 7 of the next 8 points to secure the biggest win of his career.

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You can see from the graphic from when he took set two that he stepped up his performance by retreating behind the baseline further and soaking up the pressure of Del Potro’s ground strokes, as they say sometimes the best attack is defence and it proved for the Serb.

Halep and Sharapova out!

Well this was a surprise.

Karolina Pliskova is surprising us all on the clay courts winning once again…  with her title in Stuttgart and what she has done so far this week in Madrid against Halep as well has thrown her name into a hat of Roland Garros contenders as she looks like she’s playing without pressure.

Sharapova is out. I’m not terribly surprised, she had a good week with a couple of decent wins but Kiki Bertens is a pain to play against, she hangs on in there and just goes for it and credit to her for wins over Sharapova and Wozniacki this week.

50!

Rafael Nadal doesn’t usually sit at the bottom of a piece I write but save the best to last. 50 consecutive sets of tennis won on a single surface, absolutely magnificent! A new record taking over John McEnroe’s 49 on carpet.

 

Ruthless! Halep cruises again in Madrid

Simona Halep seems to have a bit of a love affair in Madrid. 2018 celebrates 10 years as a WTA tournament and no player has been to more finals than the Romanian who is looking for her third title at the Caja Magica.

I was a bit worried about Halep coming into Madrid following a tough few weeks in March at Indian Wells and Miami and then in Stuttgart it didn’t really go to plan for the world number one who also has a fight to hold onto world number one this week.

The world number one has looked in the mood this week and when Simona has the game face on it is soo good to watch her like this.

When Simona can get the backhand and forehand into play and with interest it is such a delight to watch and she has done this so far this week however it can break down as we have seen in the past.

Halep’s forehand showed great trajectory and the angles she produced were stunning as she painted the lines and asked Elise Mertens to try and return the impossible shots.

The backhand was good today against Elise. She used it well going cross court but did get caught out a couple of times when she went to Elise’ backhand with too much height as she could gain control of the rally by going down the line. Halep however was also strong going down the line with the backhand and could go for that winner with confidence.

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Next up for Simona Halep as she aims for her 15th win in a row in Madrid is qualifier Kyrstina Pliskova.

 

 

Who will light up the Caja Mágica?

The Mutua Madrid Open is a staple event on the tour. 2018 celebrates 10 years as a WTA tournament and 22 years as an ATP tournament. Madrid has seen the biggest names in sport lift the trophy but who will be crowned champion in just over a week’s time?

ATP

Rafael Nadal

Well, there isn’t really anywhere else to begin. Nadal has been champion 5 times here during his career and his form so far this clay court season has been flawless. I don’t really see who could provide a massive challenge to him. Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem were in good form in Monte-Carlo and got walked-over by the world number one and I can’t see anything but him winning.

Alex Zverev

After a tricky few months the German has seemed to have found his feet this season. Currently playing at home in Munich he will provide a challenge for some going forward in Madrid and Rome. The courts in Madrid are usually quite slow and that will suit the way Alex likes to play from the baseline.

Hyeon Chung

Hyeon had to withdraw from Barcelona a week ago but the Australian Open semi-finalist has gone far in every tournament he has played this week and that goes the same for Munich so far. His game is good to watch, he can take it to you or can defend. His performance against Novak Djokovic in Melbourne was by far one of my favourite of the year, the way he moved around the court and utilised his ground strokes effectively.

Dominic Thiem

If Dominic is to be considered a contender for Roland Garros he needs a good week here or in Rome. This recent ankle injury has halted his momentum but he did look strong in Monte Carlo before a short trip to Barcelona which in hindsight he maybe shouldn’t have taken. Dominic last year was the only player to beat Rafa on clay but to do that this year he will need to build up form quickly.

WTA

Simona Halep

The world number one. No one has been in more Madrid finals than the Romanian. A former finalist in 2014 she returned to win the tournament in 2016 and 2017 but will history repeat in 2018?

The conditions are perfect for Halep when she is on her game. Her performances in Stuttgart which saw her leave early will be a concern with little freedom in her game at the moment but the conditions will allow her more time to grind out points but she can’t waste the time on court.

Victoria Azarenka

It is Vika’s first tournament on the travels with her son Leo.

It’s great to see the former finalist back in Madrid, Vika had been practicing a lot on clay after the sunshine double came to an end and I do think she will go deep here. As an unseeded player she does pose a threat to big seeds early on and a potential round two match with Karolina Pliskova is on the cards!

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza surprised me by going to Monterrey after Miami however she won the tournament there but has struggled with form and fitness this year withdrawing from three tournaments already isn’t a good sign.

At home in Spain there will be added pressure for the third seed who has a tough opponent in Peng Shuai first and maybe Vekic or Garcia Perez in round two.

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Marta Kostyuk

The Ukranian has made a few headlines on the WTA tour this year. At the age of just 15 she is ranked 134 in the world and comes into Madrid as a wildcard against another wildcard in the experienced Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena.

Marta has had a few top 100 wins this year against Peng Shuai, Daria Gavrilova and more recently Alize Cornet in qualifying in Stuttgart where she made it to the second round before losing to Caroline Garcia.

There is no pressure on her at all and she has shown with her tennis she isn’t afraid to go for it and can cause issues for Lara.

Top seeds fall across Europe!

Well, it has been quite the 24 hours on the ATP and WTA tour. Many players are beginning their clay court season this week whether it is in Barcelona, Istanbul or Stuttgart the top players have packed their bags early but who has gone home?

Dominic Thiem
Grigor Dimitrov
Simona Halep
Elina Svitolina
Garbine Muguruza
Angelique Kerber
Caroline Wozniacki
Svetlana Kuznetsova

The fall outs have been big, some bigger than others!

There will be concerns over Garbine Muguruza who in Stuttgart had to retire and it is the third time this year the defending Wimbledon champion has pulled out of a tournament with injury. Garbine is now expected to move to Madrid now with tennis there beginning in just over a week.

‘Surprises’ as well in Barcelona with Thiem and Dimitrov dropping out early. I wouldn’t say surprises as they are both finding their form again but it would have been nice to see both in the final four.

Caroline Wozniacki was in action today in Istanbul but also found herself packing her bags likewise with number two seed Kuznetsova.

Likewise in Stuttgart where a out of sorts Halep dropped out today and Elina Svitolina both who you would have had as contenders.

It hasn’t been an ideal 24 hours for anyone and preparations have taken a big hit for all with many expected to head off to Madrid asap!

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