Sunday, May 25, 2014

Players to watch in the French Open

RAFAEL NADAL
2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Following are players to watch in the French Open, scheduled for today through June 8 (seedings in parentheses):
MEN
   Rafael Nadal (1)
   Why he'll win -- Nadal has won the last four French Open titles and eight overall in nine years.
   Why he won't -- He has suffered three losses on clay in 2014, the most he has had in a season in 10 years. In a recent interview with Time magazine, he said the left knee injury that caused him to miss seven months in 2012-13 is still bothering him.
   Northern California connection -- None.
   Novak Djokovic (2)
   Why he'll win -- Djokovic is ultra-talented and ultra-motivated. The Serb can complete a career Grand Slam, and he's playing for his flood-ravaged country. Djokovic has beaten Nadal four straight times, including last week to win the Italian Open on clay.
   Why he won't -- He's 0-5 against Nadal in the French Open, including losses in the 2013 semifinals and 2012 final. The right-hander missed part of the clay-court season with a right wrist injury.
   NorCal connection -- None.
   Stan Wawrinka (3)
   Why he'll win -- Wawrinka won the Australian Open in January for his first Grand Slam title and captured Monte Carlo on clay last month for his first Masters 1000 title.
   Why he won't -- He has never been past the quarterfinals in nine appearances at Roland Garros.
   NorCal connection -- None. 
Roger Federer (4)
   Why he'll win -- One of Federer's record 17 Grand Slam singles titles came in the 2009 French Open.
   Why he won't -- He'll be 33 in August, and he lost in the first round of the Italian Open days after his wife delivered twin boys.
   NorCal connection -- None.

SERENA WILLIAMS
2012 photo by Paul Bauman
WOMEN
Serena Williams (1)
   Why she'll win -- The two-time and defending champion needs one more Grand Slam singles title to tie Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert for fourth all-time behind Margaret Court (24), Steffi Graf (22) and Helen Wills Moody (19). Since the start of the 2012 clay-court season, Williams is 53-2 on clay.
   Why she won't -- She'll be 33 in September, and she lost to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.
   NorCal connection -- Williams won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2011 and 2012, and she was a semifinalist there in 2008 and quarterfinalist in 2009. She's entered in this year's tournament, July 28-Aug. 3.
Li Na (2)
   Why she'll win -- Li won the 2011 French Open and this year's Australian Open for her second Grand Clam crown.
   Why she won't -- She turned 32 in February and lost in the quarterfinals of clay-court tuneup tournaments in Madrid and Rome.
   NorCal connection -- In Li's only appearance in the Bank of the West Classic, she lost in the first round in 2009 to the top-seeded Williams.
Maria Sharapova (7)
   Why she'll win -- Sharapova won the 2012 French Open and clay-court tournaments in Madrid and Stuttgart this season.
   Why she won't -- She lost in the third round of the Italian Open last week to Ivanovic. Sharapova could face Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round at Roland Garros and Williams in the quarterfinals. Sharapova is 0-15 against Williams since 2004 and 2-16 overall.
   NorCal connection -- Sharapova was the runner-up to Victoria Azarenka in the 2010 Bank of the West Classic, and she's a two-time quarterfinalist there.
Ana Ivanovic (11)
   Why she'll win -- The former world No. 1 won the 2008 French Open, and she has the wins over Williams and Sharapova this year.
   Why she won't -- Ivanovic hasn't advanced past the fourth round at Roland Garros since her title there.
   NorCal connection -- She lost to fourth-seeded Marion Bartoli in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic in 2010 and to Ayumi Morita in the first round at Stanford the following year. Ivanovic plans to return this year.

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