Day One: It begins again

May 25, 2009

The clay at Rolland Garros is baking under the Parisian heat. The brown, green and lime colours of the French Open are just that bit more exciting in the bright sunshine. If the hordes of fans mobbing the likes of Nadal and Murray as they leave practice sessions are anything to go by, then I am not the only one excited to see it begin.The French Open is the pinnacle of the clay court season, and the true start to the summer that we Europeans in particular recognise.

 

But there’s one issue rumbling under the surface at this 2009 French Open: the women’s and men’s draws in this Grand slam couldn’t be more polarised. You could see it brewing in the Australian Open, and there have been whispers of it throughout the last few months. Finally, thedifferences have been cemented.

 

The men’s: a contest to find someone not backing Rafael Nadal to win

 

and

 

The women’s: a contest so wide open that we’re left staring into a chasm scratching our heads.

 

But does this make things more interesting? Or boring? In my opinion, the fact that the women’s draws are so unpredictable makes things quite interesting.: who exactly is going to come out on top? Maria Sharapova has a nasty bandage cross on her shoulder, and lost her first comeback match before the Open began; the Williams’ sisters are generally not as comfortable on clay, and their run up to the Open has been less than impressive. Ana Ivanovic looks sure to do well; she powered through the first day today with relative fuss. Brit Katie O’Brien has entered the tournament after Vera Zvonareva pulled out due to injury, adding another player to the small contingent of British women at the tournament including Ana Keothavong and Melanie Smith. It’s the first time three British women have made the French
Open draw since 1992; considering the rather bleak outlook of women’s tennis in the last few years in Britain that is quite an achievement.

 

So the women’s tournament is wide open; it’s perfect. We can sit back and let the player’s do the talking on the courts at Rolland Garros.

 

As for the men’s tournament, there is certainly an opinion that Nadal has got a stranglehold on the competition. For me, it only makes things more interesting. It’s a little short-sighted to see the Majorcan’s dominance on the clay courts as total. I’m not saying I don’t believe that Nadal won’t win, but that’s not to say that there won’t be those out there to give him a run for his money. I predict that it’s going to be closer than many think, and you can hold me to
that.

 

But of course I need to justify that. So, who do I think are going to be contenders? Number one is Roger Federer. And not just because he beat Nadal to take the Madrid masters title only the other week. It’s also down to Federer’s quiet confidence when it comes to the French Open; the sting of losing the Australian Open will have lessened and he’ll be starting afresh to take this title. If there’s going to be an upset in the final, I wouldn’t put it past Federer to be the one behind it.

 

Number two is Fernando Verdasco. Over the past year or so, I have grown to greatly admire and enjoy watching Verdasco play. He’s a fire cracker on the court, with a strength and flair that often reminds me of Nadal. He powered through the first round 6-2 6-1 6-4, beating
Florent Serra of France today. I certainly can see him as a potential usurper of Nadal’s thrown.

Number three is Andy Murray. The Scot played Argentinean Juan Ignacio Chela in his first round match today, aggressive but mindful to playing on the clay. This will be Murray’s problem; he’s still in the process of maturing on the clay and needs to not become disheartened if he doesn’t come away with what others may have expected of him. But if he succeeds in keeping in the right state of mind and concentrating on proving to himself he can play as well as anyone else on clay, then he may make a steady and long progression through the tournament.

 

Day one down, day two underway, and many matches and upsets to go. If the Australian Open of 2009 is anything to go by, the goings-on on the clay courts of Paris
will be interesting to say the least.
 
- SophieG

 

Written by: SophieG

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