French Open preview roundtable
With the French Open set to begin Sunday, SI.com's tennis analysts analyze the top storylines and predict the winners.
What are you most looking forward to seeing?
Do you put more stock in Serena's current form or her French Open record?
What do you expect from Roger Federer?
Outside the top three, this is a big tournament for ...
Women: Sloane Stephens. If you know tennis rhythms, it was all but inevitable that she would regress to the mean after her smashing Australian Open. Leaving aside her public-relations unforced error, she's had a forgettable spring. She's lost a lot more than she's won, often to lesser lights, sometimes with strikingly ugly scorelines. Again, this was to be expected. No need to panic. But it would nice to see Stephens -- who hardly shrinks from the big occasions -- reverse course in Paris (where she made the fourth round in 2012).
Women: Ana Ivanovic. The 2008 champion has a doable draw to the semifinals, which would be a tremendous confidence-booster and proof that she hasn't completely stalled out in her career. She's drawn into the quarter anchored by Agnieszka Radwanska (who went only 1-2 in the European clay tune-ups) and last year's finalist, Errani. Ivanovic needs to take advantage of a quarter littered with struggling players such as Julia Goerges, Venus Williams, Nadia Petrova and Sabine Lisicki.
Women: Sara Errani. After inspired showings at Madrid and Rome, Errani has positioned herself nicely to make it four consecutive years with an Italian woman in the French Open final. A run to the semis (or beyond) could solidify her place in the top five.
Women: Stephens needs to steer the conversation back to tennis after all the magazine-housed sniping about Serena. ... Caroline Wozniacki will be under tremendous pressure, drawing the talented Laura Robson right off the bat. ... The underachieving Petra Kvitova has a real shot at facing Sharapova in the quarters. ... Radwanska, strangely off-form on clay, should reach the semifinals if she pulls her game together. ... And it's a potentially glorious stage for Errani, who wouldn't face any of the top three until the semifinals (Serena).
Who wins the French Open?
Women: Serena Williams. The odds of "something happening" on the women's side are greater. If two players can win the men's title, a full dozen can win the women's title. (Even with the retirement of four-time winner Justine Henin, a half-dozen former champs are in the draw.) We'll stick with Serena, though. Yes, she lost in the first round in 2012 and has a shaky overall history at Roland Garros. But in her current wise, mature and poised state, we figure that's more likely to be a source of motivation than a source of concern.
Women: Serena Williams. She has the softer half of the draw because No. 3 Azarenka was drawn into No. 2 Sharapova's half. Williams' half is also missing 2011 champion Li Na, 2010 finalist Sam Stosur and other dangerous women such as Kvitova and Jelena Jankovic. With many of the potential threats duking it out on the other side, this really comes down to Serena's focus and ability to just get through her early rounds without drama.
Women: Serena Williams. The title is Serena's to lose. She's played 100 singles matches since losing the 2011 U.S. Open final, winning 94 of them. We are all witnesses.
Women: Serena Williams. As if she needed any advantages, Serena got a favorable draw with Sharapova and Azarenka in the other half. A quarterfinal against Angelique Kerber could be interesting (they've met only three times and split two matches last year), with a high-contrast semifinal looming against Radwanska or Errani. On the other side of the draw, Azarenka will face a severe quarterfinal test in Li, but I see her winning that and beating Sharapova. At that point, the stage belongs to Serena, as she further builds her case as the all-time best.