Friday June 1st, 2012

Sloane Stephens has a winnable match against Mathilda Johansson (SAUTIER PHILIPPE/SIPA)

Sloane Stephens vs. Mathilda Johansson (first match, Court Philippe Chatrier): This is your Olympic qualifying special. If Stephens wins, she'll surge past Vania King and Varvara Lepchenko to become the No. 4 American (for the time being -- Lepchenko plays Saturday). On the other side of the net, a win for Johansson would put her right around No. 60 in the rankings, keeping her qualifying hopes alive. This is a winnable match for Stephens, who finds herself playing an opponent who's actually ranked lower than she is in the third round. But it will be a big test of composure for the 20-year old as she makes her debut on Chatrier against a French opponent and that famous French crowd. Chatrier has been the site of French domination over Americans. Nicolas Mahut beat Andy Roddick here, Virginie Razzano bounced Serena Williams, Gilles Simon ended Brian Baker's run, and just today, Paul-Henri Mathieu went the distance before knocking John Isner out of the tournament.

Fabio Fognini vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (second match, Chatrier): No one loves an occasion like Fabio Fognini and the French are just baiting him for his dramatic antics by putting him on Chatrier against their No. 1. The last time Fognini was on Chatrier he was playing another Frenchman, Gael Monfils, in their controversial twilight match that saw French officials refusing to suspend play despite Fognini's repeated requests. Now to be fair here, Fognini's a bit of a drama queen and he feeds on negative energy and drama like Kobayashi feeds on, well, everything. This is, after all, the guy who won an epic five setter 11-9 in the fifth last year to make his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, only to hand his next opponent, Novak Djokovic, a walkover. The Italian is a tremendous ball-striker, his stroke so effortless that it looks borderline lazy, and his willingness to go for winners at the most ridiculous times could throw off Tsonga.

Nadia Petrova vs. Sam Stosur (second match, Court 1): If there's a single player who seems beholden to matchups and head-to-head records, it's Sam Stosur. Some players she absolutely owns and some players own her. One of those players is her former doubles partner, Petrova. Petrova is 5-2 against the U.S. Open champion (though they've never played on clay), and their last two matches have been epics, with Stosur winning 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 7-5 at the U.S. Open last year and Petrova getting revenge at Indian Wells earlier this year, winning 6-1 6-7(6) 7-6(5). The clay should take some of the bite out of Petrova's shots, which will give Sam time to set up and play defense.

Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (second match, Chatrier): Radwanksa hasn't beaten the Russian since 2008, going 0-5 during that stretch. But these two haven't played each other since Radwanska's rise to the Top 5. She's a completely different player now and her consistency will likely be Kuznetsova's undoing. That said, we all know how talented the unpredictable Russian is and she has the game to beat anyone on any given day. Her results coming into Paris don't inspire much confidence (she's 1-3 in Tour level matches), but there's always that sliver of hope that Sveta will pull her game together just in time to pull off an upset.

Serena Williams/Bob Bryan vs. Gisela Dulko/Eduardo Schwank (fourth match, Court 2): Yup, Serena's still in Paris and though she's out of the singles event, the "Serena Sweepstakes" continues. The top American men have made no secret of their desire to play mixed doubles with Serena at the Olympics and Bob Bryan gets his tryout here in Paris. A partnership with Andy Roddick is the sentimental consensus, but if Serena really wants that medal, pairing with Bob seems the best bet. Courtney's Pet Picks: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Marin Cilic (third match, Court 1), Gilles Simon vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (third match, Lenglen), Ana Ivanovic vs. Sara Errani (first match, Court Suzanne Lenglen), Angelique Kerber vs. Flavia Pennetta (fourth match, Court 1).

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