Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova headline Day 2 of French Open
Here are the storylines and matches to watch on Day 2 of the French Open. Play begins at 5 a.m. ET. Click here for the order of play.
The 2012 champions begin their defense on Court Philippe Chatrier: Rafael Nadal takes on Germany's Daniel Brands (second match), and Sharapova closes the day's play against the crafty Hsieh Su-Wei (fourth match). Temperatures will be in the low 60s for much of the day, but the forecast is for no rain, which means the conditions shouldn't be a factor for either. Given how well they both played during the lead-up events, I don't expect either champ to have any problems.
John Isner tries to reverse course: Since winning the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston in March, Isner has gone 1-4 on European red clay, losing to Ernests Gulbis, Pablo Andujar Denis Istomin, and Robin Haase. Needless to say, he comes into Paris slumping. He won't have an easy opener against Carlos Berlocq (fourth match, Court 2). The 30-year-old Argentine, ranked No. 71, can be gritty when he wants to be. A win, and Isner could play Ryan Harrison next in a section that's wide open. If he can find his game and serves well, he has a draw full of winnable matches that could get him to the quarterfinals. But he has to find his confidence quickly.
Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Ryan Harrison eye Round 2: Speaking of Harrison, he's now ranked No. 92, but he's been given a fairly cushy draw at major for once. He opens against 75th-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov (third match, Court 10), a very winnable match. Stephens, who made the fourth round in Paris last year, has stabilized herself just in time for her favorite Slam and plays Italy's Karin Knapp (fourth match, Court 7). Keys, 18, should be able to overpower her first-round opponent, Misaki Doi (second match, Court 6).
Can Caroline Wozniacki snap out of it?: Laura Robson joked in Rome that it's probably better if she faces a seed in the early rounds of a Slam seeing as how she seems to lift her game against them. With wins over Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams, Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska already, she now gets a shot at a slumping Caroline Wozniacki, who is on a five-match losing streak on clay. The two are friendly and have practiced together, and though Wozniacki is ice cold, she's exactly the type of opponent Robson struggles against, an athletic defender who makes you hit a lot of balls.
Matches to watch
No. 5 Tomas Berdych vs. Gael Monfils (third match, Chatrier): Berdych got a nightmare draw, facing Monfils in the first round and possibly Ernests Gulbis in the second. But Monfils has to be feeling the physical strain of playing 10 matches over the last two weeks, including losing the final in Nice on Saturday. Does the Frenchman have the energy to stay focused and give the fifth seed a challenge in a best-of-five match? I'm not sure, but if he can get the French crowd behind him and inside Berdych's head, this could be fun.
No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki vs. Laura Robson (third match, Court Suzanne Lenglen): It's become almost funny to see how often Robson pulls a big-name player in the first two rounds of a tournament. She can lose easily to players ranked outside the top 50, yet when it comes to anyone with a household name, Robson gets it together and usually finds her best tennis. Now playing without the negative cloud that seemed to follower her with former coach Zeljko Krajan, she comes into the French with very little pressure and even less so against Wozniacki, who should win this match even if she's playing at a C-level. I think she'll bring better than that. No way Wozniacki wants to lose to a young upstart.
No. 6 Li Na vs. Anabel Medina Garrigues (first match, Chatrier): It's the 2011 champion of Roland Garros versus the 2013 champion of nutty gamesmanship caught on tape. All jokes aside, Medina Garrigues is a solid clay-court player who has never lost to Li in a completed match, notching three of those four wins on clay. Despite that record, Li has been the better player over the last few years and should come through.
No. 30 Juilien Benneteau vs. Ricardas Berankis (second match, Court 1): Many pundits are banking on Benneteau to be the guy with the best chance to upset Roger Federer before the quarterfinals, but I'm not sure he's going to get there. Since beating Federer in Rotterdam in February, Benneteau hasn't won back to back matches all year. He comes into Paris with a 1-4 record on clay. This is a prime opportunity for Berankis.
Upset specials: Svetlana Kuznetsova over No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova, Albert Ramos over No. 21 Jerzy Janowicz. Absent Murray makes predictions for remaining Big Three