26 May, 2013

Roland Garros 2013 Bracket Breakdown - The Women

After a few years in the wilderness, women's tennis has re-emerged with a cache of compelling storylines and its own big three: Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, the queen bees dominating the current era of the game.  The question going into this major is pretty much the same as it has been for the last two years.  Will Serena Williams win the title...or beat herself so someone else can do it?

For the 2013 French Open men's bracket breakdown, click here

The last few years of ATP tennis has basically been the story of the Big Four men dividing the big prizes among themselves and turning the rest of the tour into a veritable underclass.  Serena Williams is on the verge of doing the same thing to the WTA Tour without the three other hangers-on.  The ever-quotable world No. 1, when asked to name his biggest competition for a second title at Roland Garros, named Serena Williams, and we'd be apt to agree. Let's consider the four three majors she hasn't won: 2011 US Open (brain cramp vs. Stosur in the final), 2012 Australian Open (ankle injury vs. Makarova, 4th round), 2012 Roland Garros (choke job vs. Razzano, 1st round), 2013 Australian Open (ankle injury vs. Stephens, quarterfinal).  Basically, if head and body are both in the game, Serena wins; same as it ever was.

Yes, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are superstars and champions in their own rights, but they sport nearly identical 2-13 and 2-12 records respectively against the American superstar.  In other words, the best way to defeat Williams is to wait for her to have a bad day, an injury or an inexplicable run of bad form.  If she's playing anything near her best tennis, at this stage, Serena wins.  We could belabor the point, but why waste your time and ours.

First Round Five

(8) Angelique Kerber vs. Mona Barthel - In the nastiest possible draw for a top eight seed, Angelique Kerber, the 8th seed faces another of the leading lights of post-Graf German tennis, Mona Barthel in round one.  Barthel is ranked 33rd, just one spot shy of being seeded for the event and thus away from Kerber.  Her issue, she's won only one match since Indian Wells, ergo her slide in the rankings.  However, there are always twists and turns when countrywomen play each other and Barthel leads their head-to-head 2-1.

(10) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Laura Robson - Is there a point where former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki hits bottom and rebounds toward the summit of the game; or will she become a more Ivanovic-ian presence, consistently in the top twenty or thereabouts, consistently on the verge of a renaissance, but consistently inconsistent when it comes to putting up wins.  We're not sure if we'll get the answer versus Laura Robson, but the 35th ranked Brit is a nasty first round draw for the (almost) Great Dane.  Robson's had a respectable 2013, but ousting a vulnerable Wozniacki in round one could be a big step in the right direction.

(1) Serena Williams vs. Anna Tatishvili - This match should be a quick one, but Serena did fall at this stage a year ago from a winning position.  That alone makes this first rounder a match must-see streaming.

(23) Klara Zakopalova vs. Kaia Kanepi - Another tough opening rounder with the 23rd seeded Zakopalova drawn against the 40th ranked Estonian.  Kanepi was in the top 20 a year ago and she's hot again right now coming in just off the Brussels title week and strong finishes at Rome (QF) and Oeiras (SF).  Kanepi's the form player for sure, expect the paper upset.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino - The colorful American is back in the top 100 after struggling with injury for over a year.  She posted a big win over Sara Errani back in Stuttgart and has zero fear of the clay.  She will however open her Roland Garros campaign against a dirtballer journeywoman in Dominguez-Lino and one who played her way to the final in Marrakech a few weeks ago.

Final Four

(1) S. Williams d. (5) Errani; (3) Azarenka d. (2) Sharapova


(1) S. Williams d. (2) Azarenka

We're fond of saying that the picks that are remembered are the bold ones.  No one ever thinks twice about the guy who says "Nadal at Roland Garros; Federer at Wimbledon," but sometimes you have to go chalk; this is of those times.  The men's tournament has a distinct top three contenders for the tour and no one would be shocked to see Djokovic, Nadal or Federer win on the men's side.  With the women, there's a distinct top three, but there's a steep dropoff between each of them.  The most evenly matched pair are Azarenka and Sharapova, with the Belarussian leading the head-to-head 7-5, ergo the semifinal result.  Doesn't matter though, right now, the other women are playing for second place.  It's simple, they're not Serena.  The only question, will Serena be...?


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