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Monday, 25 May 2015

Les dames aiment Paris
And the fans love the ladies of the WTA tour

The second Grand Slam of the tennis season is underway at Roland Garros.  The French Open often produces the most upsets of all the slams and the opportunity where a true dark horse can emerge from the field and take home the title.  One only has to look back at the history books and see past champion names like: Iva Majoli (1997), Anastasia Myskina (2004) and Francesca Schiavone (2010).  Sure these are all great champions and great players but none of these names would be considered top contenders for a major.  Could we see another upset winner this year?

Defending champion Maria Sharapova is back and looking to claim her 3rd Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.  Can she duplicate the success of last year?  What about last year's finalist Simona Halep?  Oh and of course what can we expect from Serena Williams?  Let's take a look at a few of the names to watch over the next two weeks in the #TwineTime picks:

The Favorites

Maria Sharapova (#2) - The defending champ is back and looking primed to pull the back-to-back.  We have not seen a repeat champion on the women's draw since Justine Henin won three straight from 2005 - 2007.  Sharapova has the game to do it though.  She loves the clay surface and excels on it.  Let's remember, over the past three years Sharapova has won the title, lost the final and won the title.  Basically, pencil her into the final now and if Serena isn't on the other side of the net, should we just assume she wins this title?  Her draw is also very favorable and she really shouldn't be challenged until maybe the quarterfinals.

Serena Williams (#1) - The top ranked player in the world is always going to be listed as a favorite, regardless of how she has played during the season.  However, the French Open has not been kind to Ms. Williams.  A second round defeat last year only contributed to the lack of success of the red dirt.  In fact, if you take out the championship win of 2013, Serena hasn't been past the second round since 2010 (ignore 2011 when she was injured and did not play of course).  This is the one slam of the year where most of the top players feel they can get the better of Serena.  And her draw is not kind....especially a crucial third round possible match with rival Vika Azarenka.

Watch Out For

Simona Halep (#3) - Last year was a breakthrough year for the young Romanian.  A quarterfinal appearance at the Aussie Open, finalist at Roland Garros and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, 2014 was the year when the tour took notice of Halep.  Halep has the mental strength to weave her way through this tournament.  She has the belief she can beat anyone and that can be dangerous.  Hmmm, she made the quarterfinals again this year in Australia, should we see the Grand Slam pattern of results continue here?  She is in the bottom half of the draw with Sharapova, meaning she also avoids Serena until a possible final.  Let's also remember...she is only 23 years old!

Petra Kvitova (#4) - The two-time Wimbledon champ and former semi-finalist here back in 2012 could be the real one to watch over the next two weeks.  Kvitova enters Paris fresh off a title in Madrid, where she beat Serena.  Her results at the French have not been stellar, with back-to-back third round losses the past two years so that is a reason of concern.  But Petra has the game to do well on clay and, if she can make it through to the middle of the second week, don't underestimate her ability to win the entire tournament.

Dark Horse

Camila Giorgi - Another 23 year old worth keeping your eyes on is the Italian Giorgi.  The question surrounding Camila is no longer if she can have a breakthrough slam performance but when.  Expectations are starting to rise and for good reason.  How many players can you name that have a winning record vs Top 10 players?  Giorgi has a remarkable 19-15 record.  She can hang with the best.  If she can find the confidence, get on a roll and perhaps find a bit of luck as well, the 2015 French Open could be her coming out party.  Her draw is going to be tricky mind you and she will have to battle through the weakness everyone has said of her: she steps up her game against the top players but often falters against the mid to lower ranked players she could easily beat.

The #TwineTime picks:

4th Round

(27) Victoria Azarenka def. Tsvetana Pironkova
(5) Caro Wozniacki def. (17) Sara Errani
(4) Petra Kvitova def. (23) Timea Bacsinszky
(18) Svetlana Kuznetsova def. (6) Genie Bouchard
(7) Ana Ivanovic def. (9) Ekaterina Makarova
(3) Simona Halep def. (19) Elina Svitolina
(8) Carla Suarez Navarro def. Camila Giorgi
(2) Maria Sharapova def. (13) Lucie Safarova

Quarterfinals

(5) Wozniacki def. (27) Azarenka
(4) Kvitova def. (18) Kuznetsova
(3) Halep def. (7) Ivanovic
(2) Sharapova def. (8) CSN

Semifinals

(4) Kvitova def. (5) Wozniacki
(2) Sharapova def. (3) Halep

2015 FRENCH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP:  (2) Maria Sharapova def. (4) Petra Kvitova in 3 sets - This may seem like a #TwineTime repeat lesson as this was the same Australian Open final I predicted.  I really believe these are the two best players in the world right now though and capable of fighting through the draw.  This would also be a classic final.  Sharapova is coming off a tough Aussie Open loss though and, as the defending champion, will want to continue her rise to trying to become the #1 player in the world.  These two could really start a stellar rivalry this year as both would be heavy favorites entering Wimbledon as well.

There you have it my tennis fanatics.  Hope you enjoyed the preview and predictions.  Feel free to share this post with other tennis fans and offer up your own thoughts and comments.  Most importantly, enjoy the action on the red clay.

For a preview of the men's tournament, visit the #TwineTime blog HERE!!