When the women’s Roland Garros draw comes out tomorrow, will anyone stand out as a real favorite? It’s no secret that the women’s tour has been tumultuous lately. Since Justine Henin retired a year ago, the No. 1 ranking has been spinning around like a glittery wedge on the Wheel of Fortune, landing on five different players a total of eight separate times. And from the seemingly random results (remember the exodus of seeds in Indian Wells and Miami?) the players appear as disoriented as the fans.
“Who will have the guts?”
It’s gut check time, says Mary Carillo, ESPN commentator and former French Open mixed doubles champ:
“When I think of the (current) messiness of the women’s game it’s because there are all of these women who have skill sets and hungers and desires but they haven’t stepped up – playing their best tennis when it really counts.” Carillo said yesterday on an ESPN conference call. “In men’s tennis everybody is so fit and so well taught. When you talk about the wide open men’s field you’re talking about that.”
“With the women, it’s more about who will stand up and who will have the guts.”
“Guts” will be the key to a victory in Paris, considering the catalog of mental and physical ailments pestering the top women right now. There are injuries (Serena, Ivanovic, Sharapova, Zvonareva), hot and cold results (Jankovic, Dementieva), head-scratchers (Venus Williams) and headcases (Kuznetsova and Safina.) There are also two feisty teenagers just breaking into the top ten - are Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka still green enough to go guts-out at Roland Garros?
Battle of the “real” No. 1s
With all of these volatile and talented players in the mix, the one match I’m hoping for is the “Battle of the No. 1s.” Since Serena Williams began complaining about Dinara Safina taking the No. 1 spot from her, the top American’s been knocked out of three clay court tournaments without winning a match. Safina’s made the finals of the last three – losing to Kuznetsova in Stuttgart and winning Madrid and Rome. Talk about standing up.
“Dinara’s tried so hard to get out of her older brother’s shadow and now she’s being compared to a sister.” Carillo said about Dinara’s current situation. “Dinara deserves to be seeded No. 1.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s the favorite. Because despite a gimpy leg, a losing streak and a puzzling French Open record – not making it past the Quarterfinals since winning the title in 2002 – Serena Williams is still the gutsiest player on tour.
“I have no reason for saying that her form will get her a second French open title,” Carillo said of the World No. 2, “but she’s proven she’s a champion.”
“She plays the big occasion better than anybody. She can be so stinkin’ off and so willful at the same time. That’s why she can win majors.”
All of this makes a Safina vs. Serena final a mouthwatering, gut-twisting, possibility. Unlike the Australian Open final, where Serena demolished Safina, I think this time Safina would relish the fight. I just hope Serena’s guts are strong enough to overcome that injured leg of hers.
Click here for the French Open TV schedule.