Saturday, May 21, 2011
Contenders emerge in Williams-less French
By Kenton Wong
Although American men’s tennis has struggled at the majors in recent years, American women have been a force – almost entirely on the strength of Venus and Serena Williams.
Unfortunately injuries knocked both sisters out of the 2011 French Open. With the withdrawals, the French Open will not feature a seeded American woman for the first time in the Open Era (1968).
While Venus had played in the last 16 Grand Slam events, Serena hasn't played on tour since last year's Wimbledon. Dating back to when Serena played in her first Grand Slam as a professional at the 1998 Australian Open, the only Grand Slam in which neither Williams sister played was the 2003 US Open.
Three women have combined to win the last seven Grand Slam titles dating back to Wimbledon in 2009. The younger Williams and Kim Clijsters have three each while last year’s French Open champion Francesca Schiavone has the other.
When Clijsters retired in 2007, she had one major title – the 2005 US Open. Since returning to the WTA Tour in 2009, Clijsters has won three of the five Grand Slams she has played including the last two.
However, the Belgian hasn’t played at Roland Garros since reaching the semifinals in 2006. Her best result at the French is runner-up in both 2001 and 2003.
Caroline Wozniacki – the world’s number one - is the betting favorite according to MGM Resorts International, but she is still seeking her first major title. Her best finish at a Grand Slam is runner-up at the 2009 US Open.
Another player to watch is Maria Sharapova. She won the French Open tune-up at Rome and beat three Top-10 players – Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Samantha Stosur - on her way to the title. With a win in Paris, Sharapova will complete the career Grand Slam, having won Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008.