Saturday, 20 October, 2018

FRENCH OPEN Serena, Sharapova match a possibility

Simona Halep Simona Halep is a two-time Roland Garros runner-up and the number one seed at this year's French Open
Isaac Mcdaniel | 29 May, 2018, 07:40

News that Serena Williams will be unseeded at the French Open following her maternity leave has generated significant controversy.

"You wouldn't think (she can win title) with no claycourt matches, you wouldn't think so on paper, what with giving birth and not playing many matches", seven-times Roland Garros champion Chris Evert told Reuters in an interview. Barring Halep, the other four have won grand slam titles but are they still the names that are creating a buzz on the internet or draw spectators to the venue, we doubt?

In contrast, 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone was the second oldest first-time grand slam victor at 29 years, 11 months and 14 days. Serena is now ranked at No. 453.

The draw released on Friday puts the unseeded Williams and 28th-seeded rival Sharapova on a collision course, provided they can each get by one of the Pliskova sisters.

The two grand slams she has played since resuming her career have resulted in fourth-round losses but having reunited with former coach Thomas Hogstedt last month, the five-times major victor is moving back in the right direction, according to Roland Garros great Chris Evert.

The Russian, who missed last year's event after she was refused a wild card as she battled to rebuild her career following a 15-month doping ban, has not defeated Williams since 2004. Williams had her first child in September.

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The bottom quarter of the men's singles draw is loaded with talent, containing Dominic Thiem of Austria, the only man to have beaten Nadal on clay this year, 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, the second-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany and Japan's Kei Nishikori. Complications resulting from that surgery kept the world's greatest female tennis player laid up for six weeks of bed rest. Serena who left the tour to give birth as World No. 1 has not been handed a seeding by the organisers.

The Romanian faces American Alison Riske in her opener.

Simona Halep, the world No.1 and title favourite from Romania, was drawn against American Alison Riske in her opening round, followed by a tough possible third round against Kristina Mladenovic of France, a quarter-finalist a year ago.

Experienced duo Petra Kvitova, twice a Wimbledon champion, and second seed Caroline Wozniacki, who claimed her maiden grand slam in Australia at the start of the year, will both see this as an opportunity to make a mark on clay.

Serena Williams is now ranked No. 453 in the world.

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