A look at women contenders for 2009 French Open, Dinara Safina top favorite

Wilson Blade 9

The draw for the 2009 French Open is out and here’s my analysis of contenders. I would just like to mention that despite all the facts, I’m sure we all deep inside feel that the women’s field is wide open.

Dinara Safina is my top favorite to win the title. She is coming to Paris with back-to-back titles in Rome and Madrid, plus the Stuttgart final before that (and all the three tournaments mentioned are played on clay). And not only that, the world No.1 Safina was last year’s runner up at the French Open.

The Russian is in impressive form, but she shouldn’t give herself the luxury of making matches longer than they should be (although she’s great at coming back from behind), in order to be fully fit as long as it takes to claim her first Grand Slam.

The first opponent at the French Open won’t be easy for Safina, as she’s meeting Anne Keothavong who reached the semifinals of this week’s Warsaw Open. Other big names such as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Alisa Kleybanova, Zheng Jie, Victoria Azarenka, Carla Suarez Navarro and defending champion Ana Ivanovic are also in her quarter.

Serena Williams still hasn’t won a singles match on clay this season. The world No.2 dropped openers of Marbella, Rome and Madrid, and hence it’s hard to put her as the favorite. However, knowing her impressive resume which includes the 2002 French Open title, and her ability to show her best at majors, the younger Williams sister can never be written off.

To make things more interesting, Serena Williams is playing Klara Zakopalova in the first round, the player she lost to in Marbella in April. Serena is looking at another potential tough match in the fourth round against Flavia Pennetta.

Venus Williams has won seven Grand Slam singles titles, and although she has never been victorious at Roland Garros, she played the final in 2002, and just like her sister Serena, she’s a threat anywhere and anytime.

Williams is the top seed in her quarter of the draw. Her first-round opponent will be fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. In the second round Williams could meet Sabine Lisicki, who beat her en route to the title in Charleston last month.

Elena Dementieva started the year with a bang with back-to-back titles at Auckland and Sydney, as well as the Australian Open semifinals. All the talk about Dementiva has somewhat silenced recently. The 2004 French Open runner-up reached two semifinals last month, and even though she could be able to claim her first Grand Slam title at 2009 French Open, I don’t really see that happening. Dementieva is in the same quarter of the draw with Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki.

Jelena Jankovic is one of the best claycourters out there, mainly because of her exceptional movement. The Serb reached the French Open semifinals in the past two years. It would be a shame if she finished her career without a Grand Slam title, and Roland Garros trophy is something within her reach, but having in mind her recent troubles with form and confidence, she’s not likely to win this time.

Svetlana Kuznetsova is my second favorite, just after Safina. We can say that she recently revived her career with the win in Stuttgart and the Rome final the following week. Kuznetsova reached the French Open semifinals last year, and was a finalist in 2006.

The Russian is in the same quarter of the draw with Serena Williams and Flavia Pennetta, as well as Patty Schnyder and Agnieszaka Radwanska.

Ana Ivanovic is defending her title at this year’s French Open, but we all know that since winning her maiden Grand Slam title there were few bright moments in her career, plus, she’s coming off a knee injury. Therefore, Ivanovic is not high on my list for this one.

However, the Serb claims that she’s ready for Roland Garros: “Thankfully the pain and inflammation in my knee has gone away so I have been able to practice this week. My timing is pretty good at the moment and I’m optimistic about my chances of success in Paris.”

Feel free to add your favorites in the comments below, discuss my picks, and write your thoughts. I’m sure you noticed I skipped to mention some players, especially the young stars, and a couple of veterans, because the article is already too long, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about them in the comments.

Cheers to two beautiful weeks of tennis!


  1. Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova are definitely my picks for this year’s title. Some people say that Safina has the pressure of entering the tournament as the No. 1, but I don’t think so. After reaching the top spot, she has reached three tounrnament finals consecutively. Svetlana Kuznetsova also reached two consecutive finals in clay this year.

    Elena Dementieva should have been a threat at the French Open but I haven’t seen her winning recently. She started the year very, very well. The Williams sisters, you can never count them out, but I don’t see them going that far into the tournament.

    Ana Ivanovic has a tough first round match and has Victoria Azarenka in the draw. Carla Suarez Navarro is also on her side of the draw (she reached the quarterfinals here last year before falling to Jankovic). Ivanovic’s match is the first tomorrow, starting in about 10 hours. I can’t wait to see what happens.

    Good luck to Maria, who is undoubtedly by favorite player. Even though I don’t have any high expectations, there has been rumors going on that Maria tanked that match against Bondarenko.

  2. (undoubtedly my* (typo) favorite player)

    I requested that you post you predictions and you did, thank you so much Marija.


  3. Teerin, I can conclude that we think alike.

    Yes, I wrote it because you asked for it, and it was a good idea. I hope you like the article. 🙂

  4. I definitely agree with Dinara, but I’m also thinking of a younger player, i.e. Victoria or Caroline, also being a threat. Not a big fan of Maria, but I think she’s a great tennis player, and I doubt she’d tank a match, since she says she needs match play. I think Bondarenko was just too good in that match. Not sure how far Maria will get, but she’ll definitely get 1-2 matches under her belt. I’m hoping Jelena, Svetlana, and Elena will do really well.

  5. It can be a tricky opening match, Keothavong vs. Safina, but I don’t really see Safina leaving.

    Lilly, I agree, I’m also counting the young players you mentioned. And I too don’t believe Maria tanked the match. I’m not having much hopes for Maria at RG. She should be able to win her first match, but the second could be against eleventh seed Nadia Petrova.

  6. Thanks a lot for the article Marija, its a good one! 🙂 I have to say that I agree with much of what you said.

    Sveta and Safina are the favourites for me. I think you can never count Venus and Serena out aswell. I really hope that Vika, Dementieva, JJ and Ana can do well aswell, but it will be hard for them. I’m very interested to see how Zvonareva does considering she’s just coming off an injury. I don’t expect much from her though.

    There’s no question about it, I don’t think that Sharapova would have tanked a match considering she needed the practice and the way Bondarenko was playing that day was just unbelievable. Sharapova’s my favourite player and I would love to see her doing well in Paris but I have no expectations for her whatsoever.

    If both Sabine Lisicki and Venus win their first round matches, their second round match could be a very interesting match up. I don’t think there’s any chance of Keothavong beating Safina, she’s just playing too well at the moment. We’re certainly in for an exciting fortnight of tennis!

  7. Vera Zvonareva has pulled out because of the ankle injury she had back in Charleston.

    I know Maria needed practice. But you have to remember that Maria rarely (I mean, very rarely) plays a tournament right before a Grand Slam. She knows she’s not capable of doing that. But like you said, she might not tanked that match against Bondarenko.

    She used to do it in the past though, many people believed she tanked the match against Petrova in the WTA Year-End Championships (probably due to the fact that she’s going into the semifinals nevertheless, so losing against Petrova would mean nothing). And the most obvious one was probably last year in Charleston (against Serena), she had to fly to New York the next day to celebrate her birthday party. She probably had already arranged it (a lot of celebrities showed up).

    Ana Ivanovic’s match is starting in about 3 hours, I can’t wait!

  8. Although i hate to say it, i think dinara safina will win aswell. As constant readers may know, of course im going for serena – but i doubt because of her recent troubles, shes a very unpredictable player though, lets see what happens! I cant wait to see all the fashions, very interested in serena will be wearing, and of course maria sharapovas, and im interested in seeing jelena’s dress in flesh. good day to you all!

  9. Bróna, I’m glad you like my preview. 🙂 And about the other players you mentioned, I agree with everything you said. Pity Zvonareva isn’t able to play.

    Teerin, the match with Alona was very specific in the sense that Maria desperately needed match play. Yay, Ana won! 🙂

  10. I think Dinara will win,but i’d like that Ana do it and defend her title…..the coupe suzanne lenglen is like made for her…..good luck Ana…Ajdeee


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