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By Karen Walker
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The 2010 French Open Tennis Championship brings with it the ultimate test of persistance and competitive edge among the world's finest tennis players. Four time champion Justine Henin is in everyone's mind. However, nobody wants to under estimate Serena Williams' contendership at this year's event as well. Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova isn't even considered a contender due to a miserable performance and early losses during the claycourt season. The rise of players like Aravane Rezai and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez has given an interesting angle to the battle of the champions.
Top seed and 2002 champion Serena Williams opens her bid for the second title with an expectedly easy match up with German Stefanie Voegele. Her second round opponent could be either an in-form Julia Goerges or Hungarian Melinda Czink. Truth be told, Williams' first real test will come in the form of a feisty Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the round of 32 stage. Williams' possible pre-quarterfinal clash with Shahar Peer is definitely going to bring some of the best tennis from the American's racquet. And then Roland Garros will stage the decisive showdown featuring a re-match of this year's Australian Open as Serena's most probable quarterfinal opponent, Justine Henin will put in her best to get the better of the 12 time major champion.
(Know more about Serena's possible opponents, click here.)
Interestingly, Henin's road to the quarterfinals is paved with names like Samantha Stosur, who is seeded 12th and three time major champion Maria Sharapova, who is still eluded of the title mirth on Parisian clay. The two multiple slam winners may meet in the third round, a match up which is sure to produce swashbuckling tennis.
The other quarter of the top half of the draw features names like Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva. Jankovic, who won the title in Indian Wells and finished runner up in Rome with back-to-back wins over Venus and Serena Williams is touted by many as most likely to clinch her first major title on Paris' red clay. Jankovic is placed in the same quarter as 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic, who could have a possible clash with her countrywoman in the quarterfinals. Both Jankovic and Ivanovic are in top form currently and are good enough to get past hurdles like a recovering Dinara Safina and an erratic Vera Zvonareva, whose only good performance this year was the finals in Charleston. Despite mid match jitters and momentary lapses in concentration, Jelena Jankovic is most likely to emerge victorious in her quarter of the draw.
(Will 2010 French Open bring a much-needed major triumph for Jankovic, click here to find out.)
The bottom half of the draw is extremely favourable for second seed and 2002 finalist Venus Williams. The American veteran has never won a title in Paris and despite a runner-up finish in Madrid, is not a part of the title race. Year after year, Williams early round exits have proved that more than anything else, it is the surface that goes against Venus' style of play. Unable to finish the point in long rallies, Williams' biggest challenge is to stay healthy and find ways to cut down on her unforced errors which quite comfortably gift leads to opponents in crucial match ups. Williams opens her title bid with a relatively tough clash with Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder which she is expected to overcome easily. Venus' real test can come at the pre-quarterfinal stage with Madrid Open champion Aravane Rezai and Russian giant-killer Nadia Petrova, both ready to repeat their previous successes over the American. Rezai's success on the Spanish soil was the testimonial of the Frenchwoman's superb progress over the years. With home crowd support by her side, Rezai is the most dangerous opponent in the bottom half for any contender. Despite the Frenchwoman's sudden and impressive rise, it's Williams, who is likely to meet Victoria Azarenka or Elena Dementieva in the quarterfinals.
Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova has entered this year's championship with little hope to everyone's belief. A series of disappointing losses have left very few expectations of title defence. However, Kuznetsova is the kind of player, who is famous for her ability to raise the level of her game at crucial stages. The sixth seeded Russian's first major challenge may come from compatriot and Aussie Open quarterfinalist Maria Kirilenko in the Round of 32. The road ahead only gets tougher with names like Na Li and Francesca Schiavone, who are quite capable of testing the 2009 champion to limits.
(Will Kuznetsova emerge hungry enough for title defence, click here to track her opponents.)
And finally, Caroline Wozniacki, seeded third here at the Open, who, despite being granted a favourable draw, will require to prove her mettle at different early stages against names like Lucie Safarova and Alexandra Dulgheru. Wozniacki's road to the quarterfinals is comparatively easier, but her possible last eight clash with Kuznetsova or Na Li is capable of pulling upsetting results.
The draw at this year's championship features an impressive distribution of seeds and has pitted established players against some of the most promising stars in the current WTA circuit. From the bottom half, there are three names that are likely to make the semifinals - Venus WIlliams, Aravane Rezai and Caroline Wozniacki. A possible pre-quarterfinal clash between home favourite Rezai and former finalist Williams is being seen as one of the most anticipated match ups from the 2010 edition.
The top half is going to be dominated by either Serena Williams or Justine Henin. Though an unfortunate seed placement as a result of the Belgian's low ranking does diminish any possibilities of an Henin-Serena title clash. Jelena Jankovic's resistance and improved mental toughness, on the other hand, is sure to fetch her the semifinal spot. However, if the truth is to be told, Williams is not only expected but also capable of getting past her arch rivals and long time nemesis' to put her name on the silverware at this year's French Open.
Follow the nail-biting action on the Parisian clay at Roland Garros and get the minute-by-minute updates of the 2010 French Open.
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