French Open women’s preview: Can Azarenka regain her momentum

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By Leighton Ginn

More than every, women’s tennis needs a rivalry to hang its hat on, and maybe the Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka can resume on the highest level.

Unfortunately, it will come a little too early. If Williams and Azarenka play to form, they would meet in the quarterfinals.

But it’s a matchup that needs to happen.

Williams will go down as the best ever, with a career that spanned many generations. She might not be playing at her best, but Williams has still maintained a very high level despite not being pushed much.

Azarenka is one of the few fearless women on the tour who can not only beat Williams, but maintain a high level consistently.

The last few years, Azarenka has been hampered by injuries and her return has been slow. At the BNP Paribas Open, Azarenka showed she was back when she beat Williams in the finals. She followed that up with a title in Miami, claiming the two biggest tournaments in the spring.

But then came the clay, and Azarenka was hampered by back problems in Madrid and Rome, but she’s since declared herself pain-free.

Even if she is healthy, the French Open is tough for Azarenka, who has a 21-9 record in the main draw at Roland Garros and her best showing was the semifinals in 2013.

Going 2-2 on outdoor clay just doesn’t seem like enough matches for Azarenka.

But there’s been some positives that could work in her favor. Last year, Azarenka pushed Williams to three sets in the third round. Missing this year is Maria Sharapova, who reached three consecutive French Open finals before falling in the fourth round last year.

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And it’s a small consolation, but Williams has failed to win a title in her last two majors. This year, she’s showed signs of failing to finish tournaments, falling in the Australian Open final as well as the BNP Paribas Open.

But Williams did win Rome and should carry that momentum into Roland Garros. But the question does remain with Williams and her nerves, which have bothered her of late.

If Williams does get past Azarenka, she will have other tough challenges, including Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in a possible semifinal matchup.

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However, Kerber has lost her opening matches four times since the Australian Open, although she did claim an indoor clay title in Stuttgart.

Two of those opening-match losses came in the key warmup tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

Last year’s French Open finalist, Lucie Safarova, has struggled this year, losing in the first round of her first five tournaments this year before taking the title in Prague, an outdoor clay tournament.

But outside of Prague, Safarova is 2-7 on the year, having lost in the second round of her last two tournaments entering Roland Garros.

 

 

 

 

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