No. 1 Serena Williams continues her now decade-old quest to win her second French titles and her draw could be much worse, but with that said, it isn’t that simple. She opens against Anna Tatshvili, could get Caroline Garcia in R2 and Sorana Cirstea in R3, all which should be routine wins. But the she could Roberta Vinci or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in R4, which could be dicey if she doesn’t play at the top level. Depending how Angie Kerber pulls up physically, she could be Serena’s quarterfinal foe and she did best Williams last summer in Cincy, so another upset is possible. But there is plenty of talent in Kerber’s section beginning with Mona Barthel, Varvara Lepchenko and Ekaterina Makarova.
FIRST ROUND POPCORN MATCH: Caroline Wozniacki vs. Laura Robson: Wozniacki has lost five straight matches and, although Robson isn’t that comfortable on clay, she likes big matches and this is a chance for her to blow the struggling Caro’s doors off.
Here is Ana Ivanovic’s chance to reach her first Slam semifinal since she won the title in Paris five years ago. No. 4 Aga Radwanska leads the quarter and she’s struggling with an injury, and while No. 5 Sara Errani has proven to be quite good on the surface she can be hit through. Ivanovic has been playing quite well (although not always against Maria Sharapova). She opens vs. Petra Martic, should be able to hit around her and then have little trouble reaching the fourth round as Julia Goerges is hurt. Then it’s either Radwanska, who may not even get there, or possibly Venus Williams, but she’s been hurt, too. So then the Serb will face Errani in the quarters, unless the Italian gets tripped up by the likes of Carla Suarez or Nadia Petrova. I’m not sure Ivanovic has had a better opportunity while in good form to reach a Slam semi since she left RG as champion.
FIRST ROUND POPCORN MATCH: Venus Williams vs. Ula Radwanska
The American has been struggling with a back injury and her autoimmune disease. While Ula has her off days mentally, when she’s on she is more than capable of winning a baseline battle on red dirt. This is an obvious so-called upset pick.
Going by bookends Vika Azarenka and Li Na, this is the toughest quarter. It’s depth is enigmatic, but it does have two players who are capable of beating Serena and Sharapova on great days. Li had a troublesome Rome and opens against Anabel Medina-Garrigues who has slowed down but is very capable on clay. Then she might have to face Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who’s been on fire, and possibly Yaroslava Shvedova who shocked her here last year. Then even if she makes it through there she could play Kaia Kanepi, Klara Zakopalova or Maria Kirilenko. She and coach Carlos Rodriquez have there work cut out for them in the first eights days.
Azarenka opens against the up-and-down Elena Vesnina, who is so unpredictable but dangerous. Alize Cornet has revived and could give her a little trouble in round 3 and then there is the possibility of playing the slumping, yet super dangerous Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in round 4.
FIRST ROUND POPCORN MATCH: Kirsten Flipkens vs. Flavia Pennetta. Has the former Italian top 10er finally recovered from wrist trouble? If she has, then she will give the equally crafty Flipkens fits.
Defending champion Sharapova as the player to beat here. She opens against the improved Su-Wei Hsieh, may face the Canadian who idolized her — Genie Bouchard — and possibly the veteran Zheng Jie before a fourth-round tussle with Sloane Stephens, whom she rekey destroyed on dirt. Her quarter could be tough though as Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur lurk. Expect the world No. 2 to get there but then have to seriously raise her level
FIRST ROUND POPCORN MATCH: Lucie Safarova vs. Jamie Hampton
Most of the young Americans have reasonable first rounds but this one could prove very tricky for the slugger against the lefthander Czech, whom has much more experience than she does. Expect a three setter, but Hampton still has to show she can pull off this type of win without suffering cramps due to nerves.