Roland Garros 2019 – The Potential Talking Points.
Naomi Osaka the world number one will enter this tournament aiming for a hattrick of grand slam titles. The Japanese won her maiden title in Flushing Meadows New York last September and in Melbourne Park won the Australian Open. This year has not been her greatest year to date but she has become a little more accustomed to the pressure and media presence of being the number one ladies player. Clay is not Naomi’s favourite surface; just look at the way she moves on a clay court. Her sliding can definitely be improved but her ball striking is second to none.
Surprisingly Naomi lost her first set on Phillippe Chatrier 6-0 against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. A score which definitely reflected the match as she was out hit, out thought and out moved on the clay court. Osaka later admitted that she was as nervous as she has ever been on court. Naomi eventually made it through in 3 sets. Sadly her task is a difficult one as she is in a loaded top section with many top names in the French Open draw. A third grand slam title in a row is within her grasp but just as likely as it is unlikely.
Elsewhere the ladies draw has many narratives. Simona Halep the 2018 Champion has distanced herself from the pressure of retaining the title claiming she is happy to have won the title last year and anything more than this is just a bonus. The Romanian is most at home on the dirt and despite an inconsistent year could get it together for Roland Garros. Serena Williams has also been talked about but I wonder is it due to her lack of form and match practice rather than her genuine aspirations of taking the title.
Garbine Muguruza and Elina Svitolina face off in a tasty third round encounter. Neither lady are at their best but both capable of winning on this surface and a big win could propel them into the second week. Kiki Bertens the Mutua Madrid Champion is probably one of the most under the radar potential favourites for any slam ever. She has court craft, a topspin forehand and great movement, all key to enjoying success on the dirt. Ash Barty has a similar skillset and despite her diminutive stature really packs a punch on court. Perhaps a deep run at Wimbledon may be more likely for the Australian.
British interest once again rests on the shoulders of Johanna Konta. Fresh from her runs in Marrakech and Rome to the finals Johanna looks finally like the player of 2017. The free swinging, risk taking power player. Until 2019 the Brit had not won a match at Roland Garros but Jo put that to bed in her first round match as she won 6-4 6-4 against the 100 something ranked Lottner.
The experts are divided on who will lift the trophy next Saturday in Paris. There are so many potential contenders that it really is hard to put house money on anyone. Take a look at the French Open draw here. With Kvitova out there is one less big name to pin my hopes on. I certainly am not going to stick my neck out. May the best lady win.