With the start of Roland Garros under 24 hours away, The Sport Review looks ahead at what is set to be a captivating two weeks of tennis.
Defending champion Ana Ivanovic will get the Women’s singles underway in Paris when she takes on Italy’s Sara Errani on Sunday morning on the PhilippeÃ‚Â Chatrier court. Last year in Paris, the 21-year-old secured the world number one spot in the WTA rankings, but after a less successful second half to the 2008 season and a stuttering start to proceedings in 2009, she is now ranked number eight in the world.
World number one Rafael Nadal will be looking to defend the title he has won for the last four years on the trot. The ‘king of clay’ suffered a rare blip when he was beaten by Roger Federer last week on home turf at the Madrid Masters. Despite this, he will undoubtedly be the favourite for the title and the 22-year-old can beat BjÃƒÂ¶rn Borg’s record of consecutive singles titles if he wins it this year.
World number two Federer will be looking to overcome the Spaniard again and win the French Open for the first time in his career – the only grand slam title that has so far evaded the 27-year-old.
British hopes in the Men’s singles will once again rest with world number three, Andy Murray. The Scot started the 2009 clay season with an impressive run to the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters, where he was eventually defeated by Nadal. He also made it to the quarter-finals of the Madrid Masters. Murray will take on the Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela in his first round match, scheduled for Sunday.
Number four seed and Rome and Monte Carlo Masters finalistÃ‚Â Novak Djokovic will play Ecuador’s Nicolas Lapentti, while Roger Federer has been drawn against Alberto Martin of Spain.
British number one Anne Keothavong will face a stern test in the first round when she comes up against Russia’s Dinara Safina, the number one seed. Last week, 25-year-old Keothavong reached the semi-finals of the Warsaw Open – the first British woman to reach a semi-final on clay since 1983. Earlier this month, Safina became the first ever Russian to win the Rome Masters with her victory overÃ‚Â Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final.
Number three seed, Venus Williams has been paired up against fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the opening round, while sister Serena will play Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic.
An unseeded Maria Sharapova takes on Anastasiya Yakimova from Belarus in the opening round. The 22-year-old Russian has fallen down the WTA rankings following a shoulder injury that forced her to miss the latter stages of the 2008 season, plus the beginning of this year.
So the second Grand Slam of the year and the climax of the clay-court season begins on Sunday morning in Paris. With players looking to break records, and others wanting to make their way back up the rankings, this year’s French Open looks set to be another enthralling event.
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BIOGRAPHY: Eric Bailly