Three to See: Day 6 Women's Previews
Each day during the French Open, we'll preview—and predict the winner of—three of the most compelling women's matches.
(3) Agnieszka Radwanska vs. (26) Svetlana Kuznetsova
—Head to Head: Kuznetsova leads 9-3
On paper, this match offers ideal upset conditions: Kuznetsova, who has not dropped a set this week, is a two-time finalist, can play both heavy topspin and flat shots, and has won her last five matches against the clever Radwanska, including a 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 victory in their only clay-court meeting (2009 French Open, which Kuznetsova won). If you’ve followed Kuznetsova since she captured the 2004 U.S. Open, you know her matches seldom follow script. If the temperamental Russian can keep her nerve and serve with authority, she may very well continue her mastery of Radwanska.
Clay is Radwanska’s least favorite surface, but she’s won 10 of her last 12 matches on dirt, including the Brussels final, and has surrendered just six games in reaching the third round. Five of Radwanska’s seven losses this season have come to top-ranked Victoria Azarenka; otherwise, she’s been one of the tour’s most consistent players, reaching at least the quarterfinals in 10 of 11 tournaments this year. Kuznetsova has the game to force the Pole to hit off her back foot, but Radwanska can play all the angles, has all-court skills, and is the in-form player.
The Pick: Radwanska in three sets.
(13) Ana Ivanovic vs. (21) Sara Errani
—Head-to-Head: Ivanovic leads 2-0
Errani has been a consistent winner on clay, posting a 19-2 record on dirt this season, with three singles and five doubles titles. The fit and feisty Italian plays high-percentage tennis, defends well, reached her first major quarterfinal in Melbourne in January, and will be highly motivated for a shot at her first French Open fourth-round appearance.
Ivanovic has not lost a set to Errani in two prior matches, including a straight-sets win in the first round of the 2009 French Open. The 2008 champion has more power and can play quick-strike tennis, terminating points with her forehand. If Ivanovic, who has worked with coach Nigel Sears to reduce her service struggles, is making her first serve, her offensive advantage should beat Errani’s defense. Errani is 0-28 vs. Top 10 opponents, while Ivanovic, a first-round French Open casualty last year, is pushing for a Top 10 return.
The Pick: Ivanovic in two sets.
(6) Samantha Stosur vs. (27) Nadia Petrova
—Head to Head: Petrova leads 5-2
If this match is anything like their last clash—Petrova pulled out a 6-1, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5) thriller in two hours and 46 minutes—we should be in for another exciting encounter. This is their first meeting on clay, which won't bother either player: Stosur finished runner-up in 2010, while Petrova is a two-time semifinalist.
Both women can dictate play with their serves and are accomplished doubles players who can finish points at net. Stosur has been sharp in rolling through the first two rounds, dropping serve only once. She’s one of the fittest players in the game and looks eager after bombing out of the Australian Open in the first round. If Stosur’s preferred pattern is clicking—a kick serve to set up a big inside-out forehand she can hit with severe angle and spin, or flatten out down the line—she will be very tough to beat.
Petrova pushed Serena Williams to three sets in Rome and has used her best shot—the two-handed backhand—to mute Stosur’s inside-out forehand in the past, targeting the Aussie’s weaker backhand wing with cross-court drives. The serve may be the key stroke here: Both are strong servers, and the woman who defends her second serve better should prevail.
Petrova is good enough to beat almost anyone on clay, but she’s prone to mood swings under pressure and sometimes lets the small stuff become major stumbling blocks. Still, she showed flashes of commanding tennis in the Indian Wells win, so we’ll gamble on her here.
The Pick: Petrova in three sets.