Remember Vika? She’s the latest proof that tennis may be the ultimate “What have you done for me lately?” sport. For the past few months, while former No. 1 Azarenka was nursing a sore right ankle, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams sucked up all the headlines—and rankings points. Now Williams and Sharapova are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, and Azarenka is one beat behind at a time of year when she hasn’t traditionally played her best: She lost to No. 16 Dominika Cibulkova last year at Roland Garros, and in 2010 she crashed out in the first round against No. 45 Gisela Dulko. Azarenka’s problem appears to be that the bing-bang-boom game that works so well on hard courts just doesn’t translate easily to red clay.
What to Like:
Azarenka has modulated that once wild hit-or-miss game, as well as her explosive temper. Plus, she’s coming into the French Open with fresh legs and, presumably, the confidence she gained with a win over Serena Williams in Doha early this year.
What Not to Like:
Azarenka hasn’t played enough high-quality tennis against elite players in recent months to find the right balance between aggression and the patience demanded by red clay for players who hit like Sharapova or serve like Williams.
What to Expect:
The two women ranked above Azarenka have towered over the WTA field. Given Azarenka’s well chronicled frustrations in Paris and the opportunities opponents will have to tee off on her serve, it’s hard to see her beating either Sharapova or Williams.
2013 French Open Profiles: