Roland Garros: 5 WTA Question Marks

This is a pre-draw assessment of the uncertainties that will greet the 2014 Roland Garros women’s tournament. When the draw is announced this Friday morning in Paris, the process of “tennis bracketology” can begin. For now, though, one can only look at a few players irrespective of the draw and ask questions about what they’ll bring to the table in this upcoming fortnight.



She’ll be seeded third at Roland Garros. She won’t have to face Victoria Azarenka, who announced late Sunday night that she won’t play in this tournament. Radwanska has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals in Paris, and naturally, if she gets the wrong draw (Sharapova in the quarterfinals, Serena in the semifinals), she’s not likely to do much damage.

Yet, a big chunk of the top 15 on the WTA Tour is either inconsistent (Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber) or nicked up by injuries (Sara Errani, Simona Halep). Radwanka’s shots don’t possess the heft of many of her top-10 counterparts, but Poland’s foremost contender owns the court craft that is needed to win on clay. A darkhorse run is not out of the question… but it’s very much in question. 


Errani suffered a thigh injury midway through her loss to Serena Williams in the Rome final on Sunday. Halep (pictured above) pulled out of the Rome tournament in the middle of last week with an abdominal injury. These are not identical players in terms of style and approach. Errani relies more on defense, Halep more on offense. Errani hits more of an off-pace ball, while Halep is more adept at gunning for (and hitting) the corners of the court with flattened-out groundstrokes. Yet, both players are relatively short in physical stature. If their court coverage is appreciably compromised, their odds of making a deep run on clay — the surface that demands both endurance and patience more than any other — will plummet.

All in all, Halep has had a little more time to recuperate in advance of Roland Garros. She’s also going to be the No. 4 seed, giving her a more protected draw than Errani. Still, both players are question marks entering Paris, if only because they can’t be assumed to be 100-percent fit.


This is a former Roland Garros semifinalist (2009) and a more recent quarterfinalist (2012), so it’s not as though the Slovakian can’t play on clay. Cibulkova also reached the 2014 Australian Open final, and she did so by going through the much tougher half of the bracket compared to eventual champion Li Na. Cibulkova is a formidable player, and she’s played some of her best tennis in the not-too-distant past.

Yet, Cibulkova crashed out of both Madrid and Rome in the first round. A lack of match play before Roland Garros — like the lack of good results on her resume — doesn’t bode well for her. However, that very same lack of match play means that if she can somehow work her way through two or three matches, she could have the fresh legs needed to make a second-week charge. A player such as Petra Kvitova is inconsistent to the point of being completely doubted. Cibulkova, on the other hand, has shown enough quality before the clay-court season to merit inclusion on this list.


For six years, Ivanovic has failed to make a major semifinal (2008 Roland Garros, a tournament she ultimately won). Ivanovic seemed to have untold tennis riches within her grasp, but a paralyzing fear of the spotlight — a highly ironic quality for one of the world’s most photogenic people — prevented her from realizing her potential. Problems with a service toss were just part of Ivanovic’s larger basket of difficulties. An inability to hold leads and sustain a high level of performance for more than 1.5 sets (a problem shared by many players on both tours) kept Ivanovic from the final weekends at majors. She’s long had the talent to win big, but the mind — the most important organ in tennis and all of athletics — has blocked her.

This year, there are signs that Ivanovic is solving her case of “tennis block,” the on-court equivalent of writer’s block. She’s won 30 tour matches. She defeated Serena Williams in the Australian Open and took her to three sets last Saturday in Rome. She defeated Maria Sharapova for the first time in seven years in Rome (the round of 16). Has this highly articulate but painfully insecure and always-fistpumping competitor finally learned how to compete under withering pressure?

We’ll find out in Paris.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |